The planet Jupiter is always one of the brightest objects in the night sky. It’s brighter than any star, and is only outshone by the planet Venus and the Moon, and, very rarely, by Mars and Mercury. Jupiter reaches a position for optimum viewing in a telescope once every 13 months, roughly, and it makes its latest closest approach to Earth on November 3, 2023 at 5h Universal Time when the planet appears in southern Aries. A couple of months before and after this date, Jupiter is in perfect position for viewing with a small telescope, or even a pair of binoculars. You can’t miss it: the planet is by far the brightest object in the eastern sky as night gets underway in the northern hemisphere and nearly overhead in the southern hemisphere in October and November 2023. The visible face of Jupiter reveals so many interesting features in a small telescope that the planet is a favorite target for new and experienced stargazers [Read more…] about A Guide to Observing Jupiter in 2023Share This:
Solar System Observing
Articles about how to understand, find and see solar system objects including planets, the Moon, the Sun, asteroids, meteors, and comets with binoculars, telescopes, and the naked eye.
Many casual observers get hooked on amateur astronomy after a first look at Saturn through a telescope. More than a few have looked through my small refractor on a night of good seeing and asked of Saturn, “Is it real?”
Oh, it’s real, all right. And incredibly beautiful… the color, the proportions, the apparent 3D perspective of this grand icy world. It is arguably the finest sight accessible with a small telescope. The planet reaches opposition on August 27, 2023 and will remain bright and large in a telescope over the next few months. Here’s how to find it and see it in a small telescope.
Mars approaches a grazing lunar occultation on September 5, 2020. Image courtesy of Delberson Tiago de Souza at Astrobin under the Creative Commons License.
Set a reminder – and hope for clear sky – on the night of December 7-8 as a remarkable event takes place – a full December ‘Cold Moon’ passing in front of Mars just two hours before the planet reaches opposition. The event is visible through parts of western Europe, Canada, and the U.S. except for the eastern seaboard, the southeast, and Alaska. You can see the event without optics, with binoculars, or the telescope of your choice. It will be an astronomical event to remember [Read more…] about The Full Moon Occults Mars at OppositionShare This:
The planet Mars is one of the most interesting planets to observe with a small telescope, but also one of the most difficult. The planet only gets close enough to Earth to give up much detail just once every 780 days (about two years and two months), and when it does make an apparition, it still appears relatively small compared to Jupiter or Saturn. But observing Mars is worth the effort. It’s the only planet to reveal an appreciable amount of surface detail in a small telescope, and it also features occasional surprises such as dust storms and local fogs and cloud banks.
Seeing Mars takes a little practice, however, as well as the right tools for the job. This guide will help you understand what you can see on the surface of Mars, especially during the time before and after the opposition of December 8, 2022. And it will help you get the best view of this remarkable world with a telescope and a few essential accessories [Read more…] about Guide to Observing Mars in 2022Share This:
The waning Moon on October 12, 2022 just three days past the full “Hunter’s Moon”. The fall colors linger as the trees slowly shut down their chlorophyll production, revealing the orange and yellow carotenes in their aging leaves. At the next full “Beaver Moon” on November 8, these trees will very likely find themselves covered with snow. This image was captured on Kodak Ektar 100 film with an old Nikon FE camera and Nikon Series E 75-150mm zoom lens, both circa 1980. There’s no school like the old school.
Autumn wind clear
Autumn moon bright,
Fallen leaves gather in piles then scatter,
And crows settling in, cold, startle away.
Will we ever see, ever even think of each other again?
This night, this moment: impossible to feel it all.
Poem by Li Po (c. 701-762 A.D.), translation by David Hinton