Archive for the ‘Stars’ Category

1st Star Gaze Of The Year

After several months of pants weather in the evenings which stopped me from doing any stargazing, last night finally had a clear enough sky to have a good look again. The moon was ideally positioned as well which made the stars and planets on show very bright.  I didn’t get the telescope out this time but used my binoculars instead to have a scan around the Sky.

The most noticeable object in the Sky was the planet Jupiter which was shining very brightly, so I had a good look at it and managed to pick out three of Jupiter’s moons.  One was to the right of it and two more underneath it, and I could also just pick out the horizontal storms raging across the planet. As I was using binoculars, the image wasn’t very steady, so I was desperately trying to lean against the shed to steady myself!

Once I had had a good look at Jupiter, I had a look at the Pleiades (also known as ‘The Seven Sisters’) which are one of my favourite things to view in the night sky. They were shining brilliantly via the binoculars although quite dimmed out when looking with the naked eye. It still amazes me how well you can see these stars through a telescope or binoculars as it really brings them to life! The Pleiades are located in the constellation of Taurus and are one of the closest star clusters to Earth.  Here is a great photo of them from the NASA website.

Pleiades ('Seven Sisters')

Pleiades (‘Seven Sisters’)

The final section of the sky that I had a good look at last night was the Orion Nebula which is situated in the sword of the constellation Orion. As the Nebula is in the middle of the three star sword, it is easily spotted in the sky. You can just make out a blurry area with the naked eye, but using the binoculars as I was, I had a great view of the Nebula. The Nebula is also known as M42 and is 24 light years across with the mass being almost 2000 times that of the Sun. It is also the closest star forming region to the Earth which adds to its significance. I find it amazing to look at this and imagine new stars and worlds being formed in a distant part of the galaxy. Here is a photo of the Orion Nebula from the NASA website.

Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula

Here’s hoping for more clear skies over the next few weeks!


If you can get out this week, it is a great opportunity to do some Stargazing as the skies around the country are very clear at night time at the moment!

The Moon is quite small at the moment so the light from it isn’t quite bright enough to hide all the Stars. The brighter ones can still be seen very well especially Sirius (the Dog Star), Betelgeuse (the red coloured top left star in the constellation Orion) and Aldebaran (which is another red coloured star in the constellation Taurus). But the best object by far in the sky at the moment is the planet Jupiter. It is currently situated near to the Moon each night which makes it easy to spot. Jupiter’s Moons are also very clear at the moment and if you use a telescope, you can see at least four of them shining brightly around the huge planet (depending on where they are in their orbits). You can also just make them out using a decent pair of binoculars.

I had a great half an hour on Sunday night (before I nearly froze to death!)  looking at the Moon and Jupiter. I could see the craters on the Moon very clearly as it was shining bright. I also had a great look at Jupiter and saw three Moons to start with, but then whilst I was watching, a fourth Moon peeped out from behind the giant planet. All four were shining brighter than I had probably seen them shine before. I could also see two of the purple coloured storm bands moving around the planet,  just above and below the centre of Jupiter. It was an amazing sight and whenever I view Jupiter, I can never really believe what I am seeing! It’s that fantastic and awe-inspiring to me.

So take advantage of the clear skies and fine weather and do a bit of Stargazing tonight and let me know what you see by either leaving a comment on this post or tweeting me at @strethewey. Enjoy the viewing!

Lyrid Meteor Shower

This year the annual Lyrid Meteor Shower should be a great spectacle as the Moon will not be lighting up the sky at all. As long as you are out in the country and have the luck of a clear sky, there should be a perfect view of the meteors. Even in a lighter sky, it should be a good sight.

The height of the shower falls on the night of the 21st April with the average number of meteors spotted per hour being at about 10-20, but it has been known to reach up to 100 meteors per hour! On the nights around the peak night, you should still be able to see the occasional meteor. I had a look last night but unfortunately didn’t see any, mainly because the area of the sky where they seem to originate from (The constellation Lyra near the bright star called ‘Vega’.) was too low on the horizon and was hidden by trees.

The Lyrids are thought to be sand grain sized debris from a passing comet. When they hit the Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up, causing the light streaks in the Sky.  In the past, fireballs have been seen hurtling across the sky during this meteor shower. They are thought to originate from comet Thatcher that has an orbit of 416 years with its path staying practically the same each time is passes through.  This means the debris is always in the path of the Earth which is why it is an annual event.

So fingers crossed everyone gets to see a good few meteors! 😉

Orion Nebula, Sirius, Betelgeuse, Procyon and more

After several weeks of bad weather and tiredness due to busy work and a pregnant wife, I have been able to go out and view the Night Sky again.

A lot has changed since I last viewed the stars.  Jupiter has now disappeared (from my viewing angle) and Orion has made its way along the night sky and is now settling in the South to South East area.  The Plough has also come in to view and can be seen directly from my back garden towards the East.

The first thing I wanted to have a look at was the star Betelgeuse as Professor Brian Cox had said that it could turn into a Red Giant at any time.  It would be amazing to see that happen in the sky and would be one of the highlights of my life.  Unfortunately, the star was still looking the same through my binoculars and telescope, but I will keep checking it every clear night.

I also wanted to see if I could get a better view of the Orion Nebula which lies amidst the ‘Sword’ in the Orion Constellation.  I had a look through my binoculars and telescope and could see a lot more than with the naked eye.  What I could see was a blurry amount of light which is quite distinct compared with the rest of the space around it.  It was exciting to be able to make this much out but I look forward to maybe getting a better look with a more powerful telescope when I can afford one.  It was still a marvel to look at for me anyway.

Orion Constellation inc Orion Nebula and Betelgeuse

Orion Constellation inc Orion Nebula and Betelgeuse

Whilst I was looking at the Orion Nebula through the telescope, either a Satellite or a Meteor shot across the viewer.  I’m not 100% sure what it was but it didn’t have any lights which can sometimes be seen on a satellite so I am leaning towards it being a meteor.  It was so far away in the sky that it wouldn’t have been viewable by the naked eye.  Perhaps someone can tell me what it was?  I spotted it at about 8pm last night (24th March 2011).

There was one star in the sky that my wife and I always wondered what it was as it looked like a Helicopter or an Aeroplane suspended in the sky, with its lights flashing red and blue.  After taking a closer look using our equipment and consulting the Internet, we found it to be Sirius (also known as the Dog Star and part of the constellation ‘Canis Major’).  It is the brightest star in the sky and the red and blue twinkling that it gives off is due to its light hitting the atmosphere of the Earth and refracting in the gases.  We are both glad that we now know what it is!

The Star Sirius in the Constellation Canis Major

The Star Sirius in the Constellation Canis Major

The final area of the Sky that I had wanted to take a look at was the bright star to the left of Orion.  This star is called ‘Procyon’ and forms part of the constellation ‘Canis Minor’.  This is also a very bright star, although obviously not as bright as Sirius.  I couldn’t see much more detail through the telescope which was a shame, but at least I now know its name.

The Star Procyon within the Constellation Canis Minor

The Star Procyon within the Constellation Canis Minor

UFO or Mir Space Station

I hope someone can help me with this?

I was out at Mount Batten in Plymouth on the 8th January 2011 taking a look at the stars and sky when I noticed a light streaking across the sky. It was coming from a South Easterly direction, moving North Easterly, at a very fast rate. I could see it in the sky for a good 30 seconds until it got past the Moon and suddenly disappeared. I’m quite sure that it wasn’t a shooting star or a meteor as this seemed completely different, so i’m hoping someone knows what this may have been?

I did a bit of research afterwards and found that you can see the Mir Space Station in the sky on occasions and when the sun hits it, it looks like a bright light shooting across the sky. I’m not 100% convinced though.

Can anyone shed some light on this please?