Category: Sky Talk
01Jun2020

Have You Ever Seen Mercury?

If your answer is “no” then this month offers an excellent opportunity to see this elusive little world. Sadly, legend has deterred many from looking for it—including a number of seasoned amateur astronomers.

01May2020

Guidepost to Spring Constellations

The mild evenings of May are an ideal time to see the most famous of all star patterns—the Big Dipper. (Many think of it as a constellation but it’s actually an “asterism,” being a distinctive part of Ursae Major, the Big Bear of the heavens.) And it can be used as your personal guide through the starry spring sky.

01Apr2020

The Little Lyrids

It seems that most of the prominent annual meteor showers happen in late summer through the end of the year. Thus we’ve never previewed any events here from winter into spring. So meteor enthusiasts won’t feel deprived, this month we provide details on a well-known but seldom observed meager display worth watching.

01Mar2020

Radiant Venus!

If you have noticed a bright object in the western sky after sunset over the past couple of months, that’s our beautiful “Sister Planet” Venus. It’s the third brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon. And this month it is extra luminous, as it climbs up higher some 46 degrees east of our Daytime Star (at its “greatest eastern elongation” in astronomical terms).

03Feb2020

Super Moons & Blue Moons

There appears to be quite a bit of fascination by the general public with the types of Moons mentioned in our title. So it seems appropriate to examine what “super” and “blue” actually mean in describing our lovely “Queen of the Night.” And it’s not quite what is implied in either of these cases!

03Jan2020

Minor Meteor Showers

We have often featured the major annual displays of “shooting stars” in these columns, such as the Perseids of August and the Geminids of December. But there are several minor displays throughout the year that are also worth watching. This month’s Quadrantid Meteor Shower is one example. And we will also touch on the most famous of all “minor” showers as well.

02Dec2019

“Wandering Stars”

Early skywatchers saw five bright objects slowly moving among the fixed stars.  These five were Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  They called them “planets” from the Greek for “wandering stars.”  And to see this wandering for yourself, we focus on three of them this month in the early evening sky. About 45 minutes after …

28Oct2019

Mercury Transits The Sun!

A wonderful daytime celestial spectacle will occur on the morning of November 11th. when the planet Mercury will cross the face of the Sun—an event that can be seen with properly filtered binoculars and small telescopes (and possibly without them by keen-eyed observers as well).   Transits of Mercury are infrequent events, so this month’s show …

26Sep2019

SkyTalk October | Fall Astronomy Day

This biannual event happens on Saturday, October 5th, this year. That date has special significance this time around since it occurs just one day after the historic date of the beginning of the Space Age on October 4th, 1957, with the launching of Sputnik.  So there’s sure to be more fun and excitement than usual. …

26Aug2019

SkyTalk September | So Far Yet To Go

Two basic astronomy questions were recently asked in a survey taken of the graduating class of a prestigious New England university.  One was: “What causes the seasons?”  The other: “What causes the phases of the Moon?” Astonishingly, 86% did not know the answer to either one! Although introductory astronomy courses are offered at most colleges …