Sunday 6 October 2013

Binoculars? Who Needs them to Enjoy the Sky?

Most of you will have noticed that when this blog devotes itself to matters nocturnal, my stargazing reports are based around observations with my 10x50 binoculars.

However, with work this morning at 6am, a proper binocular session seemed out of the question. But such a glorious crisp sky, I didn't want to waste. So I just pottered around the garden, looking at the sky between the sycamores whose obstructive leaves will soon fall, and seeing what I could see.

Surprisingly from my town site, I could see plenty.

The Andromeda Spiral was the first thing I chose to look at, and it was just about visible with averted vision. Messier 15 globular in Pegasus, no chance, and I figure than ever seeing a naked eye globular from my garden under clearer colder skies is a no-no. But open clusters are a different matter. The Perseus double cluster was easily visible nearly overhead, to my naked eye, a sort of peanut shaped fuzzy path halfway between Mirfak and Cassiopeia, and seeing it made me wish I could just have a little peek with a small telescope. Not far away, I could pick up Messier 39 in Cygnus too, but this was far fainter.

But enough of that non naked-eye heresy! The Mirfak cluster itself is an interesting sight, never really mentioned as a sight to rival the nearby Hyades, but my favourite orange star amongst all the blue-white ones is invisible to the naked eye almost certainly under all sky conditions.

The v-shaped Hyades are of course the face of Taurus the Bull, with Aldebaran (not Alderaan, Star Wars fans!) representing its baleful orange eye. Above them is an interesting little asterism – perhaps I want to discover my own Kemble's Cascade – a little grouping of mag 5 stars around Mu, Kappa and Omega Tauri. A little further up lies the Pleiades.

The most famous open cluster in the entire night sky, the grouping also known boringly as Messier 45, or more poetically The Seven Sisters, has always brought out my competitive side. Just how many of them could I see these days? Sadly, the answer was only a boring, bog standard seven. I swear when I was fifteen I could see nine or even ten of them. I'm over forty. My eyes must be going...

Luckily, as I headed inside to bed, my eyes weren't so decrepit that I couldn't see the milky way, a river of mist flowing from Cygnus in the West to Auriga to the East. Sad, that many folk now never get to see it with their own, very naked, eyes.

Copyright Creamcrackerednature 06/10/2013

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