Saturday, 4 July 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 69 Pyxis

Pyxis the Compass
The smallest and least impressive of the four parts into which the constellation Argo Navis the ship was divided into in the 1750s by Lacaille. The other sections Carina, Puppis and Vela.
There are no objects of particular interest to users of binoculars despite the fact that the constellation lies in the Milky Way.
The brightest star and only one above mag 4.0 is alpha at mag 3.7 which is a B1 giant with a surface temperature of 22,000’C and is 880 light years away.
T Pyx is a recurrent Nova that has erupted more times than any other Nova. T Corona Borealis is referred to as the Blaze Star because it became much brighter. T Pyx erupted in 1890, 1902, 1920, 1944, 1960 and 2011. It lies between beta and lambda. At its brightest it has reached the 6th magnitude.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 68 Puppis

Puppis the Stern
This is the largest of the four sections into which the ancient constellation of Argo Navis, the ship of the Argonauts, the constellation was dismembered in the 1750s by the French astronomer Nicolas Lacaille. The other sections are Carina the Keel, Pyxis the compass and Vela the sails.
Puppis lies in the Milky Way and contains rich star fields for sweeping binoculars.
Zeta the brightest star whose name is Naos which means ‘ship’ has a magnitude of 2.2 with a surface temperature of a whopping 38,000’C its an 04 class star and is 1,080 light years away.
Pi the second brightest star, its name Ahadi which means ‘having much promise’ has a magnitude of 2.7 and is a K3 supergiant with a temperature of 3,700’C and is 810 light years away.
Rho magnitude 2.8 F5 supergiant with a temperature of 6,700’C lying at a distance of 65 light years.
Tau magnitude 2.9 ,an orange K1 giant with a temperature of 3,800’C and is 182 light years away.
Xi magnitude 3.4 is a G6 supergiant with a temperature of 4,600’C and is 1,200 light years away.
There are three Messier objects M46,M47 and M93 that require binoculars to see them.
In November 1942 a bright nova appeared in Puppis reaching a magnitude of -0.2

The Thunder Moon

The Thunder Moon

The Full Moon on July 5th is known as the Thunder Moon as this is the month of the year when we are most likely to get thunder storms.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

William Gascoigne 1612-1644

William Gascoigne

In the year 1612 William Gascoigne was born at Thorpe on the Hill, Middleton near Leeds, born just three years after the first use of an astronomical telescope Gascoigne would go on to make major contributions to the construction of accessories to use with telescopes, he would also forge links with some of the most important astronomers of the time, yet have a tragically short life.

He came from a family of local gentry, the Gascoigne coat of arms being the severed head of a golden conger eel. Very little is known of his early years, it is not even certain where he had his formal education. Whereas other people spent their leisure time hawking and hunting William Gascoigne was fascinated by the natural world and the world of instruments and machines.

We do know that by 1638 he was already a very experienced and seasoned astronomer. One point that seems bizarre with regards to his future life is that he received no training in mathematics. During Gascoigne’s lifetime the science of optics and the construction of telescopes were still in its infancy and was still a very secret subject which meant it was difficult for him to obtain books on the subject. However obtain books he did and he then became self-taught in the field of mathematics and optics, in fact what he was doing would be imitated by the world renowned Yorkshire telescope maker Thomas Cooke nearly two hundred years in the future.

By sheer dint of effort and research Gascoigne managed to have constructed a telescope and he even produced the lenses to go with it. The likelihood is that he almost certainly made several telescopes but we just don’t know how many. We know that he definitely had a telescope in 1640 because he was observing the Sun; Gascoigne was using the projection method to observe the Sun safely.

Gascoigne had made friends with two other astronomers William Crabtree 1610-1644 who lived in Manchester, and through Crabtree with Jeremiah Horrocks 1618-1641 who was born near Liverpool but later lived at Much Hoole near Preston, these three astronomers were the first people to start to get a grasp of just how big the solar system was. In 1639 Jeremiah Horrocks predicted that there would be a Transit of Venus, a transit occurs when a planet closer to the Sun than the Earth can be see passing in front of the Sun, this applies to only two planets, Mercury and Venus. While transits of Mercury are quite common those of Venus are extremely rare. Astronomers would use transits of Venus to try to work out how far away the Sun was. The Transit of Venus in 1639 was observed by just two people Horrocks and Crabtree. These three would become a formidable group of North Country astronomers but sadly only for a short period in time. They would all die young and at the time of the English Civil War.

However back to Gascoigne who had one of those lucky breaks in life. A spider had gotten into his telescope and spun a web. We can only assume at first that Gascoigne was pretty annoyed with this pesky spider messing around in his telescope but then he saw that the spider had done him a good turn, the web was very straight and very clear and he instantly realised that this could be used to perform a sight to make sure that you knew exactly where you were looking. He made the first cross hair wire albeit with spider webs.

This spider web technology would in fact be used right up until the Second World War in optical equipment. Gascoigne would quickly appreciate those spiders webs would become an indispensable aid to astronomers. Here was a natural resource that was not only very strong and very straight and being a Yorkshireman quickly realised that they also don’t cost anything.

