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The Night Sky Print Page
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Astronomical Objects

  • Andromeda Galaxy
    From McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
    The giant spiral galaxy nearest to Earth. The Andromeda Galaxy is seen in the constellation of Andromeda, which is visible from Earth in the autumn skies.
  • Binary star: Topic Page
    Pair of stars moving in orbit around their common centre of mass. Observations show that most stars are binary, or even multiple - for example, the nearest star system to the Sun, Rigil Kent (Alpha Centauri).
  • Crab Nebula
    From The Columbia Encyclopedia
    Diffuse gaseous nebula in the constellation Taurus; cataloged as NGC 1952 and M1, the first object recorded in Charles Messier's catalog of nonstellar objects. It is the remnant of a supernova that was observed in 1054 by Chinese and Arab astronomers to be as bright as Venus.
  • Globular clusters
    From Collins Dictionary of Astronomy
    A spherically symmetrical compact cluster of stars, containing from several tens of thousands to maybe a million stars that are thought to share a common origin. An example is the Great Cluster in Hercules. A few globular clusters, such as Omega Centauri, appear to be slightly flattened.
  • Milky Way: Topic Page

    The galaxy of which the sun and solar system are a part, seen as a broad band of light arching across the night sky from horizon to horizon.
  • Orion Nebula
    From McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
    The brightest emission nebula in the sky, designated M42 in Messier’s catalog. The Great Nebula in Orion consists of ionized hydrogen and other trace elements.
  • Pleiades
    From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia
    In astronomy, an open star cluster about 400 light years away from Earth in the constellation Taurus, represented as the Seven Sisters of Greek mythology. Its brightest stars (highly luminous, blue-white giants only a few million years old) are visible to the naked eye, but there are many fainter ones.

Our Solar System

  • Sun: Topic Page
    The star that the planets revolve around and which gives out the heat and light energy necessary to enable living organisms to survive on Earth.
  • Mercury
    From Atlas of the Universe
    Mercury, the innermost planet, is never easy to study from Earth. It is small, with a diameter of only 4878 kilometers (3030 miles); it always stays in the same region of the sky as the Sun, and it never comes much within 80 million kilometers (50 million miles) of us.
  • Venus: Topic Page
    The second planet from the Sun, clearly visible from the Earth as a bright morning and evening star, its orbit lying between those of Mercury and Earth.
  • Earth: Topic Page
    The third planet from the Sun.
  • Moon: Topic Page
    Natural satellite of a planet (see satellite, natural) or dwarf planet, in particular, the single natural satellite of the earth.
  • Mars: Topic Page
    Fourth planet from the Sun. It is much smaller than Venus or Earth, with a mass 0.11 that of Earth.
  • Jupiter: Topic Page
    The fifth planet from the Sun, and the largest in the solar system, whose orbit lies between those of Mars and Saturn.
  • Saturn: Topic Page
    Sixth planet from the Sun, and the second-largest in the Solar System, encircled by bright and easily visible equatorial rings. Viewed through a telescope it is ochre.
  • Uranus: Topic Page
    Seventh planet from the Sun, discovered by German-born British astronomer William Herschel in 1781.
  • Neptune: Topic Page
    The eighth planet from the Sun, the outermost of the four ‘gas giant’ planets; discovered in 1846 as a result of a prediction by Leverrier to explain anomalies in the observed orbit of Uranus.
  • Pluto: Topic Page
    Dwarf planet. Until its reclassification in 2006 it was considered to be the smallest and, usually, outermost planet of the Solar System.

Other Night Sky Objects

  • Aurora Borealis: Topic Page
    Illumination of the night sky, known popularly as the northern and southern lights.
  • Comet: Topic Page
    In the solar system: a small body consisting of a coma, a nucleus and a tail, which is composed mainly of frozen gas, dust and rock and follows an elliptical orbit around the Sun.
  • Constellation: Topic Page
    One of the 88 areas into which the sky is divided for the purposes of identifying and naming celestial objects.
  • Eclipse: Topic Page
    In astronomy, partial or total obscuring of one celestial body by the shadow of another.
  • Galaxy: Topic Page
    Grouping of millions or billions of stars, held together by gravity.
  • Meteor shower: Topic Page
    Increase in the number of meteors observed in a particular part of the sky.
  • Meteor: Topic Page
    Appearance of a small particle flying through space that interacts with the earth's upper atmosphere.
  • Nebulae
    From Atlas of the Universe
    When Messier published his catalog, in 1781, he included nebulae of two types – those which looked as though they were gaseous, and those which gave every impression of being made up of stars.
  • Pulsar: Topic Page
    Celestial source that appears to flash at radio and other wavelengths at regular intervals, ranging from a few seconds to a few thousandths of a second. Pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars.
  • Star cluster: Topic Page
    Group of related stars, usually held together by gravity. Members of a star cluster are thought to form together from one large cloud of gas in space.

Stars

  • Alpha Centauri
    From The Columbia Encyclopedia
    Brightest star in the constellation Centaurus and 3d-brightest star in the sky; also known as Rigil Kent or Rigil Kentaurus; 1992 position R.A. 14h39.1m, Dec. -60°49'. It is a yellow main-sequence star of the same spectral class (G2 V) as the sun and of about the same size and mass.
  • Arcturus
    From McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
    The brightest star in the northern sky, apparent magnitude −0.05, also known as α Boötis. It is a yellow giant star of spectral type K2, one of the nearest giants to the Earth at a distance of 11.25 parsecs (2.16 × 1014 mi or 3.47 × 1014 km).
  • Betelgeuse
    From McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
    A cool and highly luminous star, prominently located in the right shoulder of the constellation Orion and noticeably red in color. Betelgeuse, or α Orionis, is a supergiant star about 130 parsecs (430 light-years) from the Sun. Its spectral type of M2 indicates an effective temperature of approximately 3500 K (5800°F).
  • Mizar and Alcor
    From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia
    Second-magnitude star in Ursa Major, where it marks the middle of the handle of the Plough. Mizar and Alcor, a fourth-magnitude star, form a visual double star.
  • Rigel
    From The Columbia Encyclopedia
    Bright star in the constellation Orion; Bayer designation Beta Orionis; 1992 position R.A. 5h14.2m, Dec. -8°13'. A huge, blue supergiant of spectral class B8 Ia, Rigel has an intrinsic brightness about 40,000 times as luminous as that of the sun.
  • Sirius
    From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia
    Brightest star in the night sky, 8.6 light years from the Sun in the constellation Canis Major.
  • Vega
    From Collins Dictionary of Astronomy
    A conspicuous white star, apparently blue in color, that is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra. It was the pole star about 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. Because of precession, it will be the pole star again around ad 14,000.
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