Hey, everyone! Well, it happened. The clouds cleared, and I had a gorgeous view of the sky to the west right after dusk. The moon was a thin little crescent, only about 33 hours past new, and as I stood on my back deck with my tea and watched. The family wasn’t interested tonight. Their loss; more for me. It was nice to have a few quiet minutes for myself to watch the stars come out.
And come out, they did! Dig this:
That there’s the western sky as seen through the branches by my little pocket-sized Powershot, with the stars of no fewer than four constellations (Taurus, Aries, Perseus, Cetus), and two star clusters (Pleiades and Hyades). Here it is with some stars and planets labeled, if you want to find your way around. I didn’t bother labeling the moon.
I was happy to get the star Algol, the second brightest in Perseus in this shot. Mirfak, above, is the brightest in Perseus.
Algol, which is also called the Demon Star, is an interesting star. It’s what’s known as an eclipsing binary. It’s a system in which there are multiple orbiting each other, and they’re arranged just right so that they cross right along our line of sight, pass right in front of each other from seen from here. This causes what we see as just one star to dim and then brighten every three days or so. It’s a few hours past its minumum brightess tonight. If you watch it over time, though, you’d see it brighten and dim reliably and predictably. It’s another one of those amazing rhythms of the universe, hidden right under the surface. It’s another easy piece of the universe to watch, check in on and keep track of. For something that moves as slowly as the universe does, I love things like this; things that change quickly enough for us to see.
The real show, though, was the three M’s: Mercury, Mars, and the Moon. They were just as spectacular as I’d hoped, and it was great to see them, and watch as the rest of the night sky filed in and the starts took their places around them after dusk. It’s a great way to take some time and reconnect with the world after a busy day.
Were you able to see anything tonight? I hope you were. If not, the moon might be out of the way, but remember, Mercury will be sticking around for the next couple of nights.
Have a great night, and clear skies, everyone!