A little periodic comet is visiting the inner solar system over the next few months. Comet 45/P Honda–Mrkos–Pajdušáková, a tiny piece of ice and dust left over from the earliest days of the solar system, moves periodically around the Sun every 5.25 years. It made its closest approach to the Sun on December 31, 2016 and it’s visible now. As it passes close to Earth in February, it will brighten and appear to move quickly across the sky from day to day. You’ll need binoculars to see it, but it’s worth following this little leftover hunk of the early solar system [Read more…] about A Guide to Observing Comet 45/P Honda–Mrkos–PajdušákováShare 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.
The waning of the first day of 2017 sees the slender crescent Moon, rounded out by Earthshine, and the brilliant planet Venus in the western sky after sunset. Venus puts on quite a show this month as it reaches greatest eastern elongation on January 12 and lies some 47° east of the Sun. The planet then grows in brightness to magnitude -4.7 by month’s end. That’s as bright as the planet ever gets, bright enough to cast shadows on a dark night.Share This:
The planet Venus is the third brightest object in our skies after the Sun and the Moon. Known since the first humans turned their gaze to the sky, the striking appearance of Venus compelled the ancient Greeks and Romans to name the planet after the goddess of love and beauty. Other cultures, including the Sumerians and the Pawnee in North America also linked this brilliant planet to objects of feminine beauty. The ancient Mayans had a particular interest in Venus and built an observatory at Chichen Itza to, among other things, precisely measure the position of the planet, and some aspects of the Mayan calendar are based on the motions of Venus. While Venus reveals little detail in a telescope, it grows and shrinks and goes through a series of phases similar to the Moon, and comes closer to Earth than any other planet. Here’s a little background on the planet Venus and a few tips to help you see the planet for yourself and understand its apparitions and motion in our skies [Read more…] about A Brief Guide to Observing the Planet VenusShare This:
The Perseid meteor shower, the most reliably active meteor shower of the year, peaks on the night of August 11-12, 2016. A summer favorite of northern stargazers, yet still visible in part in the southern hemisphere, this meteor shower sprays some 50-60 per hour, on average, across the sky. This year the waxing gibbous Moon obscures the view of meteors before midnight, but it sets shortly thereafter and leaves a dark sky during the predicted peak of the shower. And some astronomers are predicting the gravitational influence of Jupiter will make for many more Perseid meteors in 2016 than usual, perhaps as many as 100-200 per hour [Read more…] about A Boost for the Perseid Meteor Shower in 2016?Share This:
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 June 3, 2016 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.