Southern Skies

Lunar Totality in Marco

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net Usually you don’t need a finder chart to locate the Moon, but the evening of September 27th may be an exception. The last lunar eclipse for several years occurs between the hours of 7:47 PM and 1:22 AM, with mid eclipse at 10:48 PM. At 7:47 PM the Moon begins to pass into ... Read More »

Junkyard of the Solar System

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net Asteroids, until recently, were the Rodney Dangerfields of our Solar System – “they just get no respect!” In the last couple of decades though, both scientists and business tycoons have been taking notice of these oversized rocks, and it looks like asteroids are important after all. Most asteroids, and there are millions of ... Read More »

It’s About Time

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net We covered the subject of this article several years ago, but it is an important one so it bears repeating. As there is nothing spectacular going on tonight (and it’s probably cloudy anyway considering it is rainy season) we will dive right in. You are undoubtedly aware the movement of the sky is ... Read More »

Goats and Water Bearers

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net Tonight Capricornus, the goat, rides fairly high in the southeastern sky. It is usually visualized as a hybrid half goat – half fish creature; it’s also extremely old – it has endured essentially unchanged for over 3,000 years. Likely this is because of its great importance (to an agricultural society) as being the ... Read More »

The Summer Milky Way

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net Tonight the Summer Triangle is near the zenith. The bright trio of Altair, Deneb and Vega lies embedded in the summer Milky Way. Except for the previously mentioned three, there are few bright stars in this region, but there are literally millions of dimmer ones. Scan with your binoculars from Deneb leftwards towards ... Read More »

Keep an Eye on the Moon

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net We usually ignore the Moon in this column, but in many ways it is the most interesting object in the sky. It is the only celestial object whose surface can be examined in detail from your back yard for example. Although the Moon appears blindingly bright to dark adapted eyes, in reality it ... Read More »

Name the Exoplanet

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net Tonight the Summer Milky Way is rising, almost looking like the beginning of dawn; just above it is the large, but fairly faint constellation of Ophiuchus. It is usually drawn as a man grasping a snake, and as one might expect the name in ancient Greek means “serpent-bearer.” Recently it has become famous ... Read More »

The Teapot and the Scorpion

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net Tonight the two brightest, or at least the easiest to find, constellations of the zodiac are riding high in the sky; Sagittarius the Archer or Centaur (actually it’s both) and Scorpius the Scorpion are easy to locate. Sagittarius has the famous teapot asterism that really jumps out of the jumble of stars that ... Read More »

The Glorious Stars of Summer Rise

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net Look eastwards about 11:00 PM and locate the three stars of the Summer Triangle – Vega, Altair and Deneb. These are quite bright stars, and if you can see any stars at all in the sky tonight, you will see these. The Summer Triangle is not a traditional asterism, but was popularized by ... Read More »

Astronomy for Amateurs

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net I was lent a small book by a good friend recently; this book was written to introduce a novice to Astronomy. What makes this particular book worthy of note is that it was published in 1903. Its original title is Astronomy for Women by Camille Flammarion written in French; the edition I have ... Read More »

The Southern Cross

By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net We are going to change our viewing time from our usual 9PM to 11PM until October. There are two reasons for this: 1) The longer days of summer mean it is not fully dark at 9PM, and 2) the rapidly approaching rainy season means early evening clouds blot out the stars. By 11PM there is ... Read More »

Catch Mercury if You Can!

By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net As the too bright Moon in the east is nearly full, we might as well look westward to a slightly darker sky. Venus is unmistakable as it floats high in the west; it is in fact the brightest object in the night sky other than the Moon. Below Venus, and a little to the right ... Read More »

Arc to Arcturus

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net   Extend the curve of the Big Dipper’s handle eastward and you will reach the bright star Arcturus. (You can always find it easily by remembering the mnemonic arc to Arcturus). The star itself is hard to miss; it’s the fourth brightest in the whole sky and the brightest star in the northern ... Read More »

Before the Dog

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher Shining high in the sky tonight in the southeast is the bright star Procyon in the otherwise non-descript of Canis Minor – the little dog. Canis Minor processes but two stars – Procyon being the brightest. Procyon is larger, hotter and brighter than our Sun, but the primary reason it’s the seventh brightest star ... Read More »

Look Northward!

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net Last issue we mentioned the Big Dipper was once again visible during the evenings here in Southwest Florida. As we but seldom look northwards during these articles it is time we examine the northern sky more carefully. The second star on the handle of the Big Dipper is called Mizar – said to ... Read More »

The Dipper Returns

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net After setting a few months ago the Big Dipper has returned to the early evening sky. The Dipper of course is not a constellation but merely an asterism and makes up a portion of the rather large constellation of Ursa Major, the bear. It is an odd fact that roughly half of the ... Read More »

The Argo Backs into the Sky

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net Tonight, we look again into the Southeast where the ancient constellation Argo, the ship, is rising stern first into the sky. Argo is no longer counted as one of the 88 constellations visible in the night sky; about two centuries ago it was found to be inconveniently large so it was broken into ... Read More »

Auriga the Charioteer

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net Very high tonight in the northern sky rides Auriga the Charioteer. The driver usually also is visualized as a shepherd holding a goat over his shoulder. The bright star Capella is thus nicknamed “the goat star,” and the two dimmer stars just to the left are likewise named “the kids.” Auriga is located ... Read More »

Jupiter Returns to the Evening

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net After a vacancy of some months, we finally have a bright planet available for viewing this evening, two actually, but Venus has set by the 9 PM chart time. Looking east at that time you can’t miss Jupiter. It’s the brightest thing in the sky. Tonight, four of its satellites are visible in ... Read More »

Sirius, Jupiter Rise Tonight

SOUTHERN SKIES By Mike P. Usher usher34105@earthlink.net Sirius has been known as the “Dog Star” for many centuries, presumably because it is the brightest star in Canis Major, the big dog. Indeed, Sirius is by far the brightest star in the night sky. Long ago, it was thought (wrongly) that in the summertime when the Sun and Sirius were in ... Read More »