Astronomy in Spain!

Well, I said there would be some topics of different flavours cropping up in this site, so as I’ve always had an interest in astronomy since I was a kid, I thought why not?

Here’s some astronomical ramblings from your bloke in southern Spain, where the night skies are usually as clear as the daytime ones and the stars and planets seem to be better placed for the casual observer.

So, what’s in the sky at the moment?

Well being late summer (end of September to be precise), in the early part of the evening once the sky goes dark, Scorpio is still visible in the south-west of the sky with it’s deep red first magnitude alpha star, Antares. Above it and shining very brightly is Jupiter. A lot of older text books often say that Scorpio in its entirety cannot be seen from anywhere in Europe, but they’re wrong. From here in southern Spain when the constellation is at its highest, the whole can be seen in all its splendour, right down to the stinger in it’s tail. That’s the part those books say you can’t see, but it’s clearly visible well above the horizon – so there! Following Scorpio in the south is the sprawling constellation of Sagittarius, with no first magnitude stars, but plenty of bright second magnitude ones. It also lies in th edirection of the centre of our galaxy, so the milky way seems very bright there. Also shining brightly but on its way out is Arcturus in the constellation Bootes (the herdsman). Further north is the very bright first magnitude Capella in the constellation Auriga.

Later on the sky gets interesting. The northern cross is high in the sky at around midnight. For those who don’t know what that is, we’re talking the constellation Cygnus (the swan), with it’s bright cross of stars, the major one being the supergiant searchlight Deneb. Along with Cygnus and Deneb, two other constellations and their brightest star form what is also known as the summer triangle – Vega in the tiny constellation Lyra (the lyre) and Altair in Aquila (the eagle).

Alone in the south is the first magnitude star Fomalhaut in Pisces Austrinus. Of course looking north there is Polaris marking the celestial north pole and the bright circumpolar constellations of Ursa Major (the great bear, or plough) low in the sky and opposite Polaris the bright “W” of Cassiopeia.

Well, that about wraps up the night sky for this time of year.

But I’m not quite finished. I get up fairly early in the morning to take the dogs out while its still dark and very quiet and the sky is ablaze with some very bright things right now.

In the east is a dazzling Venus getting higher in the sky each morning. It really is very bright at this time and there is nothing that even comes close.
To the south are a host of bright stars and constellations, which mark the onset of winter. First is the brilliant Sirius in Canis Major, brightest star in the sky. Above that is the most recognisable constellation of Orion with the blue Rigel and the red Betelgeuse in each corner of the main square, it’s bright three stars making up it’s belt, blow which is the sword containing the very naked eye visible M42 nebula.

Above Orion and to the east is Procyon in Canis Minor, Castor and Pollux in Gemini. Above Orion and almost at zenith is Aldebaran in Taurus. The Pleiades cluster of stars is clearly visible and a lovely thing to see.

There are probably a couple of planets to be seen elsewhere but as I haven’t got any up-to date data, I’d only be guessing right now. I’ll update this page soon when I get some more accurate data on whats moving around up there!

Well, that’s it for now – more astronomical ramblings from this amateur sky-watcher later when things change a bit.

Terry Didcott