May 2021

Shallow Sky Object of the Month: Eltanin

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2021.


OBJECT:  Eltanin, Gamma Dra, 33 Dra
CONSTELLATION:  Draco (the dragon or serpent)
R.A.:     17 h, 56 m,  36 s
DEC:     51°  29’ 20”
DISTANCE:  150 ly
OPTICS NEEDED: Unaided eye

In the rather dim constellation of Draco, this star is the brightest at magnitude 2.24. Beta Dra (Rastaban), which should be brighter is 2.9 magnitude, and Alpha Dra (Thuban), which should be brighter than either of these two shines at 3.6 magnitude. So much for Bayer designations being in order of magnitude. 

Thuban has the distinction of having been the ‘Polaris’ (pole star) around 3942 BC, so it’s likely that the designation of it as the Alpha star is because of its position, not its brightness.

The star lies about 14.5 degrees north and a little west (333 degree position angle) of the star Vega, which shines at 0.0 magnitude and is easy to find in the summer sky. Find Eltanin by drawing a line from Altair to Vega and on to Eltanin.

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Challenge Object - June 2021

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2021.


NGC 5466 – Globular Cluster in Boötes

RA 14h05m27.3s Dec +28deg 32’04”

Size 9.0’ Vmag 9.2

As we head toward the summer months and begin looking back toward the halo of the galaxy, our skies become filled with many visual observers’ favorite class of objects: the globular clusters. The summer skies contain several interesting and very bright globulars, like M3 and M5 with their nice bright cores, or M4 with its easy resolvability and unique “bar” of stars in the center.  This month’s challenge target on the other hand does not look like those clusters.  

AP Corner - June 2021

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2021.

Winning Before You Go Out To Image

Part 1 – Equipment Set Up and Organized Storage

By Don Selle


Before I get too far into the details, this article deals with things that will sound obvious, like common sense, or what most people would do. Yes, they are practical and maybe obvious, but I can tell you that they take time and patience. Given the busy lives we lead, and that astrophotography equipment can be fairly complex to setup and get to work together, it’s easy to gloss over these steps only to find yourself “winging it” in the field.

NSN Partner Article

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2021.

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Astrophotography With Your Smartphone

David Prosper

Have you ever wanted to take night time photos like you’ve seen online, with the Milky Way stretched across the sky, a blood-red Moon during a total eclipse, or a colorful nebula? Many astrophotos take hours of time, expensive equipment, and travel, which can intimidate beginners to astrophotography. However, anyone with a camera can take astrophotos; even if you have a just smartphone, you can do astrophotography. Seriously!

Field of View - June 2021

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2021.

June – Spring Skies Yield to the Summer Milky Way

By Don Selle – Guidestar Editor


Wow – its June already!  June is the run up to full summer by the end of the month, but here in south east Texas it can be hard to tell the difference. The days get longer and the nights shorter, and mosquitos return with a vengeance - not great for astronomy, but there is an upside – the return of the Summer Milky Way!

Messier Column - June 2021

Original article appears in GuideStar June, 2021.



Que Pasa? Monsieur Messier? 

by Jim King

It would be fruitless to question the observing ability of the man described by King Louis XV as “the ferret of comets.”  Messier was highly respected for his keen eye and attention to detail.  His expertise was not limited to the visual search for comets, as he was an equally skilled observer of, among other things, the planets, stellar occultations, and sunspots.  Still, one must wonder how Messier could have missed so many relatively bright nebulous objects during his comet hunts.  Anyone who takes the time to sweep the sky with a telescope around the famed M-objects cannot help but chance upon some nebulae and clusters that were not included in his catalogue, apparently escaping his gaze.  BUT DID THEY?

One possible answer: many of the objects he identified were too obviously “not comet-like” …but how does one then explain the Pleiades (M 45)?  Another possibility: he restricted his search to small telescopes.   The mystery continues….

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