01Aug2008

Sky Talk August 2008: Meteor Month

For many stargazers, 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 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 …

01Jul2008

Sky Talk July 2008: In Praise of the 60mm Refractor

The ubiquitous 60mm (2.4-inch aperture) refractor is without question the most common telescope in the world. Literally millions of these glasses have been sold over the years. They can make a great choice for beginning stargazers and an ideal, highly-portable second instrument for experienced observers owning much larger scopes. And while their performance can sometimes …

01Jun2008

Sky Talk June 2008: Stars Twinkle – Planets Don’t

Most of us have heard the expression that “stars twinkle — planets don’t” but have no idea if it’s really true and, if so, why. With several of the brighter planets and stars currently visible in the evening sky, this is a perfect time to demonstrate its validity for yourself. And as a plus, those …

01May2008

Sky Talk May 2008: Mars Flies By the Beehive

For several evenings this month, skywatchers will have a chance to watch the planet Mars racing across the Beehive Star Cluster in the dim constellation Cancer, currently visible a third of the way up the western sky after evening twilight ends. And this is an event that can be enjoyed with the unaided eye, binoculars …

01Apr2008

Sky Talk April 2008: Moon Encounters Pleiades Star Cluster

Skywatchers will have another wonderful opportunity early this month to witness the on-going celestial ballet that occurs as worlds silently move through space above our heads at night. This event will be visible along the entire Eastern United States and up into eastern Canada as well. And while the spectacle can be enjoyed using the …

01Mar2008

Sky Talk March 2008: The Moon Illusion

One of the abiding mysteries of the night sky is that of the “Moon Illusion” — the fact that our satellite looks much bigger when rising or setting than it does when seen overhead. Everyone has experienced this but no one really knows why this happens or what causes it! We offer some tips for …

01Feb2008

Sky Talk February 2008: Total Eclipse of the Moon

The last in a series of three total lunar eclipses occurring within less than a year of each other that began last March (with a second one this past August) will occur on the evening of February 20th. After this month’s show, skywatchers will have to wait until December of 2010 to see another total …

01Jan2008

Sky Talk January 2008: The Winter Milky Way

Mention of the Milky Way conjures up images of Summer nights, at which time the great billowy starclouds of our home Galaxy provide an awesome sight as they pass through the rich constellations of Cygnus, Aquila, Scutum, Scorpius and, especially, Sagittarius which lies in the direction of the Galaxy’s center. But there is a Winter …

01Dec2007

Sky Talk December 2007: The Geminid Meteor Shower

December brings skywatchers one of the year’s two richest displays of “shooting stars” — the Geminids. (No, the other isn’t the famed Perseids in August, as told below!). They’re named for the constellation Gemini from which they appear to radiate or “shoot” across the sky. And unlike most other meteor displays whose host constellations typically …

01Nov2007

Sky Talk November 2007: Planetary Conclave at Dawn

Stargazers have complained much over the past month or so about the absence of bright observable planets in the evening sky. Jupiter is setting in the twilight glow after sunset, its banded disk and four bright satellites now largely lost in atmospheric turbulence. And Mars doesn’t rise until late evening, still appearing fairly small in …