By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter
Compared to September, the sky shifted somewhat toward the east with Bootes setting in the northeast. Its brightest star, Arcturus, can be seen in the early evening on the northeastern horizon. Prominent constellations and stars are the Big Dipper low and the Little Dipper high in the north, Cygnus with Deneb, Lyra with Vega and Aquila with Altair still high in the west. These three stars form the summer triangle. It’s perhaps comforting that, in Alaska, we can see this summer triangle all winter long, albeit on the horizon.
Cassiopeia appears overhead, in the zenith, and Pegasus’ square/diamond is right above the very bright Jupiter in the south. In the east, Orion rises with Betelgeuse and Rigel, following Taurus with Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster.
Aside from Jupiter, which can be seen all evening, Uranus appears close to the biggest planet, while Neptune can be seen for most of the evening. The latter two can be found with strong and stable binoculars. Try Googling “Uranus Neptune 2010 -astrology” for good sky charts (the minus hopefully eliminates misleading astrology websites).
The other planets — Mercury, Saturn, Venus and Mars — all set and rise together with the sun in Alaska and thus cannot be seen.
I thought I would try something different this month and present a surprise quiz that I hand out early on in class to astronomy students. It is based on trying to eradicate common misconceptions. Here is the first half (the second will follow in a future column): Continue reading