Tuesday 7 May 2019
It’s obvious why this cloud of gas in the constellation of Cygnus was given its name when first photographed in the 1890s. The nebula covers quite a large area of the sky, more than four times bigger than a full moon, but the surface brightness of the glowing gas is low. It can be glimpsed by the naked eye under exceptional conditions, appears as a fuzzy or misty area in binoculars or small telescope, provided you have a genuinely dark sky, but emerges in glorious detail only through photography, which can collect photons over time to build an image.
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.
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.
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.
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.