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 …

01Sep2009

Sky Talk September 2009: Telescope “Power”

Whenever the word “telescope” is mentioned to most people, it invariably and immediately elicits the question “How powerful is it?” But, in fact, there are really three different kinds of “power” involved and the one typically referred to — magnification — is actually the least important of the three! The primary reason astronomers continue to …

01Aug2009

Sky Talk August 2009: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

Eclipses of the Moon have been featured in past installments of this column — but never one involving a penumbral eclipse due to the difficulty of viewing them. For those who enjoy challenges, this month offers observers an opportunity at a convenient time of evening to test their skills at seeing one of these events. …

01Jul2009

Sky Talk July 2009: Phenomena of Jupiter’s Satellites

Everyone has heard of a “three-ring circus” but over the next several months a “four-ring” one will be performing nightly overhead when skies are clear. It’s the fascinating phenomena resulting from the ever-changing positions of Jupiter’s retinue of four bright Galilean satellites (those discovered by Galileo with his primitive telescope 400 years ago in 1609). …