Wednesday 9 January 2013

Get Outside with binoculars for BBC Stargazing 2013!

First up, hello to any new readers who have come to this blog via the BBC Stargazing hashtag! This post is an attempt to draw a few of you into my world, I'll come right out and admit it, and I hope you like what you read.

I like to be outside, and I like to do stuff that doesn't cost much money - it's the Scottish blood. Wildlife and Birds during the day, and the Night Sky after sunset, are all free, and I firmly believe we should enjoy them as much as possible. Without wanting to sound all pious, if a mere, solitary, single person gets to enjoy such things for themselves after reading this blog, then it has done its job.

Nature and stars are good for the soul! That's what I keep telling everyone!

Obviously last night was a bit grim and grey here in the East Midlands, but tonight is clear, if a little hazy. I've just had a little practice observation session with my 10x50 binoculars, and took in a couple of easy, and attractive binocular ojects for you to try out.

First up, I looked at the Mirfak cluster. Mirfak, Alpha Perseii, is the bright, yellowish second mag star leading the constellation of Perseus. With the naked eye, you can see a few of the brighter stars associated with it, but 10x50 binoculars reveal a number of white stars in what is a true grouping rather than a line of sight effect, a kind of halfway house between the Hyades and the Pleides.

What nails this cluster for me, however, is the vivid red star of about mag 6, that sticks out like a ruby in a diamond cluster. I've never been able to find anything much out about it, other than it is probably a line of sight interloper, but as with all strongly coloured stars, it fascinates the hell out of me!

Not too far away, and on the lists of Moore's Winter Marathon, is Kemble's Cascade. Virtually overhead at the moment, but slightly tricky to find in the stellar desert known as Camelopardalis, it is an attractive little chance curved line of stars that more or less fills the field of view of my 10x50s. Photographs reveal the glorious mix of coloured stars forming this asterism, but in my experience with it, the colours are hard to see from my town back yard.

Use the stars at each terminal end of the Cassiopeia "W" as pointers to find it.

On a good night, you see the line end at a faint fuzzy patch - this is the star cluster NGC1502 which requires a decent telescope to see properly.

Anyway, a couple of easy objects for you to have a look at! The sky belongs to you, get out there and enjoy it.

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