Astronomy a Go Go! (Stars)
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Carpe Noctem - Seize the Night!

Image courtesy of Dr. Tyler Nordgren and his students.


Eight stars pin
his frame
to the night.

He lies just above
the trainyard,
almost ready
to rouse.

Not quite yet.

Eight silent silver bells
take all evening
to stand
just as our star
fades him
back to sky.

Lauren Gunderson

Orion, seen from Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI (infrared, ultraviolet and visible-light colors)

Listener Feedback

From Ted - "I'd like to suggest a great book that I stumbled across at Barnes & Noble about 18 months ago. It is called "The Next Step, Finding and Viewing Messier's Objects." It was written by Ken Graun. The main part of the book is a section about the Messier Object. There are 2 pages per object. It has a little history and notes from Messier's original description. It gives the coordinates and a reference to it's location on star maps included in the book. What really sets this book apart is that it includes pictures taken by the author thru a 4 inch scope. It allows you to see exactly what you are looking for. The book also has a biography of Charles Messier, and a few general tips on astronomy. The book it not very large so it is easy to carry with you. I find the book extremely helpful to show people what they are looking for before they step up to the eyepiece. I hope you can find the book to review and recommend it on a future podcast. "

Don has another book suggestion: "A great book for gifts is "There Once Was a Sky Full of Stars", by Bob Crelin. Great for helping children (and adults) learn about the effects of light pollution."

Special Thanks!

Woodland Hills Camera and Telescope for helping our club buy a PST for use with our club outreach!
Just a reminder, Woodland Hills Camera and Telescope is offering a 5% discount for any AAGG listener! Just put "AAGG" in the discount code box at checkout to receive your discount.

Holiday lights in the sky - Stellar Spectrum

Class Temperature Star colour Mass Radius Luminosity Hydrogen lines Examples
O 30,000 - 60,000 K Bluish ("blue") 60 15 1,400,000 Weak 10 Lacerta, Zeta Puppis, Lambda Orionis
B 10,000 - 30,000 K Bluish-white ("blue-white") 18 7 20,000 Medium Rigel, Spica, the brighter Pleiades
A 7,500 - 10,000 K White with bluish tinge ("white") 3.2 2.5 80 Strong Vega, Sirius
F 6,000 - 7,500 K White ("yellow-white") 1.7 1.3 6 Medium Canopus, Procyon
G 5,000 - 6,000 K Light yellow ("yellow") 1.1 1.1 1.2 Weak Sun, Capella
K 3,500 - 5,000 K Light orange ("orange") 0.8 0.9 0.4 Very weak Arcturus, Aldebaran
M 2,000 - 3,500 K Reddish orange ("red") 0.3 0.4 0.04 Very weak Betelgeuse, Antares

Mnemonics for the Harvard Spectral Classification Scheme
Official Bureaucrats At Federal Government Kill Many Researchers' National Support
Only Boring Astronomers Find Gratification Knowing Mnemonics!
Oh, Bring A Fully Grown Kangaroo My Recipe Needs Some!
Oh Backward Astronomer, Forget Geocentricity; Kepler's Motions Reveal Nature's Simplicity.
Oh Bother, Astronomers Frequently Give Killer Midterms




Evening Planets
  • Venus - Mag -3.8 in Sagittarius but currently lost in the Sun's glare.
  • Neptune - Mag +7.9 in Capricorn will also be better for dark evenings and is less than 1 degree north of the +4.3 magnitude star Iota Capricorni
  • Uranus - Mag +5.9 in Aquarius Uranus is best seen in a dark moonless sky away from artificial lighting. It may be seen looking like a very faint star to the dark-adapted naked eye that shimmers in and out of visibility just under 1 degree east of Lambda Aquarii. Find the tipped over letter Y of Aquarius, go 4 thumbwidths southeast to find Lambda, and then a smidgen Southwest.
  • Saturn - Mag 0.4 on the western edge of Leo just west of Regulus. An easy catch!

Morning Planets
  • Jupiter - Mag -1.6 in Scorpius visiable very low on the ESE horizon an hour before sunrise. Finally had a clear horizon before the storm hit and it was very bright and yes, low and south.
  • Mars - Mag 1.5 just barely above the Sun's glare between the Sun and Mercury
  • Mercury - Mag -0.5 barely off the horizon moving quickly towards the sun. Use the bright orange/red Arcturus and "spike" almost horizontally South to Spica. Mercury sits 25 degrees ESE of Spica.
  • Saturn - Mag 0.4 on the western edge of Leo preceeding Regulus. Saturn is slowly inching its way towards Cancer


Time for a quiz! Fornax - the Furnace - Invented by Lacaille during his stay at the Cape of Good Hope in 1751 - 1752 (who else!)


Naked eye and binoculars - the Pleiades

Mentioned by Homer about 750 B.C.At least 6 member stars are visible to the naked eye,

-the Hyades At a distance of only about 150 light years, the Hyades form one of the nearest open cluster to Earth.

Greek mythology, nymphs; daughters of Atlas and Aethra. They cared for both Zeus and Dionysus as infants. In recognition of these services, they were placed among the stars of the constellation Taurus, where their rising and setting corresponded to the rainy seasons.

Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri), the bright red star, is not a member of the cluster and situated much closer to us (about 60 light years, a factor 2.5 closer than the Hyades).

Telescope -

Northern Hemisphere chart You can use Taki's chart #14, chart 72 in the Pocket Sky Atlas NGC 7380 bright irregular open cluster, 7.2 mag, with bright nebulosity around. Once edge looks scalloped.
NGC 7510- the "Little Piggy" cluster (Alice's name only) in Cephus 7.9 wedge or trapazoid shaped open cluster. Right across the boarder from...
M52 - evil dustbunny cluster, 6.9 open cluster in Cassiopeia
and just a few degree towards Polaris from Caph (beta Cassiopeia) is NGC 7790

Gifts for the Astronomer!

Do it yourself (DIY) gifts
There are so many creative things you can do for your astronomer, or for yourself, that won't cost and arm and a leg! Consider the following:
  • "Rite in the Rain" paper - perfect for creating your own lists without having to pull them in and out of sheet protectors.
  • Hats, scarves, mitten (especially with flaps so you have finger access)
  • Renovate an old hard sided Samsonite style suitcase for observing! Paint it and find some nice foam padding for the inside.
  • Cold weather observing 'basket' - Be Creative!! a good thermos, hot cocoa, snacks, handwarmers, and maybe a favorite CD all 'wrapped' in a new accessory case
  • Warm weather observing 'basket' - Have Fun!! snacks, a nice wide brim hat, some new shades, Miracool bandana, some oil free sunscreen and bug spray, all 'wrapped' in a Pelican case
  • Online Star Atlases - print them out, put them in protective sleeves, laminate them or print them on waterproof paper and bind them into a book that will open flat!
  • Fraser Cain at Universe Today emailed to let me know that there will be a "What's up 2007" so keep an eye on his site!
  • My favorite give-away Messier Telrad Charts - by John Small courtesy of the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston.
  • Messier Telrad Charts - From Utah Skies
  • Caldwell Telrad Charts - From Utah Skies
For the woodworkers out there...

Binocular Mounts
Observing Chair - example or the Cats Perch Plans

On to the shopping...
Telescope accessories

Woodland Hills Camera and Telescope is offering a 5% discount for any AAGG listener! Just put "AAGG" in the discount code box at checkout to receive your discount.

Off the scope

...there are just toooo many but here is a start....
Reader suggested books!


Comets for the Month.

Check out the Sky Hound site.
"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin"
-- Shakespeare

Email us at or leave a note in our show notes at
Help us out by leaving a donation in the ol' PayPal hat

Woodland Hills Camera and Telescope is offering FREE web hosting on our servers for you or your organization's website. In order to promote the hobbies of Astronomy, Astrophotography, Photography, Birding or generally any topic that is of interest to our customer base, Woodland Hills Camera and Telescope is offering Hosting Grants.

Direct download: AAGGshow34.mp3
Category:Stars -- posted at: 12:04 AM

Carpe Noctem - Seize the Night!

The Star

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the Trav'ller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often thro� my curtains peep,
For you never shut you eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.

'Tis your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the trav'ller in the dark:
Tho' I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

---Jane Taylor, The Star, 1806

Listener Question

Venus in "The DaVinci Code"!
Dad wanted to know if the statement in "The DaVinci Code" about Venus creating a perfect 5 pointed star in the sky (a pentagram) was true. Being a scientist he wanted the FACTS.

Venus Elongation Explorer
Planet Orbit JAVA script

Try it for yourself using western elongation or inferior conjunctions.

Data for western elongation (viewing Venus at sunrise)

Apparition      Date              Elongation
Morning 2006 Mar 25 46.5W
Morning 2004 Aug 17 45.8W
Morning 2003 Jan 11 47.0W
Morning 2001 Jun 8 45.8W
Morning 1999 Oct 31 46.5W

** Make sure you are measuring Venus at SUNRISE

Data for Inferior Conjunctions
Planet Orbit JAVA script

2004 Jun 9
2006 Jan 14
2007 Aug 21
2009 Mar 27
2010 Nov 1

You will need to look down on the solar system for these to work.

Just running a 16 year cycle will let you see the over lapping 8 year cycles. Here is one 8 year cycle with a dot representing a weeks worth of movement. Venus has a strange path!


Naked eye - Watching Mars speed across Gemini. Pay careful attention to SAFE solar viewing: Projection with binoculars and good old Pinhole projection

Binocular - a good practice for steadiness is looking at Jupiter and Saturn and while you are at Saturn take a look at the Beehive cluster M44. The Coma cluster (Mel 111) in Coma Berenice just north of Leo's tail Denebola and Open cluster NGC 4755 in Crux

Telescope - 9.6 magnitude globular cluster - NGC 5634. Found about halfway between Iota and Mu Virginis and almost due south of Phi, what makes it special is it shares the fieldwith an 8th and a 12th magnitude star. This gives it the appearance of a 3 star system!

