Tag Archives: February

Colomba (The dove)

Monoceros, Puppis, ColumbaColomba was originally named Colmba Noachi, latin for Noah’s Dove. This is a small, dim southern constellation located below the feet of Canis Major. It is so far south that it is only visible at nightfall for a few months centered on February, when it reaches its highest nightfall ascension. In addition to being visually uninteresting due to its small size, dimness, and far south placement, it is also telescopically uninteresting as well. Only one unremarkable globular star cluster (NGC 1851) can be found there with medium-sized amateur telescopes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columba_(constellation)

IAU Columba chart, IAU and Sky Telescope magazine, June 5, 2011.
IAU Columba chart, IAU and Sky Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Lepus (The hare)

Orion, LepusLepus represents a hare (not to be confused with Lupus, the wolf) that is being hunted by Orion and chased by his nearby dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor. This constellation lies just below the celestial equator, and immediately south of Orion. Lepus was one of the 48 constellations cataloged by 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy that remain among the 88 modern constellations. This 51st-largest southern constellation can be best seen in February. M79, a globular star cluster, is the only Messier object located in this constellation.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepus_(constellation)

IAU Lepus Chart, Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg, June 5, 2011.
IAU Lepus Chart, Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Camelopardalis (The giraffe)

Camelopardalis, Till Credner, July 16, 2004.The Greek camelopardalis means giraffe, which comes from camel because of its long neck and leopard because of its spots.  The brightest star in this constellation is 4th magnitude, which can be a challenge to see in a light-polluted urban sky. This is a faint northern constellation that provides the foreground stars in a direction that points away from the flat disk of the Milky Way. This 18th-largest constellation is found between Polaris, The Big Dipper and Cassiopeia, and is best viewed in February when it is high overhead at nightfall. Camelopardalis is also the direction in which Voyager I is headed, but its power source will be long dead when it arrives in that vicinity thousands of years from now. This constellation is also home to May’s Camelopardalids meteor shower.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camelopardalis

IAU Camelopardalis chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Canis Major (The great dog)

Sirius, Till Credner, 23 March, 2003.Canis Major is a bright southern constellation that contains Sirius, the brightest star in all of the night sky. This constellation was one of the 48 constellations cataloged by 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy that remain among the 88 modern constellations. This 43rd largest constellation lies just south and east of Orion, and is best seen in February.

The Milky Way runs through Canis Major with only minor obscuration by dark nebula, so this area of they sky is impressive when viewed with binoculars or a small telescope. M41, an open star cluster, is the only Messier object found in this constellation. It is home to several NGC objects that can be found by the determined telescopic observer.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canis_Major

IAU Canis Major chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2014

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Orion, The Great Hunter

OrionThe Orion constellation is visually one of the brightest, most distinct, and most recognizable constellations in all of the night sky. It is one of the most telescopically interesting constellations as well. Associated with and following Orion from the left are Canis Major and Canis Minor, the Hunter’s greater and lesser dogs. Immediately below Orion’s feet Lepus, the hare, flees the two dogs.

Once found for the first time, Orion is immediately recognizable on sight for a lifetime. It is rather well placed high in the southern sky right after sunset in February and March, located just south (below) a direct imaginary line drawn between Gemini and Taurus. Orion can be seen ascending in the eastern sky a few hours after sunset in December and January, and it can be seen setting in the western sky a few hours after sunset in April and May. The three almost equally spaced and almost perfectly aligned belt stars of almost equal brightness are likely to be the first thing noticed once an observer knows when and where to look. After finding the belt, identify the bright the stars outlining the torso, and be sure to look more closely for the dimmer stars that comprise Orion’s club and shield on either side of his torso. And finally, his dagger hangs below the left end of the belt stars. Within the dagger is The Great Orion Nebula, a reddish fuzzy blob that can be seen with the unaided eye.

As evidence that Orion attracted much of the ancient astronomers’ attention, this constellation has many named stars. Forming the head and shoulders are Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis), Meissa, and Bellatrix. The belt is formed of Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka, and marking the ends of the legs are Saiph and Rigel. Learn these names and point the stars out to friends that you wish to impress!

The deep sky objects is where Orion_Head_to_Toethis constellation gets really interesting. All of the nebulae in Orion are part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, which is over 1,500 light-years away and is several hundred light years across. The Complex is as large as the Orion constellation itself, but is too dim to see except in deep exposure astrophotographs. This is one of the most intense star forming regions that we can see from Earth, containing both young stars and protoplanetary disks. Much of this region is bright in the infrared region of the spectrum due to the intense heat generated by star forming processes. Barnard_33The largest component of the Cloud, Barnard’s Loop, begins just below Orion’s right shoulder, loops toward the left above and around the belt, and ends at Orion’s right foot. the Horsehead Nebula, the Flame Nebula and the Running Man Nebula are among the most notable non-Messier nebulae in the Complex. The Great Orion Nebula (M42), perhaps the most famous Messier object of all, is located in the dagger suspended below the left end of Orion’s belt.  While visible with the unaided eye, this star forming region is increasingly more stunning through binoculars and telescope, and is an exceptional photographic object. Picture saved with settings embedded.Providing much of  M42’s illumination is a tight star cluster known as the Trapezium, which is usually photographically over saturated in  the center in order to capture the nebula’s fainter detail at its periphery. The four-star trapezoidal asterism is easily within reach of small telescopes, but the cluster actually consists of about eight stars. This little jewel is really neat to see at the eyepiece of a small telescope. Other Messier objects in the Cloud Complex are M43 and M78.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_(constellation)

IAU Orion chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Taurus (The bull)

Constellation TaurusTaurus, one of the zodiacal constellations, is most easily identified by it’s distinct and bright V-shaped asterism that represents the face of the bull. Taurus was one of the 48 constellations cataloged by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy that remains among the 88 modern constellations. This constellation reaches its highest nightfall ascension in February, and is found by tracing Orion’s belt stars to the right  to Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri), the bright reddish star nearby. The outlying stars in this constellation can be difficult to locate in light polluted skies.

With the exception of the brightest star, Aldebaran, the V-shaped asterism previously mentioned are stars withing the Hyades open star cluster, which is the closest open star cluster to us here on Earth. Many more stars in this cluster can be detected with binoculars or a small telescope. Also in Taurus is the brightest an most distinct open star cluster that we can see from Earth, The Pleiades (M45, or The Seven Sisters), which is located northwest of the V-shaped astersm toward and near Perseus. This open star cluster, sometimes mistakenly thought to be the Little Dipper, becomes even more beautiful with even the slightest magnification. The only other Messier object is M1, the Crab Nebula, which was created by a supernova explosion that was bright enough to be seen in the daytime sky in July of 1054.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taurus_(constellation)

IAU Taurus chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope Magazine, June 5, 2011.
IAU Taurus chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net