Weekend Sky Report / M87 Galaxy
April 12, 2019
This week, scientists working with an array of radio telescopes that amounts to an aperture roughly the size of the Earth itself, released an image of the supermassive black hole at the center of M87, a supergiant elliptical galaxy that’s in the evening sky tonight.
M87, also known as Virgo A was discovered in 1781 by French astronomer Charles Messier, who’s known for his list of deep sky objects. M87 is part of the Virgo cluster of galaxies which, as the name suggests, are in or around the constellation Virgo, which rises from the east in the early evening and sweeps across the southern sky all night.
Now depending on when you observe, the location will change of course. But at 9:30, look to the east and find bright orange Arcturus. To the right, and a little lower on the horizon is Spica. Now look above those two stars and complete a big equilateral triangle with the star Denebola. From there, scan slowly down toward, but not quite to the center of that triangle. When you see one, or a series of very dim, fuzzy objects, you’ve found it. But which one is M87? Near M87 is also M84 and M86. Of those three, M87 is the brightest one, but not by much. The other two are practically right next to each other, with M87 below and to the left.
Now, if you don’t find it, don’t feel bad. These are VERY difficult to see, even with larger telescopes. But if you do see it, you’ll be looking at light that’s taken 53 million years to get here, and an enormous galaxy whose heart we can now see.
May 29, 2020
The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, or M13 was discovered by astronomer Edmund Halley in 1714, and found its way into Charles Messier's catalog of comet-like objects fifty years later.
May 22, 2020
Some amateur astronomers in the northern hemisphere say that Spring is galaxy season. Basically what that means is that the Virgo Cluster is high in the evening sky.
May 15, 2020
To the West, the last remnant of the Winter Triangle. To the East, the first stellar sign of the coming summer.
May 08, 2020
We're halfway through Spring. A perfect time to look for what some call the "Great Diamond."
May 01, 2020
When the moon is out, it's hard to see dimmer stars and deep sky objects. But there's still plenty to appreciate about our natural satellite.
Apr 24, 2020
Messier 3 is a remarkable globular cluster. It's over 33,000 light years away, but it's bright enough to see with a small telescope, which means it's dense. Around half a million stars exist there.
Apr 17, 2020
The Lyrids are active all weekend, so you may see some tonight under dark skies, but the big peak comes early this coming Wednesday morning April 22, 2020. This year we're expecting 10 to 15 meteors per hour.
Apr 10, 2020
To find Gemini, look to the west and find the familiar Orion. You'll know it by its iconic "Belt" of three bright stars in a row. Then, simply look above Orion for two bright stars next to each other.
Apr 03, 2020
As Venus continues its rise in the evening sky through the end of April, it will travel through many constellations. Tonight, Friday, April 3rd, it will be in the middle of the Pleiades star cluster.
Mar 27, 2020
If we're lucky enough to get clear skies in the early morning--before 7am Eastern, look to the south and you'll see three bright points of light. From left-to-right, it's Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter.
Mar 20, 2020
The Beehive Cluster is right smack in the middle of Cancer the Crab, which is actually a very dim constellation.
Mar 13, 2020
Blue stars that are really close to red stars can appear to us as a greenish blue. One good example is Antares B, the binary companion to the red giant Antares A, the heart of Scorpius.
Feb 28, 2020
Leo sweeps across the southern sky all night this time of year. In the evening, it's to the east. To find it, look for the Big Dipper. It'll be straight up and down with the cup at the top. Connect the two stars at the top that make up the end of the cup, and from that straight line, extend the line to the right toward the east, and when you hit the bright star Regulus, you've arrived.
Feb 21, 2020
Every good hunter needs support. Orion and his two dogs have reigned the evening sky in the winter since before human civilization. One of the earliest representations of Orion appeared in cave art dated more than 32,000 years ago.
Feb 14, 2020
On Tuesday morning, February 18, 2020, just after 7am Eastern, Mars will disappear behind the moon. An event known as a lunar occultation.
Feb 07, 2020
Sirius is a binary system consisting of the very bright, main sequence stage star we can see with the naked eye, Sirius A, and a much smaller companion white dwarf stage star, Sirius B.
Jan 31, 2020
Venus is 15 times brighter than the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius. And planets don't twinkle like stars do.
Jan 24, 2020
The Triangulum Galaxy gets its name from the constellation where it's found. It's a small constellation and, as the name suggests... it's a triangle.