Sunday, 10 April 2011

Last call for winter constellations

As we move into spring, our view of the winter sky changes along with the landscape.  Many of us go out in the mild evenings to listen for frogs calling and woodcock peenting and twittering, and while out there  we can enjoy the sparkling view above.  Orion, a prominent constellation during winter, is slipping to the horizon in the west, but can still be enjoyed in the early evenings just after sundown.  The waxing moon, new on April 3rd, is making it more difficult to see the stars until the full phase is past on the 17th, but towards the end of the month while it wanes the stars will again become brighter.  It will be worth it to be outside for a bit during the bright moon while flocks of migrating birds fly over on their way north.  You may even hear the howl of coyotes.  The Lyrids meteor shower will peak on the 22nd, but the waning gibbous moon will make the "shooting stars" a little more difficult to see. One does not necessarily need expensive telescopic equipment to enjoy the night sky, just aim your binoculars at some of the viewpoints such as the Pleiades Cluster and enjoy the scene of many sparkling points of light.

The shot posted here of the crescent moon between Taurus and the Pleiades (moon looks round due to long exposure)  was taken with a camera mounted on a "barn door tracker", a simple device that offsets the rotation of the earth and allows you to take long exposures of the stars without the trailing.  Directions for making one are found on page 168 of Terrence Dickinson's book NightWatch, and not that difficult to make.  This book is an excellent introduction to astronomy, and Mr. Dickinson will be our Speaker for our May Dinner Meeting.

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