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Author Topic: Question for stargazers/astronomers  (Read 507 times)

Archibald

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Question for stargazers/astronomers
« on: August 09, 2018, 03:07:21 pm »

I have a question regarding a star in the sky. You see, I sometimes like to take walks just as the first stars become visible, when the sun slowly goes down. Recently, this month, I began noticing a rather strange star. I first saw it unintentionally. It was bright red when near the horizon, untwinking, which made me think it was a planet. In any case, it made me curious because no star in the sky was that red. After some time, around 11 pm (east EU) I saw it again but it was orangish-yellow. I tried to search on the internet for answers, but I got nothing specific. Sone say it may be one of the planets in our solar system. Others that it is a star. Can anyone tell me what it is, if you saw it too?
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Il Palazzo

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Re: Question for stargazers/astronomers
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2018, 03:30:29 pm »

Both Saturn and Mars are currently visible low near the southern horizon in eastern Europe. Saturn is initially a bit higher, and more towards the west. Around midnight they're both about the same height above the horizon. Mars is redder and much brighter, so it's the more likely candidate.
If you want to be sure, download one of many free planetarium software, e.g. Stellarium, or World Wide Telescope. I'm sure there are many other out there, including mobile apps.
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Starver

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Re: Question for stargazers/astronomers
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2018, 04:28:13 pm »

Bearing in mind that Mars was famously quite close to the eclipsed Moon, two weeks ago, and at 'closest approach for yonks' to boot. I've seen it in nights since (clear!) still more or less antipodal to the Sun as it should be (meanwhile, the Moon is a half orbit round, so shouldn't be dazzling the incidental skywatcher like yourself), and it's very obviously bright and red-tinted.

Not myself having bothered to note or look up where everything else is, at the momemt, I wouldn't dismiss your star being another planet (like Saturn) but I'd find it odd if you're seeing that and not Mars, in the position you're indicating.


Allegedly! I was under clouds at the time!
« Last Edit: August 09, 2018, 04:31:10 pm by Starver »
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Starver

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Re: Question for stargazers/astronomers
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2018, 02:32:32 pm »

As I've just passed by a machine on which I happen to have old favourite KStars installed (rarely used, but saw it when I navigated menus for something else), I can report that 10pm tonight (for me/here, under Daylight Savings,  when it's gotten dark, but should apply equally to your respective10PM in any daylight savings northern hemishphere location) I would see Saturn fairly low (14 above the horizon) almost due South, Mars lower (5) to the SSE, Jupiter over just beyond SW (~10 above horizon). As the evening goes on, they'll arc over to dissappear in turn (J, S, M) over in the SW.

Interestingly, it seems that Pluto is roughly mid-way between Mars and Saturn (and a little higher off the deck). It's unlikely you saw it, and its red snow, though. Whether or not you still think of it as a planet. ;)

Hope that helps!
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Maximum Spin

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Re: Question for stargazers/astronomers
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2018, 03:28:41 pm »

I'd like to add another vote to the suggestion that, if you like looking at stars, you should download some software for the purpose; it's great for figuring out what you're looking at. I'm fond of Stellarium, myself.
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Archibald

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Re: Question for stargazers/astronomers
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2018, 02:25:06 pm »

Thanks for help. I am just a casual observer of the sky at night. No telescopes or terminology. Not yet at least. Anyways. Thanks.
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Archibald

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Re: Question for stargazers/astronomers
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2018, 02:39:04 pm »

As I've just passed by a machine on which I happen to have old favourite KStars installed (rarely used, but saw it when I navigated menus for something else), I can report that 10pm tonight (for me/here, under Daylight Savings,  when it's gotten dark, but should apply equally to your respective10PM in any daylight savings northern hemishphere location) I would see Saturn fairly low (14 above the horizon) almost due South, Mars lower (5) to the SSE, Jupiter over just beyond SW (~10 above horizon). As the evening goes on, they'll arc over to dissappear in turn (J, S, M) over in the SW.

Interestingly, it seems that Pluto is roughly mid-way between Mars and Saturn (and a little higher off the deck). It's unlikely you saw it, and its red snow, though. Whether or not you still think of it as a planet. ;)

Hope that helps!

