Category: Sky Talk

Understanding the Winter Solstice

Of the four seasonal markers, this one seems to be the least understood (and for many the least welcomed with winter now ahead of us!). Contributing to this is a widely believed fact that not only is counter-intuitive—but is actually wrong!


A Rare Nearly Total Lunar Eclipse

An eclipse of the Moon is either total in which case our satellite is completely immersed in the Earth’s dark inner shadow (the umbra)—or it is partial meaning that only part of the Moon is covered. But this month, we have a very unusual situation involving a judgement-call between these two events!


The Radiant Evening “Star”

Although the ancient skywatchers knew the difference between stars (which are fixed relative to each other) and planets (which wander around the sky), they dubbed the planet Venus the “Evening Star” when seen after sunset (and the “Morning Star” seen before sunrise). As the third brightest object in the heavens after the Sun and Moon, it’s easy to see why they would.


The Lovely Harvest Moon

Harvest Time. These words have an almost magical ring to them for many of us. The Summer heat is giving way to cooler temperatures and with them clearer daytime and nighttime skies with Fall soon upon us. (The Autumnal Equinox actually happens on September 22nd.) And farmer’s markets are overflowing with an amazing variety of fruits and vegetables. Combine this with a big beautiful Full Moon, and the feeling that life is good is inescapable.


Two Oppositions & Major Meteor Shower

Wow! A major annual meteor shower sandwiched between the oppositions of two major planets. If you enjoy skywatching, this is definitely the month to get outside on August evenings. And a telescope isn’t needed—just a clear night (and a lawn chair for the meteor shower).


Moon Day!

Well, it’s July and time to commemorate again one of the most significant events in all of human history. Actually, many including some historians consider it to be the most significant event. We’re referring, of course, to the famed Apollo 11 Moon landing on July 20th, 1969, when people left their home on Planet Earth and journeyed to another world in space.


A Sunrise Partial Annular Solar Eclipse For The Northeast

In last month’s installment the Western part of the country was favored with a total lunar eclipse. This month the Northeast gets its turn—this time for a solar eclipse. As was the case in May, this will also largely be a “horizon-hugging” event requiring an unobstructed one to be seen to advantage. Despite the challenge, this will be well worth making the effort to observe.


Moonset Total Lunar Eclipse For The West

This month the western part of the country gets to see an eclipse of the Moon—and next month the northeast will glimpse an eclipse of the Sun. (see the June Sky Talk). This will largely be a “horizon-hugging” event, with the most dramatic views being along the coast.


How Big Is The Moon?

A simple question, right? But it depends on whether you mean how large in actual physical size our satellite is—or how large does it appear in the sky. The answer to one is straight forward, but that to the other is both complex and surprising.


Dual Elongations of Both Inner Planets!

An “elongation” is the term used to describe the position of the inner planets Mercury and Venus with respect to the Sun in the sky. It can be a Greatest Eastern Elongation in which the planet appears at its greatest distance east of the setting Sun in the evening—or a Greatest Western Elongation where the planet is at its greatest distance west of the Sun in the morning sky.