Gascoigne also suggested that if it was very dark so the web could not be seen a lantern could be placed to allow its light to sufficiently illuminate the web. This illuminating technology would remain the same for the next two centuries.

We have no idea how many telescope sights that Gascoigne would make however in 1640 when William Crabtree visited him he was impressed with the numbers of them produced. Jeremiah Horrocks when hearing of these inventions was full of praise and admiration for Gascoigne.

But Gascoigne did not stop there he now had the means to accurately find an object in the sky, but could he measure how far apart or how was and object in the sky. Taking his spider web technology he mounted two spider webs which were mounted in the field of view and moved towards or away from each other by means of a screw. A scale would show how far apart the webs were. This was the filar micrometer a direct development of the telescope sight. He would become the first astronomer to use a micrometer to measure the angles and positions in the sky. Using his micrometer, Gascoigne made numerous measurements of solar and lunar diameters, plus positions of the stars including the Pleiades or Seven sisters.

Today of course we have equipment that can measure an angle to a precession that Gascoigne could never have imagined. If however we want to trace the time line of today’s measuring equipment right back to the first micrometer, we end up with William Gascoigne at Middleton near Leeds.

The trio would all died in the early 1640s, Jeremiah Horrock in January 1641 from an unknown reason, he never got to try the new micrometer, William Crabtree died in 1644 during the Civil War
but it is unknown if he was killed fighting. We do know that William Gascoigne died at the Battle of Marston Moor on July 2nd fighting on the royalist side for the King.

Much of his work then appeared to be lost or forgotten the micrometer does not seem to appear again until the 1660s about twenty years after the death of Gascoigne. However by chance some of his papers which survived the Civil War and the Great Fire of London came into the possession of Christopher and Richard Townley of Townley Hall in Burnley Lancashire.

They presented the papers to John Flamsteed the first astronomer royal that quickly realised just how important the work done by Horrock, Crabtree and Gascoigne was. Without the work of someone from the red rose county we would not have found out about the wonderful contribution to astronomy of this white rose person.

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 67 Piscis Austrinus

Piscis Austrinus The Southern Fish
This constellation has been known since ancient times and is often represented as a fish drinking the flow of water from the urn of the neighbouring Aquarius the water bearer. The fish has been identified with the Babylonian fish god Oannes and is said to be the parent of the zodiacal fish Pisces.
Alpha or Fomalhaut which means the fishes mouth is the most southerly of the 1st magnitude stars from that can be seen from Britain, it is seen autumn can can be found by using the two right hand stars of the square of Pegasus. Fomalhaut is of magnitude 1.2 and is an A3 star with a temperature of 8,000’C and lies at a distance of 25 light years.
Beta magnitude 4.3 is an A1 star 143 light years away with a temperature of 9,300’C..

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 66 Pisces

Pisces the Fishes
An ancient constellation representing a pair of fishes tied by their tails, the knot being marked by the star alpha. One legend identifies the constellations with Venus and her son Cupid, who turned themselves into fishes and swam away from the attack of the monster Typhon.
The constellations most celebrated feature is that it contains the vernal equinox – the point at which the Sun moves across the celestial equator into the northern hemisphere each year. The point originally lay in Aries, but has now moved into Pisces because of precession, eventually it will move onto in Aquarius. It is still called the First Point of Aries
Alpha or Alrisha which means rope or knot with a magnitude of 3.8 is actually made of two stars of magnitude 4.3 and 5.2, a small telescope will show both stars. Alpha is 311 light years away and is an A class star.
Eta the brightest star in Pisces is known as Al Kargh or outpouring of water with a magnitude of 3.6 , it lies 350 light years away and is a G7 giant star with a temperature of 4,700’ C
Gamma magnitude 3.7 is a G8 class stars with a temperature of 4,600’C and is 138 light years away
FL19 or TX Psc a deep red irregular variable. One of the reddest stars that can be seen by the naked eye. TX varies between magnitude 4.9 – 5.5 in a period of between 224-450 days. Its 900 light years distant.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 65 Pictor

Pictor the Painters Easel
A faint constellation overshadowed by the brilliant star Canopus in Carina to one side and the Large Magellanic Cloud in Dorado on the other. The constellation was invented by Lacaille in the 1750s while in the southern hemisphere . It contains the 9th mag star Kapteyn’s star only 12.7 light years away named after the Dutch astronomer who discovered it in 1897. .
Alpha magnitude 3.3 class A8 temperature 7,000 ‘ C, 97 light years way.
Beta magnitude 3.9 A6 class star 8,000 ‘ C ,65 light years away. Beta is a young star only 20-26 million years old but it appears to be surrounded with planetary forming material.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 64 Phoenix

Phoenix the Phoenix
An inconspicuous constellation lying near the southern end of Eridanus the River representing the mythological bird that was regularly reborn from its own ashes. It was introduced in 1603 by Johann Bayer in an area known by the Arabs as the boat moored on the shores of the river.
Alpha magnitude 2.4 class K0 giant temperature 4,200’C degrees distance 85 light years.
Beta magnitude 3.3 class G8 giant temperature 4,800’C degrees distance 200 light years
Gamma magnitude 3.4 red giant M0 class star, temperature 3,500’C degrees distance 234 light years.

