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). …

01Jun2009

Sky Talk June 2009: The 13th Sign of the Zodiac

The controversy between astronomers and astrologers over the validity of astrology has raged for centuries, the latter claiming it’s factual and the former that’s its pure pseudo-science with no basis in fact. There’s fault on both sides for this situation, with astronomers typically not having the time or patience to explain their position to astrologers …

01May2009

Sky Talk May 2009: The Amazing Rotating Star-Wheel

The Scientifics Star and Planet Locator (often referred to as the “rotating star-wheel” since it consists of a round star chart contained within a square housing) is one of the simplest, least expensive, and yet most useful devices ever offered beginning stargazers. It’s a compass, calendar, clock, celestial roadmap, sky previewer and planet finder all …

01Apr2009

Sky Talk April 2009: Meeting of the Crescent Worlds

On the morning of April 22nd, the crescent Moon will sideswipe the crescent planet Venus in a spectacular pre-dawn show for portions of North America. Seen from the western two-thirds of the country, our lovely satellite will actually cover (or occult) the radiant planet, while those in the East will see a striking “near miss.” …

01Mar2009

Sky Talk March 2009: Saturn Without Rings!

The magnificent ringed-planet Saturn is now well placed for viewing in the southeastern sky on March evenings. Unfortunately, for many who will be looking at it for the first time during this very active International Year of Astronomy, it will be a disappointment in small telescopes-for it will be seen nearly ringless! Twice during each …

01Feb2009

Sky Talk February 2009: Dawn Spectacles

A striking encounter of Jupiter and Mars, followed by another of the crescent Moon with those two planets plus Mercury all lined up in a row, will occur just before dawn above the southeastern horizon this month. Despite the hour and Winter chill, it will be well worth rising early and taking a look at …

01Jan2009

Sky Talk January 2009: A Celestial Snowshower

One of the richest yet most ignored annual displays of “shooting stars” starts off the new year with a bang celestially. It’s the Quadrantid Meteor Shower, which promises to put on a fine show this year during the early morning hours of January 3rd. Seen during its peak activity under very dark-sky conditions away from …

01Dec2008

Sky Talk December 2008: A Spectacular Triple Conjunction

Visible in the western sky after sunset on the first evening of December will be a stunning meeting of the three brightest objects in the heavens after the Sun itself—the planets Venus and Jupiter, and the crescent Moon. If it’s clear on that date, you simply must not miss out on seeing this amazing celestial …