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Skywatch for the week of December 6, 2021

Skywatch 12-6-2021.mp3


There’s a new crescent moon in the southwest this evening. You can find it there before twilight, not far from the horizon. At sunset you might also notice an incredibly bright star, just above the moon. That is the planet Venus, one of three “evening stars” we have at this time of year. Planets of course, are not stars, but they do look like them when seen from a distance of millions of miles away. There are two more evening stars, planets if you will, that can be found nearby the moon and Venus. A bright star-like object high up in the south is actually the planet Jupiter, and like Venus, you can see it before it gets dark. Once it is dark, you should also be able to discover the planet Saturn, and it’s easy to find if you simply draw a line between Venus and Jupiter. Saturn is a yellow-tinged star midway between the two, along that line. That invisible line, by the way, is called the ecliptic.

Skywatch 12-7-2021.mp3


Can you identify the 40th largest constellation? It is bordered on the north by Aquarius and Aquila; on the south by Microscopium and the Southern Fish, on the west by Sagittarius; and on the east by Aquarius again. This constellation lacks brilliant stars, but a scattering of 2nd magnitude stars trace out a triangular wedge shape. In mythology it represents the nature god Pan, who taught people how to play musical wind instruments, including the flute, and the conch, a favorite of Floridians. A monstrous dragon caused Pan to panic, and he jumped into a river, changing his lower half into that of a fish so he could make a quick getaway. Tonight the moon and the planets Jupiter and Saturn can be found within its borders, and Venus appears just to the west of it. Can you name this star figure, the tenth constellation of the zodiac? The answer is Capricornus, the Sea Goat, visible in the southwest sky after sunset.

Skywatch 12-8-2021.mp3


Three of the brightest stars in our sky tonight are actually planets. Venus dominates our southwestern sky after sunset, while above it and to the left, over toward the south, is Jupiter, just above the crescent moon. Draw a line between Venus and Jupiter and you’ll discover another star, – another planet – yellow-tinged Saturn. In the west are three real stars -- Vega, Altair and Deneb - which form the Summer Triangle. To the north is the constellation Cassiopeia, while high overhead are the four stars that outline the Great Square of Pegasus. Now face northeast and find the bright yellow star Capella, in the constellation Auriga the Charioteer. To its right is the red-tinged star Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster in the constellation Taurus; while rising out of the east are the stars Rigel and Betelgeuse, plus the three stars in a row which mark the belt of Orion the Hunter.

Skywatch 12-9-2021.mp3


If you're telescope shopping and the salesman talks magnifying powers of several hundred, then it is a pretty safe bet he doesn't know much about telescopes - he is not an expert. You will have to put yourself in that position. Shop around. Big box stores and department stores are great places to buy a lot of things, but when I buy a telescope, I don’t go there. Yard sales often have telescopes, but there’s a good reason why they’re in a yard sale, and it’s probably that those particular ‘scopes are hard to operate. Look out for flimsy tripod legs or cheap aluminum and plastic bolt-and-wingnut attachments from the tripod to the tube. A good starter telescope is actually a pair of binoculars, which cost under a hundred dollars. If you mount them to a camera tripod you can aim them just like a regular telescope. Then consider getting a Newtonian reflector with a 6 inch mirror on a Dobsonian mount. Begin your research on the internet.

Skywatch 12-10-2021.mp3

Fri Dec 10, 2021 STAR OF WONDER 2

Tonight and tomorrow afternoon, Indian River State College’s Hallstrom Planetarium will feature its twenty-ninth annual presentation of "Star of Wonder". In this program we use the planetarium to show you what the skies looked like from Judea over 2000 years ago, to see if we can discover the Nativity star, referred to in the gospel of Saint Matthew. What kind of a star, or star-like object, could have guided the Wise Men on their journey to Bethlehem? Many natural phenomena, such as comets, meteors, and planets have been suggested as good candidates for “the star”. And tonight, if skies are clear, the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society will be here to show folks the moon and planets through their telescopes. For more information about "Star of Wonder," call the IRSC Box office at 772-462-4750, between 11 am and 3 pm today.