Sunday, February 18, 2007

Star Stuff

Here is a photo of three Messier objects (star clusters in this case) on the constellation Auriga. I can just barely detect them with my naked eye when it is extra clear and dark here. They are fairly easy to see in binoculars if you know where to look.

The bright (large diameter) star in the lower left is named El Nath. The bright star at the upper right is Theta Auriga. I can see these stars in the thumbnail image above. To see the clusters, you might need to click on the image to see the full 1024x768 version.

About half way along a line connecting these two bright start is a perpendicular line of three clusters or clumps of stars. The line slants a little from left to right as seen from top to bottom. M37 is towards the top of the screen, a little left of center. M36 is near the middle of the frame but a little to the right and below center. And M38 is to the lower right of M37.

By the way there is a Nova (exploding star) in the constellation Scorpius. Here is a map showing where to look. Scorpius is really high in the sky here before dawn, but the sky was hazy today, grrr... I'll keep looking. The nova seems to have peaked and is dimming, so I hope I can spot it soon. Novas bright enough to be seen with the naked eye are pretty rare I think.

Speaking of dimming, the planet Mercury, which was easily visible a week ago, has dived back towards the western horizon. I failed to spot it the last two evenings. Mercury will go around the sun and turn up in the dawn sky next month.

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