January 4, 2008 at 11:59 am (Livin' North of 60°)
The sky was clear, the hot tub was ready, and we were out in the country. What more could one ask for? A meteor shower had been announced for last night, which prompted us to keep our eyes stuck on the sky. We didn’t see many shooting stars though, probably because we may have not been out during “peak time.” But the sky was so clear and starry, that I was mesmerized by the celestial scenery before me.
The only feature I could ever identify with certainty in the past was the Big Dipper. But looking up, way up, on such a clear night from the comfort of a hot tub, it was amazing to see the flickering lights before me. All of this prompted me search the Internet the moment I walked through the door. I got so excited that I ended up going outside with my laptop (a bit too bright even with the lowest brightness setting on my screen) to try and identify some of what was before me.
Looking southward, we saw Taurus, Orion, Pleiades, and most excitingly, Mars. I always knew that some of the brighter “stars” were planets, but I never knew which one, or whether it was just a very bright star. So when I discovered that what I thought might be a planet was actually Mars, I literally jumped for joy. I’ve never been so excited about astronomy before.
When I first spotted Pleiades, I found it too small to be the Little Dipper. It looked like a mini-dipper. Pleiades is also known as M45 or The Seven Sisters. It looks big on this photograph, but it’s a tiny little thing, relatively speaking of course.
Westward, we were able to identify Perseus and Cassiopeia.
The site I referred to for information about the skies was Sky and Telescope: The Essential Magazine of Astronomy, and it has an interactive sky chart. You enter your location, and there you have it. The nightsky as you see it. You can drag the picture in any direction, view it with or without lines and labels.
For the experienced skygazers out there, I’m sure none of this is news to you, but think back to the first time you actually “saw” a constellation in the sky. Remember the excitement of being able to identify something? Post a comment to let me know.
Hot tubs, clear nights, stars, January, the Great White North, and my hunny…What more can a girl want? Oh, and Yukon skies.