Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Starry Splendour Over Prince Albert

- Hans Daehné -

Autumn is an ideal star-gazing time because the last glimpse of the Summer Constellations can still be enjoyed together with the Autumn Constellations and a pre-view of the rich Winter Constellations.

As Orion, the hunter, prepares to depart from the celestial scene in the west together with his dogs, canis major and canis minor we have to take leave ofsome splendid sights like the Orion nebula, the huge red giant, Betelgeuse, and of course the brightest star, Sirius in the large dog.

The two bright stars of the twins (Gemini) Pollux & Castor are high up in the north early in the evening.

In April, Leo, the dominant autumn constellation, moves into prime observation position, the zenith but it has to be imagined as a lazy lion lying on its back. To the east of Regulus, the main star in Leo, we find a bright “star” which is actually Saturn. The rings of Saturn are viewed edge-on at the moment which happened last in 1995. Towards the end of the year the rings will open up again and then we will look onto the northern surface of the rings of Saturn in the constellation of Virgo.

It is now the best time for the year to look for Mercury after sunset from Gordon`s Koppie.

Venus and Mars are both morning objects with Jupiter in the very early morning in the constellation of Capricorn.
Full Moon is on the 9th and New Moon on the 25thApril.

Looking in the southern direction we find the gems of the southern sky namely the crosses and the Magellanic Clouds. As any boy scout will be able to tell you the two bright Pointers point to the Southern Cross, Crux, while the neighbouring Diamond Cross and the False Cross do not have such markers.

The long axis of Crux points in the direction of the celestial South Pole and extended further beyond the pole leads to the Small Magellanic Cloud while an extension of the long axis of the Diamond Cross will lead you to the Large Magellanic Cloud close by.

On a dark night the Coalsack, next to the Southern Cross, and Magellanic Clouds are beautiful naked eye objects while a pair of binoculars shows fascinating details.

Kepler, the space telescope that can detect very faint changes in the brightness of stars, has been successfully launched by NASA to search for earth-like planets for the next six years.

Love and protect our Earth- it is the only planet with chocolate! Keep the stars in your eyes!

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