April 19, 2020 – Grab Your Binoculars Tonight!

I feel lucky…so far.  Our neighborhood has been free of Coronavirus (COVID-19) but people are getting stir crazy.  Jigsaw puzzles go just so far.  Zoom or other video meetings are fun but…  So, grab your binoculars, get your hands-on binoculars and forego one of the many TV shows tonight.  Go outside, in shadow, and check out some less outrageous sites.  Relax and let yourself linger on these things whose light hitting your retinas started it journey so many years ago.

Oh no!  It’s cloudy.  Well, that seems to be the norm lately, but clear nights will come.  Be patient friend and you will be rewarded.  And the rewards don’t have to stop after we are no longer required to stay home.

Here are some sights to see with binoculars in the upcoming weeks.  Hey, if you want to use a telescope or spotting scope go for it.

Pleiades – Catch this gem of a star cluster before it’s gone until next fall.  It’s in the west-northwest low in the sky after sunset.  Look for a big, hazy patch – then notice you can see some of its stars with the naked eye.  How many can you see?  In binoculars you will see hundreds.

Hyades – Nearly due west and low in the sky look for a bright orangish star. This is Aldebaran in Taurus, and the star cluster called the Hyades is just west of it.  Hyades is the bull’s face.  Aldebaran makes a striking counterpart to the Hyades stars.

M42 – Orion should still be high enough in the west after sunset to catch its primo sight, M42.  M42 is a star factory, aka a molecular cloud.  Orion is the big rectangular/trapezoidal constellation that has a group of 3 bright stars bisecting it.  That’s his belt.  Below the middle star is another group of 3 stars, called his sword.  The middle star of the sword is actually a molecular cloud, called M42.

M46 & M47 – More open clusters, a pair of nice clusters in the constellation Puppis.  First find Sirius, the very bright star low in the southwest.  With your binoculars scan west of Sirius and you will come up with these two clusters just fitting within a binocular field.

M51 – Let’s look at two galaxies (smudges) interacting.  M51 is called the whirlpool, because we see it face on and its spiral arms appear as a whirlpool of water.  The interacting galaxy, NGC 5194 is much smaller and looks like a smaller smudge coming from the larger smudge.  Look at the Big Dipper’s bowl, it’s upside down.  Trace a line from the bowl’s rear bottom star diagonally past the bowl’s front top star for about 10 degrees.

What’s in the Sky?

April 22; well before sunrise; northeast:  Lyrid Meteor Shower.  This shower is brought to us by comet Halley’s dust trail, thank you.  Get a chair, warm blanket, and warm beverage, and hope for fireworks.