view counter

Regulars (Sky Watch by J. Alex Knoll)

No goody bag needed

As the sun sets Friday, see if you can spot Mercury dangling low against the southwest horizon before it too sets within a half-hour. While fleeting, this is Mercury’s best evening apparition. At this point, Mercury is at its greatest eastern elongation, meaning that, as seen from Earth, the innermost planet is its farthest to the east of the sun, in this case 24 degrees....

You won’t have to wait 50 years to see the spawn of this comet

It’s been 26 years since Halley’s comet visited back in 1986, and it won’t come this way again until 2062. But each year at this time we get a postcard of sorts from Halley in the form of the Orionid meteor shower, which peaks in the pre-dawn hours Saturday and Sunday.
...

A thin crescent straddles either edge of darkness

The moon wanes in pre-dawn skies  through the weekend. Friday and Saturday the last of the crescent moon hovers just a few degrees below brilliant Venus. Even without the moon, you should have no trouble finding this morning star, as it is the brightest light in the sky besides the sun and moon....

October’s Draconids are typically sleepers, but every now and then …

Sunset reveals Mars low in the southwest. Its ruddy glow is usually quite distinct, but it is only a dozen degrees from its rival, orange Antares, blinking to its upper left. You’ll have a harder time spotting Saturn, so low in the west that it’s almost lost in the glare of the setting sun.
...

The Harvest Moon marks Uranus

Saturday’s full moon, the closest to autumnal equinox, marks the famous Harvest Moon. Legend holds that farmers have long used the added light of this moon to continue bringing in the crops well into the night. Science backs up the legend.
...

The equinox marks the start of autumn, but it isn’t quite 50/50 day and night

The moon waxes in the evening sky this week, with first-quarter occurring on the 22nd. That day has been dubbed
...

The Milky Way is waiting overhead

The moon wanes to new phase Saturday the 15th. While you may be able to see a razor-thin cresecent low in the east before sunrise Friday, the moon won’t reappear until Tuesday, low in the west for less than an hour after sunset. But given the chance, you’ll want to catch it, forming a wide obtuse triangle with Saturn slightly higher to the right and Mars higher still to the left....

This week’s moon visits two star clusters a billion years apart

Before dawn Friday morning, the moon appears just a few degrees ahead of the orange star Aldebaran, the fiery eye of Taurus the bull. To either side of the moon, you’ll find the two brightest star clusters. To the east is the Y-shaped Hyades cluster, or the face of the bull. To the moon’s west is the Pleiades cluster, or the seven sisters, which marks the bull’s shoulder.
...

Not as rare — or as old — as you might think

Friday morning marks August’s second full moon, a blue moon. While the term blue moon dates back hundreds of years, its meaning of the second full moon in a single month was crafted in the 20th century. Its early usage you might hear in the phrase I’ll believe that when the moon is blue.
...

Can you track down Neptune?

Thursday and Friday offer the best chance to track down the only planet never visible to the unaided eye: Neptune, the most distant planet in the solar system since Pluto’s demotion to planetoid status several years ago.
...