guide to the night sky for mid northern latitudes

(Note: The names of the constellations are given in bold and the names in italics are the names of heavenly bodies in Indian astronomy. For better understanding take a print out of the map.)
The Sky Map :and: Solar System Object

Taurus, the Bull (Vrishabha), Orion, the Hunter (Mrugha), Auriga, the Charioteer (Sarathi) and Gemini, the Twins (Mithuna) are almost overhead. Ursa Major, the Great Bear (Saptarishis) are rising in the northeast and Leo, the Lion (Simha) is above the eastern horizon.
In the southern direction almost halfway between the horizon and zenith is the brightest star of the night sky, Sirius (Vyadh), shining brilliantly. About 30 degrees south of it, is Canopus (Agatsya) the second brightest star. Sirius is just about 8.6 light years from us has surface temperature of 9400 degrees Kelvin. This star has a faint companion, which is even hotter. This companion star is what astronomers call 'white dwarf'. The mass of this companion of Sirius is as much as the mass of the sun but its diameter is smaller than earth. If we take one-inch cube material of this that it will weigh 15 tons. It is rather difficult to see this stars.
Face east now and look well above the horizon and try to identify the stars of Gemini. The two bright stars of the constellation Castor and Pollux are the twin warriors. They are contrasting pair. Castor with its surface temperature of 10,000 degrees Kelvin, is white and Pollux is orange colour star with surface temperature of about 4500 degrees Kelvin. These are not physical twins Pollux is 34 light years from us and Castor is 52 light years. Castor, however, is a multiple star. There are three pairs of stars moving around each other around common center of gravity.
To the right of Castor and Pollux you can see a very bright star Procyon, in Canis Minor and to its left and above is a faint star. These four stars put together make a nice heavenly parallelogram. We call it Gateway of Heaven because all the planets, the Sun and the Moon pass through this heavenly gate.

Those not used to observing the sky often fail to recognize the constellations by their names. But two constellations have striking resemblance to the names given to them. One of them is Leo, the Lion, now well above the eastern horizon. The star identified as Regulus (Magha) is a Royal star. Next to Leo is Hydra with its bright star Alphard which means the lonely one. Having identified these two stars now look above them and see if you can locate the objects marked M44 and M67. These are clusters of stars. M44 is a naked eye cluster visible under dark clear sky.
Let us now move on to northeast. The Ursa Major is well above the horizon. We are taught in the schools that ancient astronomers and navigators used this constellation for finding directions in the night. Line passing through its leading stars passes through the North Pole. But mark the stars named Mizar. This stars also has a companion named Alcor. These are our Vasishtha and Arundhati.
'Give' red celestial roses to some one you love, on the Valentine's Day this February 14th. Face west and look for heavenly 'V' which is a head and horn of Taurus the Bull. Further above and to left and right are constellations Orion and Auriga. Brightest stars in Orion and Taurus are Betelgeuse and Aldebaran are strikingly red colour stars. Both the stars are quite big in size. Betelgeuse is so big that if placed where the Sun is, its surface will be somewhere close to the orbit of Mars.

The material here can be used freely.
It is, however, expected that the source may be acknowledged.
 Credit : Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune.)

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Page created June, 2007 and Updated  Sep, 2007