16 February 2014

Cambodia 2014: Southern night sky stars and Constellations. A delight for us living in Finland.

Southern Constellations with Star Canopus
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S.Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
  Follow our Astronomy club Toutatis in our travels through Cambodia. A series of 6 posts on 6 different topics related to Astronomy.

Cambodia lies at 11 degrees latitude above the Equator (Phnom Penh 11°33′N 104°55′E). This means that southern Constellations are seen from here. While staying on the island of Koh Rong near the coast of Sihanoukville, I took some pictures of the night sky that revealed some southern Constellations. Guided by the brightest star in the night sky Sirius, I knew that all lying below it would be southern stars and Constellations. A great opportunity for me to shoot southern Constellations.

The picture above shows us many southern Constellations. Namely the Constellations of Vela, Puppis, Carina, Pyxis, Columba and Pictor. I have to say it was the first time I saw all these Constellations and stars within. For a northern observer, this was a delight!

Also one star took over the others and shown brightly in the night sky. This star was Canopus (α Car), the second brightest star in the night sky after Sirius. Canopus's visual magnitude is −0.72. This F-type supergiant have been described as a pure white while seen with the naked eye, but some observers have perceived it as yellow-white owing to its being located low in the sky and hence subject to atmospheric effects. Canopus is known in the ancient Hindu astronomy and astrology as Agastya. Maybe some clues of this lies in the temples of Angkor Wat as the Hindu astronomy was incorporated into the building of the temples.

The same picture as above except for the Constellation lines
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S.Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
The Constellations of Carina, Vela, Puppis and Pyxis where part the same Constellation of Argo Navis before Nicolas-Louis La Caille in 1750 divided it into 4 respective Constellations. These Constellations, especially the Carina and Vela Constellations are in the middle of the Milky Way, which offers many beautiful Open Star Clusters and Nebulas. One of them is Eta Carinae Nebula (NGC 3372) in the Constellation of Carina.

The Constellation Pyxis lies in the plane of the Milky Way, although part of the eastern edge is dark, with material obscuring our galaxy arm you can still see some good objects.
You will find an almost edge-on spiral Galaxy (NGC 2613), a planetary nebula (NGC 2818) which lies within a dim open cluster of magnitude 8.2 and three stars with confirmed planetary systems (HD 73256, HD 73267 and Gliese 317).

Stargazing on paradise island Koh Rong
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S.Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
The Constellations of Columba and Pictor are small and faint constellations. They are not particularly of great interest, except for a couple of objects that distinguish them selves from the others. Kapteyn's Star in the Constellation of Pictor, a nearby red dwarf at the distance of 12.78 light years, has a magnitude of 8.8. It has the largest proper motion of any star in the sky after Barnard's Star. Moving around the Milky Way in the opposite direction to most other stars, it may have originated in a dwarf galaxy that was merged into our galaxy, with the main remnant being the Omega Centauri globular cluster.
Also the Constellation Pictor has attracted attention in recent years because of its second-brightest star Beta Pictoris, 63.4 light-years distant, which is surrounded by an unusual dust disk rich in carbon, as well as an extrasolar planet.
Columba is the constellation that is at the solar antapex - the Earth (and Sun) is moving away from its direction as the solar system moves through space.

In conclusion, the Southern Constellations mentioned above are full of beautiful celestial bodies and literally a treasure for us observers in Finland. I feel very privilege to have witness these stars and Constellations. Hope I will be able to see and photograph them in the near future.

Continue reading post no.5 Cambodia 2014: Chasing the Green Flash. Catch on film the lastmoments of the setting Sun.