SEPTEMBER STAR MAP |
SEPTEMBER 5, 1999: Ladies of the Night
- The ladies of the night number only four. Virgo (the Virgin) and Coma Berenices, (the hair of Bernice) are numbered among the spring constellations. Cassiopeia (the Queen of Ethiopia) and her daughter, Andromeda, known also as the Chained Lady grace the autumn sky. Maybe these really are the "ladies of the night." However, that’s certainly for the reader to decide. The paucity of female figures in the heavens probably was a result of the low societal station of women during the period when the constellations were being formulated, and the fact that the astronomical priesthood was almost exclusively male dominated. Yes, the sky is definitely sexist, and my wife’s threats not to proof this StarWatch if I didn’t mention this fact had no bearing on that last sentence. Men were truly scum back then! Furthermore, these gals have lots of missing body parts, or are just plain missing altogether, or are composed of such faint stars that it really doesn’t matter. Then there is the evil Cassiopeia. She is that sideways "W" about halfway up in the northeastern sky about 10 p.m. Check the on-line map which can be found with this StarWatch at the web site below. If we were really under dark skies, we’d notice the "W" transmuted into a chair into which Cassiopeia has been placed, or rather thrown. Why is she evil? What else would you be called if you sacrificed your beautiful, virginal daughter on a rock to be devoured by a hideous looking sea monster? Andromeda is that triad of stars trailing below and to the right of Cassiopeia which leads to the Great Square, which is the body of Pegasus, the Flying Horse. You bet, there will be more about these ladies next week.
SEPTEMBER 12, 1999: Evil Cassiopeia
- The demise of Cassiopeia began with a simple boast the Ethiopian queen made about her beauty. Cassiopeia claimed that she was easily the fairest of them all. Infuriating the Sea Nymphs, who were judged to be the most beautiful women of the ancient world, a series of events unfolded which would leave Cassiopeia tied to a chair, hopelessly circling the Pole Star. First the Sea Nymphs petitioned their father Nereus, who sent a huge tidal wave to inundate Ethiopia. But since Cassiopeia’s palace was on high ground, she simply "waved" it off, even though the suffering of her subjects was great. Nereus then persuaded Poseidon, god of all the oceans, to act. He produced the monster, Cetus (now, the whale) who swam from the warm ocean waters and ravaged the country by land. Cassiopeia acted accordingly. Summoning her nubile daughter Andromeda, soldiers removed her to a small island off the coast where they left her as a sacrifice to Cetus. The monster took the bait and would have turned Andromeda into a tasty gourmet lunch, except for Perseus, the Hero, who intervened at just the right moment, turning Cetus into stone. He used the head of the Medusa, which he had recently killed. How Perseus acquired the head and happened to be "flying" over Ethiopia is a separate mythology. Needless to say, the few Ethiopian peasants that remained, revolted. Capturing Cassiopeia, they threw their long-haired queen into the heavens to land on a chair with a crooked back. In the fall the chair rises in the NE, as a sideways "W," soon to invert, causing the Queen even further discomfort. A map showing Cassiopeia and Andromeda, at 10:00 p.m. can be found at the web site below.
SEPTEMBER 19, 1999: Moon Names
- The moon is full on Saturday, September 25, making it the closest full moon to the Autumnal Equinox, the time when the length of the day and the night are equal. Fall begins on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. You may have already realized that Saturday’s full moon is called the Harvest Moon. It is at this time of the year that the moon’s orbital path is closest to being parallel with the eastern horizon. Accordingly, the moon’s orbital motion does not carry it very far below the horizon during the course of a day. For the next several nights the nearly full moon rises well before twilight ends. In Europe and America the moon’s light was used by farmers who continued harvesting their crops well into the night. The term Harvest Moon first originated in Europe where the change in time between moonrises near its full phase was only 10-20 minutes. At our latitude of 40 degrees north, the change is 25-30 minutes on average. You may be surprised to learn that the full moons of other months also have names. Here they are: January--Old Moon, or Moon After Yule; February--Snow Moon, Hunger Moon, or Wolf Moon; March--Sap Moon, Crow Moon, or Lenten Moon; April--Grass Moon or Egg Moon; May--Planting Moon or Milk Moon; June--Rose Moon, Flower Moon, or Strawberry Moon; July--Thunder Moon or Hay Moon; August--Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon; September--Harvest Moon or Fruit Moon; October--Hunter’s Moon; November--Frosty Moon or Beaver Moon; December--Moon Before Yule or Long Night Moon. Now, the next time the moon is full, you may see it in a new light or at least call it by its rightful name.
SEPTEMBER 26-28, 1999: Giants on the Rise
- With the Autumnal Equinox behind us, the longer, cooler nights of fall give us some of the best opportunities of the year to witness the splendors of the heavens. Skies can be a deep saturated blue by day, fading at dusk to leave hundreds of stars visible even to the urban observer. There are two bright wanderers in the east which cannot be counted among their fixed companions. These are the giant planets Jupiter and Saturn, now debuting low in the east around 10 p.m. Tonight, tomorrow, and Tuesday they will be especially easy targets because the waning gibbous moon will be slipping past them. Tonight, the moon will be to the right of Jupiter. Tomorrow, the moon forms an loose triangle between the pair. By Tuesday, the moon has moved far enough to the east of Saturn and Jupiter to make them appear as if they are lined up--moon, Saturn, and Jupiter. You may want to observe around 11 p.m. because of the low altitude of the moon. If these nights are especially clear, you may even detect a faintly visible fuzzy patch of light to the left of Saturn. Yes, those are the famous Seven Sisters or Pleiades, a true harbinger of the colder months which are to follow. You may want to take your fist and hold it at arm’s length to blot out the moon. Staring at where the moon would be, let your peripheral vision drift to the left to glimpse the Pleiades. By week’s end, the Pleiades will rise well before the moon and should be readily visible by 10 p.m. from suburban locations with good eastern horizons. View the location of Jupiter, Saturn, the moon, and Pleiades by going to the map found at the web address below. Simply click on the StarWatch button and follow the links to this week’s posting.
SEPTEMBER 29-OCTOBER 1, 1999: Giants on the Rise
- With the Autumnal Equinox behind us, the longer, cooler nights of fall give us some of the best opportunities of the year to witness the splendors of the heavens. Skies can be a deep saturated blue by day, fading at dusk to leave hundreds of stars visible even to the urban observer. There are two bright wanderers in the east which cannot be counted among their fixed companions. These are the giant planets Jupiter and Saturn, now debuting low in the east around 10 p.m. If these nights are especially clear, you may even detect a faint fuzzy patch of light to the left of Saturn. Yes, those are the famous Seven Sisters or Pleiades, a true harbinger of the colder months which are to follow. One of the true joys of observing Jupiter is the nightly progression of four of its circling moons, discovered by Galileo in 1610. Binoculars held with a steady hand will reveal Ganymede and Callisto, the brightest of Jupiter’s four Galilean satellites. The other two are Io and Europa which can be viewed with a small telescope or spotting scope. Tonight the Galilean satellites will be found in the following order: E--I-G--Jup---C; Thursday, EJup--I-G--C; Friday, I--Jup---E--G--C. Remember, telescopes will often switch right and left, as well as invert the image. Knowing that Ganymede and Callisto are the brightest of the four is essential to orienting the image and identifying the moons. Saturn’s bright telescopic moon, Titan, will move from left of the planet to almost above Saturn by Friday. View the location of Jupiter, and Saturn, as well as the Pleiades by going to the map found at the web address below. Simply click on the StarWatch button and follow the links to this week’s posting.