Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - 61

November 2, 1994,
was extraordinary for several reasons. About 8 inches of fresh
snow had fallen in the Oregon Coast Range mountains, leaving behind an irresistibly clear sky. Driving up to the observing site after dark behind my good friend Chuck Dethloff's
pickup and trailer is my first memory of this night.
The snow-covered gravel road was bordered by tall fir
trees, which left only a thin, ragged slice of the night sky
visible above as we slowly made our way. The headlights of
our vehicles created millions of sparkles in the snow on the
ground and in the trees. The sky above sparkled on its own.
The second memory is of the steady seeing. It was nearly
dead-solid perfect for three hours straight, and it produced
one of the sharpest views of Saturn I've ever seen. There was
no waiting for the seeing to settle down, and during the
entire three hours the views barely quivered. Saturn was a
true wonder; Titan a tiny, sharply defined orange disk.
My third memory of that night is of my first great nakedeye view of M45, the Pleiades. Chuck and I both counted 13
stars thanks to the extraordinary seeing. But what I remember most about this view was not only how sharp the individual Pleiads were, but also how they made the overall cluster
look larger than normal.

Just Look Up
It doesn't matter what kind of sky you have, the Pleiades are
special. The bright stars of winter dominate the sky, and yet
this small patch of stars packed together in an unprecedented
small chunk of sky demand to be examined.
The same thing happens in a night sky illuminated by city
lights. That frosty, glittering patch of Pleiads still commands
attention. Under any clear sky an unaided but determined
gaze at the open cluster reveals a handful of stars, maybe
more, arranged in a tiny dipper shape that's caused some to
wonder if they're looking at the Little Dipper. It's a logical
assumption for those who don't know the constellations.
It's possible to see more than the six brightest stars even
under a suburban sky. The nine brightest stars in the Pleiades
range from magnitude 2.86 to 5.64. They're visible if you take
the time to look. Patience will be rewarded.
Some people have seen 14 Pleiads without optical aid. The
late Sky & Telescope columnist Walter Scott Houston's total of
18 seems to be the highest reliable naked-eye count.
Making a quick sketch is an easy way to keep track of what
you've seen. Use averted vision but be careful - it can be tricky
when pinpointing the exact location of the fainter stars.
ISTOCK PHOTO.CO M / M- GUCCI

s k y a n d t e l e s c o p e .c o m

* JANUARY 2017

61


http://www.ISTOCKPHOTO.COM http://www.skyandtelescope.com

Sky and Telescope - January 2017

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky and Telescope - January 2017

Contents
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - Cover1
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - Cover2
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - 1
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - Contents
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - 3
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - 4
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - 5
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - 6
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - 7
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - 8
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Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - 61
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Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - Cover3
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - Cover4
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - SGA17RAL
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - 90
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - SGA17R
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - SGA17RA
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - SGA17EAL
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - 94
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - SGA17E
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - SGA17EA
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - SGA17SAL
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Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - SGA17S
Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - SGA17SA
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