A Bevy of Galaxies in Pavo

23rd August 2017

ceb679a929b21a3e594b79a4fae506b8When the Dutch navigators Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman celebrated with stars the exotic animals that they encountered in faraway southern lands, they had no idea how apt the peacock with its spectacular tail filled with beautiful eyespots would be for us observers sitting at our telescopes… for Pavo is filled with galaxies floating in space like the eyespots in the peacock’s magnificent plumage.

Quite apart from being beautiful, the peacock’s spectacular feathers are an extraordinary

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Solar Eclipse… with Maria Mitchell

21st August 2017

The eclipse of July 29, 1878, by French-born astronomer-illustrator Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, who watched the event from from Creston, Wyo., west of Rawlins.You don’t see a total eclipse – you experience it. It is an exquisitely odd and wondrous experience that affects one profoundly, and is very difficult to describe, beyond saying there are changes above you, around you, and within you.

I have only experienced one total solar eclipse – on December 4, 2002, from the far northern Kruger National Park. And during the moment of totality when we experienced the strange and rare sensation of solar emissions, both visible and

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On the way to Polarissima Australis

15th August 2017

arly Hadley octant. This mahogany octant was made about 1760 by the famous London maker, George Adams.

Last night I set out to observe some of the southern hemisphere’s famous galaxies, and I decided to start with Polarissima Australis, the galaxy closest to the south celestial pole, but on my way to it, I was waylaid by the constellation in which it lies… Octans.

The inimitable Abbe Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, with his love of all things science, really got it right when he engraved an octant into the stars as our southern polar constellation. 

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