PDA

View Full Version : What the heck did I see last night?



karen6654
2003-Jul-03, 02:51 PM
Hi All,
Last night the dogs woke me up (not unusual), so I stepped out on the porch to look at the stars. It's very dark here, we can see real good.

Anyhow, I saw an odd looking star, to the west. About 2:30 AM.

It looked kind of colored. So I grabbed some binoculars and it was indeed colored, and pulsating, red, green, blue.

Well, I have never seen any star or anything that looked like this. So I got my husband up, and dragged him out on the porch in his robe. I pointed it out, and handed him the binoculars, and he said "It's pulsating!"

Then we got out the telescope and took a better look. It was definately pulsating, giving off red, green, and blue colors.

We kept watching it until it dipped below the horizon. It's position remained relative to all the other objects visable around it until it dipped below the horizon. It wasn't a plane or other craft.

Anyone have any idea what it was?

Thank You,
Karen

dgruss23
2003-Jul-03, 03:00 PM
Most likely what you saw was one of the brighter stars in the sky. Turbulence in the atmosphere causes stars to "twinkle". As stars get closer to the horizon this effect is magnified. It can cause stars to appear to pulsate and flash different colors. I've seen Sirius (in Canis Minor - winter constellation) flash red, blue, and green like that. My guess is that the star you probably saw was Spica in the contellation Virgo.

You can see on the map from Orion Telescopes (http://www.telescope.com/content/inthesky/content6main.jsp?chart=true) that it is pretty low around midnight in early July. Probably by 2:30 it would be setting - although someone else will probably point you to a website where you can look up that information precisely.

SKY
2003-Jul-03, 03:18 PM
dgruss-

Where's your manners, you forgot..."Remain Calm!!" :D

Oh, and welcome to the board Karen. :)

karen6654
2003-Jul-03, 03:26 PM
Thank You dgruss,

I have a copy of "Where The Stars Are" all set for my location and time, and Spica appears to have been way below the horizon by 3AM.

This thing didn't set until about 3:30 I am guessing.

Thank You Sky too,

I think it was pretty calm, although it was quite wierd looking. When I first saw it it was fairly high up, I watched for a total of about two hours I guess.

We're fairly used to wierd sightings around here. I live in Pahrump, Nevada, about a mile from Art Bell's place......lol

Karen

SKY
2003-Jul-03, 03:35 PM
Thank You Sky too,

I think it was pretty calm...

I was going to link to all the dgruss "Remain Calm" posts to fully illustrate just what I was talking about...but the BA has a Bandwidth limit. :lol:

Sorry dgruss...couldn't resist. :lol:

kilopi
2003-Jul-03, 04:42 PM
I have a copy of "Where The Stars Are" all set for my location and time, and Spica appears to have been way below the horizon by 3AM.

This thing didn't set until about 3:30 I am guessing.
I'm guessing too, but I'm almost sure it was Arcturus (my home star (http://www.occultforums.com/viewtopic.php?p=48626&sid=6eb1edba6b98dbe0eddf9b6bf5624e26#48626) :) ) I'd bet on it.

Now, where is Pahrump exactly?

Crimson
2003-Jul-03, 05:21 PM
I think Arcturus is a likely possibility. It's the fourth brightest star in the night sky, an orange giant 37 light-years distant. However, if it was Arcturus, it should have set in the northwest, not due west.

karen6654
2003-Jul-03, 05:26 PM
Kilopi,

Pahrump is about 60 miles west (and a tiny bit north) of Las Vegas, very near the California border.

I just took a compass out on the deck and lined it up where I was looking.

It read exactly due west. I don't know about "true north" and "magnetic north" stuff, or how that would effect my compass reading in relationship to what I saw, but the star map I am looking at shows Arcturus quite a bit north of that. It was very bright tho, so the magnitude seems about right.

Karen

dgruss23
2003-Jul-03, 06:33 PM
Thank You Sky too,

I think it was pretty calm...

I was going to link to all the dgruss "Remain Calm" posts to fully illustrate just what I was talking about...but the BA has a Bandwidth limit. :lol:

Sorry dgruss...couldn't resist. :lol:

BA's Bandwidth limit might be at risk with that one! :lol: You know, I wonder how many times I felt the need to say that? There's been a lot less need lately, but probably about 50 times which I guess is a little less than .5% of my posts.

Kaptain K
2003-Jul-03, 06:39 PM
Sky and Telescope magazine has an interactive sky chart online. Set it for your location, time and direction.

aurorae
2003-Jul-03, 08:19 PM
Remember, there is a web site attached to this board (to quote the BA):

http://www.badastronomy.com/bitesize/twinkle.html

the linked article says:


This effect also plays with a star's color. Blue and green light get bent more than orange and red, so sometimes in very turbulent seeing a star's colors will rapidly change. This usually happens when the star is low on the horizon (so there's more air for it to pass through). The brighter the star, the easier it is to see; Sirius, the brightest nighttime star, is often seen changing from green to red to orange and back, very rapidly. I've seen it myself and it's quite lovely. If you're not prepared for it it's quite surprising

tracer
2003-Jul-03, 10:11 PM
It's always nice to know that the Bad Astronomer can find an excuse to say "get bent". ;)

tracer
2003-Jul-03, 10:24 PM
I just took a compass out on the deck and lined it up where I was looking.

It read exactly due west. I don't know about "true north" and "magnetic north" stuff, or how that would effect my compass reading in relationship to what I saw, but the star map I am looking at shows Arcturus quite a bit north of that.
In most regions of the southwestern United States, magetic north is about 15 degrees off from true north.

Does your star map take the time of night and the time of year into account?

karen6654
2003-Jul-03, 10:43 PM
Tracer,
Yes, you set it for longitude and latitude, time of day, daylight savings, pretty much everything. According to this software (it came with our telescope) it doesn't look like Arcturus would still be visable, there is a small mountain range it should have dropped behind.

Anyhow, thank you to everyone for jumping in to answer my questions. This is a very nice board.

I really didn't think it was a UFO or anything like that, but it's really got me curious what star it was. Planning on getting up a bit earlier to have a peek tonight. See if I can figure out what it is while it's up a little higher in the sky.

Now if it had started zipping around over the mountain tops I'd have been a bit more worried.

Thanks again to everyone,
Karen

kilopi
2003-Jul-04, 10:55 AM
I just took a compass out on the deck and lined it up where I was looking.

It read exactly due west. I don't know about "true north" and "magnetic north" stuff, or how that would effect my compass reading in relationship to what I saw, but the star map I am looking at shows Arcturus quite a bit north of that.
Arcturus does set a little over twenty degrees north of due west, but you're right to suspect the offset of magnetic north--around Las Vegas it's about 15 degrees, as tracer said. You can use NOAA's online Compute Values of Earth's Magnetic Field (http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/seg/gmag/fldsnth1.pl) to find your Magnetic Declination (http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/seg/gmag/fldsnth2.pl#D)--it looks to be just over 13 E. That would put Arcturus within ten degrees of due west by your compass when it set--an hour before it sets, it is exactly due west by the compass, since its path is tilted.

How far away are the mountains? They may not reduce your horizon much. For instance, if they are ten miles away, and two thousand feet higher, then their angle above the zero horizon is only a couple degrees.

Colt
2003-Jul-04, 07:17 PM
Lucky, living so close to Art Bell. :cry: :wink: I would love to meet him. :) -Colt