The forecast stated that cloudy skies would clear by eight and so we opted to go for this star gazing night. Unfortunately, the clouds stuck in there after eight, and families started filing out, happy to have had time to run around, but without the extra benefits of viewing the skies through the scopes.
For those who stayed to the very end (8:30 pm), you were rewarded with among the best skies for stargazing that I can remember, even if we had a mere half hour before the clouds covered the view again. A short, but great window into the night sky!
Once the clouds opened up, and as I was pointing out the winter constellations to people who remained, it became apparent that the conditions had been worth the wait. Telescopes were pointed to several objects, including the famous Orion Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy, Double-Cluster, and the Pleiades.
One of the ways that you can tell how dark and transparent the skies are is by looking for and counting stars in constellations rich in stars, i.e. with lots of stars in them. The constellation
Orion is one of these rich constellations and it is often used to determine how dark and transparent a sky is for observing. The most recognizable parts are the hourglass arrangement of stars that form the shoulders, knees, and belt of Orion. However, there are other parts to Orion, as well – the sword hilt hanging off the belt, the head, the raised arm usually depicted holding a spear, and the shield. The arm and shield are particularly faint – not usually visible in urban or suburban skies, but they stood out on this night.
On the next clear night, find Orion where you are – one of the most recognizable constellations in the night sky. What do you see?
After the January cloudy evening, Moose Hill has been watching the skies for the February 24 Star Gazing Night and the forecast has not been good – that evening has been cancelled! But, join us for the next night, April 21– we can’t wait to share the stars with you!
Thank you to Craig Austin for this Star Gazing post. Craig is often present during Moose Hill’s Star Gazing Nights, along with a few members of the Astronomical Society of Southern New England, and other local amateur astronomers. Moose Hill is grateful to everyone who volunteers their time to share their scopes and knowledge with anyone who is interested in learning more and seeing the night sky from our open field.