Some Light Science Reading. The Constellations: Draco

As first appeared in the May 2012 edition of the Syracuse Astronomical Society newsletter The Astronomical Chronicle.


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We return to our circumpolar constellation discussion begun with the Jan/Feb/March 2012 issue (our first “quarterly” report) by scaling up the Northern Horizon towards Draco the Dragon.

Draco, like all reptiles, is a bit on the dim side. Most of its constituent stars are in the 3 to 4.5 Magnitude range, making it an easy target in dark skies but a bit of a hunt near larger cities. If you’ve never looked for it before, it rivals Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper) in terms of “meh” apparent brightness in the sky (so it is far less pronounced than the Big Dipper or Cassiopeia, the two most prominent Constellations in this part of the sky).

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Some Light Science Reading. The Constellations: Orion

As first appeared in the April 2012 edition of the Syracuse Astronomical Society newsletter The Astronomical Chronicle (PDF).

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Much can be said about the old hunter Orion. To Central New York observers, it had (until very recently) been the case that Orion made his way across the Night Sky during the coldest and least hospitable (to most nighttime observers) months of the year. Conditions would keep observers in hiding from him (some of the best CNY observers I know would risk surgical strikes on the Orion Nebula with their fastest to set-up and tear-down equipment). The abbreviated winter of 2011/2012 and reasonably early start of the SAS observing season have provided us with excellent opportunities in the past few months to make Orion The Hunter now the hunted. The mid-April observing session will be the last “official” opportunity to observe Orion before he disappears behind the Western horizon until the most nocturnal of us can next see him in our Eastern sky before sunrise in late August. I then take this opportunity to discuss Orion, one many CNY/SAS members may know the best by sight but may know the least by observing attention.

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Some Light Non-Science Reading: Setting Sights On The Regional Market

As appeared in the April 2012 edition of the Syracuse Astronomical Society newsletter the Astronomical Chronicle.

The Syracuse Regional Market is as much a tradition as it is a phenomenon to those who were dragged out at young ages for Amish cherry pies or crates of canning tomatoes. Above all, it’s a fun walk for seeing unbelievably old stuff in various states of (dis)repair, boxes full of 500 of the same thing, and really cheap… er… inexpensive laptops (those looking for a machine for outside image collection would do well to consider spending $150 on a refurbished Dell, something easy to do at the Market).

I’m writing this because I scored my second excellent pair of binoculars there and, despite risking someone else reading this and grabbing the next great deal, I wish to convey to you that astronomy tools can be collected locally on the very-cheap.

Saturday is the day for consuming, Sunday is the day for perusing. Sunday at the Market is the non-produce day when the whole place is one big flea market. To say you’ll never know what you’ll find is an understatement and, as some people specialize in “general merchandise,” you really have to keep keen eyes on everything to not risk missing a great deal. Halfway through a completely random search, I came across an old leather case with the faded letters “Bushnell” on the front. Upon inspection, an old pair of wide-field Bushnell Rangemaster 7×35’s, covered in a thin layer of grime, almost rubbed flat in some of the covering, with perfect (post-cleaning) lenses. Not a scratch, no dulling of any reflective coating, and only fingerprints to clean off. Gave’em the quick tour of the building, found them perfect right to the edges. My sales representative, John, said “$25.”

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Some Light Science Reading. The Constellations: Ursa Minor

As first appeared in the January/February/March 2012 edition (yeah, I know) of the Syracuse Astronomical Society newsletter The Astronomical Chronicle (PDF) and, I am proud to say, soon to be included in an edition of the Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society (MVAS) newsletter, Telescopic Topics.

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[Author’s Note: A tradition owing to Dr. Stu Forster during his many years as President and Editor, the Syracuse Astronomical Society (www.syracuse-astro.org) features (at least) one Constellation in each edition of its near-monthly newsletter, the Astronomical Chronicle.]

The Constellation discussion for this year is going to take a bit of a turn.

