Thursday, 02 February 2023

Lake County Skies: Where

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November skies at 8 p.m. on Nov. 15.

 

LAKE COUNTY – November brings thoughts of Thanksgiving, and that traditional entrée, turkey. So you would think there must be a turkey somewhere in the night sky to commemorate this important holiday.

 

Alas – there is no turkey. The patterns of stars we call constellations were decided centuries ago, long before we invented Thanksgiving. But there are a lot of other critters and people up there we can admire. They come from Greek mythology.

Let’s start with Pegasus, the great winged horse. Look toward the south, and high up in the night sky you will see a giant square. That is Pegasus.

Next to Pegasus is Andromeda, a beautiful princess. And next to Andromeda is the ancient Greek hero, Perseus.

These three characters provide the basis for a nice adventure story that has Andromeda chained to a rock, ready to be devoured by a dragon. Then along comes Perseus to the rescue, riding Pegasus, his great winged flying steed!

Look at the November star chart, then at the constellation artwork to identify these characters. On the November star chart you will note a constellation just south of Pegasus named Pisces. Pisces is a pair of fish. Rumor has it, if you fish at night on Clear Lake when Pisces is high in the night sky you will catch your limit and a whole lot more (and please don’t believe everything you read in this column!).

 

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Constellation artwork courtesy of www.myth-and-fantasy.com.



Speaking of Perseus, there is a remarkable astronomical event occurring at the time of this writing. It’s a comet named Holmes (named after its discoverer, English amateur astronomer Edwin Holmes in 1892).

For reasons we don’t fully understand, this normally faint comet suddenly flared into a bright object on Oct. 25 in the constellation of Perseus. It can be seen with the naked eye, as shown on the Comet Holmes star chart below.

What’s curious about this comet is that we cannot see its tail. Instead, it gives the appearance of coming toward us, with the tail behind it. Through a telescope of moderate size it appears as a bright, yellowish-colored disk with a large halo around it. It remains to be seen if Comet Holmes will continue to be a bright object in November skies.

 

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Location of Comet Holmes courtesy of Sky & Telescope.


The next public event at Taylor Observatory will be held from 8 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17. If you are able to attend, you might be able to see the comet through one of the observatory’s telescopes.

 

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Photograph of Comet Holmes courtesy of Lorenzo Comolli, Italy.



For more information about astronomy and local astronomy-related events, visit the Taylor Observatory website at www.taylorobservatory.org.

John Zimmerman has been an amateur astronomer for 50 years. He is a member of the Taylor Observatory staff, where, among his many duties, he helps create planetarium shows.


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