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Small Wonders Archives

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Apr 06 2011 08:59 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Join Tom T and the rest of the CN crew for this special weekend of webcasts from the worlds largest astronomy show.

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Small Wonders: Observing the Hubble Sequence in the Fall Northern Sky

Sep 12 2009 10:46 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

After reading The Day We Found the Universe (Marcia Bartusiak), I got to thinking about Hubble's galactic classification scheme. How much, exactly, can be seen by a motivated modern amateur?

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Small Wonders: Hercules

Jun 30 2009 09:56 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Dragging forth the summer Milky Way, legendary strongman Hercules is yet another boundary constellation for the summer season. His toes are dipped in the stream of our galaxy, his head is firm in the depths of space. Hercules is populated by a dizzying array of targets, many extra-galactic in nature. Galaxy clusters abound and there are three hickson Objects for the aficionado. There are a smattering of nice galaxies, some planetary nebulae and of course a few very nice globular clusters.

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Small Wonders: Ophiuchus

Jun 09 2009 08:34 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

This massive constellation culminates around midnight on June 12th and for me, has always been the harbinger of Summer.

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Small Wonders: Quick Peeks - Sculptor

Jan 01 2009 01:02 PM | Tom T in Small Wonders

It's time for a quick peek at the southern sky...

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Small Wonders: Quick Peeks - Cetus

Dec 19 2008 10:51 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

No time for observing? Nonsense. There's always time for a quick peek.

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Small Wonders: Quick Peeks - Aquarius

Oct 13 2008 06:34 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

No time for observing? Nonsense! There's always time to take a quick peek

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Small Wonders: Quick Peeks - Cepheus

Oct 01 2008 02:10 PM | Tom T in Small Wonders

No time for observing? Nonsense. Grab that small scope or those binoculars and join me for a couple of Quick Peeks in Cepheus.

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SW: Deep Virgo - Markarian's Chain

Apr 13 2008 07:20 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Deep in the heart of one of the largest structures in the observable universe lies an improbable chain of potentially interacting galaxies...

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Small Wonders: Perseus

Nov 07 2007 06:19 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Perseus slew the gorgon Medusa and then (while riding Pegasus) rescued Andromeda - the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia - from Cetus. It's his story that we see overhead on these early winter evenings.

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Small Wonders: Scutum

Jul 22 2007 06:36 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Scutum, formerly Scutum Scobiescianum, is an interesting little constellation. With only one star brighter than 4th magnitude, it's something of a cosmic Rorschach test. It's the only political constellation still found in the night sky, and although small in size, it contains a fairly large number of interesting targets.

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Small Wonders: Canis Major

Feb 17 2007 01:54 PM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Check that thermometer and bundle up tonight, because it's time for the Dog Da... uh... Nights of winter! This month we'll focus on Canis Major, Orion's faithful hound. The big dog shares the sky with at least three other mutts - Canis Minor, Chara and Asterion (Canes Venatici). Those last two are still registered to Bootes - at least they were the last time I looked

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Small Wonders: Lepus

Jan 23 2007 06:53 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Ah Lepus – the galactic rabbit. Overlooked by everybody except perhaps Orions hunting dogs, this little constellation has a few very interesting gems for the dedicated amateur astronomer.

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SW: Deep Andromeda - Satellite Galaxies, Star Clouds and Globular Clusters of M31

Nov 26 2006 07:17 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

If you're a long time reader of this series you're probably asking yourself - "Andromeda? Didn't we do that already?" Not like this.

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Small Wonders: Sagitta and Vulpecula

Sep 18 2006 02:23 PM | Tom T in Small Wonders

This month we've got two tiny constellations to look at: Vulpecula and Sagitta. The fox and the arrow seem to be a match made in heaven, but on investigation we find that while the arrow has been around for thousands of years, the fox is a fairly recent creation.

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Small Wonders: Aquila

Aug 23 2006 01:35 PM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Aquila occupies some prime summer real estate. Lying astride the Milky Way and bordered Scutum and Sagitta it’s a fantastic area to pull through with a rich field scope or pair of binoculars.

