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Skywatch for the week of 12-26-2022

Skywatch Monday 12-26-2022.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 wedge shape. In myth it represents the god Pan, who taught people how to play the flute, and the conch, a favorite of Floridians. When a dragon attacked Pan, he grew a fish’s tail, jumped into a river and swam away. Tonight the moon and the planet Saturn can be found within its borders. Can you name this star figure, the tenth constellation of the zodiac? The answer is Capricornus, the Sea Goat, visible in the southwest after sunset.

Skywatch Tuesday 12-27-2022.mp3

Tue Dec 27, 2022 JOHANNES KEPLER

Johannes Kepler, born on December 27th in the year 1571, believed in Copernicus’ theory that the earth orbited the sun. But while Copernicus had a beautiful idea, he did not know how the planets moved. Copernicus held on to the ancient idea that the orbits of planets were perfectly circular, but the data that Kepler used, obtained from the painstaking observations of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, didn’t support that notion. Unlike past theorists, Kepler refused to toss out the data, which he knew was accurate. Instead he discarded that perfect round circle theory and introduced a new one: the orbits of planets are elliptical. Once elliptical orbits were calculated, the motions of the planets became understandable and predictable.

Skywatch Wednesday 12-28-2022.mp3

Wed Dec 28, 2022 TELESCOPE HELP

If on Sunday you found a telescope under your tree, and by now you still haven't figured out how to get it to work, here’s some basic advice. You've either got a reflector, which has a big mirror at the bottom of the telescope, or a refractor, usually a long tube with a big glass lens at the top. The refractor’s eyepiece, which does the magnifying, goes into the draw tube at the bottom of the scope. If you have more than one eyepiece, use the eyepiece with the biggest number - this will give you the least magnification, which is what you want to start out. As a general rule, don’t magnify more than 50 power for each inch of aperture, the width of your main lens or mirror.

Skywatch Thursday 12-29-2022.mp3


If you can’t find anything with your new telescope, you probably need to align its finder scope - that's that small tube mounted on the side of the main tube. When you look through the finder you'll see the crosshairs - two lines which cross each other. First you look through the finder and put the crosshairs over the object you're trying to zoom in on. But when you look through the main tube's eyepiece, it’s not there! To align the finder with the main scope, start by putting any distinctive, far away landmark into view through the eyepiece of the main tube. Clamp down the telescope, then you need to twist the finder scope’s little bolts which hold it in place so that the object is on the crosshairs. Now you're aligned, and everything else will be easier to find.

Skywatch Friday 12-30-2022.mp3

Fri Dec 30, 2022 NEW YEAR’S AVATAR

Often the outgoing year is portrayed as a very old man known as Father Time. Father Time in turn is based on the Greek mythological god Kronos, whom the Romans associated with Saturn, an agricultural god. The planet Saturn takes 29 years to orbit the sun, so to sky-watchers of long ago, it seemed as if this slow-moving, unhurried planet must somehow be associated with time. In late December great festivals like the Saturnalia were held in honor of Saturn. Gifts were exchanged, homes and streets were decorated, and everybody was in a happy party mood. After this came the solstice and celebrations of the sun, then another holiday for Janus, the Roman god of new beginnings, and for whom the month of January is named.