Babe Among The Stars: Extrasolar Planet Viewing

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Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy

Extrasolar planet-viewing

This month you can use Venus as a pointer to detect a star which has a known planet in orbit around it. Venus will be quite close to Pollux, the 2nd brightest star in the constellation Gemini. Although you won't be able to see the planet, as you gaze at the star you can let your imagination run riot.

Galaxy viewing

Last month I happened to be up at 3am (thanks, bladder) so I popped outside in the hopes of catching sight of some meteors (my area was clouded out for the Perseid peak). I was rewarded with several meteors and, inspired to take a better look at the clear sky with my binoculars, I found the Andromeda Galaxy. While it can be seen naked eye, it helps to know where exactly to look, so try locating it from Cassiopeia with this map. It's astonishing that we can see an object that is around 2.5m light years distant. It is, however, heading in our direction, so it will appear bigger in our skies over the next 5 billion years or so.

September 2012 Diary Dates

All of the planets of our Solar System are on view this month. Although you'd need a telescope to see Neptune, all the rest can be detected using the more prominent pointers like the Moon and familiar stars (listed below are the best dates for viewing). I am going to attempt a planetathon this month, if you fancy joining me then please let me know how successful you were. As I gaze at Mars I will be thinking about the man-made Curiosity rover which is currently visiting that planet.

  • 01: Venus 9° south of Pollux (beta Geminorum)
  • 02: Moon 5° north of Uranus
  • 08: Moon passes Jupiter within one degree
  • 12: Venus and the Moon are within 4°
  • 16: New Moon
  • 18: Moon within one degree of Spica (alpha Virginis)
  • 19: Moon is 5° south of Saturn and 0.2° south of Mars
  • 22: The autumnal equinox (Northern Hemisphere) / first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere)
  • 27: Moon 6° north of Neptune
  • 30: Mercury within 2° of Spica
  • 30: Full Moon - the Harvest Moon

  • Chat about your celestial observances at the H2G2 Astronomy Society. Comment on anything in this edition of Babe Among the Stars by starting a new conversation below.

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