A Ballgame Played In The Night Sky

This map shows the sky facing west about 10 minutes after sunset tonight Aug. 19. The evening crescent moon swings low this time of year, making it easy to include it in landscape photos. Maps created with Stellarium

The moon’s back in the west tonight but very low especially from the northern U.S., where it sets about a half hour after sunset. Look for a wiry crescent around and shortly after sunset. Being so close to the horizon in twilight makes for good picture opportunities.

Tonight and the next couple nights are ideal for photographing the shapely moon in a pretty scene with trees or a favorite iconic building. Even a cellphone camera’s up to the job. There’s plenty of light to go around in the hour after sunset – give it a try.

I’ve co-opted the Great Square as a baseball diamond in this view. You’ll find the diamond in the eastern sky around 10 p.m. local time. Each baseline is a fist and a half  held at arm’s length long.

As a kid, I used  to play baseball with my buddies at a nearby park every summer. Listened to it on the radio, too. Now I mostly photograph our local teams for the newspaper and catch the highlights on TV. Still, whenever August comes around and the Great Square of Pegasus climbs the eastern sky at nightfall, I can’t help but think of that dusty baseball diamond of my youth. Like the real thing, the Square is plenty big. Each side is about 15 degrees across or about a fist and a half held at arm’s length. It’s hard to miss.

The stars or players in Pegasus have traditional Arabic names: Scheat (SHE-at), Matar (MAH-tahr), Markab (MAR-kab), Algenib (al-JEN-nib) and Alpheratz (AL-fer-rats).

I’ve marked some of the key positions on the diamond but it does have its deficiencies – no pitcher or any obvious outfielders. That’s OK. In lean times we’ve learned to make do.

At least each player has a name. While constellations have Greek and Roman names, most individual star names come from the Arabic peoples.  Scheat (the shin), Matar (lucky rain), Markab (the horse’s shoulder), Algenib (the side) and Alpheratz (navel of the mare) are our players’ names.

Alpheratz, which officially belongs to the neighboring constellation Andromeda, is shared by Pegasus to complete the diamond. That’s appropriate given that Perseus the Hero flew to Andromeda’s rescue on the great steed.

Have a look the next clear night to see how the game’s going. Now matter how you picture the Great Square, it’s as much a sign of the coming fall as the leaves changing on the trees.

2 Responses

  1. Kimberly

    You have a piece of meteorite from Mars? Cool.

    Wonderful, beautiful stuff on here Bob. How do you get it all written? I like how you look at things – both sweet and very interesting! After the rover landed safely, I was telling Will how I was feeling strong feelings for the orbiter that carried it there through space all that time, and for the..um…the “one” that crashed so that the rover could “live” (can’t remember its name or function at the moment, 2:00 AM!). He said something about how you might understand those feelings. I mean, I was all happy for the sweet rover, but those two were the unsung heroes/heroines in my heart. I still feel kind of choked up just thinking about them. They gave their lives for the rover and got very little press. But go Baby Rover!

    Anyway, I was actually writing to say that I would still very much like to get together and ask your help/opinions concerning my photos but the reason I haven’t called is because I am having a major issue with them. Something is messing them up, big time, but I’m not sure what. Whatever it is, it is throwing my photos around Aperture all willy nilly and making some of them unreadable (they look like a bad television screen from the 50’s – multicolored lines and/or darkness). Distressing. I need to go somewhere and get it looked at. It is either my camera or my computer. I don’t know. Freaks me out. Anyway, Will and I are going to go to Duluth tomorrow (I think) and try to find out if it is the camera or not. So that is the delay. (Ah, I hear coyotes outside. Got to help out a Little Brown bat yesterday. Blessing central. ) Anyway, I’ll call as soon as I can figure out what is up. Is that o.k.?

    Thank you Bob, and have a good day! Kimberly

    1. astrobob

      Hi Kimberly,
      Sounds like you might have a bad card. Give me a call. I might be able to help if you e-mail me a copy of a problem image. And thank you for your kind words about the blog.

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