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    Articles > September 2000
 
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A Walk Through the Heavens

An easy-to-use guide to the constellations and their legends.
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  Many a Sight for the Starry-Eyed
September evening skies present many delightful sights for new and experienced stargazers alike. There is much to see no matter whether you observe with binoculars, a telescope, or just your eyes. Go outside on a clear, moonless night and enjoy the view!

The distinctive W-shape of Cassiopeia, a mythical Queen, is high in the northeastern sky. Her husband Cepheus and daughter Andromeda are by her side. Nearby you will find the Andromeda Galaxy, M31, the most distant object visible to the unaided eye. Look for an elongated smudge of light on a clear dark night. Can you see it? The light from the Andromeda Galaxy started its journey to us over 2 million years ago!

The Andromeda Galaxy, M31
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Directly overhead lies the well known and prominent star pattern known as the Summer Triangle. Two other geometrical star patterns are also visible -- the Great Square of Pegasus and the much fainter Circlet in Pisces. In the opposite part of the sky, The Big Dipper as always points dutifully to Polaris, the North Star.

The Milky Way region around Sagittarius is home to many fine celestial objects. Use a pair of binoculars to scan the star clusters and nebulae near The Teapot. Indeed, why not follow the path of the Milky Way across the sky starting from the two star clusters M6 and M7 in Scorpius until you reach the Double Cluster in Perseus. Along the way see if you can detect M27, the Dumbbell Nebula.

Epsilon Lyrae, the famous Double Double near Vega, is a striking quadruple star system. Binoculars show a double star, but a small telescope at high magnification will reveal each "star" to be in fact double. A short star-hop away are two other impressive telescopic objects -- M57, the famous Ring Nebula which resembles a smoke-ring in the sky, and Albireo, a beautiful double star whose components shine with contrasting colors of orange and blue-green. The Celestial Objects list that accompanies the sky map each month contains many more examples of interesting things to see in the night sky.

Finally, the planet Venus is visible as a brilliant white beacon low in the western sky soon after sunset. Clear skies till next month!


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