Monday, April 30, 2012


Right click on this and open in a new window and try to find the Earth!

The rings of Saturn are open for business.  As we head into May, the plane, its 170,000 mile-diameter ring system, and multitude of moons are back in prime-time for you to see this month.

You don’t need a telescope to find Saturn.  It shines like a steady, yellow “star” in the southeast near a blue star called Spica.  Here's how you find it:

First find the Big Dipper high in the northeastern sky.  Connect an arc through the handle stars of the Big Dipper and continue that arc to a really bright star called Arcturus ("Follow the Arc to Arcturus!").  Then keep going in a straighter line along the horizon and bingo you'll find Saturn and Spica ("Speed on to Saturn").

A Saturnian Storm
Now to see the rings, you’ll need to look through a good telescope.  Then you can witness the opening season of the solar system’s greatest wonder.  You can see the planet, the rings, the shadow of the rings, the gaps in the rings, the moons... Okay, I'm getting a little excited here, but this is the best planet ever.  When I first saw Saturn in a telescope it changed my life.  There it sat, a perfect cartoon-planet in a sea of blackness.  I knew then that I was destined to be an astronomer.  Check it out tonight!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Gemini - Down Under

This week try to find the Gemini twins in the sky. After it gets dark, look high in the southwestern sky - almost straight overhead. There you will find two stars of nearly equal brightness. If you look a little closer you will see that one is orange-yellow and the other is blue-white. Those are the heads of the twins named Pollux and Castor. Their bodies and feet are tougher to see (just look down and to the left for more stars).

Watch out for the Kangaroo!

An old Australian myth ties in the two bright stars of Gemini with the star Capella in the constellation Auriga. Castor and Pollux are two huntsmen named Yurree and Wanjil. They are hunting the elusive kangaroo named Purra (Capella). During the summer when these stars are below the horizon, it is said that the two hunters finally catch the kangaroo and kill it. They then cook his meat over a fire and cause waves of heat to rise above the ground like a shimmering haze.

The Maori of New Zealand called these two stars, "Whaka-ahu"

In African Mythology the brightest stars are The Wise and Foolish Antelope.
Others call them “Two Peacocks,” the “Two Kids,” or the “Giant’s Eyes.”