The Great Northern Eclipse

June 29th 1927 The Great Northern Eclipse

This eclipse lasted for just 24 seconds at 6.25 am BST, the band of totality crossing the north coast of Wales and leaving Britain over the Hartlepool area.

It is estimated that well over 1 million people travelled to the area where the eclipse would be total with over 200,000 people travelling by train. The Flying Scotsman broke a draw crank which delayed 12 other trains built they got their just in time.

A journalist for the Yorkshire Post reported that on the 12 miles of the Great North Road between Boroughbridge and Wetherby 225 vehicles past by in 40 minutes!

Although it was cloudy in Wales it was seen from Southport where the beaches which covered withy many thousands of observers. The beach at Southport was also used a temporary airfield as some people went above the clouds to see and photograph the eclipse. At least 8 flights from Croydon Aerodrome were made to Hooton Park Aerodrome near Chester.

Although it was cloudy at Blackpool the 250,000 people on the beaches experienced the darkness of the eclipse, it was seen briefly just south of Morecambe Bay

The eclipse was also seen in the Ribble Valley and there were reports of seeing the eclipse from Preston, Longbridge, Blackburn and Chorley. In addition it was seen at Giggleswick where the astronomer royal had set up his observing site, together with 80,000 other visitors. The eclipse was also seen at Settle where the Yorkshire Evening News said that Settle had been invaded by thousands of observers. The Settle Post Office sent 22,000 telegrammes on the day.

It was seen in the Yorkshire Dales by many people including the writer, Virginia Wolfe, further eastwards it was seen from Darlington and some parts of Middlesbrough. Over 200,000 people were here including many 100s who climbed onto the transporter bridge at Middlesbrough.

Although the weather inn the north of England was poor it was much worse in London!!

The next eclipse seen over Britain was that of June 30th 1954 which was total over the isle of Unst the most northerly of the Shetland Islands.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 63 Perseus

Perseus was the hero of Greek mythology who rescued Andromeda who was chained to a rock waiting to be eaten by the Kraken sea monster. Previously he had slained the medusa. The Gorgons eye is marked by Algol. Perseus lies in a rich part of the milky way and is worth sweeping with binoculars.
In 1901 a brilliant nova appeared in Perseus it reached magnitude 0.2 between delta and beta.
Near gamma lies the radiant for the Perseid meteor shower which occurs every August.
Alpha or Algenib which means side or is sometimes known as Mirfak the elbow. It has a magnitude of 1.8 and is a F5 supergiant with a surface temperature of 6,300 kight years and is 510 light years away.
Beta or Algol which means the winking demon is an eclipsing binary star that John Goodricke studied from York in 1782, he realised that there were two stars there eclipsing each other causing the star to change in brightness. The eclipse occurs every 2.8 days and the magnitude varies between 2.2 – 3.5. Goodricke did not discover the variability that was done by the Italian astronomer Montanari in 1669. Algol lies at a distance of 90 light years and has a surface temperature of 13,000’C and is a class B8 star. The star which is eclipsing Algol cannot be seen with the eye.
Zeta magnitude 2.9 is a B1 supergiant with a temperature of 20,500’C and is 750 light years away.
Epsilon also has a magnitude of 2.9 and is a B0. Class star with a temperature of 26,000’C and is 640 light years away.
Rho a semi regular variable varying between magnitude 3.3 and 4.0 with periods of 50, 120 and 250 days. Its a M4 red giant with a temperature of 3,800’C and is 308 light years away.
NGC 869 and NGC 884 Mag 3.7 the famous double cluster sometimes also known as chi perseus. These are open clusters with 350 and 300 stars respectively, lying about 7,600 ly away and about 300 light years apart.

Asteroid 1900 GA

Asteroid 1900GA

On June 28th 1900 James Keeler at the Lick Observatory in California discovered the asteroid 1900GA using the Crossley 36 inch reflector.

The asteroid was discovered near the planet Saturn and was photographed again on June 29th, June 30th and July 2nd. No further observations were made during 1900 due to the asteroid becoming too faint to be seen with the 36 inch. It was recovered in 1901 when its orbit was determined.

The 36 inch Crossley Reflector was purchased by Edward Crossley who owned the Crossley Carpet Mill in Halifax, Yorkshire in 1885 from Andrew Common for £2,500, Crossley built an observatory for the telescope which became the largest telescope used by an amateur in England at the time, but the poor quality of the air over industrial Halifax meant that the telescope could not be used to best effect. In 1895 he donated the telescope to Lick Observatory in California. It became operational at Lick in 1896.

The Crossley reflector although difficult to use at Lick would become one of the most important telescopes in the USA during the early part of the 20th century.

