Winter Glimpses of Orion, the Pleiades, and More

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When I rekindled my interest in astronomy nearly a year ago, I had the luxury of watching the sky’s theater as it past month by month.  Starting in the spring, there was obviously the Moon, but my first “a-ha” experience was in finding and viewing Jupiter.  I started to teach myself the constellations as well, noting that Gemini’s Castor and Pollux were visible in the West sky early evenings.  This was followed by staying up very late in the early summer months to catch glimpses of Mars and Saturn rising above the trees.  Later in the summer, I would stay outside past midnight to catch my first sites of the Andromeda Galaxy, only visible close to Zenith due again to neighboring trees.

I followed Pegasus, and had my telescope out at odd hours to find both Uranus and Neptune.  I would get up well before dawn to catch a meteor shower.  I even went on several fruitless attempts to spot Mercury.  All this continued through the months and into the autumn.

And it all happened under the backup of waiting for “the big one” – Orion.  By the time I remembered last year, it was already late spring and Orion was effectively gone from the early evening sky.  I missed Orion.  I remembered it from my childhood, at least the belt’s three stars, which were just about all I could see from the city.  But now that I am relatively far away from the city lights, I can see so much more of Orion, here in the middle of winter.  Betelgeuse and Rigel are colorfully brilliant.  I can nearly make out the hunter’s bow.

The Nebula of Orion is the most spectacular, now that I realize it is there!  Whether just by seeing with my eyes alone, with my binoculars, or through one of my telescopes, I only come to regret that the winter clouds have been so awful.  I barely have any days at all to see the sky in this weather.  It makes me want to spend my retirement in the desert.

I hope, over the rest of my life, to continue observing the Nebula.  It is true that you see a little more of deep sky objects every time you look at them, as your eye becomes better trained.

One unexpected treat has been the Pleiades.  These I could never see in the city, but they are very visible to me now with the eyes alone.  They are incredible through the telescope!  I love how the major stars shine bright blue.  And all the surrounding stars that I see in the telescope make me want to sketch that area of sky, for record.

Oh, and one more thing.  There happens to be a little object in the Southwest sky right now that you may be able to see.  She’s called Venus.  Last night I reassembled my rudimentary afocal astrophotography setup to capture Venus’s current phase:

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That’s all for now.  In the coming month I’m looking forward to more views of Orion.  And on the horizon, so to speak, my old friend Jupiter is starting to rise earlier and earlier each late night.  Can’t wait until spring!

 

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