Saturday January 16 2021




Village Sky At Night with Brian Watkiss

Sights on dark nights

Posted on September 29 2017 at 1:37:15 0 comments


Amateur astronomer Brian Watkiss peers into the Village night sky.

October, and we know for certain that those warm days of summer are over (?). At the beginning of the month, the sun sets at about quarter to seven but by the end, it has gone by twenty to five.

Of course, the change to GMT on the 29th doesn’t help.

So, what is there to see on these earlier dark nights? As soon as the sky darkens, low in the south-west, you can still see Saturn, the brightest object in this part of the sky and still looking wonderful.

A thin crescent Moon is close by on the 24th.

Over in the west, you can find the bright star Arcturus which, together with Saturn, disappears below the horizon by about nine o’clock. Up above Saturn and slightly left, you should see the rapidly rotating star Altair.

Enclosed within the triangle formed by these three bright objects you should just be able to discern the thirteenth constellation of the Zodiac, Ophiuchus.

It’s quite faint but give your eyes time to adjust and you should make out the shape of a sort of coffee pot of stars.

Saturn is sitting within the patch of sky allocated to Ophiuchus and the Sun does the same from November the 29th to December the 18th.

Over in the north-east, again quite low, is the bright star Capella, the Goat Star. It’s actually a pair of stars, bigger than our Sun, orbiting each other very close together. Capella is the brightest star in the constellation of Auriga, the charioteer.

High in the sky above is the distinctive W of Cassiopeia and between the two is the brightest star in Perseus, Algol.

This is also known as the Demon Star because it, too, is a pair of stars rotating round each other but one is brighter that the other, making the star appear to brighten and darken every three days or so.

Now, during the course of October, a newly-discovered comet will slide up the sky between Auriga and Perseus, lying between Capella and Algol on the 11th.

It’s not known how bright it will get but it is closest to the Sun on the 14th, so it should be visible through good binoculars around this time and possibly without. You’ll just have to keep looking out for it.

On the 21st, the Orionid meteor shower peaks but look for shooting stars a few days either side of this date, while comet-hunting.

Early in the mornings, from about six o’clock till the Sun gets up, you can see a very bright Morning Star in the glow of the sunrise.

This is, of course, the planet Venus, always looking dazzlingly bright and the last thing to disappear from the sky until the Sun takes over.

Mars is close by at the start of the month but the sky needs to be decently dark to see it.

So, put on a warm coat, hat and gloves, and get out and see if you can make any sense of all the above nonsense!

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