Happy New Year! 2018 begins with a busy month of stargazing. January brings several bright planets back to the sky, especially in the pre-dawn hours. There are two full Moons this month, the second of which is completely eclipsed for a short time for observers over half the planet. And telescopic observers get to see three separate double-shadow transits across the face of Jupiter. Here’s what to see in the night sky this month… [Read more…] about The Sky This Month – January 2018Share This:
Happenings in the night sky and information about astronomical events.
For better or worse, the year 2017 finally comes down to its last month. Our planet, to be sure, has had better years. But the heavens, as always, offer respite.
This month has many beautiful sights and events for attentive sky watchers. The Moon acts as your guide in December to the planets and bright stars along the ecliptic, especially the brightening planets Mars and Jupiter in the pre-dawn sky. Saturn finally disappears westward into the Sun for the year after a fine apparition in 2017, while Venus disappears eastward into the Sun’s glare by mid-month. There are two fine meteors showers in December. And the seasons change once again as winter begins in the northern hemisphere and summer begins in the south. Here’s what to see in the sky this month… [Read more…] about The Sky This Month – December 2017Share This:
November has fallen fast upon us. That’s good news for southern-hemisphere stargazers who now enjoy warmer nights. But it’s also good for northern stargazers who enjoy earlier sunsets and longer stargazing sessions. For deep-sky observers, there are plenty of open star clusters in Cassiopeia and Perseus, and lots of galaxies in Pegasus, Sculptor, and elsewhere. There are congregations of bright planets in the morning sky, and a few planetary stragglers in the evening sky as well. Not to mention two overlapping meteor showers that offer a chance for you to see a few bright, slow-moving fireballs, and two occultations by the Moon of first-magnitude stars. Here’s what to see in the night sky this month…
[Read more…] about The Sky This Month – November 2017
If the weather holds, October is a lovely month for stargazing. The Milky Way still lingers in the west along with stars that were prominent in the northern summer. The autumn stars dominate overhead, and the northern winter stars are starting to poke above the eastern horizon. Best of all, you can get in a good night of stargazing without staying up too late. Early this month, there’s a wonderful pairing of planets in the eastern sky before sunrise, two meteor showers, a dramatic occultation of a bright star, another chance to see the ‘False Dawn, and your best chance of the year to see an ‘ice giant’ in the the outer solar system. Here’s what to see in the night sky this month…
[Read more…] about The Sky This Month – October 2017
The month of September affords stargazers a last chance to see the Milky Way and all its attendant splendors. The rich constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius are setting for the year, moving a little westward each night, but the lengthening nights keep these stars accessible for a little longer, at least for observers in the northern hemisphere. Southern observers still enjoy the thickest part of the Milky Way almost overhead. In the east, the relatively star-poor constellations of Pegasus, Capricornus, and Piscis Austrinus are moving into view. Observers with very dark sky get the chance this month to see the zodiacal light, a faint wedge of white sunlight reflected from fine dust in the inner solar system. Also this month, low in the southwestern sky at sunset, Jupiter slowly fades from view while Saturn still hangs on, its rings casting dramatic shadows on the disk of the planet. Mercury makes its best showing of the year in the eastern sky before dawn. And the Sun crosses the celestial equator heading south, marking a change of seasons. Here’s what to see in the night sky this month…
4 Sept. Neptune reaches opposition today. This blue-green ice giant, the most distance major planet from the Sun in our solar system, shines at magnitude 7.8 and spans an apparent diameter of 2.4″. Its tiny disk is visible in the constellation Aquarius less than 1º east-southeast of the orange 4th magnitude star Hydor (λ Aquarii). While the planet is plenty bright enough to see with a telescope, or even binoculars, resolving its disk requires some magnification, at least 75x to 100x. The planet’s disk gets larger with more magnification while the images of the stars do not. Visually, the planet has a very pale blue-green color [Read more…] about The Sky This Month – September 2017Share This: