Stargazing Report & A New Planet...
Coming up this week in our sky will be a couple of interesting objects. For those who have the time at night, Orion’s Belt will be in the southeast sky. This constellation is one of the simpler star formations to find due to the distinctive “belt”. Keep in mind, we’re not looking for a Texas size belt buckle on this cowboy, instead, we’re looking for three stars that are aligned and tilted down towards the horizon. The entire constellation is made up of 23 stars, but these three are the brightest. The three stars, which are easier to view than to pronounce, include Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Interestingly, just like us, these stars are currently experiencing a “warm” forecast as well. The only difference is a factor of roughly 1,000 degrees. Each star supports surface temperatures around 60,000°F-70,000°F and have a mass 20 times greater than our own sun. Just for comparisons sake, the sun weighs approximately 4,385,214,857,119,399,823,317,774,893,056 pounds. You can do the math, but just know… our sun and those stars will not be making an appearance on NBC's “Biggest Loser” anytime soon. Orion will be in the southwest sky starting around 7pm.
Like a rooster on a farm, Saturn will be out to indicate first light the next couple of mornings. If you are outside about an hour before sunup (7am) you should get a great view of the orangish-yellow planet. Saturn will be moving through the southern sky during the pre-dawn hours. It’ll rise in the southeast around midnight and traverse to the southwest until 7am. With the naked eye the planet is not as bright as Venus, but can compete with some of the brightest stars. Unlike stars though, Saturn will not have the characteristic twinkle.
When it comes to viewing these objects you have a number of options; eyes, binoculars or even a telescope. Should you have binoculars at your disposal, constellations (Orion’s belt) and star clusters come through great. Personally, I’ve tried viewing Saturn and other planets with binoculars, but the image is more of a strain on the eyes rather than an improvement. It would take binoculars with a 100X magnification to really improve planet gazing.
"New" Planet Quick Notes:
Name- Tyche (Tie-Key)
Size- 4 times that of Jupiter
Location- Outside Pluto's orbit (1.35 trillion miles from the sun)
Composition- Mostly hydrogen & helium
Surface Temperature- -99°F
Discovered by- John Matese and Dan Whitmire
Pictures?- None, discovered via mathematics
Confirmed?- Still a ways away from being named the 9th planet in our solar system
Not Really there?- A Possibility
Overall, this new discovery is very exciting but the science community is being very cautions about confirming the initial findings. The data on Tyche won't come out until April and even then it's tough to say if it will be added as a planet to our solar system. It's entirely possible that Tyche will be classified in a whole new category. Simply put, the "planet" is still considered a theory...still cool nonetheless!