view counter

Regulars (Sky Watch by J. Alex Knoll)

Follow the waxing moon and test your eyesight

The waxing gibbous moon brightens the night sky this week, appearing high in the southeast Thursday at sunset a little after 5:00. The next evening, and each following night, sunset finds the moon roughly a dozen degrees to the east.

...

Even at their best, we can never see the full face of Mercury or Venus

While winter has just begun, we’re already in the process of reclaiming daylight, and Saturday marks a milestone when the sun sets at 5:00. Over the next month, the sun sets roughly one minute later each day. That same Saturday, daybreak arrives at 7:25, but alas, through January, it will come just a few minutes earlier each week. 

...

While Old Sol is seven percent stronger this week, it’s unlikely you’ll need to break out the sunscreen

While we commonly mark the first week of January as the commencement of the new year, it also marks two significant milestones in the passage of the earth’s journey around the sun.

...

The Great Winter Circle beckons you to come outdoors

With solstice behind us, we’re in the full throes of winter. Long nights with little or no humidity make for great star-watching, even as the cold saps the desire to stay outside. As if to further lure us into the conundrum, winter skies are alight with some of the brightest stars in the heavens, contained within the Great Winter Circle and all neatly gathered in a ring surrounding the familiar figure of Orion.

...

Gifts to bring the heavens into focus

While the day of commercial space flight has yet to dawn, a few choice astronomy-related gifts are enough to open up the heavens for anyone on your gift list. Who knows? You could be giving someone the start of a lifelong hobby or even a career.

...

December’s sky offers rewards for those willing to brave the elements

The sun sets this week a little before 4:45, and as the sky darkens, Jupiter appears high in the south-southeast. Aside from the moon at this time, Jupiter is one of the brightest objects in the heavens until setting due west at midnight. The planet stands out all the more amid the dim water constellations Aquarius, Capricornus, Pisces and Pisces Austrinus, which holds the nearest bright star, Fomalhaut. On Monday, look for Jupiter less than seven degrees below the first-quarter moon.

...

It’s not for lack of light that we cannot see the new moon

 

The moon wanes thru week’s end, until Sunday, December 5, when the new moon passes directly between the sun and the earth, disappearing from view.

...

See if you can spot the five naked-eye planets

Sunset reveals Jupiter high in the south, shining far brighter than any other object. The king of planets is truly massive — more than twice as large as all the other planets combined. That’s a lot of reflective surface, which makes up for its distance from the sun. While more than three times as far from the sun as its inner neighbor Mars, Jupiter is second in brightness only to Venus....

The brightest stars of two seasons outshine the full moon’s glare

Sunday’s full moon shines amid the stars of Taurus the bull. Ten degrees east of the moon you’ll find the red-giant Aldebaran. Half that distance to the moon’s west look for a small, fuzzy patch of light. So close to the moon’s glare, you may need binoculars to discern the stars of the Pleiades cluster.

...

Jupiter and Venus bookend the edges of darkness

Darkness comes early, as we settle into Standard Time, with the sun setting around 4:55 at week’s end. We passed the mid-point of autumn early this month, and now we shed daylight fast in the march toward winter solstice. Every day until then, we shed almost a minute of sunlight each afternoon, and in the morning, when the sun rises around 6:45 at week’s end, we lose more than a minute each day.

...