M108 - Start with Beta Ursae Majoris - southwestern star of the Big Dipper. About a finger-width between it and Phecda to the southeast, you'll catch the 10.1 magnitude Edge-On galaxy Despite being faint, M108 contrasts well on a good dark night sky and larger scopes will make out irregular patches of detail.

Less than a finger-width further southeast M97 - the Owl Nebula.

For the Southern hemisphere go to Omega Centauri and catch 7.0 mag galaxy NGC 5128. NGC 5128 is easily found halfway between Omega and Iota Centauri.


Lyra - the Lyra or Harp - Lyra the Lyre or Harp is the instrument invented by Hermes (Mercury) and given to Apollo his half-brother, who in turn gave it to his son Orpheus, the musician of the Argonauts.

Chamaeleon - the Chameleon in Australia it is sometimes unofficially called "the Frying Pan" when finding the south by the stars. The constellation contains a number of molecular clouds (called the "Chamaeleon dark clouds") that are forming low-mass T Tauri stars. The cloud complex lies some 400 to 600 light years from Earth, and contains tens of thousands of solar masses of gas and dust.

The Moon

Images created with Lunar Phase Pro

With a last quarter Moon this weekend we can anticipate nice dark evening skies. If you stay up late enough (or early enough) to catch the last quarter moon see if you can find the following:
The tops of the Alpennines reflecting the sunlight from within the shadows.
The "Cascade" of Ptolemeus, Alphonsus and Arzachel.


    Evening Planets
  • Jupiter - Mag -2.5 in Libra. Just past opposition for those of you watching this gas giant over the past couple of months will have noticed it getting brighter. Clearly visible just after sunset, if you know where to look! The bright star to the SE is Zuben Elgenubi in Libra the bright star west along the ecliptic is Spica in the constellation Virgo. Any telescope can reveal its two widest cloud bands and four Galilean satellites.
  • Saturn - Mag 0.3 in Cancer and tonight and moving East. It appears as a yellowish star that rivals Capella in brightness, A small telescope will always show Titan, Saturn's largest and most extraordinary moon.
  • Mars - Mag +1.6 in Gemini creeping west towards Cancer and Saturn. It is the bright point of light SW of Castor and Pollux
    Morning Planets
  • Venus - Mag -3.9 The brightest morning planet visible. Low in the eastern morning sky. You will want to grab a pair of binoculars or even just a finder scope to check out her phase. Just over half full she is intensely bright in her gibbous phase.
  • Uranus - Mag. 5.9 in Aquarius low in the south west before dawn.
  • Neptune - Mag. 7.9 in Capricorn low in the south west before dawn
  • Pluto Mag. 14 in Serpens Cauda is high in the south before dawn In Superior Conjunction - As alignment of an interior planet (Venus or Mercury) and the Sun which occurs when the Earth and the planet are on opposite sides of the Sun.
  • Mercury - in superior conjunction hence invisible

Variable Stars - Guest Presenter: Tom McDonagh!

Tom's Powerpoint presentation

Finder charts for Leo, Sextans and Andromeda

Tom's links:
I use MaxIm DL pretty exclusively.
AstroArt is a good less expensive program.
AIP4Win is a great program/text and goes a long way in explaining the imaging process as well as data reduction
Astrometrica Shareware
Professional level IRAF -Free!

Sample Variable Stars:
Designation Name Type Mag1 Mag2 Period(days)
0918-68 RW CAR M 9.3 15 318
0929-62 R CAR M 4.6 9.6 308
0954-58 RR CAR SRB 9.1 10.4 109
0955-63 RV CAR M 11.3 16.2 365
1004-69 OY CAR UGSU 12.2 16.5 260
1006-61 S CAR M 5.7 8.5 150
1010-58A A CAR M 10.7 15.2 384
1032-70 RZ CAR M 10 15.4 272
1041-59 ETA CAR SDOR -0.8 7.9 157

AGN = Active Galactic Nucleus
C = Cepheid
M = Mira; long period variable
RCB = R Coronae Borealis type
RV = RV Tauri type
SR = Semiregular
UG = U Geminorum type cataclysmic
Z Cam = Z Camelopardalis type cataclysmic

Links to other variable star organizations:
British Astronomical Association Variable Star Section
Astronomical Society of Australia Variable Star Group
Center for Backyard Astrophysics

Great links to keep bookmarked:
AAVSO Variable Star of the Season
Juliean Dates
Hands on Astrophysics
Sky and Telescope's "Top 12 Naked Eye Variable Stars"
An international form of weather clocks


Comets for May.

and 73P/ Schwassmann-Wachmann 3
and C/2005 E2 ( McNaught )


"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin"
-- Shakespeare

Email us at or leave a note in our show notes at
Help us out by leaving a donation in the ol' PayPal hat


Brobdingnagian Bards -"Wild Mountain Thyme"
Monika Herzig -"The Third Passenger"

Category:Stars -- posted at: 1:48 PM

Talking about Venus in "The DaVinci Code" listening to some great music and having a wonderful conversation with Tom McDonagh about variable stars! 

Direct download: AAGGshow21.mp3
Category:Stars -- posted at: 9:07 AM