Naming stars for our mothers is popular today. In fact, many objects in the night sky have been named after mothers for thousands of years. And now mothers fly among the stars as astronauts!
The Name A Star Live constellations Andromeda and Cassiopeia are named after two beautiful mothers from classical mythology. Cassiopeia, the Queen of the Ethiopians and the mother of Andromeda, was a prideful woman who boasted that she was more beautiful than the female attendants to Poseidon, the god of the sea. For this transgression Poseidon punished Cassiopeia by sending a sea monster to attack Cassiopeia’s country and to kill Andromeda. But Andromeda was saved and would later have seven children of her own. Now both mothers travel together in the heavens above as the constellations we know them by today.
The night sky puts on some neat shows this month. And for those of you in the Land Down Under, you can look forward to an eclipse of the sun!
Shortly before dawn on November 26, Venus and Saturn appear very close together:
The evening of November 27 also presents a wonderful show:
Those of you in Australia are in for a real treat this month: An eclipse of the sun! The sun will be totally eclipsed by the moon along a narrow path across the Northern Territory and Queensland. But those of you in the rest of Australia will see a partial eclipse (local weather permitting).
Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky. Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations. Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation. You can use our online World Constellation Guide to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight). Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star. But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope. You can also find your constellation by using our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software. A planisphere is another useful device.
Here are some beautiful space photos and video that have been posted on the Internet in recent weeks. Enjoy!
This beautiful photo of the Milky Way was taken from Concordia Research Station, a remote Antarctic facility run by French and Italian scientists. The scientists at this facility are cut off from civilization during the winter months – no chance of resupply or rescue … much like future space explorers!
This image of the Pinwheel Galaxy, or also known as M101, combines data in the infrared, visible, ultraviolet and X-rays from four of NASA’s space-based telescopes. This combination of telescope views into one image shows that both young and old stars are evenly distributed along M101’s tightly-wound spiral arms. Such composite images allow astronomers to see how features in one part of the spectrum match up with those seen in other parts. It is like seeing with a regular camera, an ultraviolet camera, night-vision goggles and X-ray vision, all at the same time.
The Pinwheel Galaxy is in the constellation of Ursa Major (which includes the Big Dipper). It is about 70% larger than our own Milky Way Galaxy, with a diameter of about 170,000 light years, and sits at a distance of 21 million light years from Earth. This means that the light we’re seeing in this image left the Pinwheel Galaxy about 21 million years ago – many millions of years before humans ever walked the Earth.
The hottest and most energetic areas in this composite image are shown in purple, where the Chandra X-ray Observatory observed the X-ray emission from exploded stars, million-degree gas, and material colliding around black holes.
The red colors in the image show infrared light, as seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope. These areas show the heat emitted by dusty lanes in the galaxy, where stars are forming.
The yellow component is visible light, observed by the Hubble Space Telescope. Most of this light comes from stars, and they trace the same spiral structure as the dust lanes seen in the infrared.
The blue areas are ultraviolet light, given out by hot, young stars that formed about 1 million years ago, captured by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX).
Billions of people are seeing London through many different filters and lenses during the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. None of those views looks quite like this one from NASA’s Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite. The image above shows London and the southern half of Great Britain as it appeared on the night of March 27, 2012.
China’s first female astronaut (called “Taikonaut” in China), Liu Yang, emerges from the re-entry capsule of Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, which landed in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Friday, June 29, 2012. Liu and two other crew members returned safely to Earth after a 13-day mission to an orbiting prototype space station, the Tiangong-1.
Humanity’s robot orbiting Saturn has recorded yet another amazing view. That robot, of course, is the spacecraft Cassini, while the new amazing view includes a bright moon, thin rings, oddly broken clouds, and warped shadows. Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, appears above as a featureless tan as it is continually shrouded in thick clouds. The rings of Saturn are seen as a thin line because they are so flat and imaged nearly edge on. Details of Saturn’s rings are therefore best visible in the dark ring shadows seen across the giant planet’s cloud tops. Since the ring particles orbit in the same plane as Titan, they appear to skewer the foreground moon. In the upper hemisphere of Saturn, the clouds show many details, including dips in long bright bands indicating disturbances in a high altitude jet stream. Recent precise measurements of how much Titan flexes as it orbits Saturn hint that vast oceans of water might exist deep underground.
