It’s not a Thanksgiving turkey in the sky – that’s Cygnus the Swan
Let me share some holiday cheer after you indulge in the big meal: The night sky awaits your attention as the moon now is at or past the phase we call new moon.
That simply is the best time to view the fainter sky objects which are normally covered or obscured by the light of the moon.
From a dark and clear sky, you have an interesting constellation to view in place of another bird – the turkey.
Turn your attention to the northwest after sunset and some 35 degrees high in that area. This is the region of the sky which has a large band of the Milky Way visible for your viewing pleasure.
A pair of binoculars will help to really get the most out of your adventure.
This is the constellation are of Cygnus, the Swan. This very old constellation is, in some ways, reminiscent of the holiday bird, the turkey.
The name Cygnus comes from the Latinized Greek word for swan.
The magic of the story of Cygnus is outlined here.
To help you identify the star fields of Cygnus, we offer up this detailed star chart.
The classic artwork of what Cygnus looks like in the night sky is seen here.
Cygnus is in a very rich star field of the Milky Way and there are literally millions of stars seen in this constellation.
To many, Cygnus is also known as the asterism of stars known as the Northern Cross.
The brightest of the stars in Cygnus is the blue super giant star, Deneb.
Deneb is a super blue-white super giant star which lies 2,615 light years from Earth. The luminosity of Deneb is 196,000 times that of our sun. Deneb is close to the north celestial pole and it will become the nearest star to the celestial pole in 9800 AD.
If we were to move Deneb as close as 25 light years from us, we would not have a night as we know it – it is that bright.
There are many objects to view in Cygnus with a moderate-sized telescope and dark skies.
We offer up a detailed listing of these objects.
We have selected Cygnus as the closest replica of the turkey, but did you know that of the entire sky’s constellations, there are nine different types of fowl in the sky?
Here is the rest of that story.
So, as you look for something to do after the tryptophan of the turkey kicks in, stay awake and look for another type of bird in the sky – Cygnus!
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
To print your own monthly star chart, click here.
To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.
Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.
Podcasts are available here.