Clemson Area Amateur Astronomers

The Universe From Here

Our Mission

Our mission is to inform, educate and entertain by providing a varied and interesting program of activities for our membership and the communities we serve.  Our projects include educational programs and presentations by guest speakers and our members, public star parties, field observation of various astronomical events and trips to observatories and other space science venues. If you are as interested in Astronomy as we are, we hope you will join us at one of our star parties, meetings, or lectures. If you would like to become a member please click HERE.

February 2019 Sky Report - A Pirate's Tale Part I 

(By Jim Feiste)

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Imagine you are the navigator on an ancient pirate ship, commanded by an abusive captain who requires her helpless crew to constantly clean the ship’s equipment.  You carefully approach her and offer the following observation:  “Captain, all-the rigging seems properly polished (with castor oil and beetle-juice).”  You have just accomplished 2 things: you’ve angered the captain; and you’ve just named 7 of the brightest stars in the sky!  

During each season of this year we will follow the adventures of this sailing ship to learn the names of all the first magnitude stars of the northern hemisphere.  This spring, an unhappy crew member will plan a mutiny, so stay tuned!  But this month our adventure begins in the Winter Hexagon.

February’s Stars and Deep Sky Objects 

The 21 brightest stars in the sky are called first magnitude stars. These are stars with magnitudes less (brighter) than 1.5.  Seven of these stars appear every winter in The Winter Hexagon asterism (informal constellation).  You can remember their names with the mnemonic: “CAPtain, AL-DE RIGging Seems PROperly POLished (with CASTOR Oil and BEetle-juice).”  The stars, in order around the hexagon, are:   

  • Capella (Auriga): magnitude 0.1, distance 42 ly
  • Aldebaran (Taurus): magnitude 0.9, distance 65 ly
  • Rigel (Orion’s knee): magnitude 0.2, distance 860 ly
  • Sirius (Canis Major): magnitude -1.5, distance 9 ly
  • Procyon (Canis Minor): magnitude 0.3, distance 11 ly
  • Pollux (Gemini): magnitude 1.2, distance 34 ly
  • (Castor (Pollux’s “twin”): mag 1.6 (2nd mag), dist 51 ly)
  • Betelgeuse (Orion’s shoulder, near the center of the hexagon): magnitude 0.6, distance 500 ly

I first learned this as a child from the book How to Read the Night Sky, by W.S. Kals. (Thanks to my mom for finding it at the library when I was young, and to Stan for rediscovering it for me online!)    

Beetlejuice and Rigel are in Orion which contains many familiar and no-so-familiar objects….

  • NGC 1981, NGC 1975, M43, and M42 are a stunning line of open clusters and nebulae which make up “Orion’s Sword.”   High power telescopic views of each object are nice, but with binoculars you can capture them all at once in their glorious splendor. (Thanks, dad: your 7x35 binoculars work great!)
  • Colander 69 is a large open cluster that forms a hazy patch at “Orion’s Head.”  In a telescope it appears as a loose dotted-line of stars.  It is 1300 ly from earth. 
  • NGC 2022 is a small but surprisingly bright planetary nebula just southeast of C69.  It is faintly ring-like in a 12-inch telescope and is 4400 ly from earth.
  • NGC 2169 is a small open cluster that resembles the number 37 (yes, it really does!).  It can be found in “Orion’s Club,” ½-way between Betelgeuse and Alhena (Gamma-Geminorum), at the end of a bright arc of stars near Xi-Orionis.  It is 3400 ly away. 

The Solar System This Month 

This month’s moon will be new on Feb 4 and FULL on Feb 19.  February’s full moon is traditionally known as the Snow Moon; and since this month it will also be a Super Moon (see the January 2019 newsletter), I guess we’ll call it the Super Snow Moon.

Mars is starting to fall behind the earth in our race around the sun and is slowly drifting towards the SW horizon. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible in the east at DAWN, with a Venus-Saturn conjunction Feb 18.


CAAA Club News

(By Jim Feiste)

The February meeting will be a 7pm on Monday, February 4, 2019 at the Central-Clemson Library.  We will share our observations and experiences from the past 2 months (including Comet 46P, the lunar eclipse, etc.); then we’ll discuss the February sky and any upcoming outreach events. 

The March meeting will be Monday, March 4, 2019.   at the Clemson Central Library.   Telescopes and other equipment will be available for observing before and after each meeting for public observing and education.

Recent Member Photos and Drawings

CAAA has been a NASA Night Sky Network member since 2004. The Night Sky Network(NSN) is a nationwide coalition of amateur astronomy clubs bringing the science, technology, and inspiration of NASA's missions to the general public.


Upcoming Events

  • Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation

    February 27 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

    The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 18.1 degrees from the Sun. This is the bes...

  • March Meeting

    March 4 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm at Central-Clemson Library

  • New Moon

    March 6 @ 6:30 pm - 11:30 pm

    The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night ...

  • Full Moon, Supermoon

    March 21 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

    The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be f...

  • April Meeting

    April 1 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm at Central-Clemson Library

For More Information Contact:

Ram White, President

Tom Wehrman, Program Coordinator

Jim Feiste, Secretary

Bill West, Treasurer

Stan Smith, Outreach Coordinator & Webmaster

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