Tag Archives: Milky Way

Serpens (The serpent)

Serpens Caput, Corona Borealis Sagittarius, Scutum, SerpensSerpens is unique among modern constellations in that it is separated into two parts. Serpens Caput, the head, begins near Corona Borealis, and descends southward until it connects to Ophiuchus (the serpent bearer). Serpens Cauda, the tail, begins on the other side of Ophiuchus and ascends north and eastward, terminating near Aquila. Serpens is often depicted as passing behind Ophiuchus and emerging from the other side. Since Serpens is a lengthy constellation that extends primarily in an east-west direction, it reaches its highest nightfall ascension beginning in June with the head and ending with the tail in August. The entire constellation is situated for best nightfall viewing in July.

Serpens Cauda extends into the Milky Way, so there are several deep sky objects in that section. Two of these are Messier objects, M5, and M16 (the Eagle Nebula, which includes the Pillars of Creation and its associated star cluster). Hoag’s Object is a face-on example of a very rare class of galaxies known as ring galaxy.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpens

IAU Serpens Caput chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnert and Rick Fienbert), March 21, 2012.
IAU Serpens Caput chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienbert), March 21, 2012.
IAU Serpens Cauda chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnertt and Rick Fienberg), March 21, 2012.
IAU Serpens Cauda chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), March 21, 2012.

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

Pyxis (The mariner’s compass)

Pyxis is a small, dim southern constellation. Locate it by following Canis Major’s tail away from the dog’s body and through and just to the other side of Puppis. This constellation’s deep southern placement makes it difficult to see at all. It reaches its highest nightfall ascension in March. Although the Milky Way runs through this constellation, there are few deep space objects available to the amateur astronomer’s telescope.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyxis

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

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

Puppis (The poop deck)

MonocerosPuppis, the poop deck, was once part of a much larger constellation, Argos Navis, the famous ship of Jason and the Argonauts. Puppis is the largest remnant, and Carina (keel and hull) and Vela (the sails) are the other modern constellations that were once part of Argos Navis. Puppis is located to the south and east of Canis Major, or just behind the dog’s tail. This constellation is visible just a few months of the year because of its far southern placement. It reaches its highest nightfall ascension in March, and is only visible at nightfall just a month or two before and after March. The Milky Way runs through Puppis, which accounts for the star clusters that are found there. M46 and M47 are two Messier clusters than can be seen in the same binocular field of view, and there is a third Messier cluster, M93, in the south of Puppis. There are several NGC star clusters in Puppis as well.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puppis

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

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

Fornax (The furnace)

Constellation FornaxFornax, the furnace, is a southern constellation that barely comes into view for observers at 40-degrees north latitude. It is south of Cetus, and flanked by Eridanus and Sculptor. It reaches its highest point in the sky at nightfall in January, but its dim stars and placement at only ten degrees above the horizon make this a very challenging constellation. The view beyond Fornax’s foreground stars is out of the plane of the Milky Way Galaxy. This accounts for the paucity of visible stars in this region, and is why it was chosen for one of the Hubble Deep Field photographs. This also explains why a relatively large number of the dwarf galaxies in the Milky Way’s galactic halo can be found in this direction with a telescope.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fornax

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

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

Canis Minor (The lesser dog)

Canis MinorCanis Minor is the lesser dog that follows the great hunter, Orion. This constellation was one of the 48 constellations cataloged by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy that remains among the 88 modern constellations. This small, 71st-largest constellation is best seen in March, and is located east of Orion, south of Gemini, and northeast of Canis Major, the greater dog that follows Orion. Its brightest stars are Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris) and Gomeisa (Beta Canis Minoris). This constellation contains the Canis-Minorids meteor shower, which lasts from 4-15 December, and peaks over the nights of 10 and 11 December. The Milky Way runs through this constellation, but it contains no Messier objects.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canis_Minor

610px-Canis_Minor_IAU.svg (1)
IAU Canis Minor Chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott & Rick Fienberg), June 4, 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

Eridanus (The river)

Eridanus was the ancient Greek name for today’s Po River. This constellation was one of the 48 constellations cataloged by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy that remain among the 88 modern constellations. This southern constellation has the distinction of being sixth largest of the modern constellations, and is best seen at its highest nightfall ascension in January. The river begins near Orion’s left foot and flows southward from there. At our 40-degree north location, the southern, or lower half of the constellation remains hidden below the horizon. At the southern end of Eridanus is the magnitude 0.5 star Achernar whose traditional name means “the river’s end.”

Of particular interest in this constellation is the Eridanus Supervoid. Numerous galaxies can be seen in deep exposure photographs in almost every direction when looking outward into the Universe beyond the foreground Milky Way stars, but the sky in the direction of Eridanus is almost entirely void of distant galaxies.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eridanus_(constellation)

597px-Eridanus_IAU.svg
IAU Eridanus chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011

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

Sculptor (The sculptor)

The Sculptor is a southern constellation of dim stars that does not rise very high in the sky. It is located south of a point half way between Aquarius and Cetus, and can only be seen from October through January, reaching its highest nightfall ascension in early December. The most notable characteristic of this constellation is that it contains the southern pole of the Milky Way Galaxy. The implication of this is that an observer is looking out of the galactic plane, instead of through its long axis as when observing the Milky Way. This explains why there are fewer stars in this region of the sky.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sculptor_(constellation)

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

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

Cassiopeia (A Greek mythological queen)

CassiopeiaCassiopeia is named after the vain Greek mythological queen of Aethiopia, the wife of Cepheus and the daughter of Andromeda. This constellation was one of the 48 constellations cataloged by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy that remain among the 88 modern constellations. This 25th-largest constellation appears as either a distinct “M” (fall and winter) or “W” (spring and summer) shaped asterism of bright stars that often catches the eye of novice observers who happen to gaze in the right direction. Although it is a northern circumpolar constellation that can be seen year round, it is found high above Polaris in December, which is when it is most easily viewed. This constellation is located opposite of the Big Dipper from Polaris, so try finding it by starting at the Big Dipper, and tracing a line northward (upward) through Polaris until reaching the first grouping of bright stars.

The Milky Way flows through Cassiopeia, and it contains two Messier objects, M52 and M103, both of which are open star clusters. It also contains numerous other NGC objects and two supernova remnants, including Tycho’s Star, a supernova recorded in 1572 by Tycho Brahe, and another remnant of a supernova that was seen 300 years ago. Interestingly, if our sun were observed from Alpha Centuari, our nearest solar neighbor 4 light-years away, it would appear to be located in Cassiopeia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassiopeia_(constellation)

603px-Cassiopeia_IAU.svg
IAU Cassiopeia chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 4, 2011.

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