“Wandering Stars”

Early skywatchers saw five bright objects slowly moving among the fixed stars.  These five were Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  They called them “planets” from the Greek for “wandering stars.”  And to see this wandering for yourself, we focus on three of them this month in the early evening sky. About 45 minutes after …


Mercury Transits The Sun!

A wonderful daytime celestial spectacle will occur on the morning of November 11th. when the planet Mercury will cross the face of the Sun—an event that can be seen with properly filtered binoculars and small telescopes (and possibly without them by keen-eyed observers as well).   Transits of Mercury are infrequent events, so this month’s show …


SkyTalk October | Fall Astronomy Day

This biannual event happens on Saturday, October 5th, this year. That date has special significance this time around since it occurs just one day after the historic date of the beginning of the Space Age on October 4th, 1957, with the launching of Sputnik.  So there’s sure to be more fun and excitement than usual. …


SkyTalk September | So Far Yet To Go

Two basic astronomy questions were recently asked in a survey taken of the graduating class of a prestigious New England university.  One was: “What causes the seasons?”  The other: “What causes the phases of the Moon?” Astonishingly, 86% did not know the answer to either one! Although introductory astronomy courses are offered at most colleges …


SkyTalk August | Thrilling Moons & Glorious Rings!

The two most exciting of all the planets (Venus and Mars not withstanding!) are perfectly placed in the evening sky for your enjoyment this month. They are the many-mooned planet Jupiter and ringed planet Saturn—both offering wonders not to be missed by skywatchers.


SkyTalk July | Moon Day!

This month contains the date that many (including myself) consider to be the most important and significant in all of human history.  It’s July 20th, 1969—when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon in the Sea of Tranquility and we traveled to another world for the first time 50 years ago! If it’s clear on Saturday …


SkyTalk June | It’s Jupiter By Jove!

After a long drought of planets in the evening, mighty Jupiter is finally up for viewing this month.  It offers plenty to see with both binoculars and telescopes of all sizes, and is a welcomed sight to skywatchers.  All five major planets were visible in the evening sky last summer (a true planetary bonanza!), but …


SkyTalk May | Astronomy Clubs & Astronomy Day

There’s an old adage that “A joy that’s shared is a joy doubled.”  Stargazers love to share the heavens with others—especially newcomers to the hobby.  To experience this for yourself, why not plan to attend an astronomy club meeting near you?  And this month is a perfect time since nearly all of these groups are …


SkyTalk April | A Celestial Compass, Calendar & Clock

The sky’s best-known figure (with the possible exception of the constellation Orion) is the Big Dipper.  The Dipper itself is actually not a constellation but only part of one—Ursae Major, the Great Bear.  It’s an “asterism” or a distinctive pattern made up of parts of one or more constellations.  But it surely has to be …


SkyTalk March | The Amazing Beehive Cluster

On March evenings, a very famous but subtle stellar commune sits right on the celestial meridian (the north-south line in the sky passing overhead) in the constellation Cancer. A fascinating sight whether using the unaided eye, binoculars, or wide-field telescopes, it’s a “must-see” target for skywatchers. To identify the Beehive Star Cluster and its host …