Here is a new video of time-lapse imagery of Earth taken from space courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center. This video was set to music by Tomislav Safundžić.
You can get a good view of Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn this month plus a nice meteor shower!
Venus dominates the night sky in January 2012. It’s the bright point of light you’ll see in the western sky during the early evening hours: It will be the brightest astronomical object you’ll see this month, other than the moon and the sun! Venus will appear higher and higher in the western sky as the month progresses. Venus begins the month in the constellation Capricorn and moves into Aquarius January 12.
Look for our solar system’s giant planet — Jupiter — toward the southern horizon (toward the northern horizon for those of you in the southern hemisphere) at sunset. Jupiter will pass very close to the Moon on the evening of January 2 (January 3 for those of you in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, etc.). The same thing will happen on the evening of January 29/30. You should be able to see Jupiter and up to four of its large moons through any telescope — even through a pair of binoculars. These four large moons move so quickly that if you observe Jupiter’s moons every few hours you’ll see that they change their position in relation to the planet. For example, if you observe Jupiter shortly after sunset you might see one or two of its large moons, but if you observe Jupiter a few hours later you might see all four of its large moons — or vice versa! Currently, Jupiter straddles the border between the constellations Aries and Pisces, but will move fully into Aries by month’s end.
Marsrises over the eastern horizon shortly after midnight this month, and is above the southern horizon shortly before sunrise (above the northern horizon for those of you in the southern hemisphere). If you are an early bird, look for the Red Planet near the Moon shortly before sunrise on January 13 and 14 (January 14 and 15 for those of you in the eastern hemisphere of Earth). The red planet begins the month in the Name A Star Live constellation Leo, but then moves into Virgo toward the end of the month.
You can see the beautiful, ringed planet Saturn in the eastern sky during the predawn hours in January. Saturn is in the constellation Virgo. On the morning of January 16 (January 17 for those of you in the eastern hemisphere) look for Saturn next to the Moon.
An Impressive Meteor Shower in Early January
The Quadrantid meteor shower promises to put on a good show of ‘shooting stars’ this month, but you’ll have to get up really early (or stay up really late!) to get the best view. Look for the shooting stars between about 3:00 a.m. and sunrise on January 4 (January 5 for those of you in Australia, Japan and China). Normally you can see about 120 meteors per hour at the peak of the Quadrantid’s, although you may see anywhere from only 60 to as much as 200 meteors per hour.
Time lapse photo showing shooting stars from the Geminid meteor shower. Credit: NASA/JPL
A meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through a cloud of dust particles, typically left from past visits by comets to our part of the solar system. As the high-speed dust particles vaporize in Earth’s atmosphere, they appear as ‘shooting stars.’ Meteor shower names derive from the constellation (the area of the night sky) from which the meteors appear to originate. The Quadrantid meteor shower gets its name from an old, and now defunct, constellation name (a name no longer used in astronomy) called “Quadrans Muralis”. This area of the night sky is now in the modern constellations Draco and Boötes, the latter of which is adjacent to the Name A Star Live constellation Virgo.
The best way to view a meteor shower is to lay down and look up: No telescopes or binoculars needed! You might use a fully reclining lawn chair or cot. Be prepared to stay up late to see the best show.
When to go stargazing this month
Moonlight ‘drowns out’ the faint light of many stars and other celestial objects, so the best time to view the stars is when the Moon is not visible. If you’re going to stargaze between sunset and midnight, then the best time to do that in January would be during the January 15-28 time period.
Finding your star in the night sky
Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky. Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations. Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation.
You can use our online World Constellation Guide to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight). Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star. (That’s why we include the SLOOH online telescope experience in our Deluxe, Framed and Ultimate Gift Sets!) But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope.
Two meteor showers grace the night skies in December. The Geminid meteor shower is the most famous meteor shower of all, and is visible from most locations on Earth every December. However, this year’s Geminid shower, which peaks on the night of December 14, occurs at a time of the month when moonlight will drown out most of the meteors we would otherwise see. But for those of you in the northern hemisphere, check out December’s other meteor shower — the Ursids.