Neptune Closest to Earth

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 27, 2014 – 9:46 pm -

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Friday August 29 is when Neptune, 8th planet from the sun, will be in opposition.

Being the farthest from the sun also means that it will be the closest approach to our little blue dot and visible all night long. During this time, Neptune will be 2.7 billion miles (4.3 billion kilometers) away from Earth. So distant, that it will take the light reflecting off of the planet’s icy clouds  four hours to reach us.

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Neptune cannot be seen with the naked eye however with a small telescope or binoculars it can be seen in the Aquarius constellation less than one degree northeast of the 5th magnitude star, Sigma Aquarii. Look for a tiny blue-gray disk among the background of faint stars in the region.


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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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King Tut Connection to Ancient Comet Crash

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 12, 2013 – 5:30 pm -

This is an artists rendition of the comet exploding in Earths atmosphere above Egypt.

This is an artist's rendition of the comet exploding in Earth's atmosphere above Egypt.

In the Sahara, a team of scientists claim to have found the first evidence of a comet directly impacting Earth.

About 28 million years ago a comet exploded over Egypt, creating a 3600°F (2000°C) blast wave that spread out over the desert below. The fiery shockwave melted the sand, forming copious amounts of yellow silica glass scattered over 2,300 square miles (6,000 square kilometers) of the Sahara.

Polished into the shape of a scarab beetle, a large piece of this glass found its way into a brooch owned by the famed Egyptian boy king Tutankhamen.

Read the rest of my comet story at National Geographic News.


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Final Days for Life on Earth Reckoned

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 29, 2013 – 11:44 am -

When the Sun heats up and become a red giant  Earth will slowly begin to die and cook.

When the Sun heats up and become a red giant Earth will slowly begin to die and cook.

Researchers have come up with a detailed model for how and when  life on our planet will be snuffed out. But no worries – it will be at least 500 million years from now when plants will begin to die and another 2 billion years before the final microbe fries. All this thanks to our parent star. When it begins to die so will our planet.

Read all the details about this sobering study in my story at National Geographic News


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Video: Weekly Space News Interview

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 21, 2013 – 2:34 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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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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Cassini Snaps Amazing Earth-Moon Portrait

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 22, 2013 – 6:24 pm -

n this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn's rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

n this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn's rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Check out this humbling new photograph taken by the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn. The image was taken this past Friday afternoon and released late Monday, June 22nd.  Admittedly there is not much to see on the few pixels that make up Earth adn the Moon but it’s simply amazing to think that everything and everyone you know is on that little pale blue dot – as the late astronomer Carl Sagan so famously said.

You can check out more detailed images of Earth from Cassini and also the MESSENGER  spacecraft at Mercury.


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Hubble Uncovers Hidden Moon of Neptune

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 21, 2013 – 7:43 pm -

Artist conception of view from Neptunes moon. Credit: NASA

Artist conception of view from Neptune's moon. Credit: NASA

Hubble Space Telescope is really a discovery machine in high gear – the orbiting observatory has bagged a new moon for Neptune – the 14th for the  blue ice giant.

At about 12 miles wide it isn’t exactly a huge chunk of celestial land but scientists are using this new finding in helping them understand how the distant planet got it’s retinue of satellites.

Read my Neptune moon story at National Geographic News.


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Red Dwarf Stars Host Billions of Habitable Planets?

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 5, 2013 – 6:00 am -

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Red Dwarf stars may be the best place to look for Earth-like planets., according to a new study.

The most common, humble star in the universe could be a mecca when it comes to astronomers hunting for planets hospitable to life. That’s because a new study is suggesting that red dwarfs – stars that are smaller, dimmer and cooler than our Sun – may have twice as many planets that are in the habitable zone than ever thought. In fact the number of these worlds- ones that have just the right temperature to support liquid water – may number as much as 60 billion. And that’s just in our own Milky Way galaxy.

Read more about this amazing new finding and what impact it will have on exoplanet research in my new article for National Geographic News.


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Voyager 1 Leaving the Sun’s House

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 4, 2013 – 11:15 am -

Voyager is now at the doorstep of the Milky Way galaxy, according to NASA.

Voyager 1 is now at the doorstep of the Milky Way galaxy, according to NASA.

After a 36 year cosmic road trip one of the twin Voyager spacecrafts has entered a bizarre boundary of the solar system that leads directly into the interstellar realm of the Milky Way galaxy.

NASA scientists believe new data from the plucky Voyager 1 probe indicates that it is traveling through the final bubble like layer that surrounds the Sun and planets. When will it officially leave the solar empire is anyone’s guess but when it does it will make history as the first human-made object to do so.

Find out how scientists are following Voyager and what they think the future has in store for it in my story for National Geographic News.


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