Looking Up: Two For Tea

Apr 2, 2018

'I'm a little teapot' in the constellation of Sagittarius. That celestial steam you see pouring out of my spout is your guide to the very center of the Milky Way Galaxy. (Bonus points if you can spot the tea spoon in this cosmic tea set) Hint: look to the upper left of the handle.
Credit M. Procell

This week on Looking Up Hal invites us out for a 'steaming' cup of 'celestial tea'.

One of the frustrations of looking at the sky can be wondering how the heck astronomers decided a particular pattern of stars looks like.

Corvus the Crow actually looks like, well, a kite. And Cassiopeia doesn't really look like a queen on a throne - it looks like a big W. But there are also things called asterisms up there. An asterism is a group of stars, usually a subset of a constellation, that actually look like something. The most famous of all is the Big Dipper, which looks like, well, you know...

A wonderful asterism that is up right now is the wonderful Teapot, formed by the brightest stars in the constellation Sagittarius. Can you guess what the teapot looks like? Yup, complete with top, handle, and spout. And if you are away from city lights, you can see the faint glow of the Milky Way looking like steam, coming from spout! 

The famous tea kettle in Sagittarius and the Scorpion (Scorpius) rise over the Gates of Lodore (Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado). Look between and through those constellations on any night from late spring to early fall and you'll be looking right into the center of our galaxy.
Credit M. Procell

Right now, and for a couple weeks, the teapot has a couple of guests. The bright and wonderful planets Saturn and Mars are just up and to the left of the top of the teapot. But you have to wait up late, or get up early, because this beautiful collection of stars and planets is at its best about an hour or two before sunrise.  So set an alarm, enjoy some Earl Grey, and check out the teapot.

If you'd like to take a closer look at the planets, the teapot or any of the other wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit csastro.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties.