Summer is the season for Noctilucent Clouds

Full Moon and Perigee Moon converge for a Supermoon

Track down two asteroids, Ceres and Vesta

Planetary pairings of Saturn and Mars, Jupiter and Venus

The Perseid meteor shower peaks

The Equinox restores balance to days and nights

Mars meets its rival, Antares

An early Harvest Moon occurs in September

Look out for Noctilucent Clouds
Full details in the Sky Guide » »

Closest Stars to the Sun

Posted by Kelly on November 29th, 2014
The Sun, our nearest star, by John Chumack

The Sun, our nearest star, by John Chumack

When snow covers the ground and we shiver from scant Sun rays and long nights, it’s not hard for our thoughts to turn to our nearest star. One cure for wintertime blues is to travel south to a place where the Sun shines a bit longer and warmth still bakes the Earth.

But for the astronomically minded, sometimes we think about getting closer to the Sun in other ways. The Sun is the closest star to Earth, even though sometimes it feels completely absent. But what are the other stars close to Earth and why can’t they help keep our toes from freezing? I can’t really help you with the second question, but for the first question, we can explore all the close stars to Earth. Read the rest of this post …

My Observing Wish List

Posted by Kelly on October 30th, 2014
Aurora Photo by John Chumack

Aurora Photo by John Chumack

All amateur astronomers have a wish list of objects they would like to observe. When they first start observing, the list is modest, with objects such as the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, craters on the Moon, the Andromeda Galaxy, the Orion Nebula, and so forth.

By this point in my life, I have seen these objects multiple times. They are beautiful and always worth a look, but they certainly wouldn’t be something to put on my wish list anymore. My current wish list is a bit more exotic. Some of the items I have seen but want to see again, while others I haven’t seen and still others I will never see. But they make my wish list nonetheless. Read the rest of this post …

An Early Morning Eclipse

Posted by Kelly on October 10th, 2014
A Partial Lunar Eclipse during Moonset

A Partial Lunar Eclipse during Moonset

The total lunar eclipse was going to occur from about 5:30 to 6:30 on Wednesday morning. My alarm was set for 6:00, like usual, and the forecast was for perfectly clear skies.

I was awake fifteen minutes before my alarm but patiently waited until six o’clock, because the only upstairs windows that face west where the eclipsed Moon was setting are in my children’s bedrooms. I was not awake enough to go downstairs nor mean enough to wake them unnecessarily early. At 6:00 I walked into my son’s bedroom and raised his blinds, like I do every morning to wake him. This has become less effectual as the school year draws on and it’s still dark in the morning. This morning there wouldn’t even be moonlight to wake him, as the fully eclipsed Moon was shining dimly with a gray pallor. Read the rest of this post …

Losing the Comet but Winning the Ring

Posted by Kelly on September 16th, 2014
The Ring Nebula, M57 in Lyra, by John Chumack

The Ring Nebula, M57 in Lyra, by John Chumack

When the clouds finally cleared from overhead, they were replaced by clouds upon the ground. I stood in my driveway looking up at the stars arrayed above while fog swirled around my feet. These are not ideal conditions for observing, but at least the stars can be seen, whereas the clouds had been blocking all manner of wonders, including the recent aurora, for nights on end. Read the rest of this post …

Targeting Sagittarius

Posted by Kelly on August 31st, 2014
M8, The Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius, by John Chumack

M8, The Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius, by John Chumack

Sagittarius is an incredibly rich area for stargazing, but it’s only easily viewable for a short time. Summer is the best season for observing, but even then it stays low on the southern horizon. Sagittarius is an easy constellation even for children to spot because it has a grouping of stars that looks almost exactly like a teapot. Read the rest of this post …

Observing Summer Constellations

Posted by Kelly on July 28th, 2014
The Milky Way by John Chumack

The Milky Way and Vega by John Chumack

On summer evenings as adults sit around bonfires and kids run in the yard playing flashlight tag, eyes turn skyward. Teach your friends and family the most important summer constellations with this handy guide on what star formations are overhead. Read the rest of this post …

Crossing off the Bucket List: Zodiacal Light

Posted by Kelly on May 27th, 2014
Zodiacal Light

The Zodiacal Light looks pyramidal shaped from horizon stretching upward. Credit: ESO/Y. Beletsky

Amateur astronomers never really take a vacation from stargazing. And in fact, sometimes vacations provide for the best stargazing.

Over spring break this year my family and I did a tour of the national parks, starting and ending our vacation in Las Vegas, one of the most light polluted locations on Earth. But McCarran International airport made for a good spot to begin our travels first to Utah’s national parks, then to Great Basin National Park in Nevada along the loneliest highway in America, and finally to Death Valley National Park in California, before the short jog back to Las Vegas. Read the rest of this post …

Up for the Lunar Eclipse

Posted by Kelly on April 30th, 2014
The Moon in Eclipse with Mars and Spica, April 2014

The Moon in Eclipse with Mars and Spica, April 2014

As a chronic insomniac, I didn’t feel the need to set my alarm for the April lunar eclipse. Just the night before I had been awake from 3:45 to 5:30, so I figured that there was a good chance that sometime within the window of the eclipse I would be awake. At my location, totality would last from 2:07 to 3:25 a.m. with partial phases for an hour on either side of that. Surely I would be awake for some of it. Read the rest of this post …

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