Mars, Ceres, and Vesta at Opposition in April

A Total Lunar Eclipse on April 14th/15th

An Annular Solar Eclipse in Antarctica

Lyrid Meteors zip through April

Mercury's Best Appearance of the year in May

Saturn is at Opposition in May

Neptune and then Uranus by Venus before dawn

Two Meteor Showers liven up May

The Solstice brings Summer to the North

Saturn is at Opposition in May
Full details in the Sky Guide » »

In Search of Noctilucent Clouds

Posted by Kelly on March 31st, 2014
Noctilucent Clouds as seen by the ISS

Noctilucent Clouds as seen by the ISS

On a list of elusive observing targets, noctilucent clouds are one of the most challenging and one I have yet to spy. These clouds, also called polar mesospheric clouds or night-shining clouds, are found in the mesosphere, higher than all other clouds. Most clouds and weather on earth are confined to the troposphere, or layer of air closest to the ground. The mesosphere is located 80 kilometers above our planet’s surface. Read the rest of this post …

The Importance of the Stars

Posted by Kelly on February 28th, 2014
The stars around the nebula Thor's Helmet, by John Chumack

The stars around the nebula Thor’s Helmet, by John Chumack

We spend the vast majority of our lives indoors. We’re at work, at school, or at home, with activities such as sleeping, watching TV, or having dinner with the family. This is especially true during the winter months when making the short sprint from a building to our cars can be a test of our endurance. Read the rest of this post …

Supernova in M82

Posted by Kelly on January 27th, 2014
The Supernova 2014J in M82

The Supernova 2014J in M82. Credit: UCL/University of London Observatory/Steve Fossey/Ben Cooke/Guy Pollack/Matthew Wilde/Thomas Wright

With the recent supernova in M82, it’s a good time for us to review how to spot the fairly accessible galaxies M81 and M82, which reside in close quarters in the easy-to-find galaxy Ursa Major, known for its Big Dipper asterism.

The first days of February will be the peak of brightness for the new supernova, named SN 2014J. At 11th magnitude, a telescope will be required to capture the light from the explosion as it brightens a point near the end of the magnitude-8.4 cigar-shaped galaxy. The supernova is expected to peak around magnitude 10.5 on February 2. Read the rest of this post …

The Brightest Stars of Winter

Posted by Kelly on December 30th, 2013
Jupiter and the Winter Triangle by John Chumack

Jupiter and the Winter Triangle by John Chumack

In a large portion of the world, stargazing in December, January, and February is not ideal. As I write this it is -11 degrees Fahrenheit or -24 Celsius. I’m also battling with some sort of sinus illness that is starting to feel reminiscent of the plague, which only makes me want to stay indoors all the more.

But the thing about winter’s sky is that some of the brightest stars reside there. You can spot them from inside your warm home. Read the rest of this post …

Winter’s Brightest Nebulae

Posted by Kelly on November 30th, 2013
M78

M78 in the Orion Nebula by John Chumack

Some of the brightest nebulae are found close together in the winter sky in the Northern Hemisphere. Taurus leads Orion up over the eastern horizon, both constellations distinctive with their bright stars and prominent shapes. Taurus is notable for the V-shape that forms the bull’s head along with the little star cluster known as the Pleiades. Orion is famous for its belt and the three stars that lie tightly in a row, outlined by a large rectangle that makes up the Hunter’s body. The two constellations contain some of the easiest nebulae for amateur astronomers to see. Read the rest of this post …

The Season of the Comets

Posted by Kelly on October 29th, 2013
Four comets

Four comets in November 2013 skies

For about a year now we’ve been hearing about the approaching comet known as C/2012 S1, or ISON, and how it’s going to be a stunner come late November. As Comet ISON has closed the distance with us, it hasn’t quite brightened on the steep curve many were hoping for, but even so it’s still too soon to know just what kind of a show it will put on at perihelion. Look before dawn until the last days of November, when you can start searching after sunset as it whips around the Sun. If you have a telescope, you can track the comet now and watch as it brightens. But ISON is not the only comet currently visible through amateur telescopes. Read the rest of this post …

Dates of the Harvest Moon

Posted by Kelly on September 18th, 2013
Harvest Moon

A Full Moon Carries Various Names. Credit: Hovard, SXC

Each month’s Full Moon carries various nicknames, and the most well-known of these nicknames is the Harvest Moon. However, the Harvest Moon is not simply the name for the Full Moon in September. While the Harvest Moon often occurs in September, it can also appear in October. The Full Moon that occurs closest to September’s autumnal equinox is the Moon bestowed with the term Harvest Moon. The autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere falls on September 22 or 23 each year.

Here are some past and future dates of the Harvest Moon: Read the rest of this post …

Tips for Hosting a Star Party

Posted by Kelly on August 14th, 2013
Kids at the Telescope

Kids getting their first view of the moon through a telescope. Credit: Sarah Giffin

Last night I hosted 21 kids and 14 adults for a star party. Even though the sky was filled with puffy cumulus clouds all day, by sunset they began to dissipate, and we had two good hours of viewing before the fog creeped in across the meadow and brought dew to the telescopes. I was able to show them the moon, Saturn with its rings and its moon Titan, the gibbous phase of Venus, the globular cluster M13, two passes of the International Space Station (ISS), and as a bonus we caught a few Perseid meteors. The kids and adults all had a great time and went home with a new experience and more knowledge about space.

If you want to host your own star party, here are a few tips: Read the rest of this post …

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