I hope you took advantage of the crystal-clear night skies recently to see Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter as the waxing Moon drifted among them along the ecliptic. It was a special treat after so many cloudy or light polluted nights. Mars is not in the lineup now; it is behind the Sun. It will reappear in the dawn sky during November.
Constellations are one of the ways beginning astronomers learn to find their way around the sky. If you learn your way around the sky, it is more entertaining to take those evening or early morning jogs or walks around your neighborhood.
Noticing the variety of star colors is another way to enhance those activities. Stars’ colors are based on how hot or cool they are, although in my opinion all stars are cool. But their temperatures are not.
Hot young stars are blue; the middle-aged ones are yellow and the old ones are generally red. Our sun is a medium star and actually white, although as its light is filtered through the atmosphere and dust it appears yellow because of physics of the light. As the light is bent only the yellow band comes through – that is the simple explanation.
Early morning before dawn constellations are the winter constellations. Orion the Hunter will take the place of the summer’s Great Square of Pegasus in the high southern sky by 5:00 AM. If early morning is your time to walk before sunrise, the stars will be joined only by Mercury.
The night sky shows off Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus. If you check out the southern sky before bed then keep the arc of those evening constellations in your mind and trace the arc to imagine the plane of our solar system.
Life is good. We are experiencing a lot of troubles yet if you keep in mind that the same stars and planets that are visible now have been visible for thousands of years and will continue to be showing off for thousands more.
I hope that is some consolation. Constellations can bring consolation so perhaps you might want to learn your way around the sky and eventually join the South Texas Astronomical Society events that are occasionally held at the Resaca de la Palma state park and world birding center.
Resaca de la Palma will be having its regular night hike the end of the month. Contact them for details. The STARS story-teller will share constellation stories if the weather cooperates.
The stars of the summer triangle asterism are drifting high across the sky to sink into the western horizon. Stand facing south and look slightly towards the west and locate a single bright point of light in a group of faint stars that resembles a cross. That will be Deneb, the tail of Cygnus the Swan that is seemingly falling into the western horizon as midnight approaches.
This constellation represents a young man who was changed into a swan to honor his brave but futile efforts to rescue Phaethon, the son of Apollo. Phaethon fell out of the sun chariot when he was frightened by the pinchers of Scorpio. All those Greek and Roman constellations have tragic backstories.
While you are locating Cygnus, look for that faint delicate rhombus with a “tail” known as Delphinus, the dolphin. There are so many lovely things to enjoy if you look up. I double-dog dare ya.
Until next week, KLU.