On behalf of the production team behind The Astronomer’s Universe, I want to wish all our viewers a wonderful New Year and much joy and prosperity in 2010. It’s been a great pleasure bringing you some behind-the-scenes looks at Big Astronomy and the many cosmic adventures that astronomers have. I look forward to bringing you more in-depth looks at the cosmos, like this month’s peek at the Pleiades star cluster.
The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters (and by other names from cultures around the world) is an open star cluster that lies nearly 440 light-years away from us. There are about 1,000 stars in this cluster; with the naked eye you can see at least seven of the brightest ones.
Happy New Year and see you here at Astrocast.tv in 2010!
Greg talks about NASA STEREO and discovered tsunamis on the Sun reaching hights higher that Earth. Heard of Saturn’s hexagon learn how Scientists are working hard to discover why it’s there.
This episode of A Green Space – A Green Earth (GSGE in the menu tab) Bente reports on Earth observation from Space and how observing from a distance gives us an overview and a better understanding of large scale features of our Earth.
This month in Our Night Sky, Dr. Harold Geller gives us Our Night Sky for January. Our Moon, Jupiter and Neptune meet close bye and this is the time to see the Pleiades in our northern sky. These are just a few of Our Night Sky wonders for January. Download our star charts for January:
The waxing gibbous Moon will be occulting, i.e. passing in front of and blocking the light from, a number of stars of the Pleiades this evening. You can check for the details online here. The occultation is around 0100 UTC (9PM EST).
Not too long from now, the Pleiades will grace our early evening skies. They are still a favorite of mine, and I can still recall showing them to some elementary school students many years ago. Now in a paper to be published in the Astronomical Journal, available online now here, astronomers using spectroscopy, report on the abundances of heavy metals in the Pleiades star cluster. Specifically, the authors report on the abundances of iron, silicon, nickel and titanium. The authors conclude that “Pleiades is about 10% richer in heavy elements than the Sun.” And the authors address why we should care, noting that “star clusters are critical for understanding the properties and processes of our
Now that winter is officially upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, let’s take a look at the constellations of the Winter Hexagon.You will remember it from Episode 8.This month, we will take a closer look at the constellation Taurus.
The bright orange star Aldebaran of the Winter Hexagon marks the eye of Taurus the bull.You will notice a “V” of dimmer stars near Aldebaran tracing the shape of the bull’s head, and two other stars that mark the points of its horns.
The stars in the “V” of the bull’s face are actually members of a star cluster called the Hyades – all except Aldebaran.Use binoculars to take a closer look and dozens of stars will come into view.It’s the second closest open star cluster to us, averaging about 150 light years away, and it contains a few hundred stars.
Another open star cluster is found in the constellation of Taurus, away from the head and horns of the bull.It is the brighter and more compact Pleiades, also called the Seven Sisters.The Pleiades is a younger cluster than the Hyades, young enough that its stars are still surrounded by gas and dust.Most people can see six stars naked-eye, and many more in binoculars.With a telescope, you can see hundreds of stars, and, on a dark and clear night, you might see some of the nebulosity around the stars.
Another interesting object to see in a telescope is the first object on Charles Messier’s list of deep sky objects, the Crab Nebula.You can find M1 just inside the bull’s horns, about a degree from the star marking the tip of the bull’s horn.The Crab Nebula is faint and dim – you will see simply a fuzzy patch of light.But that light is what remains from the death of a massive star – the nebula left behind after a supernova explosion.That supernova was observed in the year 1054, when the star became bright enough to be seen in the daytime.That star is now a pulsar that’s only visible in large telescopes.