Have you ever heard of a star named after one of the planets? Well there actually is one! And it, along with its namesake, is currently visible in the evening sky after sunset. Both objects are unmistakably bright and will jump out at you facing south as the twilight fades.
Skywatchers this month have an ideal opportunity to see the two brightest of all the stars of the northern heavens at the same time. Not only are they brilliant and unmistakable—but they also display a truly striking color contrast between them sure to surprise anyone who thinks that stars are all just plain white!
Ask someone to name the best-known planets and invariably Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be the response. Indeed, the last two are the biggest such bodies in our solar system, while Mars—despite its diminutive size—is perhaps the most famous of all such worlds due to its long association with life elsewhere in the public mind. May evenings offer an opportunity to see all three at once. Continue reading
Mark your calendar for April 15th and set your alarm clock to get you up just before 2:00 a.m. that morning. A spectacular lunar eclipse will occur beginning then and be widely visible from all of North America. (It’s actually the first of two such events this year, the second one happening in October, so you’ll have another chance to experience an eclipse should this one happen to be clouded out!)
Due to its great brilliancy and richness, the great French astronomy popularizer Camille Flammarion was fond of calling the winter constellation Orion the "California of the Sky." Aside from the Big Dipper itself, perhaps no other star grouping in the entire heavens is as well known. And it’s at its glorious best on February evenings.
As the brightest of the 88 constellations in the sky, Orion is unmistakable. Simply going outside on a clear winter’s night and looking up, your gaze is immediately riveted on its display of colorful bright stars. The first thing you’ll notice are its two brightest luminaries, Betelgeuse and Rigel. If you think stars don’t have color, think again! The former is a red giant super sun and glows a distinct deep orange in hue. The latter is a blue giant and sparkles like a brilliant celestial diamond.
Nothing gets the attention of a stargazer like hearing the word "telescope" mentioned. This wonderful device makes it possible to journey through space and time without ever leaving home. And as several of the astronauts themselves have said, looking through one is the next best thing to actually being out there! But where did it come from?
UPDATE: Comet ISON, a "shining green candle in the solar wind," is no longer with us, NASA declared Monday morning December 3 in a tribute to what many hoped would be "the comet of the century."
We continue our coverage from last month’s installment of what’s being heralded as the "Comet of the Century." Here’s what you can hopefully expect to see during this month: