Globus Aerostaticus

As I worked my way through the evening’s observing list I came to an entry for the asterism ‘Hot Air Balloon’

A detail of Plate 16 of Uranographia by Johann Bode (Berlin, 1801)
A detail of Plate 16 of Uranographia by Johann Bode (Berlin, 1801) with Capricorn and Globus Aerostaticus

This asterism found its way into my personal observing catalog from the one of the Saguaro Astronomy Club observing lists. These lists are an excellent resource for those who roam the starry sky, sort of an ultimate best-of list. These lists are one of the many sources I pulled together when creating my own giant list of where to aim my telescope.

So often I find surprises in my own database among the thousands of objects that I have dumped in there over the years.

Asterisms are simply odd patterns of stars that form memorable groups, but are not necessarily real clusters or other stars that are physically associated with each other. Many of these are well known such as The Coathanger, the Diamond Ring around Polaris, or The Stargate.

When I wandered through the coordinates listed from the Balloon I found a pretty starfield, but nothing that stood out as a recognizable shape, much less a balloon. I wrote down a few comments on the area and a note to myself to look this up later. What is The Balloon?

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Neptune at Opposition

Today the planet Neptune will pass through opposition, directly opposite the Sun in our sky. The planet will be well placed for observation all night long, rising at sunset, transiting at midnight, and setting at sunrise. If you are looking to observe Neptune, it is currently shining at magnitude 7.8 in eastern Aquarius.

Neptune from Voyager 2
Neptune from Voyager 2, Credit: NASA /JPL

As the outer planets Uranus and Neptune move so slowly across the sky, the timing of oppositions is driven by the Earth’s orbit and occur each year at nearly the same time. Neptune’s orbital period is 164.8 years, taking over a century and a half to circle the celestial globe once. As Neptune was discovered in 1846, it has completed a little over one orbit since discovery.

SARS-CoV-2 Negative

For now.

SARS-CoV-2 Test Results. Negative... This time.
SARS-CoV-2 Test Results. Negative… This time.

All last week I was suffering mild respiratory symptoms… Sore throat, stuffy and hoarse, mild muscle aches. Of course one immediately considers the worst case, that somehow despite being careful I had contracted COVID-19.

Not out of the realm of possibility, after a long summer of almost no cases our island has had a rash of infections over the last few weeks including a few deaths. The virus is clearly here and in the community.

I got swabbed on Saturday, and after a weekend of wondering I finally got the results on Weds evening.

Oddly enough I found the result while on the phone with my parents. I had told them about the symptoms and testing a few days earlier and they were calling back to hear the results. While I had not gotten an email notifying me of results, I checked the lab web portal anyway while on the phone. Two simple words… Not Detected.

All clear… This time.

While that was a relief to me and my parents they passed on family news.. My brother has tested positive and is now quarantined for a few weeks. While he has shown no symptoms and is fine, I am glad to hear he is taking the diagnoses seriously.



The North American Nebula

NGC7000 or The North American Nebula is found in Cygnus, just northwest of the bright star Deneb. A huge complex of glowing gas and dark dust the nebula covers and area several times larger than the full moon.

The image here is the sum of 60 individual frames, 30 at 1 minute and 30 more at 5 minutes of exposure taken with a TeleVue 76mm scope and a ZWO ASI1600mm Pro camera through a hydrogen alpha filter.

The bright North American Nebula and the rifts of the dark nebulae LDN 935 in hydrogen alpha light
The bright North American Nebula and the rifts of the dark nebulae LDN 935 in hydrogen alpha light