Adrian Dening's Stars Over Somerset

    Monday 15th to Sunday 21st April 2024

    The evening of Tuesday 16th sees a 60%-lit waxing gibbous Moon which, if you venture outside around 9pm, will be located towards the south. To the right of the Moon (more south west) and much closer to the horizon will be the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius and further right again, the constellation of Orion.

    At the same time, just below and to the right of the Moon will be a nice target for a small telescope or binoculars - the Beehive open cluster of stars, also known as M44 as it is one of the deep sky objects catalogued by Charles Messier in the late 1700s.

    The cluster is one of the closest to the Earth, approximately 600 light years away and it contains over 1000 stars. With a very dark sky, it can just be seen with the naked eye and would then look like a fuzzy blob, but that won't be possible this time around because of light pollution from the nearby Moon. With your telescope, you should be able to see the brighter individual stars though.

    M44 sits in the constellation of Cancer, between the constellation's delta and gamma stars called Asellus Australis and Asellus Borealis. Stars in a constellation are allocated letters of the Greek alphabet, in decreasing order of their brightness or magnitude. Significant stars are also historically given names and in the case of Asellus Australis and Borealis, the translation from latin is "Southern and Northern Donkey"!

    Moving away from donkeys, due to the popularity of this winter's astronomy evenings at Ham Hill, I have agreed to run one further session on Friday 26th April. Places can be booked via the Visit South Somerset website.
    Screenshots courtesy of Stellarium
    Copyright Adrian Dening and Radio Ninesprings 2024

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