Light patch in the night sky

  • I am so sorry for being ambiguous. I'm not an astronomer and have have never actually even bothered to look at the sky before. I don't have a telescope nor camera.

    Yet, I'm really really curious about what it is I saw in the sky tonight.

    Towards, the east I first noticed a "constellation" the looked much like what is described to be the big dipper (It is possible that it could have been Andromeda and Pegasus). It was squarish and had somewhat of a ladle towards it's north eastern corner. The most distinguishable feature of the structure was that it had 3 stars in a straight line. It was the straightest line in the entire night sky.

    About a hand's length to the west was another "constellation", my guts said it's name was Orion. Again, I have never seen, let alone distinguished, a constellation properly in my life. It was like a triangle with it's nose pointing towards the east. The sides that converged to the nose seemed to extend a bit backwards like antennas.

    And to the west (a few inches north to the Orion was this strange glow.
    At first I thought it was my eyes playing tricks on me as sometimes whenever you stare into light bulb or some other light source, a faint glow in that area of your vision often persists. And as I looked directly at it, it slowly faded away into darkness and all that was distinguishable was an extremely tiny star or two. But whenever I looked to something near it (like a tree or constellation) , the patch reappeared. Then, I noticed that there was cluster of tiny little stars. I couldn't make out much. What caused that light patch? It seemed to glow in and out like it was breathing. I am sure that my eyes weren't playing tricks on me because even as I turned around and tilted my head and jumped up and down in the process, the patch remained in the same spot in the sky.

    The location which I observed this is from Ernakulam, Kerala, India. The nearest current sky map I could find is the following from Chennai (which is really far away):enter image description here

    I can't make head or tail of it. Please help and no I'm not crazy. I know it sounds like one of those crazy UFO stories but I assure you it's not.

    Is there anything like what I've said observed in the night sky before?

    Please note that using "left" and "right" is ambiguous when describing features of the night's sky, you might be oriented towards any direction. Could you please edit, you'll see them much brighter. ;)

    @TidalWave I think he used the averted vision technique and not knowing it's effect is what caused him surprise and confusion, notice this excerpt: _"And as I looked directly at it, it slowly faded away into darkness and all that was distinguishable was an extremely tiny star or two. But whenever I looked to something near it, the patch reappeared."_

    @Tidal: You'll have to give me time. I have no compass (magnet, needle or puddle of water) as well. So, I'll have to wait until morning to see from which direction the sun rises to accurately tell it in terms of directions. Thank you for your support and I admire that none of you were harsh to me.

    Ouch, it's "Tildal" (as in ~) not "Tidal", so I didn't get the notification. Anyway, @EduardoSerra I agree that this question might be more about discovery of one's own body than anything special on the night's sky, but I wanted to point to that thread because there's two answers explaining it from that perspective. That the question is asking about Pleiades likely isn't a coincidence either. I did hear similar questions quite often, and it nearly always boils down to observers not realizing their own biological limitations. I.e. eyes playing tricks with the mind.

    @TildalWave Of course, I agree with you and I think your link was a good addition to the answer.

    @Tildal: Actually, I'd like to bring something to your attention. This isn't a duplicate as I asked what that light patch is. I got my answer that it was Pleiades. I did not specifically ask why it disappeared. Although it is a good related question, my question is not a duplicate of it.

  • Cheeku

    Cheeku Correct answer

    8 years ago

    Given the description, that light patch was probably Pleiades.

    enter image description here

    It is a star cluster in the constellation of Taurus which is inspired from a popular Greek mythology of Seven Sisters. You can read more about it here.

    EDIT: One of the great softwares, free and open source, for amateur level observational astronomy, though professionals use it as frequently is Stellarium. It's easy to use and should clear all your doubts.

    After looking at that map several times I think that what I thought to be the big dipper was probably andromeda. Am I right?

    Andromeda and Pegasus. You described them as they were one. You interpreted them as one. Indeed, they are joint(as seen in map) but still two different constellations.

    Is Pleiades near to Procyon and Jupiter?

    Pleiades is East of Orion, and Procyon and Jupiter, west of Orion. See Edit!

    @Chheku: :D I understand, it can be quite bothersome when someone runs up to you and asks trivial things. I'm downloading the software now.

    It's not troublesome. Everybody has a start. :) But it is my duty to ensure that it does not continue. :P

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM