Observing S.A.N.T.A C.L.A.U.S Style

Posted by Lydia on December 23rd, 2008

Just for the Holiday! Courtesy of Becky Ramotowski, a talented observer and writer living in New Mexico.

Polaris – well that’s where it all begins so take a look at the North Star, alpha Ursae Minoris. It’s a nice double star and it’s easy to find. Basically a no brainer for locating: head for the North Pole, when you get there look straight up. Sharp optics and medium power will lure the star that guides Santa’s sleigh to your house from his North Pole workshop.

Sirius – is also a double star, but it’s really tough to split. Look south and to the east to find it—as if you really need directions to find the brightest star in the night sky.

Albirio – One of the best small telescope, or mega binocular showpieces of the night sky. It’s the beta star of Cygnus the swan and since it marks the head of the fowl flying down the Milky Way it dives headfirst into the western horizon as December’s chilly night’s progress.

Neptune – According to Wikipedia it’s the eighth and farthest planet from the Sun in the solar system. It finishes in last place since Pluto was demoted by some astronomers and scientists in Belgium a few years back. I’ve been boycotting Belgian chocolates ever since.

Taurus – The whole complex known as the Hyades should be called the good-bye-a-dees since it is moving away from us. There’s a lot to love about this area since it’s home to M1, and those flashy and flirty seven sisters we admire so fondly as the Pleiades or M45.

Andromeda – The galaxy we all look up to as our role model. Well, not really but we do look at it as a way of seeing what we look like if we could go out in space and look back upon ourselves. Andromeda is going to smash through us in some very distant time.

Cassiopeia – Home to a couple of naked eye stars known to be the most luminous in our galaxy. Rho Cassiopeia and V509. They are each hypergiants. Rho is notable because it’s 11,650 light years away, yet can be seen naked eye.  That’s pretty cool by anyone’s standards but it’s too hot to live near as far as extra solar planet possibilities go. There are only seven yellow hypergiants currently known and Rho is one of the magnificent seven.

Lyra – The lyre was one of the 48 constellations listed by Ptolemy, a 1st century astronomer. It’s home to Vega and Beta Lyrae known as the double double.

Aries – Who the heck can find this nondescript constellation, which is notable for being the first of the twelve zodiacal constellations. Aries the ram wore the fleece that was a major quest of Jason and the Argonauts according to Greek myth.

Ursa Major – The Big Bear or Big Dipper is one of the most widely known constellations in the night sky.

Saturn – It’s almost edge on as viewed from Earth so the rings are razor thin and quite elusive.


Check out Becky’s book:  Secrets of Stargazing: Skywatching Tips and Tricks

… and Becky’s Blog

One person has commented

Dan said,

…also quasar in amateur astronomy forum.
Best wishes,
Dan- Bucharest, Romania

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