In this edition we are going to explore the constellation Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia is located in the Northern sky. It resembles a giant ‘W’ in the sky. Its name originates from Greek mythology, after a vain queen who often boasted about her beauty. Cassiopeia is also known as Andromeda’s mother.

This constellation is relatively simple to find. Using the ‘pointer’ stars from the Plough, or ‘Big Dipper’ drawing a line through Polaris, Cassiopeia can be found sitting opposite the Dipper in the sky. The five stars that make up the constellation are Cas, Ruchbah, Navi, Shedir and Caph.

Following the ‘point’ of Navi, Shedir and Caph will bring you to the Andromeda galaxy. An amazing target to see in a night sky with zero light pollution. Also known as M31, Andromeda can be seen with binoculars, although it would appear as a faint fuzzy light. It can even be photographed with a dslr camera, given some basic photography knowledge and telephoto lens.

Dark Sky Preservation – It is estimated that one third of people on earth can no longer see the milky way. I remember my first duty station back in 1984, a small pacific island called Yap in Micronesia. It was in the middle of nowhere, very few electric lights, and the night sky was amazing. A huge blanket of stars, the Milky Way, Andromeda, and other deep sky objects visible with the naked eye.

Unfortunately, we are losing this amazing view. Commercial buildings, street lighting, safety concerns all play a part in the loss. But it can be reversed. Just a little research on how light pollution affects our surroundings including wildlife and humans can be a huge step in the right direction. The main objective would be to take care in the type and temperature of lighting used, as well as fixtures. Not allowing light to spill out and up, keeping it down where it is needed. Bringing the night sky back to areas surrounding small towns and villages is the goal.

A dark sky is also a great attraction for the local economy, bringing hundreds if not thousands of new visitors to explore locally. We will be covering this in more depth here in the future and on the Athenry Night Sky Facebook page. If you would like to research or learn more some great resources are mayodarkskypark.ie and @MayoDarkSkies Facebook page, they have done an amazing job of getting their area designated as a Gold Tier International Dark Sky reserve. Check out darksky.org and the @IDAdarksky Facebook page for more details on what you can do to help bring our night sky back into view.

Remember to look for @AthenryNightSky on Facebook and join the page. We will keep you up to date on any outreach programs going on, and when and where we are out and about observing. We would love to hear from you if you have any ideas or suggestions on activities to get more folks involved in this great past time.

Clear Skies! Scott.