36 inch Crossley Reflector

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 62 Pegasus

Pegasus the Flying Horse
The winged horse of Greek mythology, born from the blood of Medusa after she was slain by Perseus, who can be found nearby in the sky. The most famous feature is the great square outlined by 4 stars. Strangely and for some unknown reason the top left hand star of the square which used to be known as delta Pegasi has now been transferred to Andromeda where it has become alpha Andromedae.
The great square which covers a large area and contains surprisingly few naked eye stars, look at the square you will do well to see a dozen stars.
Alpha or Markab which means saddle is the bottom right hand star of the square its magnitude is 2.5 but is believed to be variable, it is a class A0 star with a temperature of 9,500’C and is 133 light years away.
Beta or Scheat which means shoulder is the top right hand star of the square it varies in brightness between magnitude 2.4-2.7. It is a red M2 class giant star with a temperature of 3,500’C. The star is 196 light years away.
Gamma or Algenib which means the wing or side is the bottom left hand star of the square with a magnitude of 2.8, lying 390 light years away. It is a B2 class star with a temperature of 20,000’ C
Epsilon or Enif which means the nose is 690 light years away and we see it as at magnitude 2.4 , its an orange K2 supergiant star with a temperature of 3,500’C.
Eta or Matar which means lucky star of rain has a magnitude of 2.9 lying 167 light years away. It is a G2 giant star with a temperature of 4,700’C.
For a large constellation Pegasus contains few nebulae or clusters, the only object that will interest us is M15 an outstandingly bright globular cluster at magnitude 6.2 which can easily be seen through binoculars. M15 at 12 billion years old it is one of the oldest known.
M15 is about 33,600 light years away and is about 175 light years in diameter and contains around 100,000 stars.

Edward Pigott 1753-1825

Edward Pigott 1753-1825
Born in Whitton in west London in 1753, with his father Nathaniel Pigott he led a vagrant type life always travelling around, in England and Europe in particular France. In Caen between 1763 and 1769 they observed the Partial eclipse of the Sun in 1765 and Transit of Venus in 1769.

Edward Pigott

Due to various connections the Pigott`s were asked by Prime Minster Prince Staremberg to complete a cartographic survey of the principal towns in the Austrian Netherlands. Using a clock, and a 6 ft Dolland telescope. They measured the locations of Namur, Luxembourg, Antwerp, Ostend, Tournay, Brussels and Louvain in 1772/3.
In 1777 they moved back to England to Gloucestershire then to Frampton House in Glamorganshire. Ships sailing up the river Severn often grounded, the charts showed the river to be 20 miles between Llantwit Major and Watchet in Somerset. The Pigotts measured the distance and found it to be only 13 miles wide.
At this time they had between them the 6 ft Dolland, a 2.5 inch achromatic by Watkins, a 5 inch reflector by Heath and Wing they also had clocks, two mural quadrants in an observatory on two levels
On March 23, 1779, from Frampton House in Glamorganshire Edward Pigott discovered a "nebula" in Coma Berenices, which later became known as M64 . Today M64 is known as the Black Eye Galaxy. This discovery occurred just 12 days before that by Bode and roughly a year before Messier's independent rediscovery of this object.
In 1781 they moved to York where they rebuilt their observatory which was considered one of the best in the country in private hands. Edward Pigott would work with John Goodricke the deaf astronomer where they would become the ‘Fathers of Variable Star Astronomy’.
They Pigotts moved to York because in 1773 Lord Faifax of Gilling Castle had died leaving an unmarried daughter Lady Anne Faifax as his heir to the estate. The Pigotts were distantly related to the Fairfax’s and Nathaniel Pigott saw this as his chance to move in and take over the estate.
He persuaded Lady Anne Fairfax to let him run the estate; she was duped into signing the estate to him. She only had one ally her chaplain John Bolton, anyone who opposed Nathaniel Piggot was dealt with harshly. The case would eventually go to court and there would be a private act of Parliament which in 1802 allowed for Nathaniel Pigotts second son Charles Gregory to inherit everything rather than the first born, Edward Pigott.
Edward Pigott was completely different from his father and was what we wouild describe today as being very easy going and laid back.
On November 19th 1783 Edward Pigott discovered a comet in Cetus. D/1783 W1 Pigott was the first Englishman to have discovered a comet, and then have it named after him. It was aroung magnitude 6 and has an orbital period of 5.89 years. The comet was then lost. On the night of January 5, 2003, the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program located in New Mexico (USA) found an asteroidal object on three images obtained using their 1.0-m telescope. It was then lost again. In 2010 the comet was re discovered again and is now known as 226P/Pigott-LINEAR-Kowalski
Pigotts' and Goodrickes' knowledge of the sky was about to provide a rich harvest. The night of September 10th 1784 was about to become a night to remember. Goodricke discovered Beta Lyra an ellipsoidal variable while Pigott discovered Eta Aquila a Cepheid variable.

eta Aquila

After Goodrickes death in 1786 Pigott moved to the city of Bath where in 1795 he discovered the variable star R Scutum and R Corona Borealis the famous star that often disappears from view for months at a time.

