Dual Elongations of Both Inner Planets!

An “elongation” is the term used to describe the position of the inner planets Mercury and Venus with respect to the Sun in the sky. It can be a Greatest Eastern Elongation in which the planet appears at its greatest distance east of the setting Sun in the evening—or a Greatest Western Elongation where the planet is at its greatest distance west of the Sun in the morning sky.


The Fastest & Slowest Moving Planets

The evening sky this month offers a great opportunity to see the Solar System’s two planetary extremes among the five bright naked-eye planets in terms of their orbital motion—sprinting Mercury and sluggish Saturn!


This Year’s Christmas “Star”!

The planets Jupiter and Saturn will come together this month in a spectacular conjunction low in the southwestern sky after sunset just in time for Christmas, recreating that famed “Star of Bethlehem.” These two worlds have been near each other in the evening sky since late summer, drawing ever-closer together from week-to-week in preparation for this month’s big event.


The Unpredictable Leonids

Wow – a meteor shower with an average rate of just 15 “shooting stars” an hour at its peak but one that has on occasion suddenly exploded at a rate of 40 per second! That’s the famed annual Leonid’s, which occur this year on the night of November 16th into the morning of the 17th. No other shower in recorded history has produced such an intense burst of activity—nor been so erratic and unpredictable.


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.