At any particular time, a half-dozen or more comets are visible with a good-sized amateur telescope. But a bright comet is a once-in-a-decade event at best, and a Great Comet, one that grows bright enough to capture wide attention, is rarer still. Recently there have been two Great Comets visible to observers in the southern hemisphere, Comet McNaught in 2007 and Comet Lovejoy in 2011. But it’s been a long drought for stargazers in the northern hemisphere, where no spectacular comet has been seen since 1997 when the mighty Comet C/1995 O1, better known as Comet Hale-Bopp, barreled in from the outer solar system and put on one of the most watched celestial shows in modern history [Read more…] about A Look Back at Comet Hale-BoppShare 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 July 9, 2019 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.
The planet Mars is coy. It spends most of its time as a relatively inconspicuous star-like object, only moderately bright, drifting barely noticed though the sky, little seen, or sometimes hiding behind the Sun.
Once every two years it grows bolder. It decides to put on a show. But even then, it’s sneaky about it, gathering its glory in the late hours of the night, seen mainly by dedicated astronomers, those who know what to expect and where to look.
And then, at the apex of its splendor, it rises at sunset, blazing across the sky all night for a few brief weeks, revealing itself in a level of detail far beyond what it will normally display [Read more…] about Mars MeditationsShare 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 July 27, 2018, when Mars makes its closest approach to Earth since 2003. And it will help you get the best view of this remarkable world with a telescope and a few essential accessories [Read more…] about How to See Mars in 2018Share This:
Like many important theories in science, plate tectonics, the concept that the Earth’s surface is like a cracked eggshell with each piece floating on a convective mantle of molten rock, was once considered a crackpot idea. But sometimes crackpot ideas are right. Plate tectonics now underpins all of geology, much like the Big Bang Theory is the foundation of astronomy and astrophysics.
The theory of plate tectonics was deduced in the mid-20th century by a handful of scientists and cartographers who wondered why, for example, the eastern coast of South America complemented so precisely the shape of the western coast of Africa, and why fossils of long-extinct animals were found scattered on different continents separated by wide oceans, and why volcanoes and earthquakes are far more common in some locations than others, and why fossilized marine creatures are sometimes found at the tops of mountains. Before plate tectonics, these observations were a mystery. After plate tectonics, they all started to make sense. [Read more…] about Find Your Address on Earth, 700 Million Years AgoShare This: