Archive for September, 2010

Finding Uranus

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Uranus and Neptune, the two outermost planets, can sometimes be a challenge to find for the backyard astronomer. But through the coming weeks, Uranus won’t be a challenge at all as it can be found near big, bright Jupiter. At magnitude -2.9, Jupiter dominates the constellation Pisces and stands out clearly in the southern sky. Just look a bit to it’s west, and you’ll find magnitude 5.7 Uranus; currently the closest object to Jupiter of that brightness. Under low magnification, Jupiter and Uranus may (depending on your telescope) be visible in the same field of view. Under high magnification the pale blue disc of Uranus is visible. As the month goes on, the two planets will appear even closer, with Uranus moving to a position more north of Jupiter. If you’ve ever searched the night sky for our solar system’s dimmer planets, that search just got a lot easier. And of course there’s the bonus of Jupiter’s large moons while you’re in the area.

Open Cluster M52

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

As we move into autumn, the longer nights and still warm weather make this my favorite time of year for astronomy. It’s also a time of year that gives us a wide variety of celestial treats. One of these treats that is often overlooked is the open cluster M52 in Cassiopeia. While not the biggest or brightest cluster, the combination of M52 with brighter nearby stars creates a pleasant arrangement. It also has the benefit of being very easy to find. Simply follow the line formed by the two brightest stars in Cassiopeia for about the same distance as that between the two stars. Getting a good look at M52 will require a somewhat larger telescope, but it is well worth the effort – or it would be if there was all that much effort involved.