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Some Light Science Reading. The Constellations: Cetus

As first appeared in the October 2010 edition of the Syracuse Astronomical Society newsletter The Astronomical Chronicle (PDF).

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There is a region of the Night Sky that is dominated by aquatic creatures. Alternately, if we consider empty space as its own kind of ocean, there are regions where the stars of the Aquatic Constellations appear to undulate at geologic time scales, making the current arrangement of stars effectively motionless to our eyes and those of many generations to come.

Within this Water Region are the Constellations (as listed at wikipedia) Aquarius, Capricornus, Cetus, Delphinus, Eridanus, Hydra, Pisces, and Piscis Austrinus. If we think in terms of seasonal change, this does seem like an oddity of planning. Who would place the Aquatic Constellations in the Night Sky during the late fall and winter, when the temperature in some parts of the Northern Hemisphere (such as at Darling Hill Observatory) might as well be that of interstellar space? Where are the polar bear and penguin Constellations?

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Some Light Science Reading. The Constellations: Triangulum

As first appeared in the October 2010 edition of the Syracuse Astronomical Society newsletter The Astronomical Chronicle (PDF).

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I remember my first foray into Constellation memorization, still the first thing I recommend for anyone beginning in amateur astronomy (primarily for using these imagined creations to memorize the locations of far dimmer objects when you graduate up to binoculars or small scopes, but also simply to develop a sense of, well, the space between these creations as you jump between objects).

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Some Light Science Reading. The Constellations: Pegasus

As first appeared in the September 2010 edition of the Syracuse Astronomical Society newsletter The Astronomical Chronicle (PDF).

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The Constellation this month is one light on interesting binocular and telescope objects but heavy in mythology and Naked Eye observing. To the Babylonians, the stars in this region also (or first) took on the shape of a horse known as MUL.ANSHE.KUR.RA. To the Greeks, sometimes a horse is not (just) a horse (of course, of course). The Greek mythology surrounding the winged horse Pegasus is, to say the least, involved and undecided. There are several pages discussing the mythology of Pegasus, which I refer you to in the interest of local brevity.

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Some Light Science Reading. The Constellations: Pisces

As first appeared in the August 2010 edition of the Syracuse Astronomical Society newsletter The Astronomical Chronicle (PDF).

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Those who’ve ever been told that “there are more fish in the sea…” should be relieved that we only cast our visual nets to the heavens for stars and galaxies, as this most important of animals throughout history is only represented in the Northern Hemisphere by one pair of gilled swimmers tied at the tails.

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Some Light Science Reading. The Constellations: Libra

As first appeared in the May 2010 edition of the Syracuse Astronomical Society newsletter The Astronomical Chronicle (PDF).

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It is only fitting that, as we approach Summer and the unbelievable wealth of binocular and telescope objects that reside within the central region of the Milky Way, we spend at least one article on an otherwise mundane (to the amateur astronomer, anyway) Constellation. We endeavor this act of balance in the presentation of night sky viewing (and in the interest of accounting for all of the sky by the time these articles are done) by featuring Libra, The Scales.

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Some Light Science Reading. The Constellations: Coma Berenices

As first appeared in the April 2010 edition of the Syracuse Astronomical Society newsletter The Astronomical Chronicle (PDF).

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I continue to groom the Eastern sky in this month’s Constellation presentation by spending some time conditioning you to appreciate the subtle shapeliness and glowing highlights just a short clip from last month’s subject, Canes Venatici (I will endeavor to refrain from additional dry hair humor in the rest of the article). Coma Berenices, or “Berenice’s Hair,” is an unusual constellation in many respects. It is one of the few constellations that owes its name (and history) to an actual person, is one of the constellations that was promoted from a lowly asterism, it marks the location of the North Galactic Pole, and, as one of the edge-sharing constellations with Virgo, Coma Berenices contains a plethora of Messier Objects (and is an excellent constellation to have memorized if binocular viewing is in your future and you just don’t wanna wait to find something). As has been a general theme with many of these past articles, even the most simple constellations have weaved into them a wealth of astronomical treasures.

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