In 1802 while visiting friends in France during a period of peace between the two countries he was detained when war broke out again and placed under house arrest. However after the French government was petitioned by French and British astronomers he was released and given safe passage to Calais where he returned to England.
His last astronomical observations were of the great comet of 1811.
Edward Pigott died on June 27, 1825.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 61 Pavo

Pavo the Peacock
Introduced by Johann Bayer in 1603 it is one of a series of celestial birds in this region of the sky including Apus, Grus, Phoenix and Tucana. In mythology the peacock was sacred to Juno, goddess of the heavens. According to legend Juno sent a creature with a 100 eyes called Argus to watch over a white heifer; Juno guessed that this heifer was the form into which her husband Jupiter had turned one of illicit lovers the nymph Io.
At Jupiter’s request Mercury decapitated the watchful Argus and released the heifer. Juno place the 100 eyes of Argus on the peacock’s tail.
Alpha also known as peacock magnitude 1.9 spectrum B3 with a surface temperature of 17,000’C lying at a distance 179 light years.
Beta magnitude 3.4 has a spectrum of A5 with a temperature of 8,000’C and is 135 light years away.
NGC 6752 a globular cluster. It is the third-brightest in the sky, with a magnitude of 5.4 after Omega Centauri and 47 Tucanae, NGC 6752 was first identified by one James Dunlop of Parramatta, Australia on 30 June 1826, who described it as an irregular bright nebula which could be resolved into a cluster of many stars, highly compressed at the centre. This corresponds with a core region densely populated with stars around 1.3 light-years in diameter,

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 60 Orion

Orion the Hunter
Without doubt the brightest and grandest constellation in the sky, crammed with objects of interest for all sizes on instruments. Orion’s impressiveness stems from the fact that it is an area of star formation in a nearby arm of the galaxy, centred on the famous Orion Nebula.
The Orion Nebula M42 marks the hunter’s sword hanging from his belt. The belt itself is formed by a line of three bright stars. Orion is depicted as brandishing a club and shield at the snorting Taurus the Bull.
In one story the boastful Orion was stung to death by a scorpion and is now placed in the sky so he sets as the scorpion rises.
Each year the Orionid meteor shower radiates from a point near the boundary near Gemini. Around 20 meteors per hour may be seen around October 21st
Alpha Betelgeuse which means the Underarm of Orion is the 9th brightest star in the sky. It varies in brightness between 0.4-1.3 these variations were first reported in 1836 by John Herschel. When at its faintest it is decidedly fainter than Rigel. During the winter of 2019-2020 Betelgeuse became very faint causing astronomers to wonder if it was in the process of going supernova. The star has in fact been as faint as this before in 1927. It is a red giant star entering its final phase and will probably go supernova within the next 1 million years. It is 642 light years away and is a M1 class supergiant with a temperature of around 3,300’ C.
Beta or Rigel which means the left foot is the 7th brightest star in the sky at mag 0.1. It is 863 light years away, sp B8 Ia and like Betelgeux will end up going supernova, temp 12,000 degrees.
Gamma or Bellatrix which means the conqueror or Amazon star is the 3rd brightest star in Orion. It has a magnitude of 1.6, and lies at a distance of 250 light years. It is a B2 giant with a temperature of 21,500 degrees.
Zeta or Alnitak which means the Girdle is the left hand star of the belt. Alnitak has a magnitude of 2.0 and is 1200 light years distant. It is one of the rare 09 class supergiants with a temperature of 29,000’C. Alnitak will become a supernova in the future
Epsilon or Alnilam which means string of pearls at magnitude 1.6 is the 4th brightest star in Orion. Alnilam is the middle star of the belt. Its distance is about 2,000 light years, and is a B0 class supergiant with a temperature of 27,000’C.
Delta or Mintaka the right hand star of the belt its name means the belt, its magnitude is 2.2 and lies 1200 light years away, another of the rare 0.9 class stars with a temperature of 29,000’C, and as with Alnitak, Mintake will become a supernova.
Theta (one) is known as The Trapezium or Orion Trapezium Cluster is a cluster of 4 stars in the heart of the Orion Nebula they were first seen by Galileo in 1617 but he only saw 3 of the stars the fourth was discovered by several observers in 1673. The 4 stars are within 1.5 light years of each other and are responsible for much of the illumination of the surrounding nebula. The Trapezium may be a sub-component of the larger Orion Nebula Cluster, a grouping of about 2,000 stars within a diameter of 20 light-years. They have magnitudes of 5.1,6.7, 6.7 and 8.0.
Kappa or Saiph which means sword of the giant is of magnitude 2.1 and lies 650 light years away, it is a B0 class star with a temperature of 26,000’C.
Iota or Na’ir al Saif, which means "the Bright One of the Sword is the brightest star in the asterism known as the sword of Orion, Magnitude 2.8 and lying at a distance of 2,300 light years. Like many of the stars in Orion it is one of the rare 0.9 giant stars with a temperature of 32,000’C. Again iota will become a supernova in the future.
Messier 42/43
One of the great mysteries in visual astronomy is that Galileo apparently never noticed the great nebula in Orion. There also appears to be no record of it in medieval records either. Yet here is one of the grandest naked eye nebulae in the heavens just below the famous Orion belt stars. It could not possibly have been missed by Galileo and is especially puzzling. It is also interesting that the Arab astronomers including Al Sufi had recorded the much fainter nebula in Andromeda M31, the first mention in western records is around 1615.
A stellar nursery, The Orion nebula is an enormous cloud of gas about 40 light years in diameter. The cloud is illuminated by a group of four stars known as the Trapezium, these four jewels are between magnitude 5 to 8, all the stars which are very young being about 1 million years old and there are thousands of unseen stars between 300,000 to 1 million years old. The nebula is about 1600 light years away.
M43 is a separate nebula often overlooked because of its close proximity to the Great Orion Nebula, it is separated from M42 by a dark lane of gas known as the Fish Mouth. M43 surrounds a 7th magnitude star known as Bond,s star. To see M43 you have to obscure the light from M42 a good way of seeing M43 is just to gently tap the telescope tube and that slight rocking will allow you to see M43. One very well known astronomer discovered this trick while looking at the nebula when a small earthquake occurred causing the telescope to vibrate slightly.
A diffuse nebula of the 9th magnitude above and to the right of Alnitak
NGC 1977
Is an elongated nebulosity jusy north of the Orion nebula centred on the 5th mag star 42 Orionis. The object would be more celebrated if it were not overshadowed by M42.
NGC 2024
A glowing area of gas about 0.5 degrees wide surrounding the star zeta of Alnitak. Running south from Alnitak is a strip of nebulosity into which is indented the Horsehead Nebula, a dark cloud of obscuring dust shaped like a horse’s head. Although you will see the picture in many books it is notoriously difficult to see with the eye through amateur telescopes.
The Barnard Loop is the remains of a supernova that exploded about 2 million year ago. It was first photographed by Edward Barnard in 1883, it can be seen with the eye under the best of conditions. There are suggestions that it was seen by the Vikings over 1,000 years ago.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 59 Ophiuchus

Ophiuchus the Serpent Holder
An ancient constellation, depicting a man encolied by a serpent (constellation of Serpens). He is identified as a mythological healer and forerunner of Hippocrates . He served as a ship’s doctor aboard the Argo.
Probably the most famous star in Ophiuchus is one that cannot be seen without binoculars or telescopes this is Barnard’s star a 9th magnitude star only 6.1 light years away, the fourth closest to the Sun after the 3 stars in the alpha centauri group. It was found by Edward Emmerson Barnard in 1916. It is a red dwarf star.
Ophiuchus is also in the zodiac this is the area of sky where we will always find the planets, yet very few astrologers seem to mention it.
The constellation covers a large area the brightest star alpha is known as Ras Alhague which means ‘Head of the Serpent Charmer’ it has a magnitude of mag 2.1 and is an A5 giant with a surface temperature of lying at a distance of 47 light years temp 7,500’C
Beta or Alrai which means ‘Shepherd’s Dog’ is a magnitude mag 2.8 star lying 82 light years away. Alrai ia a K2 giant star with a surface temperature of 4,100’C
Gamma at magnitude 3.8 is an AO class star with a temperature of 9,300 ‘C and is 102 light years away.
Delta or Yed Prior which means ‘Hand’ is of magnitude 2.8 and is a M0 red giant with a temperature of 3,400’C lying at a distance of 171 light years.
Epsilon or Yed Posterior which means the ‘Following star of the Hand’ is 106 light years away. Epsilon is a Gp giant star with a temperature of 4,600’C. Its magnitude is 3.2.
Eta is of magnitude 2.4 ans is 88 light years away. It is an type A1 star with a temperature of 9,600’C

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 58 Octans

Octans the Octant-Southern Hemisphere
The constellation that contains the South Pole star, despite this privileged position, Octans is faint and unremarkable. There is no southern equivalent of Polaris, the North Pole star. The nearest star to the south celestial pole is Sigma Octantis with a magnitude of only 5.5 which lies about 1 degree from the pole.
The constellation of Octans commemorates the instrument known as the Octant, a forerunner of the sextant, invented by the English astronomer John Hadley and used by him for measuring star positions.
The constellation was introduced by Nicolas Lacaille during his stay at the Cape of Good Hope and its dullness is a memorial to his dreadful lack of imagination.
The brightest star is Nu an orange K1 class giant star with a brightness of magnitude of 3.7 lying at a distance of 64 light years.
Sigma the South Pole Star shines with a brightness of magnitude 5.5 and lies at a distance of 281 light years. Sigma is a FO giant star with a temperature of 7,200’C.

A Right Royal Cooke

June 23rd 1860

Today is the 160th anniversary of the unveiling of the telescope made for Prince Albert. It was described as a ‘Magnificent Astronomical Instrument’.

The firm of Thomas Cooke & Sons of York displayed the telescope that had been made for HRH the Prince Consort. Prince Albert being interested in science and having heard of the excellent optical work by Thomas Cooke expressed a desire to meet someone from the company.

