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Undergrads discover supernova ‘by fluke’

ColumnHead-StargazingExciting astronomy news! Undergrads at a London University recently discovered a supernova by a fluke during a ten minute telescope workshop. The supernova was found in Messier 82, a cigar shaped galaxy located between the Big and Little Dipper and is one of the nearest and brightest stellar explosions for almost three decades!

January 24 to February 4 brings several good chances to view the planet Mercury with the best opportunity on January 31 using the razor thin crescent moon as a guide. One can find Mercury above the southwest horizon about 30 minutes after sunset. With binoculars, look for crescent moon near the horizon. Scan to the left of the moon and the first bright “star” should be the planet Mercury, about ten degrees (the width of one clenched fist held at arms length) above the horizon.

This winter the distance between Earth and Mars continues to decrease until early April, when it will appear bigger than we’ve seen since 2007. In February Mars will rise after midnight. February 18-19 Mars will appear in a tight grouping with the waning gibbous moon and Spica in the midnight to predawn sky.

A much easier planet to locate is Jupiter, still shining like a beacon high above in the night sky, surrounded by several bright stars. Its position in Gemini, showcases Castor and Pollux. To its right is the very recognizable constellation Orion the hunter. Using the three stars of Orion’s belt as a guide you can locate Aldebaran in Taurus by simply drawing an imaginary line through Orion’s belt to the right. The first bright star is Aldebaran with its distinctive reddish-orange glow. Extend the same line to the left to the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius in Canis Major. Sirius forms the equilateral Winter Triangle with Procyon above it and Betelgeuse to the right. The golden star Capella (actually two stars) in Auriga, a five-sided star pattern is high above Orion.

On February 10, the Moon visits Jupiter.

February 15 marks the birthday of Galileo the Father of Modern Astronomy.

Friday, February 14, the local centre of the Royal Astronomical Society is pleased to host Second Vice National President of the society, Chris Gainor. Chris is a historian of technology and writer specializing in space exploration and aeronautics, and a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society. Chris will speak about the Avro Arrow, the doomed and infamous Canadian hypersonic fighter jet. Meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Sunshine coast Art Centre.

Friday, February 21 meet at Pier 17 at 8:30 p.m. for tea, coffee and astronomy at the Astro Café.

Submitted by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Sunshine Coast Centre,

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