Friday, March 19, 2010

2010 Spring Issue

Spring Flowers
Photo by Helen Alwan

Spring Stargazing

By Megan Greve and Katherine Bercik

In the Spring 2010 issue of Southeast Ohio Magazine, writer Josh Spiert explores Marietta College’s new planetarium. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peak at the spring sky and the upcoming issue.

For readers who do not have a planetarium nearby, George Eberts, Astronomy Lab Instructor and Outreach Specialist at Ohio University, says that apart from the constellations, there are two big events to look forward to in the upcoming months. Both events can be seen in any backyard.

From May through the end of summer, Venus is visible. “Venus is naked eye cool,” George says. He explains that the third brightest object in the sky (only after the sun and the moon) is Venus, and that “it is often mistaken for a UFO.” Venus will be visible in the west-northwest and can be seen close to the horizon right after sunset.

The second object to look for is Saturn, whose famous rings can be observed with “a surprisingly small telescope.” Although it will be visible throughout the summer, George says that it will be easiest for the amateur astronomer to find in April. That is when it will be nearly aligned between the bright stars Spica (in the constellation Virgo) and Regulus (in the constellation Leo) in the southeastern sky.

Other celestial objects are often visible in the night sky, but their appearances are much less predictable.

Meteoroids are any small particles of matter in the solar system. Visible as they fall into Earth’s atmosphere, they become known as meteors. Frictional heating causes them to glow, which has led to the nickname “shooting star.” A meteorite is a meteor that reaches Earth’s surface.

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