It seems that if we’re tea drinkers then Sagittarius, the Archer is our man. Or rather, our constellation. Eight of Sagittarius’ brightest stars form a figure widely recognized by those who peer at the night sky as a teapot, with its handle to the left and its spout right, spewing steam in the form of Milky Way star clouds. How cool is that? (No tea cosy though, as far as I can see.)
The image is by New Zealand astrophotographer Christopher Picking.
Although we’re in the midst of the Sagittarius zodiacal sign (November 22 and December 21), as it happens it’s not the best time to observe the constellation nor the teapot.
Martin J. Powell explains: Sagittarius is best observed during the Northern hemisphere summer months (winter in the Southern hemisphere) because during this time the constellation is visible throughout the night and is seen in darkness when it is highest in the sky. Southern hemisphere observers have the best view of Sagittarius, since it crosses almost directly overhead in the sky. In general, the Northern hemisphere has a less favorable view – the visibility of the constellation being worse the further North one is situated. Indeed, the Southern section of the constellation cannot be seen at all from high Northern latitudes. Sagittarius is not visible all year round because, from the vantage point of the Earth in its orbit, the Sun is seen to pass through the constellation during the Northern hemisphere midwinter period (equivalent to the midsummer period in the Southern hemisphere).
So, fellow northerners, let’s make a late night, mid-summer date to sip tea and admire the heavens, shall we?