By Greg Buckskin

 

National Astronomy Week runs from Monday April 23 to April 29, 2012, with Astronomy Day falling on Saturday, April 28. The purpose of National Astronomy Week is to increase public awareness about astronomy by to encouraging people to learn more about amazing universe.

Nothing excites kids’ imaginations like the stars, and the great news is you don’t have to visit a museum, observatory, or planetarium to get involved. All you have to do is go outside and look up!

1. Jupiter

Jupiter, the fifth and largest planet from our sun, is one of the “Naked Eye” planets, which means it can be viewed without the aid of a telescope. While it may seem difficult at first to tell the difference between a planet and a star, it’s really not that hard to distinguish the two:

  • Stars always appear as a tiny point of light (even with a powerful telescope) whereas planets look more like disks.
  • Stars always appear as a tiny point of light (even with a powerful telescope) whereas planets look more like disks.
  • The turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere makes stars look like they are twinkling while planets shine with a steadier light.
  • Planets will be in a new position against the stars each night.

How to find Jupiter:

Look to west just after sunset. In late April Jupiter will be a bright object low on the horizon just after sunset.

2. Mars

  • Mars is one of the easier plants to find thanks to its distinctive pale reddish color.

 

How to find Mars:

Mars is high in the eastern sky just after sunset and will move towards the west. Mars will remain visible throughout much of the night until it sets in the early morning hours.

3. Venus

  • Venus is the brightest object in the sky besides the Moon.

 

How to find Venus:

At the end of April, Venus will be fairly high in the west just after  It should be just south of the moon, close to the horizon.

4. North Star

  • For aspiring stargazers, learning how to spot the North Star, also known as Polaris, is an important step in learning how to navigate the night sky.

 

How to find the North Star:

To find the North Star, let the Big Dipper point the way.  Using the 2 end stars of the “ladle” draw a straight line “up” from the dipper until you hit Polaris. Polaris is also the last star in the Little Dipper’s (Ursa Minor’s) “handle.”

5. Orion the Hunter

  • Named after the Greek Hunter who was placed among the stars by Zeus, Orion is one of the easiest constellation patterns to locate in the northern hemisphere night sky from fall through spring. Two bright stars, Bellatrix and the orange-colored Betelgeuse, represent Orion’s shoulders; his head is marked by the star Meissa; the stars Rigel and Saiph mark his knees; and his angled belt is depicted by three stars in a slanted line: Alnilam Mintaka, and Alnitak. His sword, which contains the Orion Nebula, hangs from his belt.

 

How to find Orion:

Look to the southwest sky after sunset for three bright stars that appear in a slanted line those are the stars that make up Orion’s belt. The two bright stars to the north of his belt are his shoulders and the two stars to the south of his belt are his knees.

6. The Pleiades

  • The Pleiades (also known as Seven Sisters) is a group of stars that were formed from the same stellar nursery. Located in the Taurus constellation, the Pleiades is the most visible cluster of stars to the naked eye.

How to find Pleiades:

T easiest way to locate the Seven Sisters is to use Orion’s Belt as a marker. Start at the highest star in the line that makes up his belt and follow the line up until you reach the Pleiades.

7. Shooting Stars

  • What we perceive as shooting stars aren’t actually stars at all. A “shooting star” is a piece of cosmic debris entering the Earth’s atmosphere. As it burns through the atmosphere, it creates a bright flash of light.

How to find Shooting Stars:

Although it’s possible to see shooting stars at any given time, the best time to catch them is when the Earth passes through a trail of dust particles left behind by a comet causing meteor showers. Following are two meteor showers you can see during National Astronomy They  are named for the constellation from which they seem to eminate:

The Lyrids Meteor Shower

Time frame: April 19 April 25

The Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

Time frame: April 24 May 20

8. The Moon

  • This one may appear to be a tad obvious, but there’s more to the Moon than what can be seen with the naked eye. Grab a pair of binoculars and inspect the Moon’s beautiful contours.

What to Look for on Moon:

The best time to inspect the Moon’s details is not during a full Moon. Look to the Terminator line (i.e. the line that separates the shadowed and sunlit sides of the Moon). The shadows cast along this line make it easy to see the features of the Moon’s valleys and mountains in 3D splendor.

About the Author: Greg Buckskin lives in Utah.  Greg tries to spend as much time as possible in the mountains skiing, mountain biking and backpacking.

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