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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December Star Map

Sometimes I wonder, is it really worth bothering with astronomy in Singapore? Looking at the night sky over the past few months, I asked myself: WHERE ARE THE STARS?????????????

Every time, I sat down to put together our monthly star map I had to think hard about how many stars to include on the map. Last month, it would have been quite accurate just to include ONE dot on that circular map, i.e. the planet Jupiter, which was one of the few objects who's brightness could break through the bright urban lights and mostly overcast sky.

However, there is no need to despair. The brightest lights of the heavens are fast approaching.It just so happens that October and November were pretty barren months in terms of the number of bright stars available for viewing.

December "should" be a particularly good month for urban stargazing, several of the brightest constellations in the sky are about the appear, for example Taurus, Orion Cassiopeia, Perseus. Cause for celebration indeed but before I get too optimistic, I should point out that we are still in the rainy season here in Singapore and so the likelihood of a cloudy sky is in fact quite......likely. So despite some really interesting objects on view this month we may not get to fully enjoy them.

Having said that, here is December's Star Map, just in case ;)

If we do get a clear sky here's a list of some of the treats on view in my stars of the months:

1)M45 – The Pleiades (Seven Sisters)
A large and bright cluster of young white-blue stars. Try and spot the 7 brightest members using only your eyes. Use binoculars to experience its full glory!
2)The Hyades
A loose grouping of stars next to the bright star of Aldebaran. One of the closest star clusters to the Sun (150 light years away). Requires binoculars.
3)Perseus Double Cluster (NGC 869 & NGC 884)
Two large clusters lying close together in our Galaxy. Must use binoculars but can be tricky to find in our urban sky.
4)Alpha Persei/Melotte 20 Cluster
This large, loose cluster surrounds and includes the supergiant star of Alpha Persei (Mirfak), the brightest star in Perseus. Find it with binoculars or telescopes at low power.
5,6,7. – M38, M37, M36 respectively
Three star clusters located a short distance from each other in Auriga. M37 (no. 6) is the brightest of the three. Containing hundreds of stars they can appear very faint in bright skies

Let's hope for a dry January!

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