World Celebrates the Universe in April

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 3, 2014 – 6:39 am -

2014GAM_200Get set to party with the stars this month! The world’s largest program dedicated to sharing the wonders of the universe kicks off an exciting series of events for space geeks throughout this month.

This year’s Global Astronomy Month (GAM2014) brings together astronomy enthusiasts and organizations worldwide to share the passion for the night sky with everyone, celebrating the motto of “One People, One Sky.”

Founded and coordinated by the international astronomy advocacy organization Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), this month-long star party is in its fifth year and is better than ever with a jam-packed schedule of out-of-this-world programs.  From virtual tours of the night sky, astopoetry contest, cosmic concert and global star parties there is something for everyone.

Check out the entire program schedule here


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Amazing Stargazing Sights This Week

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 10, 2014 – 3:31 pm -

Credit: Spaceweather.com

Credit: Spaceweather.com

On this very special week we celebrate Valentine’s Day the sky is full of romance too with the moon pointing to a giant  lion’s heart and the mythical goddess of love shining at its most brilliant.

Over the course of the next few days there is a whole line-up of stargazing targets for both the unaided eyes to backyard telescopes.

The brightest planets in the sky remain both Jupiter and Venus. Meanwhile you can still catch Mercury as it is fading fast low in the evening twilight in the southwest horizon.  Your best chance to see the innermost planet now is with binoculars.

Mars aficionados will have to wait until near midnight for it to rise in the east and will be at its highest in the south in the pre-dawn hours. If you have good atmospheric conditions a telescope will show off some of its largest surface features. Best views of the Red Planet though will be in April when its apparent diameter will be 50% wider.

Finally Saturn rises around local 1 am  and climbs to its highest point in the southern sky by dawn.  You can get a two-for-one deal since Mars will be its far right.

Get all your observing details for these and other sky events this week at my weekly skywatching column at National Geographic News.

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, also on Twitter and Facebook


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Biggest Amateur Telescope Ever Built?

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 13, 2013 – 6:00 am -

Amateur telescope builder Mike Clements stands by this 35 ft. tall telescope he just completed. Credit: Fox News

Any backyard stargazer worth his or her salt will tell you that bigger is better when it comes to telescope size and one amateur astronomer in Utah is living the dream, having built a 70″ optical instrument.

While Guinness Book of Records has not officially taken a look at the monster scope, it looks like it may take the title of largest backyard telescope ever built by an amateur.

Check out my full story on this behemoth at National Geographic News.


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Cosmic Butterfly Mystery

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 16, 2013 – 2:50 pm -

Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302. Credit: NASA

Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302. Credit: NASA

New deep-sky images of the Milky Way’s central core reveal picturesque butterfly-shaped gas clouds left behind by dying stars called bipolar planetary nebulae.

And all appear to be mysteriously aligned with one another. Dozens upon dozens of these hauntingly beautiful stellar remnants are oriented in the same direction – despite being separated by many thousands of light years, and each exhibiting unique physical properties. Researchers are searching for how nature could come up with such a bizzare phenomena.

Learn more about this spectacular new discovery that has left astronomers scratching their heads in my story at National Geographic News


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Video: Weekly Space News Interview

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 16, 2013 – 2:35 pm -

Check out some of the cool space news hitting the wire this past week on my weekly CTV News Channel interview.


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Photo: Eskimo Nebula Burns Brightly

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 23, 2013 – 5:19 pm -

Eskimo nebula looks stunning in this new composite image. Credit:N. Ruiz et al, IAA-CSIC/CXC/STScI/NASA

Eskimo nebula looks stunning in this new composite image. Credit:N. Ruiz et al, IAA-CSIC/CXC/STScI/NASA

A glowing cloud of gas and dust has formed one of the most picturesque objects in the universe, around a dying star some 4000 light years away  from Earth.

Called the Eskimo or Clownface planetary nebula, this object is one of the favourite targets for backyard telescope users.  Now this newly released portrait reveals the Eskimo nebula like never before in a composite of two images snapped by NASA’s Chandra X-ray space telescope and it’s famous cousin, Hubble.

Amazing to think that this is a glimpse of the distant future of our own Sun- 5 billion years from now – when it becomes a Red Giant and blows off it’s atmosphere into space, forming a bubble of glowing gas just like the Eskimo nebula.

This nebula picture is just one of the best space photos chosen by editors at Nat Geo News. Check out the rest of the stunning Space Gallery.


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New Weekly Skywatching Column Launches

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 28, 2013 – 6:32 pm -

lookingup2Evening planets continue to dazzle and the largest asteroid in the solar system pays a brief visit in this week’s best space events.

I invite you to check out my new weekly skywatching column at National Geographic posted on Mondays.


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Amateur Sleuths Help Solve Cosmic Cold Case

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 28, 2013 – 10:46 am -

After being at the centre of a constant  stakeout by backyard stargazers for over a century , the cosmic suspect known as SS Cygni has finally blown it’s cover.  By  accurately pinning down the star system to 372 light years from Earth – which is much closer than what the Hubble Space Telescope suggested in 1999-  a major astronomical mystery surrounding our understanding of explosive binary star systems like SS Cygni has finally been cracked .

With the help of a worldwide network of dedicated amateur sleuths,  professional astronomers tracked down leads, sifted through evidence, finally putting to rest a decade old controversy surrounding the actual distance to this white dwarf-binary system.

Read more about a hobbyist stakeout helped solve a dwarf star enigma in my story at New Scientist magazine


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Wow! Horsehead Nebula Seen Like Never Before

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 22, 2013 – 8:51 am -

In honor of its launch 23 years ago the Hubble Space Telescope snapped a breathtaking, never-before-seen view of one of the most photogenic cosmic vistas in the night sky.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Horsehead in all it's glory. click image to enlarge! Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Dubbed the Horsehead nebula because of its obvious resemblance to a steed or chess piece in profile,  this dark cloud of gas and dust sits 1,500 light years from Earth in the winter constellation Orion and has been a favorite target for generations of backyard stargazers.

Read the rest of the story at National Geographic News


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Video: Weekly Space News Interview

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 21, 2013 – 3:58 pm -

Check out some of the cool space news hitting the wire this past week on my weekly CTV News Channel interview.


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