Mars Arrives At Opposition!

In October the planet Mars makes another of its once every 26 month visits to the Earth and blazes like a ruddy-orange beacon above the eastern horizon after sunset. Normally the most disappointing of the five bright naked-eye planets (see below), it now takes center stage and dominates the night sky!


The Neglected Full Moon

There is nothing so lovely as seeing a big bright full-Moon rising over the eastern horizon. But when our satellite is around its full phase it is the bane of serious stargazers (who are often called “Moon dodgers”!). Although moonlight doesn’t interfere with the planets and brightest stars, it brightens the sky enough to mask fainter wonders like star clusters, nebulae and galaxies.


It’s Meteor Time Again!

For many skywatchers, this is “meteor month” — so named after the famed Perseid Meteor Shower that peaks each year during the second week of August. And while not normally the richest of these annual celestial fireworks displays, it’s certainly the best-known and among the most reliable of them all. The only uncertainty involved in viewing such events (aside, of course, from clear skies!) is if the presence of a bright Moon will offer interference. This time, the answer is “yes, it will” or “no, it won’t”—depending on what time of the night you go looking.


A Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

Everyone loves viewing a total eclipse of the Moon. But have you ever seen a “penumbral” eclipse of the Moon? If not, this month presents an ideal opportunity for witnessing one.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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!


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.