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:
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:
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.
One of the five bright planets visible to the unaided eye, Mars has perplexed and tantalized stargazers since antiquity. Its ochre hue, a consequence of iron-oxide in its surface sands, prompted classical astronomers to name the planet after the Roman god of war, and its dark and changing surface markings inspired early telescopic astronomers to speculate about the presence of life on the planet. The coming weeks offer you the best chance in the next two years to see Mars with a small telescope, so here’s a guide to help you get a good view of the Red Planet in 2016 [Read more…] about The 2016 Mars Observing GuideShare This:
The progress of science sometimes comes down to an unlikely partnership, a combination of the right people studying the right problem at the right time. In the pantheon of unlikely partners, few can top the team of Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe, two men of polar-opposite personalities who finally cracked the secret of the motion of the planets. Here is their story [Read more…] about Johannes Kepler: Mathematician, Mystic… Murderer?Share This: