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.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 49 Libra

Libra the Scales

A small faint constellation of the zodiac, the ancient Greeks knew it as the ‘claws of the scorpion’ an extension of the neighbouring constellation of the Scorpion. However the Romans made it a separate constellation at the time of Julius Caesar. Since then the scales of Libra have come to be regarded a the symbol of justice held aloft by the goddess of justice Astraea.
Alpha or Zubenelgenubi which means the ‘Southern Claw’ is actually the second brightest star with a magnitude of mag 2.7 lying at a distance of 77 light years. Zubenelgenubi is a F3 class star. A pair of binoculars will reveal that alpha is actually a double star.
Beta or Zubeneschamali or ‘Northern Claw, is actually the brightest star at magnitude 2,6 lying at a distance of 185 light years. Zubeneschmali is a B8 class star.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 48 Lepus

Lepus the Hare
A constellation known to the ancient Greeks, it represents a hare cunningly located at the feet of Orion. The Hare was placed in the sky for Orion to Hunt.
Alpha or Arneb which means ‘Hare’ is a magnitude 2.6 star, it is a F0 supergiant star lying at a distance of 2,200 light years. It will end its life as a supernova.
Beta or Nihal which means ‘Quenching their Thirst’ is a magnitude 2.8 star lying at a distance of 160 light years. It is a G5 giant class star.
Epsilon has a brightness of magnitude 3.2 its an orange K4 giant star 213 light years away.
R sometimes called Hind's Crimson Star, its a well-known variable star. It is named after famous British astronomer J. R. Hind, who observed it in 1845. Its magnitude varies from +5.5 to +11.7 with a period of 418–441 days. R lies around 1,300 light years away.

Friday, 12 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 47 Leo Minor

Leo Minor the Lesser Lion
The smaller Lion designated by Johannes Hevelius in 1687, located between Ursa Major and Leo. Leo Minor hardly merits a separate name as there are no bright stars.
The brightest star is FL 46 magnitude 3.8 and is a KO class giant star, 95 light years away.
The only star with a Greek letter is Beta at mag 4.2 it is a G8 giant class star lying 154 light years away.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 46 Leo

Leo the Lion
One of the few constellations that looks like the figure it is supposed to represent in this case a crouching lion. The Lion’s head is outlined by a sickle shape or backwards question mark at the bottom of which is the bright star Regulus.
This is the lion that is slain by the hero Hercules as the first of his 12 labours.
Leo is a large and bright constellation in the spring sky with many stars and galaxies of interest.
Alpha or Regulus which means ‘Prince or Little King, lies 79 light years away, it has a brightness of magnitude 1.4 Regulus is a B8 class star with a surface temperature 12,000’C, much hotter than our Sun at 5,800’C.
Beta or Denebola which means ‘Tail of the Lion’ with a brightness of magnitude 2.1 Its an A3 class star lying at a distance of 36 light years.
Gamma or Algeiba which means ‘Lions Mane’, is an orange class K0 giant star with a magnitude of 2.1 and is 130 light years away.
Delta or Zosma which means ‘Girdle or hip’ is an A4 class star lying at a distance of 58 light years, Zosma has a magnitude of 2.6.
Wolf 359 is one of the nearest stars to the Sun; only the Alpha Centauri system (including Proxima Centauri), Barnard's Star and the brown dwarfs Luhman 16 and WISE 0855−0714 are known to be closer. Its only 7.3 light years away, Wolf 359 is a red dwarf of class M6 with a temperature of around 2,000’C. It is so faint it only has a magnitude of 13.5 meaning a large telescope is needed to find the star.
Wolf 359 has been mentioned in several science fiction works
The Dark Side of the Sun (1976), a novel by Terry Pratchett.
There are four messier galaxies in Leo M65,M66,M95 and M96 all require telescopes to be seen.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 45 Lacerta

Lacerta the Lizard
Another inconspicuous constellation sandwiched between Cygnus and Andromeda, introduced to the sky by Johannes Hevelius in 1687.
The only bright star is alpha with a magnitude of 3.8, its a A1 class star lying at a distance of 103 light years.
There were other suggestions for constellations in this area, the Sceptre and Hand of Justice created by the French astronomer Augustin Royer in 1697 to commemorate King Lous XIV. The German astronomer Johann Bode in 1787 called this area Frederick’s glory in honour of King Frederick II of Prussia. Both have been discarded in favour of Lacerta.

Saturn seen from Grosvenor Museum

Saturn seen from  Grosvenor Museum

On June 10th 1953 the planet Saturn was seen from the Grosvenor Museum in Chester using its Cooke 3 inch telescope.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 44 Indus

Indus the Indian - Southern Hemisphere
This constellation was proposed by the Dutch navigator /astronomer Peter Keyser in honour of the natives of America at the end of the 16th century. It was introduced to stellar maps by Johan Bayer in 1603.
As in the case of many other modern constellations it is hardly possible to shape the sparsely dispersed stars into the figure of a North American native.
Alpha has a magnitude of 3.1 and lies at a distance of 98 light years, the star is a K0 giant star.
Beta is fainter with a magnitude of 3.7, its an orange K1 class giant star lying 600 light years away.

Monday, 8 June 2020

Astrognome A-Z of Constellations # 43 Hydrus

Hydrus the Lesser Water Snake
It was one of twelve constellations created by Petrus Plancius from the observations of Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman and it first appeared on a 35-cm (14 in) diameter celestial globe published in late 1597 (or early 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.
This is a smaller southern hemisphere version of the great water snake, Hydra. Hydrus is sandwiched between the two Magellanic clouds and almost bridges the gap between Eridanus and the south celestial pole. Alas it is not a very bright constellation.
The brightest star is beta with a magnitude of magnitude 2.8 lying at a distance of only 25 light years. Beta is a G2 class star.
Alpha is the second brightest star with a magnitude of 2.9, its a FO class star lying at a distance of 72 light years.
Gamma with a magnitude of 3.3 is a M1 class red giant star it is located at a distance of 214 light years.
Located mostly in Dorado, the Large Magellanic Cloud also extends into Hydrus