Soon the Daffodils and Crocus will pop up, and Earth will watch the Sun cross the Celestial Equator! Spring is nearly here, officially here with the Vernal Equinox on March 20th. Equinox means equal nights, with equal amounts of day and night. Festivals were created for each of the cardinal points of the Sun’s travels in our sky. Enjoy the increasing warmth of the Sun as it journeys northward towards the Summer Solstice.
Perfectly situated, high in sky, early in the evenings, facing south, right now is Orion, the Hunter. A large bright-starred bow-tie shaped constellation, pointing a pair of binoculars about one field of view below the middle of the three close stars at the center of the bow-tie, called the Belt Stars of Orion, you will find the Great Orion Nebula. The Orion Nebula, Messier 42 in the catalog of spectacular objects documented by Charles Messier in 1769 (first mentioned by the Ancient Mayans and first observed with a telescope in 1610), is a huge expanse of gas, dust, and newly-formed stars. It lies between 1300 and 1400 light years away (and just 12 light years across!). Panning the binoculars in an ever-widening spiral search, you will find many smaller glowing nebula, and, some extremely pretty star clusters with blue-white stars. The Belt Stars are spectacular, too. Point the binoculars at the left-most, eastern star of the three Belt Stars called Alnitak, you may spot a small nebula to its upper left, right next to Alnitak, called The Flame Nebula. If you find something in the sky with your binoculars and want to know more about it, drop me an email that describes where in the sky or constellation it is in. So many objects are visible with and without binoculars in the skies of Heber-Overgaard!
Steven Aggas is the Director at Apache-Sitgreaves Observatory, located in Overgaard, AZ, using the largest public viewing telescope in Arizona. Visit Apache-Sitgreaves.org for information on events and tickets. Come hear him speak on March 6 at the Community Center at 9:30am.