Well, actually I stargazed before, but I didn’t do that to really observe stars and constellations. This time was my first time stargazing as a beginner in Astronomy (learning Astronomy is part of my new year resolutions). It was Monday Night, January the 6th of 2014. I started to stargaze around EST 9.00 pm until 10.00 pm. It was cold in Syracuse since the temperature was -12 degree of Celsius, and the wind, that made the weather colder, blew with the speed of 50 kph.After days of studying the book that I just got (Nightwatch), hours of constellation and stars reading from simulation software called Stellarium and days of cloudy night, I got my chance to try my newly acquired skill because Syracuse’s sky was very clear that night.
The first object I recognized that night was the belt of the great hunter Orion which consist of three aligned stars. Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Those three stars were named by Moslem’s astronomer, Alnitak and Mintaka means the belt while Alnilam means the arrangement or pearl. The name is pretty beautiful isn’t it? it is like a real belt which its arrangement (Alnilam) located in the middle of the belt (Alnitak and Mintaka). Alnitak and Alnilam are first magnitude stars (the lower the number, the brighter the star) while Mintak is a second magnitude star. After recognizing the belt it was easy to spot the other low-magnitude stars of Orion Constellation. They are Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel and Saiph. All have Arabic name except Bellatrix which was taken from Latin word that means the warrioress. Bellatrix is a first magnitude star so it was easy to see it. Next is Betelgeuse, the mighty one or the armpit in Arabic. This zero magnitude star is easy to recognize since its yellowish color is distinguishable from other member of Orion constellation. Coming next is Rigel the foot. It is a zero magnitude star which is 770 light-years distant from the earth but produces energy 50000 time than our sun which make it as the brightest star in Orion constellation. The last but not least is Saiph the sword. This star was dim since it was located near horizon which is polluted by houses light. Saiph is a second magnitude star like Mintaka.
After finding the great hunter Orion. It was quite easy to find other zero and first magnitude stars. Like Aldebaran (the follower) the brightest star in Taurus constellation. Since the other member of Taurus are third or fourth magnitude stars, I wasn’t able to see it clearly because of the light pollution from the neighborhood. Not far to the up right of Aldebaran, Pleiades (the seven sister) stars cluster looked quite dim but still visible. Sirius, the brightest of Canis Mayor and its companion Mirzam can also be spotted but the rest was unclear. The twins of Gemini constellation Pollux and Castor was very clear but at first I wasn’t sure because there was a bright and star-like object inside Castor-Pollux-Alhena triangle. After I confirmed it with Stellarium, I found out that it was Jupiter. It shone like a zero magnitude star with white and yellowish glitter color. I was able to spot the brightest in Canis Minor, Procyon but wasn’t able to see Gomeisa, the other member of Canis Mayor since it is a third magnitude star.
The next thing I was curious about is the legendary star that will not move from its place although the earth is rotating. It is Polaris the north star. In order to find Polaris, it is easier for me to find the Big Dipper first. Big Dipper is a star formation part of Ursa Mayor constellation. It was quite hard tho find the Big Dipper because in winter around that time, Big Dipper is close to horizon which was obscured by trees and houses and I have to move places in order to locate it in the north sky, but once Big Dipper was spotted, I was able to locate Polaris the legendary north star.
By using Big Dipper and Polaris, enabled me to locate other constellation such as the Queen of the sky Cassiopeia. Capella the brightest start in Auriga can also be seen with the other member of pentagon-like Auriga constellation member. Unfortunately, the Queen Cassiopeia’s king, Cepheus was a little bit shy that night so I didn’t see maybe it was because the moon was too bright so it over-light Cepheus which mostly consist of third magnitude stars. The only start I saw from Cepheus was the brightest Alderamin.
Well, That was my first time observing star and constellation. Although it was cold and windy but identifying star constellations like our ancestors did long time ago to help them navigating and farming was amazing.