Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September Nights

September is usually a great month in Ohio for clear skies.  The autumn skies provide a wealth of objects to observe!  If you get a chance to get out to a dark sky, please do.  In fact, many of us at the The Columbus Astronomical Society are planning to do just that!

The first thing you will notice when looking overhead is a glowing stream of light broken up by dark lanes.  This is our very own galactic home, the Milky Way.  What you are seeing is the combined light of billions of stars and in some places, obscured by intergalactic dust.  Take a pair of binoculars and sweep this region of stars and you will see thousands of stars across the field of view.  Occasionally, you may see clumps of stars together.  These stars usually are part of a galactic star cluster.  When stars are born, they hang around together during their early years.  Bound by gravity, they eventually start to drift off to form their own paths in the Milky Way.  About 5 billion years ago, this happened with our Sun.

Towards the south east during the evening, you may notice a bright star.  This beacon is Jupiter, the king of the planets.  With those very same binoculars, you can see Jupiter's orb and one of more "stars" close by in a line.  Those stars are Jupiter's moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.  If you are so inclined, make a little drawing log and draw the positions of the moons in relation to Jupiter.  Galileo did the same thing 400 years ago!!

Towards midnight, the Milky Way starts to slide towards the west and the sky changes towards the autumn sky, dominated by Pegasus and Andromeda.  Pegasus is comprised of what is called the "Great Square" and Andromeda looks like a tilted Christmas Tree off to the side.  Andromeda holds a treasure called the Great Andromeda Galaxy.  This galaxy can be seen with the naked eye in dark skies.  And is very visible in binoculars.  Some day, billions of years in the future, Andromeda and our Milky Way are going to merge together.  Don't worry though, our solar system will probably come out of the merger unscathed.

Look towards the east and you will notice a grouping of stars.  This grouping of stars is called the Pleides, or the seven sisters.  A very nice object in binoculars.   Towards the northeast, there is a bright star called Capella, the brightest star in the constellation of Auriga.  Capella and the Pleides are part of the winter sky where Taurus and Orion resume their yearly battle above the frigid landscape below.  But that is for another time.

Clear skies and I hope you take time to look up and notice the Universe above you.


punkastronomy said...

I liked this little narrative. I'm reading Leslie Peltier's Starlight Nights right now, and your appreciation for the fall sky reminded me of his descriptions of growing up in Ohio. I have no idea if you live anywhere near Delphi!

Undermidnight said...

Thanks for the comments! Delphi is northwest of where I live in central ohio. About 100 miles or so away. Starlight Nights is an excellent book. I have read it a couple of times and is a nice addition to any astro library.

k-d- said...
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