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Small Wonders: Cassiopeia

Nov 06 2005 05:15 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

It’s time to pay homage to the Queen. In late fall and early winter we see the annual ascent of Cassiopeia, Queen of Ethiopia, wife of Cepheus and mother of Andromeda. (This is the rise of the big W in the northern sky to those of you less versed in ancient lore, but more familiar with the night sky.) Although Cassiopeia is a late riser when compared to other members of her family, there’s little question – at least to this observer – that she’s the one in charge. Doubt me?

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Small Wonders: Cepheus

Sep 12 2005 08:49 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Photometrically, Cepheus isn’t one of the brighter constellations. It’s brightest star, Alpha (Alderamin) is only mag 2.4. Although it’s not a standout, he is distinctive and stands out between his daughter (Andromeda) and wife (Cassiopeia) as he has a very a distinctive shape, much like a childs drawing of a house. If you prefer to see a king here, think of Cepheus as a bust – the 4 stars that make up the body of the house describe his face, while the houses pointed roof becomes the crown.

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Small Wonders: Cygnus

Aug 10 2005 12:12 PM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Cygnus is a spectacular summer constellation. For observers at mid-northern latitudes, it passes directly through zenith and thus offers some of the best views of the Milky Way one can see without traveling south. There’s a little of everything in Cygnus and I could spend the next couple of months doing it justice – so instead, I’ve picked out a small representative sample of objects for this month’s Small Wonders.

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Small Wonders: Ursa Minor

Jul 11 2005 10:58 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Ursa Minor is probably one of the best known asterisms in the entire sky. Nearly everyone has heard of the "Little Dipper", but ironically, among non astronomers, it's also probably one of the most misidentified groups of stars in the night sky. While many realize that the front/pointer stars of the Big Dipper (recognized the world over) point towards Polaris, many non astronomers who look up still manage to link the "little dipper" with M45 - the Pleiades. The true little dipper's origins are somewhat shrouded in mystery, but there's evidence that it was handed down to us from the greeks sometime prior to the 3rd century BC. There's also some speculation that it may even be a more recent creation formed from stars that marked the wings of Draco.

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Small Wonders: Canes Venatici

May 26 2005 08:09 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Canes Venatici is a somewhat small constellation, and may be difficult to find. Flanked by both Ursa Major and Bootes, Canes is located in a somewhat barren section of the night sky. Canes (whose name means The Hunting Dogs) has been seen as Bootes pets for at least several hundred years, but the constellation may not have been "stand alone" until sometime in the late 17th century when Hevelius named (and perhaps separated from their "parent" constellation) these celestial dogs Asterion and Chara.

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Small Wonders: Coma Berenices

May 03 2005 07:41 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Coma Berenices. (Koh-ma Be-ren-i-sez) A tiny constellation - tiny in size, and somewhat unimpressive in stellar brightness (it's brightest star is Beta at a paltry magnitude 4.2), but certainly not lacking in targets for the small telescope owner. It's the anchor of one of the ends of the infamous Coma-Virgo super cluster, and thus contains a preponderance of galaxies. But that's not all - there's also a really nice naked eye or binocular cluster, as well as two moderately bright globulars. This month's list should keep you busy for a while.

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Small Wonders: Leo

Mar 21 2005 01:18 PM | Tom T in Small Wonders

To many Leo's appearance means spring and what's more, signals the start of big game season for serious deep sky aficionados. You won't find the typical amateur thinking about globulars, planetary nebulas or open clusters when Leo pops into sight - no, Leo's all about galaxies, and for many, it's an introduction to touring the deeps of the Virgo-Coma supercluster.

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Small Wonders: Gemini and Cancer

Mar 10 2005 12:51 PM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Cancer (the Crab) and Gemini, (the Twins) are both constellations of the zodiac, but that's about all they have in common. Cancer is far fainter than Gemini, and in fact the faintest of the 12 zodiacal constellations.

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Small Wonders: Orion

Mar 21 2005 10:51 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

If there's one constellation known to astronomer and non astronomer, young and old, it would have to be Orion. It was the first constellation that I learned to pick out of the night sky. I'm not exactly sure where I first learned about this celestial nimrod, but I have dim recollections of being on a camping trip, and my father guiding my gaze into the cool late winter / early spring sky while talking about Orion's belt.

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