Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 3, 2015

Brainbuster - Make Your Brain Tingle

This Brainbuster was originally published in the Hamilton County Herald on April 4, 2014.

Our night sky is a vast and beautiful place to explore. Now that warmer weather is here, grab a lawn chair and a pair or binoculars or a telescope, find a dark spot with no city lights, and be amazed!

1. If you were heading into the country to watch the Leonids, the Perseids and the Orionids, what would you be looking for? Nebulae; comets; meteors; constellations?

2. What’s the name of the hazy band of light that arcs across the clear night sky? Great Rift; Orion Nebula; Milky Way; ecliptic.

3. Which night sky phenomenon is caused by the collision of charged particles with the upper atmosphere? Moon Dogs; Aurora; Milky Way; corona.

4. What’s the largest artificial object in Earth’s orbit that can be seen with the naked eye? International Space Station; Hubble Telescope; Skylab; Soyuz.

5. A star’s lifespan is determined by its what? Galaxy; brightness; mass; distance.

6. Which of the following is the brightest object in absolute terms? Star; planet; comet; quasar.

7. If you were looking at the moon with binoculars, which of these lunar features could you see? Maria; mountains; craters; all of the above.

8. Albireo, Beta Cygni, is a lovely double star to look at in binoculars. What color are the two stars? Red and white; orange and yellow; yellow and white; blue and yellow.


1. Meteors. Meteor showers seem to originate from a point in the sky and are usually named for the nearest constellation. The largest showers are the Perseids, which peak in August, and the Leonids, which can be seen in November. 2. Milky Way. The Milky Way is the name of our galaxy. From our position on the rim of the galaxy, we see the light from the other stars as a general band of light approximately 30 degrees wide. 3. Aurora. The Aurora generally occurs in the high latitudes, usually within 20 degrees of the magnetic poles, but occasionally spreading into lower latitudes. 4. The International Space Station (ISS) is visible from approximately 95 percent of the Earth. It’s as bright as Venus at magnitude -4. The ISS takes approximately 10 minutes to transit the night sky, and many web sites and phone apps will help you locate the ISS at any time and location. 5. The bigger the mass, the shorter the life of the star. 6. Quasar. Quasars are located at the centers of many galaxies, especially those distant from Earth. A quasar is the active, radiating center of a galaxy, theorized to surround a massive black hole. 7. All of the above. The level of detail you can see on the moon in binoculars is quite amazing. Looking closely, you can always see the central peaks of the craters, the rays of ejecta from the fresh craters, and the relative weathering on the crater rims quite clearly. Get a map of the moon and see how many lunar features you can identify. 8. Blue and yellow. Alberio is the beak of Cygnus the swan. If you have a star chart, it’s easy enough to spot, and in binoculars you should be able to resolve the two stars: the brighter yellow and the fainter blue.