StarWatch: Moravian College Astronomy
Comet Observation Home Page
JANUARY 5, 1997: Orion Nebula
- About 8 p.m. find the three belt stars of Orion in the east.
Scan with the eye to the right, and slightly below the belt for three faint stars
close together. These stars form the Sword of the Hunter. Now look with binoculars,
and you will notice that both ends of the sword are really composed of several stars,
but the middle star is not a star at all. It should appear fuzzy. You are observing
the Orion Nebula, composed of mainly hydrogen and helium. It is a birthing place for
stars in our galaxy, 16 light years across and 1600 light years distant. To be continued...
JANUARY 12, 1997: Betelgeuse
- About 8 p.m. find the three belt stars of Orion. Observe
the brighter of the two stars to the left and right of the belt. They are respectively
Betelgeuse and Rigel, and they contrast sharply in color. Betelgeuse is a cool red
giant star, hundreds of times the diameter of the sun, with "one foot already in the
grave." Millions of years ago, it was shining with nearly the same blue luminescence
as Rigel, a star 60,000 times brighter than our sun, and soon to follow in the
footsteps of its red giant sister. Both stars will die in violent supernova explosions.
JANUARY 19, 1997: Lunar Highlands and Basins
- Examine with binoculars or the unaided eye the various tonal
shadings on the moonís surface. The lighter regions are called the highlands, and they
contain the majority of craters and mountains. The darker basins or seas appear circular.
They are waterless, lower, and smoother. The basins were formed about 4 billion years
ago by large meteorites which created huge craters. During the next billion years these
craters were filled in by darker lava. Lack of many craters in the basins shows that
not much has happened to the moon in the last 3 billion years.
JANUARY 26, 1997: Get Serious About Comet Hale-Bopp
- Comet Hale-Bopp will be the biggest astronomical event of
the year, perhaps even the decade. It will surpass the brightness of C. Hyakutake,
but because of H-Bís more compact size, H-Bís tail should be readily viewed from urban
locations. If you are serious about Hale-Bopp, consider dusting off those binoculars
in the dresser drawer or purchasing an inexpensive unit. Telescopes are not necessary,
but binoculars will add a new dimension of enjoyment to your viewing experiences.
Contact Tim at Danís Camera City 434-2313 or the Planetarium at 820-2204 for more
information about what to look for when purchasing binoculars. The Hale-Bopp map is
courtesy of the