Shooting Star Gazing on a Clear Night

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.Orion, Taurus, Mars, & Pleiades

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.

Pleiades

Westward, we were able to identify Perseus and Cassiopeia.

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.

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7 Comments

  1. Murray said,

    January 4, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    I hear ya! I was out in my hot tub at 0500 this morning and saw a dozen or so of the meteorites. I’ve tried a few times to figure what I’m looking at in terms of stars/constellations, but with little luck. Thanks for the Web site – it’s certainly worth another try now that I have a near-perfect viewing spot.

  2. January 4, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Hi Murray,
    I’m as beginner as they come when it comes to stargazing. It was exciting to actually be able to identify a couple of things in the sky. If you find a better website though, please let me know. This one is somewhat good, but it involves a bit of work.
    Carole
    PS: Saw your posts about the new sanctuary: heavenly!

  3. Murray said,

    January 4, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    I printed out our sky chart and will give it a try tonight.

  4. January 4, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    When Fawn and I got a used telescope in Drumheller. I couldn’t wait to get it back to Fort Liard to try.

    I picked a bright object and pointed the telescope at it. It was Saturn. I also jumped for joy. Even though it was just a white ball of light with a ring around it, it was AMAZING.

    I picked a second object and pointed the telesope at it. It was Jupiter. I jumped for joy again. Even though it was just a white ball of light with four dots moving around it, it was INCREDIBLE.

    I pointed the telescope at the moon and could see craters with stunning clarity. Amazing and Incredible.

    I don’t get my telescope out nearly enough these days.

  5. Fawn said,

    January 4, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Not to be a dork, but I think meteorites are the ones that hit the ground (and are rarely found) so I’m guessing Murray saw meteors. 😛 I got Michael a telescope as a Christmas gift 5 years ago; it was something he’d always wanted and we came across one for sale when we stopped at a restaurant in Drumheller on our way across the country. The very first thing he saw through it was a bright star that, when focused, turned out to be Saturn. It was pretty awesome to actually see the rings (which just looked like a single ring) just the way it’s supposed to be!

  6. January 5, 2008 at 9:13 am

    In my rough draft, being the beginner that I am, I had written “meteorites” instead of “meteors,” and Dave corrected me.
    As for telescope viewing, I have never had the privilege, but I imagine it would be very exciting, to say the least, to see the ring(s) on Saturn and the moons around Jupiter.
    I found another interesting website about naked-eye stargazing:
    http://www.kstrom.net/isk/stars/stareye.html

  7. January 5, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Murray,
    You should get the sky chart laminated so you can use it from the comfort of your hot tub! 😉 I was thinking that the vapour coming from the hot tub probably affects the viewing somewhat, but it certainly makes for a comfortable spot.


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