The Pleiades and Orion’s Return

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The Seven Sisters

The lovely Pleiades star cluster (Seven Sisters) is becoming a viable late night stargazing target for observers in northern Europe again.  Look up in the East after 11pm to see the distinct jewel like arrangement of stars.  Note the red supergiant Aldebaran (Abarbic for “The Follower”) trailing just behind and to the left.  Pick out a pair of binoculars to see the Pleiades at their best – telescopes reduce the field of view too much for objects like this.

The Pleiades is an excellent example of an open cluster.  These are relatively younger energetic stars still in close proximity to their siblings having all emerged from the same region of intestellar dust and gas.  Eventually these stars will move apart and join the general distribution of more widely dispersed stars.

If you’re awake after that, the hunter Orion will begin rising from the East around 1am. Grab your binos again and marvel at the star forming emmission nebula below the main three stars in the belt.  This is an active star forming region over 1000 light years away, where new stars are being born from dense clouds of hydrogen.  Train a telescope at moderate magnification on the Orion nebula and you’ll be blow away by the majesty of the extended dust clouds, energised and glowing due to the nearby influence of young hot stars.

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The Orion Nebula

Planet wise, Neptune and Uranus can be observed almost all evening after darkness, but you’ll need a reasonably powerful telescope to resolve them as tiny blue-green disks.

All the best and clear skies!

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