Foothold weekend 27-29 August 2004
Night sky


How often do most of us gaze into the night sky and wonder, what star is that? What can I see? What can I look out for? Just for the fun of it, here is a little stargazing guide for JHC club members for the weekend of 28 & 29 August from a ‘Foothold’ point of view.
Firstly, this is the last official weekend of winter, and winter is best for stargazing. The moon will be almost full, rising about 16h15 and staying up all night, going down at 06h06 on Sunday morning, about 20 minutes before sunrise. Didn’t your mama always tell you the darkest hour is just before dawn?
The night sky will be dominated by Scorpius (or Scorpio for those astrologically inclined). This constellation will sit in the middle of the sky at about 20h00, so look straight up. The head of the scorpion will be facing west, with his tail dropping south-east before twisting towards the north. Just to the north of his tail, will be Sagittarius, often described as the teapot.

However, the most interesting object that will flash brightly but briefly across the night sky on Saturday 27 will be the Hubble Space Telescope. Start by looking at the western horizon at 19h14. Hubble will appear within a minute about as bright as a planet, moving fast just south of the dead centre of the sky. It will go through the middle of Scorpius at 19h19 and disappear suddenly a minute later as it passes into earth’s shadow. For the extra observant, the Tropical Rainfall Monitoring Mission Satellite (TRMMS) will pass from NNW to NNE between 19h09 and 19h11, whilst the remains of the Helios 1A Rocket will reflect some sun from the SE at 19h34 moving ENE until 19h38.
Seeing as it is almost spring, how about hopping out of bed in the early morning hours of Sunday 28 ? Orion (aka the 3 Sisters) will be clear just above left where Scorpius was the previous night. If you cast your gaze from the three sisters through Betelgeuse – the bright star making the upper left shoulder of Orion – towards the North East horizon, you will see Venus (the “Morning Star”) and Saturn right next to each other. To the right of them will be the twin stars of Gemini ~ Castor and Pollux. Just South East of Orion will be the very bright “Dog Star” Sirius – the brightest star in our skies apart from the sun. If you have a good pair of binoculars, the next closest galaxy to ours, Andromeda, will be visible as a cluster of millions of stars just above the NW horizon.
P.S. Get onto some high ground – the trees around Foothold will obscure your direct view of the “lower” objects.
Happy Stargazing !

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