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Weekly Cosmos Report - Baja Night Sky #81

Date: 13/04/2015

Monday, April 13, 2015:

Arcturus and Spica baja sky cosmos

Clear moonless skies are returning to the Cape Region this week so if you find yourself wondering what to do, step outside and look at the night sky.

1)By 8pm, Arcturus and Spica are rising low in the east, the 4th and 15th brightest stars respectively in the night sky. They are easy to find using the Big Dipper, which is standing on its handle in the NE. As the saying goes, "Follow the arc of the Big Dipper's handle to Arcturus and speed/spike/slide on to Spica." Arcturus is in the kite-shaped constellation Bootes. Can you spot the kite? Spica is in Virgo the Virgin at the lower right of its diamond asterism. Just to Spica's right is the slightly squished diamond shape of Corvus the Crow. Leo the Lion is climbing the sky above Spica. Look for the bright star Regulus at the bottom of the backward question mark making up Leo's mane.

2) Now look for Venus, Aldebaran, and the Pleiades low in the west. You can't miss Venus glowing more than 10 times brighter than Sirius far to the upper left of Venus. The Pleiades or Seven Sisters are less than a fist width to the lower right of Venus. Aldebaran in Taurus is about twice as far from Venus at its upper left.

3) Finally, look low to the south. Do you see the four stars forming a cross on its side? No, it's not the Southern Cross; It's the False Cross asterism in Vela the Sail. It could also pass as a kiter's foil! When the Southern Cross is in the South it stands upright. You can spot it there between 11:30pm & 1:30am. It's worth staying up for this week. The brightest of the two stars to the left of the Cross' base is Alpha Centauri, also known as Rigil Kentaurus. It is our closest neighboring star at 4.3 light years. If you have binoculars, use the bottom and left cross-bar star of the Cross as pointers. Follow them three times their distance to Omega Centauri, the biggest and brightest Globular Cluster orbiting the Milky Way. You can see its glow without binoculars, but it is easier to find with them. You are looking at a ball of 5 million stars more than 17 million light years away outside of our Milky Way Galaxy.

4) I was intrigued by the recent announcement in the Ventana View of the publication of The Warming, a novel by a recent arrival in El Sargento, Lorin R. Robinson. I downloaded the book from Amazon onto my tablet and spent the night reading it. While some people discount the possibility of human activity causing global warming, the Pentagon is planning how they will meet the threat of rising sea level, mass migrations, terrorism, war, food shortages, and increased disease that global warming could bring. I am not looking forward to spending summer back in Sacramento where severe drought and higher-than-normal summer temperatures are already making living there less attractive. The Warming, which is set in mid twenty-first century, looks at how these threats might play out around the world. I found the chapters about a family in Bangladesh, an eco-activist in China, and a doctor in South Sudan especially gripping. Woven through these adventures is the story of a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute professor who becomes disillusioned with the slowness of academia, industry, and government to come up with workable solutions to The Warming. Professor Jon Carver steps out on his own adventure to find the best way to meet these challenges. Along the way he makes some startling discoveries about his past life, and, of course, discovers romance. I was only disappointed that the author did not have his protagonist assure me that I will still be able to see enough stars in 2050 to have something to write about in the BNS.

Tom at BajaNightSky@gmail.com

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