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SKywatch for the week of November 13, 2023

Skywatch Monday 11-13-2023.mp3

Mon Nov 13, 2023 TYCHO’S COMET

On November 13th, 1577, the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe observed a comet and discovered that they exist far out in space (previously it was thought that comets were created in the atmosphere.) Brahe used parallax to prove this. Hold your thumb up at arm's length, and look at it with first one eye, and then the other, and you'll see your thumb jump back and forth against the background. If you bring your thumb in closer, the parallax shift increases. Brahe noted the comet’s position against the background stars and compared his measurements with other astronomers and found that the comet’s parallax was less than the moon's, therefore farther away. We haven’t had a bright comet appear in our sky since Comet Hale-Bopp, which a lot of people saw back in the spring of 1997.




William Herschel was born on November 15th, 1738. Herschel was a church organist in Bath, England. He also had a great interest in astronomy, and in telescopes. But most musicians don’t make much money, and telescopes were expensive. So he built his own. It was with just such a telescope that in March of 1781, William Herschel discovered a planet. Herschel named it George, after the King of England. Many astronomers suggested the planet simply be called, Herschel. Eventually Uranus, who in mythology was the father of Saturn, was chosen. Herschel also found four moons: Oberon and Titania, which orbit Uranus, and Mimas and Enceladus, which orbit Saturn. And Herschel mapped the stars of the Milky Way, concluding from their distribution that the galaxy in which we live was shaped like a giant disc.


Skywatch Wednesday11-15-2023.mp3

Wed Nov 15, 2023 LEONIDS

The Leonid meteor shower will be going on for the next couple of nights. The Leonids, so-called because these meteors seem to come from the direction of the constellation Leo the Lion, have been in a bit of a decline lately, but they’re still worth going out to see. As a rule, meteor showers are best after midnight, and this one is no exception. But there will also be some visible during the evening hours, provided the skies are not cloudy. Protect yourself against mosquitoes, dress warmly, take along a lounge chair for comfort, find a clear, dark sky and face east, looking up toward the zenith. You should be able to see several meteors an hour, but there can be stretches of ten or fifteen minutes sometimes, when nothing happens. So sit back and enjoy the starry night sky.


Skywatch Thursday 11-16-2023.mp3


Can you identify the 15th largest constellation? It is bordered on the north by Scutum, Aquila and Serpens Cauda, on the south by Telescopium and the Southern Crown, on the west by Scorpius and Ophiuchus, and on the east by Microscopium and Capricornus. The center of the galaxy lies in the direction of its western border, and it contains many star clusters as well as the Trifid and the Lagoon Nebulae. This constellation has no first magnitude stars, but a handful of 2nd magnitude stars trace out the crude shape of a teapot and this evening the moon shines within the teapot’s lid. In Greek myth it represented Chiron, a centaur who guards other constellations by keeping Scorpius at bay with his bow and arrow. Can you name this star figure, the ninth constellation of the zodiac? The answer is Sagittarius the Archer.


Skywatch Friday 11-17-2023.mp3


A large part of the autumn evening sky is known as “the celestial sea,” because of all the watery constellations found there: Capricornus the Sea Goat, Delphinus the Dolphin, Pisces the Fish, Cetus the Whale, plus Aquarius, the water carrier. It is his water jug that according to the myth, spilled out into this region of the heavens, and so gave rise to its name. Tonight and also tomorrow, I will point out all those watery star patterns for anyone who comes out to Indian River State College’s Hallstrom Planetarium to see our latest show, “Stars to Starfish.” In this program, we also showcase the earth’s oceans and its many inhabitants and discuss the importance of water for supporting life on our planet. Shows are at 7 and 8:30 tonight and at 1 and 2:30 pm on Saturday. Call the IRSC Box Office at 772 462 4750 to get tickets.