Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Andromeda Galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy is the closest Galaxy to the Milky Way Galaxy that we are in. Hence, logically, it should be visible isn't it? But, how many has observed / seen it ? 

The reason is that the Galaxy is so far away, you would see it as a faint single star. The below illustration indicates the distance between the two galaxies. If we see the largest and the brightest star in Milky-way as a dot, Andromeda being at the distance it is, appear faint too.  

However, it is observable to the naked eye if you are outside the city limits. Colombo, is quite bad as an observing site. However, a decent pair of Binoculars should do the trick.

So, How do we find it ?

In the night sky above Sri Lanka, Andromeda is to the northern hemisphere. Watch for the Constellation Orion - Draw a mental straight line towards north west direction and you should arrive at the area that is circled in red in the above diagram. You would see the below star charts in this area and locate the Galaxy as shown. Mind you, it is not the colourful Galaxy you would see as in the first picture of this blog - those are long exposure (at least 30 minutes) shots that makes it colourful. 

If you observe the sky from a clear, unpolluted location, you would most probably see a sight as below - it would be easier for anyone to spot the galaxy through naked eye if the skies are really clear. What you see like a puff of dust is Andromeda. 

If you use Bino's or telescope you would see something like below.

Happy Andromeda Hunting. Please provide feedback if you spot the Galaxy and feel free to share pictures. You can comment below. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The International Space Station Visible Passes

Click on images for larger versions and please do share with your friends who are fellow enthusiasts.

As of now, The International Space Station (ISS) is the Largest Man Made artificial object in the Sky. 

The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitudeof between 330 and 435 km (205 and 270 miles). It completes 15.54 orbits per day and is one of the most visible space objects from Earth. Below is a long exposure photograph of the Space Station crossing the sky. 

The ISS could be so bright at times, it becomes brighter than Venus - the brightest object we see in the sky apart from the sun and the moon. The below picture indicates the moon and ISS - ISS is the bright object (Dot) to the left of the moon. 

Additionally, the spotting the ISS crossing the disk of the Sun and the moon also can be described as phenomena that one should not miss. 

The passes of the ISS over a given Geographic location could be calculated and informed to the public. 

Below is a video of the ISS passing over land.

NASA also provides a 24x7 live feed from the ISS - Enjoy the view of earth from space below.

Enjoy the sky watch !

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Southern Cross (Crux Constellation)

Click on images for larger versions. Please share with fellow Lankans who wish to learn and enjoy the beauties of the night sky.

The Southern Cross or the Constellation Crux is visible most months throughout the year and is visible in the southern sky.

The importance of this constellation or star pattern is that when you connect the stars in the form of a cross, it always points to the absolute south or the south pole of the earth.

In January, it is visible in the morning skies and will shift to the evening skies by June. However, based on earth's position vs. the Sun, the constellation is one of the most visible and beautiful sights in the skies..

Enjoy ...

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Orion Nebula

(Click on images and enlarge for better viewing) 

The Below Image shows one of the most prominent constellations in the Night Sky - The Orion Constellation. (Click)

This was also made famous through the first of the movie series "Men In Black" starring Tommy Lee And Will Smith. However, as oppose to the Galaxy on Orion's belt (Which is not there in the center of it as mentioned in the movie itself), there is Orion Nebula (a.k.a. - M42)(Click)

The constellation is visible most of the times through out a year. However, these days (January 2017) the constellation is clearly visible and close observation shows the Nebula as a powder puff.  

This is one of the most visible Nebulae to the naked human eye. 

It is better viewed through Binoculars or Telescope. But, it is clearly visible out side city areas where there is less air pollution. Below is a long exposure photograph of the nebula - Yes, if you wonder why you don't see the multitudes of colour to the naked eye, it doesn't happen that way - you will always see stars more or less in white. It is only a planet or an object like comets that would have a slight variation in colour. The pretty pics we see are due to very long exposure of camera (more than 15 minutes)

Beautiful Isn't it ??

Saturday, January 14, 2017

NGC 2451 Open Cluster - January

An open cluster is a group of up to a few thousand stars that were formed from the same giant molecular cloud and have roughly the same age.

The NGC 2451 Open Cluster probably discovered by Giovanni Battista Hodierna before 1654 andJohn Herschel in 1835. In 1994, it was postulated that this was actually two open clusters that lie along the same line of sight. To the Naked Eye, a cluster usually is seen as one star due to the distance from earth. However, mindful observation allows you to see many stars combined together as in a powder puff. 

The open star cluster NGC 2451 in Puppis (click) will be well placed for observation during January and beyond. It will reach its highest point in the sky at around midnight Sri Lanka time.  Refer below Map and the red circled area. Click on image to enlarge.   
At a declination of -37°58', it is easiest to see from the southern hemisphere but cannot be seen from latitudes much north of 32°N.
From Sri Lanka, it will be visible between 19:54 and 04:30. It will become accessible at around 19:54, when it rises 15° above the south-eastern horizon, and then reach its highest point in the sky at 00:14, 45° above the southern horizon. It will become inaccessible at around 04:30 when it sinks to 15° above your south-western horizon.
At magnitude 2.8, NGC2451 is visible to the naked eye, but best viewed through a pair of binoculars.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Let's have some fun !

This blog will be for those who live in Sri Lanka and is interested in Astronomy. The blog will include the observable phenomena that happens up above, little bit of weather and some fun activities we can engage in.

Additionally, if you are interested to get instant messages to your phone on the wonders that happens in the Sky Above You, you could also SMS "REG sky" to 77000...

As per regulatory requirements, there will be a charge of Rs. 2 per SMS received. However, there will be no subscription / recurrent charges and SMS's are sent only during an observable phenomena.