The Jewel Box

Friday 12 April 2019

Southern Skies are fasinating for someone like me, who grew up above the 50th parallel. I will never forget the first time I saw the Southern Cross. I was in a lovely garden on the coast near Bagamoyo in Tanzania because I had explained to my generous hosts that I had always wanted to see a tropical night sky, and they insisted that we should go immediately away from the lights of the verandah and down the garden, where there was open sky, framed by tall and noisy coconut palms.

Omega Centauri

Monday 11 March 2019

The brighter stars in each constellation are designated, roughly in order of their brightness, with a letter of the greek alphabet. this follows a system introduced by Johann Bayer (1572-1625). The brightest star in the constellation Centaurus (the Centaur) is Alpha Centauri, the nearest bright star to our sun. The 19th brightest “star” in that constellation is Omega Centauri. Even with the naked eye, there is something slightly odd about this “star.

The Crab Nebula

Saturday 2 February 2019

In July 1054(AD), a bright new star appeared in the constellation of Taurus. We have records from China, Korea and Japan and from some Islamic scholars. The star was visible even in the daytime (if you knew where to look) for about 23 days before gradually fading from view. It was one of the brightest things in the night sky, but does not seem to have been recorded in Europe.

Great Carina Nebula

Monday 14 January 2019

This is probably the most spectacular nebula (cloud of gas and dust) in the night sky, but is too far south to be visible from the UK. Like the great Orion nebula (visible from here in the winter), this is easily visible with the naked eye, and glorious in any telescope. The Great Carina Nebula is a complex area of glowing gas and dark dust aprroximately 8,000 light years away from us in the direction of the constellation Carina.

Alnitak Region

Tuesday 11 December 2018

The constellation of Orion dominates winter skies in the Northern Hemisphere. The shape of Orion, the hunter, and the three stars of Orion’s belt, are familiar to anyone who looks around the night sky, but the naked eye has to track along Orion’s sword (hanging from the belt from the Northern Hemisphere) to have any hint of the glories this constellation reveals to any telescope. The faint, small, fuzzy patch is the famous Orion nebula, but there are many extraordinary nebulae here.

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