Sky at a Glance October 5 – 12

Photo showing location of the constellation Camelopardalis which contains the stunning asterism Kemble’s Cascade.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 October 5 – 12 ~by Curt Nason

With moose season out of the way and before the Moon gets too bright, this weekend it might be a good time for some good old fashioned giraffe hunting. No guns allowed, just find a place where the sky is not tainted by light pollution and bring binoculars for an added treat.

The large constellation Camelopardalis is somewhat easier to pronounce than it is to locate in the sky. Look below Cassiopeia and between Perseus and Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper, which has the North Star at the end of the handle). Any stars you can see in this area compose the not-so-stellar giraffe. The constellation was imagined and charted on a globe by Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius in 1612 and later adopted by other prominent makers of star charts. The name derives from how the Greeks regarded giraffes as camel leopards, with their long neck and spots.

An interesting binocular object called Kemble’s Cascade is an observing highlight within Camelopardalis. This asterism, forming a line of about 20 stars, was noticed by Canadian amateur astronomer Father Lucien Kemble, who reported it to a columnist at Sky and Telescope magazine. One method of finding your way there is to imagine a line across the top stars of Cassiopeia’s W shape, right to left, and extend it an equal distance. Another is to extend an equal length line from Algol to Mirfak, the two brightest stars in Perseus. Near one end of this asterism a telescope will reveal the open star cluster NGC 1502, which is nicknamed the Jolly Roger Cluster.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:22 am and sunset will occur at 6:52 pm, giving 11 hours, 30 minutes of daylight (7:27 am and 6:57 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:31 am and set at 6:38 pm, giving 11 hours, 7 minutes of daylight (7:35 am and 6:44 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter and near Saturn this Saturday, and in late evening telescope users can watch the Lunar X form just inside the shadow line (called the terminator) below centre. Jupiter and Saturn remain as prime targets in the early evening. On Sunday at sunset the shadow of Jupiter’s moon Io begins a two-hour crawl across the planet’s cloud top, and the Red Spot will be prominent for the latter hour if conditions are good for telescope viewing. Venus and Mercury set 30-40 minutes after the Sun all week. Venus can be seen with binoculars soon after sunset, but Mercury will be a much more difficult target to the left of Venus. You might catch a few extra shooting stars throughout Tuesday night from the Draconid meteor shower.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on October 5 at 7 pm, and the William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club meets in the UNB Fredericton Forestry-Earth Sciences building on Tuesday at 7 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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