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  Night Sky

Light pollution ordinance set

The Corrales Comment reported that a new law to combat light pollution in Corrales was passed on March 26 by the Corrales Village Council. The ordinance is intended to protect the night sky from light pollution and to prevent vision-obstructing glare and nighttime “light tresspass” by outdoor lighting. The Village of Corrales may require a non-conforming use to be corrected if it is determined that the non-conforming use is creating a nuisance as defined by the ordinance. Existing non-complying lighting can remain in place until is no longer serviceable at which time it must be made to meet the regulations. All existing outdoor lighting fixtures owned and maintained by the Public Service Company of New Mexico are required to be removed or comply with the ordinance within twelve months. Sandoval County has considered a similar ordinance, but no action has been taken.

May 2013 Night Sky

—Charlie Christmann

Spring is here, and the evenings are getting warmer – that is great for being outdoors and sky watching. Unfortunately, the sun is setting later in the evening, shortening our time before bed.

Binocular Binaries

A binary star is defined as “A stellar system consisting of two stars orbiting about a common center of mass and often appearing as a single visual or telescopic object,” according to Many cannot be resolved even with a telescope. We only know about them by watching the light from the stars change frequency (Doppler method). Many can be resolved using good telescopes, but this month, we will focus on those that are observable with something less than a telescope.

Let us start with an easy one. Find the handle of the big dipper. The end star is Alkaid. The next one in is our target: Micor and Alcor. Some can actually see both stars without binoculars. Alcor is the one closer to the pole star. Micor is known to be a quadruple system, and Alcor is a binary, bring the total to six stars in this system, though we only can see the two. Alcor and Micor are about one light-year apart and reside about 83 light-years away from Earth.

Look in the East Northeast for bright Vega. Just to the east of Vega is Epsilon Lyrae. In reality, with a telescope (100x magnification) you will see each of this pair is also a double star. The two main components reside about 0.16 light-years apart and are around 160 light-years from Earth.

For a bit of a challenge, try finding Albireo, the foot of the cross of Cygnus, opposite Deneb. This wondrous pair shows it colors: the larger is a golden orange, and its fainter companion shows a sapphire blue color. This pair is about 380 light-years away.

Feeling patriotic? Try looking just west of Deneb for Omicron-1 Cygni. You can see three widely separated stars sporting the red, white, and blue about two-hundred light-years from us.

Almost overhead at 10:00 p.m. is Bootes, featuring the bright star Arcturus. Along the line from Arcturus, through Mirak, and neighboring the constellation Corona Borealis is Princeps. The brighter member is becoming a giant star having exhausted is hydrogen fuel. The dimmer star is thought to be similar to our sun. They reside some 120 light-years from Earth.

And, finally on Bootes, just north of Princeps is the star Alkalurops. This triple system’s larger member is a yellow-white sub giant, which may not be gravitationally bound to the others. The other “star” in the group is a true double system with the primary being yellowish. With magnifications over 100x, the secondary component looks orange. All of these stars are around 120 light-years distant.

So, that is your challenge. Go out and find you some double stars.

Featured Event

Late in May, three of the brighter planets will gather low in the evening sky just after sunset. Look starting the 20th for the grouping with Mercury near the horizon at 8:00 p.m., very near Venus with Jupiter hanging just above. By the 27th, the three are right on top of each other.

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