Twilight Lunar & Planetary Parade

Mark the three evenings of September 7th, 8th and 9th on your calendar to watch a fascinating interplay of the crescent Moon and two bright planets in the southwestern sky after sunset. And later in the month, another planet joins the parade. All of this will provide yet another example of the fact that the cosmic drama unfolding nightly overhead is alive with exciting action.
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The Sky’s Finest Galaxy!

The word "galaxy" is entrenched in the popular mind—everyone’s heard of these remote star cities, but with the exception of stargazers few have ever seen one. Or so they think. One of them has been readily visible to anyone who’s ever looked up at the summer sky on a dark clear night. It’s none other than our home galaxy, the Milky Way! And the best time of the year to see and experience it is late August into September.
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Observing Sunspots

SunspotsIf you’ve ever wanted to see sunspots, now’s the time! Our "Daytime Star" is at its long anticipated sunspot maximum this year, with its visible surface peppered much of the time with dark spots of various sizes. Watching them develop and move across the face of the Sun from day-to-day as it slowly rotates is a fascinating activity. But extreme caution is required in doing so due to the overwhelming solar radiance.
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Star-Testing Your Telescope

Many sophisticated methods of evaluating the optical quality of a telescope have been developed over the years. But there’s one very simple, convenient, and sensitive test that’s easy to perform any clear night. Known as the extrafocal image test, it uses an actual star as the test source.
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Three Plus One = Four Planets At Dusk!

A dramatic trio of planets play tag with each other after sunset low in the west-northwestern sky during the last week of this month–along with a lone lovely planet in the southeastern one all month long. Here’s an opportunity to see the two innermost and fastest-moving planets bunched together with the largest of all such worlds, and across the evening sky the most beautiful planet in the entire heavens.
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Monster Telescopes!

For decades after its dedication in 1948, the famed 200-inch Hale reflecting telescope at Palomar inCaliforniareigned supreme as the world’s largest telescope. (Russiahad built a somewhat bigger one but it never performed as hoped.)  Then came the twin 400-inch scopes at the Keck Observatory inHawaii, twice as big as Hale. But now, two instruments are in the works that will absolutely dwarf all those that have come before them!

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Comet PanSTARRS Alert!

Skimming along the western horizon some 30 to 45 minutes after sunset in March, a bright new comet will be making its appearance in our evening sky.  Predicted to be easily visible even to the unaided eye—and sprouting a noticeable tale pointing northward— it promises to be quite a spectacular sight in binoculars and wide-field telescopes.

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Jupiter Rules the Night

Appropriately for the king of the planets, giant Jupiter dominates the night sky beginning this month (and well into the spring as well).  And as January opens, it gets off with a bang sky-wise with a meteor shower.  Throw in the bright winter constellations like Orion now in full view and you have a wonderful way to spend a clear cold evening!

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This Year’s Best Meteor Shower!

The 2012 Geminid Meteor Shower promises to be the most spectacular of all this year’s major annual displays of “shooting stars.” Be sure to mark Thursday evening into early Friday morning, December 13th to 14th, on your calendar and plan to head outdoors if skies are clear.  The total absence of the Moon and an early evening start to the event combine to make ideal conditions for meteor watching this month.

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