Astronomy: October’s nights and the frights therein

Daniel Zantzinger Skywatcher’s Guide

The exquisite transparency of October’s night skies allows skywatchers to delve deep into the perhaps fearsome realms of bizarre discoveries and belief-stretching mythologies.

It’s not enough that we have real-life astronomic oddballs to contend with. There’s also horrific mythical sea creatures bent on destruction of civilization lurking just beyond the horizon. Chimeras of every imaginable shape and size are leaping out from behind every corner, soaring over the Celestial Sea or prowling the deep, clear abyss within it. It’s like Halloween never left.

If you dare or are in doubt, quickly look straight up to zenith anytime between nightfall and midnight to locate the obvious Great Square of Pegasus asterism, and you’ll find Constellation Pegasus, “the flying horse (of Perseus).”

Pegasus is home to some of seriously strange cosmological phenomenon, some of which only require amateur, albeit relatively large diameter (18-inch mirror or greater), telescopes and fully dark skies to appreciate.

Start with Einstein’s Cross, five points of light resulting from an optical effect called lensing. The phenomenon is caused by the bending of the light from a background quasar, Q2237+030, by the strong gravitational lensing of the foreground galaxy Huchra’s Lens.

Einstein’s Cross is unusual even as far as lensing goes because most lensing results in Einstein rings or arcs because their light sources are off-center from the foreground gravitational sources, which have no single focal point but instead a focal line.

Pegasus lays claim to Stephan’s Quintet, a unique cluster of five galaxies, four of which are violently colliding and sending our enormous…

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