December 15, 2019

Astro-Event: Will Comet McNaught Perform?

During the month of June, keep your eye out for a pre-dawn visitor that may be the naked eye comet of the year. Comet McNaught C/2009 R1 starts the month out June 1st at about +8 magnitude near the star Beta Andromedae, and through the course of the month, skirts the constellations of Andromeda, Perseus, and Auriga. Views will get better starting June 4th, as the Moon passes Last Quarter on its way to New June 12th. The daily apparent motion of the comet will cause it to move semi-parallel to the horizon, never straying above 20° degrees elevation for mid-northern latitude observers about an hour before sunrise.

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Astro-Challenge: Groombridge 34; a Nearby Red Dwarf Pair!

Sure, everyone’s heard of Alpha Centauri, but have you ever heard of… Groombridge 34? We came across this little known binary red dwarf pair while perusing Burnham’s Celestial Handbook last month during our write up for M31. Also in the constellation Andromeda, Groombridge 34 is a unique system; a pair of red dwarf flare stars relatively close to our own solar system. At 11.62 light years, its the 16th closest stellar system to our own. The separation of the two stars are about 147 Astronomical units (A. U.s) (for reference, Pluto is about 50 A.U.s from the sun!) in a estimated 2,600 year orbit.

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Review: Burnham’s Celestial Handbook.

A few decades back, I mentioned to a friend at a local planetarium of my enduring interest in astronomy. “Surely, then, “ he said pulling out a three volume set, “you have these…” I did not at the time, but I had indeed heard the legends. The books were Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, a three volume compendium on observational astronomy. A few weeks back we did a piece on the man, Robert Burnham Jr. and his tempestuous life; now I’d like to break with tradition a bit a provide a review of this indispensable astronomical classic. [Read more...]