Where Are The Stars?

Ponder light pollution –



Look Up

Today a co-worker asked what I was interested in, without hesitation I replied “have you ever really seen the moon?”

This video appeared in a ponder several months ago. Driving home all I could think about was watching and sharing it again. As I write it loops for the fourth time, tears of immeasurable happiness pluck corners of an ever widening grin. Ponders of childlike innocence lost in our caustic world led to an epiphany – the world would be a better place if every man, woman and child watched this clip……


Zoom To The Milky Way

Ever wanted a closer look at our Milky Way? Nick Risinger of ESO (Emerson Digitized Sky Observatory) zooms beyond Earth in the direction of Sagittarius. Beyond Sagittarius the camera switches to infrared, allowing us to see through and beyond cosmic dust clouds to objects orbiting the supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy.

This is the perfect week to lay naked eyes on the Milky Way. August 14 heralds a new moon, for the next week a waxing crescent moon sets just after sunset. From a rural location moonless night delivers Milky Ways iconic smudge across our sky. (The same Milky Way thousands of panicked callers reported as a UFO when California lights went out after the Northridge earthquake)


Cosmic Apps

There’s no excuse for not adding a sky app to your phone – free, idiot proof tools capable of turning heads upwards with childlike enthusiasm. Embrace unfamiliar cosmic dioramas, dazzle friends and family, enrich your perspective with a sense of wonder, or simply figure out once and for all which one is Jupiter, which one Venus.

Android phone apps have been around longer than anything “i”. My phone has Sky Map, and real time images of the Sun from Solar Dynamics Observatory. Free, reliable android apps linked below


Once upon a time iPhone users were out of luck – linked below, free cosmic apps for iphone or pad.


What are you waiting for?

Notes “star gazing” with Google Sky Map

Make A Planisphere

The ridiculously difficult landing of Rosetta Mission’s Philae probe on comet 67P ignited pondering fires of cosmic wonder – a topic I’ve been silent on far too long. Months ago I wrote a post about “baby steps” to the cosmos, followed by several more on identifying specific stars, planets and constellations. Doubtful that many people bothered to follow meticulous instructions for visual orientation, my fall back has always been enthusiastic encouragement to download Google’s Sky Map app. As I pointed my phone at tonight’s sky, it occurred to me – this is too easy.  To”Google”, is to arrive at answers without the process of investigation. Sky apps are handy in a pinch, but rather like cheating on a final exam – how could I study for the test?

My mind drifted back to grade school, and it hit me – I’ll make my own Planisphere.

Planispheres have existed in one form or another for centuries – one disc over another, rotating on a central pivot. Or a “pocket” and “wheel” you slip into the pocket depending on where you are and what you want to see. I found the site linked below – step by step instructions for all your Planisphere needs. First you print a “pocket” based on your latitude, then you make “city” and “milky way” wheels. City wheels are basic orientation of the brightest objects as seen from your location. Milky Way wheels are full on representation of everything visible if you could view the night sky as if in a rural location, free of light pollution. The site gives latitudes and instructions for “traveling” star wheels – make Planispheres when you travel, or send them as Christmas gifts to anyone, anywhere.

Of course I could go out and buy a Planisphere, but that defeats the purpose. The point is to stop and think about your latitude, realizing it truly matters to the night sky. A Planisphere forces one to understand the cosmic drift and flow. Making one teaches far more than occasional posts or instant recognition Google ever could – a star wheel offers reasons, makes us think, and takes us back to the joy of discovery.



Finding Andromeda

Traveling at the speed of light for 2,538,000 years you would reach our closest galaxy, Andromeda. To put it simply – moving at 186,000 miles per second for over two and a half million years, covering a distance of 15,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles.

If you happen to be in the northern hemisphere and want to try finding Andromeda – now is the perfect time. Attempting Andromeda within cities or urban areas is futile – Andromeda requires the darkest of darkest skies.

Look to the eastern sky around 9 PM and locate the Great Square of Pegasus. Think of Alpheratz as 3rd base – draw an imaginary line between first and third base – that line points towards Andromeda.

Next allow your eye to adjust and find two “streamers” to the north (left) of Alpheratz. Streamers being “lines” of brighter stars. These “streamers” form constellation Andromeda. Find Mirach – the brightest star along the bottom line, let your eye draw a line between Mirach and the star Mu in the “streamer” above – keep going about the same distance above Mu, and say hello to Andromeda.  I won’t promise a jaw dropping spectacle – more like a fuzzy smudge.
Finding Andromeda isn’t about razzamatazz. Even if you fail – the act of finding two and a half million year old light from another galaxy, is worth the effort.