Wednesday, October 2, 2013

THE OWL CLUSTER... or is it?

Last month I wrote about the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen.  September is generally the time where we have most number of clear nights in Cincinnati and I've been seeing a lot of Cassiopeia.  When I aim my telescope or binoculars at the "W" shape I always see more stars than I bargained for.

When you look at Cassiopeia you are really peering into a thicker patch of stars that is really plane of our galaxy, the Milky Way.  From cities, you can't see the Milky Way at all but binoculars and telescopes allow you to cut through the light pollution and see a lot of stars.

One of my favorite little star clusters is there too.  It's informally called the Owl Cluster because so many people can picture a bird in this clump of stars.  The two brightest stars are the eyes, a group of stars make up the body and little claws while another group look like outstretched wings.  Can you see it in the picture?

Other people use their imaginations differently.  They see E.T., the Extra Terrestrial from the Steven Spielberg movie.  And others think the wings give it more of a bat shape.

The cluster was first charted by William Herschel in 1787 but he didn't say what it looked like to him.  So create your own mythology with this little cluster.