Mr Cooke travelled at once to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight to meet Prince Albert in person. He obtained an order for the telescope while there.

The telescope which was described as magnificent had a lens of 5.5 inches aperture and was housed in a tube 6.5 feet long. It was mounted on a stout tripod stand of polished mahogany.

It is also provided with another stand, permanently fixed in position, composed of iron and polished granite, designed to form an elegant and ornamental pillar, including a cover to protect the instrument when not in use.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 57 Norma

Norma the Level – Southern Hemisphere
A superfluous constellation invented in the 1750s by Nicolas Lacaille who populated the southern skies with several constellations representing scientific instruments, in this case the Surveyor’s Level.
Originally the stars of which it is made were attached to Ara the Altar and Lupus the Wolf. Since Lacaille’s time the outline of Norma has altered, so that the stars that were formerly alpha and beta have now been transferred to the neighbouring constellation of Scorpius.
Norma does lie in a rich region of the Milky Way.
The only star worthy of mention is gamma2 a K0 giant star with a magnitude of 4.0 it has a surface temperature of 4,300’C and lies at a distance of 129 light years.
There are many clusters in the constellation but most are faint
The brightest is NGC 6087 sometimes known as the S Normae Cluster due to the brightest star in the cluster being the variable star S Normae. NGC 6087 is an open cluster containing around 40 stars The cluster appears at magnitude 5.4 with a diameter of 14 light years and is around 3,300 light years away.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 56 Musca

Musca the Fly- Southern Hemisphere 
Musca (Latin for "the fly") is a small constellation in the deep southern sky. It was one of 12 constellations created by Petrus Plancius from the observations of Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman, and it first appeared on a celestial globe 35 cm (14 in) in diameter published in 1597 (or 1598) in Amsterdam by Plancius and Jodocus Hondius.
The first depiction of this constellation in a celestial atlas was in Johann Bayer's Uranometria of 1603. It was also known as Apis (Latin for "the bee") for 200 years.
Lacaille in 1776 renamed it to Musca Australis, the Southern Fly—Australis, to its then counterpart the now discarded constellation of Musca Borealis. The Australis part has now been discarded.
Alpha has a brightness of magnitude of 2.7 and is a class B2 star lying 315 light years away.
Beta lies 340 light years away and has a magnitude of 3.0 its a B2 class star.
Gamma is a B5 class star with a brightness of magnitude 3.9 lying at a distance of 325 light years.
Delta has a brightness of magnitude 3.7 and is a K2 class giant star at a distance of 91 light years.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations ## 55 Monoceros

Monoceros the Unicorn
A faint but fascinating constellation between Orion and Canis Minor. Jakob Bartsch, a German mathematician and son in law of Johannes Kepler brought it into general use on his star chart of 1624, although there are references to such a constellation in this position in earlier works by astronomers. Its location in the Milky Way ensures that it is well stocked with nebulae and clusters.
Alpha has a magnitude of only 3.9 and lies 148 light years away. It is a G9 class giant star.
The brightest star is beta at magnitude 3.7, however beta is a system of three stars and under the very best of conditions you might be able to make them out. A pair of binoculars will easily show the three stars. Beta lies at a distance of about 700 light years.
With the Milky Way flowing through Monoceros the area is very rich in faint stars also there are various clusters of stars.
M 50 is an obscure open cluster in an equally obscure constellation Start by using binoculars to find M50 it’s a 6th mag glow in a rich Milky Way field 7 degrees north of gamma Canis Major a 4th mag star about 5 degrees 2 finger widths east of Sirius. Once you have found this snowy looking blur try to see it with the naked eye. If your sky is very clear and dark you might just glimpse it.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 54 Microscopium

Microscopium the Microscope
Another constellation introduced by Lacaille in the 1750s. This group represents another of the scientific instruments that Lacaille placed in the southern sky. Sadly as with so many of his new constellations Microscopium is little more than a filler between Sagittarius and Piscis Austrinus.
There are no bright stars in Microscopium .
The brightest stars are gamma at magnitude 4.7, which lies at a distance of 225 light years and is a G7 giant star.
Epsilon also has a magnitude of 4.7 and is an A1 class star lying 166 light years away.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 53 Mensa

Mensa the Table Mountain - Southern Hemisphere
A constellation introduced by Lacaille in the 1750s. It is a southern hemisphere group and celebrates the Table Mountain at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa from where he observed the night sky. Part of the Large Magellanic Cloud strays from the neighbouring constellation of Dorado the Goldfish, over the border into Mensa possibly reminding Lacaille of the cloud that frequently covers the real Table Mountain.
Unfortunately the constellation is very faint and unimportant.
The brightest star is alpha which at only magnitude 5.1 can be masked by any mist or moonlight. Alpha is a G7 class star, 33 light years away.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Consrtellations # 52 Lyra

