Skywatch for the week of October 16, 2023
Mon Oct 16, 2023 INDIAN SUMMER, THE SEVEN SISTERS
There is a story that the Onondowaga people, also called the Seneca, tell of the Pleiades star cluster, which can be found in the eastern sky in late evening at this time of the year. Long ago, it’s said, there was a village of longhouses where the people forgot to get ready for the winter. Harvest moon came and went, and still they played. But when the first frosts of October appeared, they called out to Sanwadeso to aid them. The great spirit heard their cries and granted them their wish: for ten days summer returned; then all was prepared. Food and warm clothing, all was done before the return of the long night moon of winter. But down by the great lake there were seven sisters who paid no heed, but danced, faster and faster, until the West Wind took them in his arms and carried them up into the sky, where they became the stars that we call the Pleiades.
Tue Oct 17, 2023 NAME THAT CONSTELLATION - OCTOBER
Can you identify the thirty-third largest constellation? It is bordered on the north by Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer, on the south by Lupus the Wolf, Norma the Level and Ara the Altar, on the west by Libra the Scales, and on the east by Sagittarius and the Southern Crown. Its tail dips into the Milky Way, and there are many nebulas and star clusters within its borders. In the South Pacific it’s called Maui’s fishhook, while old Greek myths say it is the animal that killed Orion the Hunter. Just a few thousand years ago the Romans turned its claws into Libra the Scales. This evening the new crescent moon appears just to the west of its brightest star Antares. Can you name this star figure, the eighth constellation of the zodiac? The answer is Scorpius, currently visible in the southwestern sky after sunset.
Wed Oct 18, 2023 PLANETARIUM SHOW: STARS TO STARFISH
A new show opens at the Hallstrom Planetarium this weekend: “Stars to Starfish” incorporates marine science and astronomy to compare the exploration of our universe with the exploration of our Earth’s oceans. In “Stars to Starfish”, we’ll recreate views of the underwater environment, using footage taken by local divers. Shows will be presented on Friday night at 7 or 8:30 PM, and on Saturday afternoon at 1 or 2:30. If skies are clear on Friday night, the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society will have telescopes set up for magnified views of the moon and the planet Saturn. And there will be a special presentation of “Stars to Starfish Junior” which will be offered to young audiences at 11 am this Saturday. Call the IRSC box office at 772-462-4750.
Thu Oct 19, 2023 CHANDRASEKHAR AND BLACK HOLES
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, born on October 19th, 1910, was the astronomer who figured out just how massive a star had to be in order to turn into a black hole. If a star is one and a half to almost two and a half times more massive than our sun, when it dies, it explodes and becomes a supernova, then collapses to become a neutron star. But if a star has over 2.4 times the sun’s mass, the final gravitational collapse is so powerful that the star doesn’t blow up – it blows in to become a black hole! The imploding star shrinks down to a singularity, a point of ridiculously high density. We can’t see black holes directly, but we know that they are out there, because as their gravity pulls matter in, x-rays are released, which escape the hole’s event horizon, that point of no return.
Fri Oct 20, 2023 ORIONID METEORS/PLANETARIUM SHOW: STARS TO STARFISH
There’s a meteor shower going on right now. The Orionid meteors, which are bits of debris from the tail of Halley’s Comet that burn up high in our atmosphere, can be seen best under clear, dark skies. Protect yourself against mosquitoes, dress warmly, take along a lounge chair so you don’t get a stiff neck looking up at the sky, then face toward the east and watch for these shooting stars – perhaps a dozen visible each hour. Best viewing should be in the late evening on until dawn. Also this weekend, we’ll be presenting a show called, “Stars to Starfish” at Indian River State College’s Hallstrom Planetarium. Shows are Friday, that’s tonight, at 7 and 8:30 pm, and tomorrow at 1 and 2:30 pm. There’s even a kids’ version of the show tomorrow at 11 am! Call 772-462-4750 to get tickets.