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.   Membership is open to anyone with an interest in astronomy; no equipment required.  If you would like to become a member please click HERE.

THE UNIVERSE FROM HERE, January 2021:  "Here There Be Monsters"

I love star gazing in January.  It may be cold, but hot coffee and several layers of clothing solves this. Also wearing a face-mask not only prevents Covid-19 spread, but also keeps my face warm - multi-purpose! This month we’ll look back at the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction, then tackle January’s “monster-challenge.” (CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE COPY)

CAAA Observers’ Report
Driving around Clemson, SC on December 21st to find a dark spot to watch the conjunction, I was struck by the number of individuals, binoculars in-hand, who were camped out on hills, parking lots, etc with the same intent. I settled on a spot along the 12-Mile River with an unobstructed view of the western horizon. With my 12-inch Dobsonian set up conveniently next to a cement picnic table, I made several sketches and took several iphone-to-eyepiece pictures. 

Meanwhile, CAAA members Ram, Stan, Chuck, and several guests braved the wind and cold at the “top-o-the-mountain” in Mountain Rest. Three scopes were set up, and although high winds and the resulting poor-seeing resulted in fuzzy images, the proximity of the planets was still amazing to behold. Anne watched a live feed while vacationing out west where clouds blocked her view.  

In other news, I had the honor of providing a virtual outreach on stellar navigation to 14 members of the Boating Club on Lake Keowee. The Dec 2020 newsletter summarizes the material we covered. 

January’s Challenge: CETUS
Cetus is the 4th largest constellation in the sky. The whale-shaped group of stars was named for the mythical sea-monster sent by Poseidon to ravage King Cepheus’ kingdom because his wife Cassiopeia’s vanity angered the sea nymphs. To appease the gods, they sacrificed their daughter Andromeda to the monster; but Perseus rescued her and killed Cetus instead. 

This month, Cetus appears straight south after sunset (see map). To find it, start in the southwest at the lone bright star Fomalhaut. Move northeastward until you find the star Deneb Kaitos (Beta-Ceti). (Deneb Kaitos means the monster’s tail, but “mouth” better fits the modern whale-like appearance!)  
A dim trapezoid of stars to the east forms the back of the body, and a pentagon of stars to the north-east forms the tail fin.  

Cetus has many interesting deep sky objects, several accessible with small telescopes.  Here are some highlights:

  • M77 (Cetus A) is a conspicuous barred-spiral galaxy near the tail of Cetus, east of the star Delta-Ceti.  NASA reports that M77 is 45 million lightyears from earth.
  • NGC 936 is a “barred lenticular galaxy” that can be found by star hopping south from the Delta-Ceti. It has been dubbed The Darth Vader Galaxy because it looks like the Star Wars character’s tie-fighter.
  • NGC 246 (The Skull Nebula) is a planetary nebula appearing between and below the stars Eta- and Iota-Ceti. It’s pretty dim, but its ghostly image is visible with an oxygen 3 filter.
  • Two distinct objects, the globular cluster NGC 288 and the relatively nearby “Sculptor Galaxy” NGC 253 appear close together below Cetus. (Both are actually in Constellation Sculptor.) 

January’s Solar System
The Sun became more active last month with several sun spots visible. If you have a sun-filter or solar-scope, its worth getting out during the day to check it out. Never look directly at the sun without the proper gear!  Mars is still well placed overhead. On either side of Mars, along the ecliptic path, you can find the ice giants Neptune and Uranus.  Neptune, the 8th planet in the solar system, can be seen with a telescope near star Phi-Aquarii. Uranus, the 7th planet, appears near Mars in a dark area of sky above Cetus’ tail fin.  The New Moon will be on Jan 13 and the Full “Wolf” Moon will be on Jan 28.

By Jim Feiste (nightrabbitastro@gmail.com)

Jupiter Saturn Conjunction Images

MEMBER OBSERVATION OF THE MONTH

December 2020:  "Heart Nebula" by Stan Smith

CAAA Club News

Monthly public meetings have gone virtual during the pandemic.   Next meeting Monday, January 4, 2021.

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.

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Officers:

Ram White, President

Tom Wehrman, Program Coordinator

Bill West, Treasurer

Stan Smith, Outreach  & Website


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