Lyra the Lyre
A constellation dating back to ancient times Lyra represents a stringed instrument invented by Hermes and given by his half-brother Apollo to Orpheus. Although a small constellation it is a very prominent one. Its brightest star Vega is the 5th brightest star in the sky and it is one of the summer triangle star, the others being Altair in Aquila and Deneb in Cygnus.
In around the year 14,000 AD Vega will become the North Star due to the precession of the Earth.
There is a meteor shower the Lyrids which appear around April 21-22 with around 15 per hour.
Alpha or Vega which means the ‘Falling Eagle’ is a magnitude 0.0 (zero) star. It is relatively close at only 25 light-years from the Sun,it is an A0 class star with a surface temperature of 9,200’C .
Beta or Sheliak which means ‘Lyra’ is an ellipsoidal variable discovered in September 1784 by John Goodricke, the stars are so close together that they are egg shaped due to the gravity of the two stars pulling at each other. To the naked eye Sheliak appears as one star.The two stars orbit each other every 12.9 days and the magnitude changes from 3.4-4.3. Sheliak is 960 light yeas away and is a B7 giant star.
Gamma or sulufat which means ‘Turtle’ is the second-brightest star with an apparent visual magnitude of 3.3 it lies 620 light years away and is a B9 class giant star.
Epsilon is the famous the double double, epsilon 1 shines with a magnitude of 4.7 while epsilon 2 in 4.7. They are around 162 light years away. Both stars can be seen with the naked eye under good conditions while of course binoculars will easily show both stars. A small telescope or binoculars will reveal that each star itself is a double star. Epsilon 1 and 2 are both A class stars hotter than the Sun.
M57 the famous ring nebula is a planetary nebula lying between beta and gamma M 57 is magnitude 8.8 and needs either very good binoculars or a telescope to see it and it lies around 2,300 light years away.

Solar Eclipse June 17th 1433

Solar Eclipse June 17th 1433

This eclipse was seen over all of Scotland where it was called ‘The Black Hour’ and along the north east coast of England down to North Yorkshire. In Scarborough totality lasted for 2 minutes and 46 seconds.

One reference says that in England ‘ The xi yeer of this kyng Harri, was the grete and general clip of the sunne on saynt Botolfis day; wherof moche peple was sor aferd’

In modern English this comment says that during ‘the 11th year of the reign of king Henry 6th the Sun was clipped and disappeared and many people were afraid’.

St Botolph of Thorney who died around 680 AD was an English abbot and saint. He is the patron saint of various aspects of farming. His feats day is celebrated on June 17th in England and June 25th in Scotland.

St Botolph of Thorney

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 51 Lynx

Lynx The Lynx
A decidedly obscure constellation despite its size, it is the 28th largest of the 88 constellations. It was introduced by Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius in 1687 to fill the gap between Ursa Major and Auriga. He named it Lynx because only the lynx eyed would be able to examine it.
Alpha magnitude 3.1 is an orange K7 giant star lying at a distance of 203 light years, alpha has a magnitude of 3.1.

J Chadwick Bates 1826-1901

J Chadwick Bates 1826-1901

J Chadwick Bates was born in Oldham on June 17th 1826, he was educated at Manchester Grammar School and Queens College Oxford. He was ordained by the Bishop of Manchester in 1850. In 1858 he became curate at St Martin’s Church in the village of Castleton Moor, near Rochdale where he remained for the rest of his life.

He was interested in astronomy and meteorology, he had an observatory. Bates actually built the dome. The observatory housed a Cooke telescope with I believe had a 4 in lens. He obtained a blank disc and an equatorial Stand from Thomas Cooke in York in January and February 1865 respectively, so I assume he fashioned the lens himself. A 4 inch lens is a pretty standard size of lens for amateur astronomers in the 19th century.He also had a transit room with his observatory.

J Chadwick Bates died at St Martin’s Vicarage on 14th December 1901.

Monday, 15 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 50 Lupus

Lupus the Wolf
Lupus is often overlooked by observers because it is so close to the constellation of Scorpius and Centaurus. Although the term Lupus refers to a wolf, the Greeks and Romans regarded this constellation as an unspecified wild animal held by Centaurus as an offering to the gods. It appear to be during the renaissance period that the connection with the Wolf seems to have become the common term to use. Lupus lies in the Milky Way so it is very rich in stars.
Alpha is a magnitude 2.3, B1 class star with a temperature of around 21,000,C compared to that of 5,800,C of the Sun, it lies at a distance of 460 light years.
Beta is a class B2 star even hotter than alpha at 23,500, C it has a magnitude of 2.7 and is 383 light years away. It will quickly use up its supply of hydrogen and become a red giant before possibly becoming a SN in the future.
Gamma is 420 light years away and shines with a magnitude of 2.8 it is a B2 class star.
Eta magnitude 3.4 is 440 light yaers away and is an A5 class star.
Epsilon also magnitude 3.4 and is a B2 class star lying 510 light years away.
There are many clusters in Lupus but require small telescopes to see them.
In the year 1006 a supernova appeared in Lupus, SN 1006 was probably the brightest observed stellar event in recorded history, reaching an estimated −7.5 visual magnitude and was roughly sixteen times the brightness of Venus. Appearing between April 30 and May 1. The Supernova was seen for about 3 months in the sky.