01Jul2010

Sky Talk July 2010: Reliving Telescope History

With all the telescopes of superb optical quality in widespread use by stargazers today, few have ever had the opportunity of going back in time to when this magical instrument first appeared and experience firsthand the enormous quantum leap that’s been made in its performance. But thanks to a unique product offered through Edmund Scientifics …

01Jun2010

Sky Talk June 2010: Mars & Venus on the Move!

Even casual skywatchers are aware that planets slowly wander about the sky, being visible at differing times during the night and throughout the year. But occasionally they pass very close to bright stars, and at such times their orbital motion becomes strikingly obvious over a period of just days and even hours! Or they may …

01May2010

Sky Talk May 2010: Moon-Gazing

Every month skywatchers are given the opportunity of exploring an alien world so obvious that it’s the second brightest object in the sky after the Sun. We’re referring, of course, to the Moon! And while much can be seen and enjoyed with the unaided eye alone (ranging from its ever- changing phases to lunar eclipses), …

01Apr2010

Sky Talk April 2010: Saturn’s Rings Reappear

Last year, the sky’s most spectacular planet and one of astronomy’s greatest icons — magnificent Saturn — “lost” its rings as seen in most telescopes. (See the March installment of Sky Talk.) And what bad timing, for 2009 was the International Year of Astronomy when millions of people around the world got their first look …

01Mar2010

Sky Talk March 2010: Time Traveling Across the Sky

Stargazers are often referred to as “time-travelers.” This is because the more distant a celestial object the longer it takes for its light to reach us — ranging from minutes and hours in the case of viewing members of our Solar System to millions and even billions of years when it comes to looking at …

01Feb2010

Sky Talk February 2010: A Winter Campfire in the Sky

The vision of family and friends sitting around a campfire on a cold winter’s night with the stars brightly shining overhead conjures up fond memories for many who enjoy the outdoors at this time of year. Whether or not you’ve personally experienced this, the sky itself currently offers a celestial version of this charming scene …

01Jan2010

Sky Talk January 2010: A Celestial Kaleidoscope

The sky abounds with analogies to things terrestrial. (After all, the starry heavens were the story and history books of the ancients.) In next month’s installment of this column, we’ll be exploring a celestial campfire. Here we discuss a most colorful and fascinating device with which we’re all familiar — the kaleidoscope. But this one …

01Dec2009

Sky Talk December 2009: The Geminid Meteor Shower

December brings skywatchers one of the year’s richest and most dependable displays of “shooting stars” — the Geminids. They’re named for the constellation from which they appear to radiate or “shoot” across the sky. But unlike most other meteor displays whose host constellations typically don’t rise until the hours after midnight, this one is already …

01Nov2009

Sky Talk November 2009: The Unpredictably Amazing Leonids

November and December feature two dramatically different annual displays of “shooting stars” — one always reliably intense and spectacular (see next month’s installment) and the other totally unpredictable and erratic in behavior. The latter is the Leonid Meteor Shower, famed for its amazing outbursts or “storms” in the past. Both displays happen under ideal conditions …

01Oct2009

Sky Talk October 2009: The Great Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda

Nothing gets the blood of a stargazer pumping like hearing the words “spiral galaxy.” This enduring icon of astronomy is deeply rooted within us, partly because we live in one ourselves — the magnificent Milky Way Galaxy! (See past Sky Talk installments.) But there is one galaxy that stands out among all the other billions …