Friday, October 19, 2007


We were up at 6am as normal this morning. I have a few days off now, but we're hoping to toddle off to the New Forest or the West coast for the weekend, so its my job to try and find us a haunted pub to stay in, using the interweb today.

I thought I'd just post a few words on what I looked at in the night sky this morning, at around 6am.

Venus is very bright indeed, at a medium height in the SE sky. When I looked at it through our new fancy telescope, it appeared as a half moon - very nice!
Mars, on the other hand, is high in the south at 6am - clearly visible as an unblinking orange "star".
I trained our new laser-guided telescope on that also - really good to see, in such amazingly clear conditions - even in the centre (ish) of light-polluted Reading!

But what really floated my boat this morning was the Orion Nebula.
The large, bright, winter constellation of Orion the Hunter is low in the south at 6am.
The three stars forming his belt are immediately obvious, as, I suppose is the red/orange star Betelgeuse (his left shoulder).
Look below his belt, and you'll pick out the three stars of his sword. They may appear quite fuzzy, even to the naked eye. There's a reason for that.
I swivelled our telescope over to Orion's sword, and the sight I beheld in the viewfinder took my breath away.
The glorious Orion Nebula was revealed in really nice detail to me, for the first time.
Now I know a little about the night sky, (too much shift work, or should I say, coffee breaks in night work), and can point out most constellations and names of stars.I have looked for the Orion Nebula before, with my naked eyes and a pair of stone age binoculars.
This morning though was something else.
The wonderful swirling green gas clouds surrounding these stars became visible to me for the first time - an incredible sight!

Then, to top it all, as I was gazing around the clear night sky, just before the sun came up, a very bright shooting star streaked across the sky. As it appeared to have originated from somewhere near Orion, I assume it was one of the early Orionid meteors that will be visible this weekend especially, as the earth passes through the tail of Halley's Comet.
(I posted about this meteor shower HERE).

You don't need a fancy telescope to see all these things, although admittedly it helps to show detail.
You just have to look up occasionally.

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