UPDATE: Tonight I saw another star similar to the one I mentioned. I dunno the measurements but I know that it is lower than the other and it is darker in color, also untwinkling. Like I said, I know the skies around me and I know I can see both ursa minor and major. But I never saw stars with such color except that one time few years ago when the olanets aligned in an arc so that you could see them just before sunrise. But even then there were no orange stars as far as i remember.
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ChairmanPoo

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Re: Question for stargazers/astronomers
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2018, 02:53:46 pm »

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
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Starver

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Re: Question for stargazers/astronomers
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2018, 04:11:32 pm »

The twinkling/lack of it is a feature of the atmosphere, BTW, not the object itself. (Well, except for pulsars, spinning/tilting satellites and aircraft navigation lights, which isn't the case here.)

I do recommend you look at some sky-map program. There's been at least three mentioned, and hundreds more out there (free download, or even browser-based) to look at. The big thing to work out with each is:
a) How to set your viewing position on Earth (the most important thing is the latitude, but the longitude helps with the time stuff below too)
b) How to work out which way you're looking, and "how zoomy". Typically if you can see the horizon-line, no more than 180 degrees of sideways (say, when directed to look due-south, West and East shouldn't be on screen, but SW and SE should, but once you get used to it you can zoom in and out to get a better overview/detailed view).
b2) Iif there's an option to add/remove degrees of sky (equivalent of latitude/longitude) as lines, good programs have a toggle-button (or a hotkey, to save going into menus) and having it handy but not oppressively omnipresent is a good idea.
c) How to get a view with not too much detail (i.e. every deep-sky galaxy intricately labelled) but has the most visible items (and, for fun even if they aren't visible, all local planets), again something usually given a hot-button/key
d) How to turn the horizon opaque/off/just a line. Mostly you're only interested in things above the horizon, but seeing something (or a track of something) just below that might have been/soon will be visible is useful,
e) What do you do to see the sky Now (usually synch with system clock, and if it knows your location it'll give you local-time rather than just UTC), or how to advance to a later time/date ("what might I see tomorrow night, when I know I'll be out"), or go back an earlier one ("what was it I saw last week?"). Also, for interest, how you might run time in fast-forward, to see a night's worth of objects arcing up, over and down without having to adjust things or sit there watching your screen for eight hours...

Play about with them. Labels/lines can be turned on and off. Often hovering over a distinct object gives a pop-up box or (right-)clicking on one gives options to see more info, to centre/track it, zoom into, measure angles to other objects, etc, etc.


There will be too much information, so learn how to concentrate on (or disable the display of all but) the things you need. And then go out (at a suitable time), look up and try to relate what's on your screen. (Unless you have a portable screen, then take it with you and compare side-by-side, but maybe use any Night Mode display provided to make the artificial picture not overwhelm your vision of the natural one).

Anyway, unless it's Mars again (it moves, and atmospheric effects may make it different colours) it could be either of the gas giants you're seeing. You don't give an indication of (local) time or direction you see this new thing in, so it could be any of them. Or just a bright star that you're noticing in isolation (even if you know its constellation, maybe most of the rest of it is below the horizon?)

I'm no expert. It sounds like we're of similar levels of "I recognise Orion when I see it", and the rest is just guesswork from news I've heard and then a check on KStars, as I mentioned. I'm sure, then, that you can work out what you're looking at if you just try some methodical sleuthing of your own. Or, if you've found a new star, petition (as its discoverer) for it to be named Urist or something...  ;)
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Il Palazzo

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Re: Question for stargazers/astronomers
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2018, 12:45:27 am »

If you go stargazing this evening, you should be able to see all 4 observable planets.
They're all low over the horizon (because it's summer). From west to east:
Venus is very close to the Sun. Should be visible as the only star this low over the horizon and this close to the Sun, for a short while just after the Sun sets.
Jupiter is the very bright star right next to the Moon. Starts being visible even before the sky goes dark. It's visibly orange.
Saturn is almost directly southwards at sunset. It's much less bright than Jupiter, but still brighter than any star in the dippers. Use a compass if you have one.
Mars rises just about the same time as Venus sets. It should outshine Jupiter once it's high enough above the horizon - by about 9 PM. It's has a visibly red hue.
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