New Night Sky Episode

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 28, 2012 – 6:06 pm -

While Astronomy Day may come and go the celestial wonders highlighted in this latest episode will be around for the next couple of weeks – including Saturn and Mars. So grab the next clear skies and enjoy the planetary sights.

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Astronomy Day is Here!

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 27, 2012 – 9:15 pm -

If you see a bunch of telescopes turned to the heavens somewhere in your city Saturday, April 28th then that’s because it’s International Astronomy Day. Local astronomy clubs are organizing tons of  events around the world with tons of telescopes manned by dedicated amateur astronomers offering views of the universe for everyone.  If you ever wanted to buy a telescope or have never looked at the cosmos through one – then this is your chance to get the real scoop about the hobby.

For more info about the festivities, where you can go in  your area and what celestial sights you can expect to see this weekend read my story on Nat Geo News.

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Asteroid Mining in our Future?

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 24, 2012 – 4:18 pm -

Mining asteroids in outer space and bringing the valuable resources back to Earth … sounds like science fiction. In fact, it’s the tantalizing plan unveiled today by a company in California. And that company – Planetary Resources – isn’t your average start-up … it’s backed by a few well-known billionaires, including Hollywood director James Cameron and Google founder Larry Page.

Here is the company’s promo video:

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New Night Sky episode

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 21, 2012 – 4:58 pm -

Just in time for Earth Day weekend here is my latest Night Sky episode on the Lyrid meteor shower that peaks Saturday and Sunday nights of April 21 and 22. Check it out…

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Meteor Shower this Weekend

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 20, 2012 – 5:21 pm -

Skywatchers should get ready for some April showers but of a cosmic kind. This weekend should offer the best view of the Lyrid meteor shower in years, with a dark moonless night during the peak of the annual sky show.

The annual Lyrid meteor shower is set to peak overnight from April 21 into April 22, and with the moon out of sight at that time, it should make for great viewing under dark skies.

Lyrids is expected to produce modest number of  shooting stars -  falling at rates of 15 to 20 per hour – with the best performance centered  between 2 am and 4 am on April 22.

Read the rest of my viewer’s guide to the Lyrid meteor shower at National Geographic News.

Skywatching EXTRAS: If you do get stuck in the light polluted city and/or get clouded out this weekend for the sky show then you can still experience the Lyrids virtually at least with NASA. The Space Agency will have all sky cameras looking out for shooting stars during the overnight period and will also have a meteor expert on hand to can answer any of your questions.

According to the NASA website, “If you’re looking for a fun way to spend an early spring weekend, make plans to stay “up all night” with NASA experts to watch the Lyrids brighten the skies. On Saturday, April 21, from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. EDT — meteor experts Dr. Bill Cooke, Danielle Moser and Rhiannon Blaauw from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will answer your questions about the Lyrids via a live Web chat.”

Here’s the the NASA link.

Also while you are making those wishes on all those shooting stars, watch out for the International Space Station too.  The orbiting lab will be making flybys over most North American and European cities the next few evenings too.  To get your viewing times for your neck of the woods then click here.

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Moon Points to Mercury at Dawn

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 18, 2012 – 3:19 pm -

Skywatchers get a great observing challenge on April 19th before dawn when a razor-thin crescent Moon helps point the way to elusive little planet Mercury.  The trick with this observation is that you need to have a very clear line of sight to the VERY low eastern horizon to see this celestial pair. So try and find a spot that does not have any trees or building obstructing your view of the eastern horizon. About a half hour before the sun rises you get a short window of opportunity to catch faint Mercury before it’s lost in the glare of the rising sun.  The Moon will be less than 8 degrees north of the little planet so the pair should fit within the view of a wide-field binocular like an 8 x 50… BTW – Uranus will be even more of a challenge for telescope users as it will be embedded within the glare of the rising sun.


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Ghostly Glows Snapped on Green Gas Giant

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 15, 2012 – 9:48 pm -

For the first time, astronomers have snapped photos of auroras lighting up Uranus’s icy atmosphere.  Two fleeting, Earth-size auroral storms were imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope as they flared up on the dayside of the gas giant in November 2011. Nearly 4 billion km away, the seventh planet from the Sun remains one of the most mysterious but with some luck and persistence a team of astronomers have figured out an innovative way to remotely study this gas giant.

Read the rest of my story at National Geographic News

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Spot the Space Station in the Sky

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 13, 2012 – 5:30 pm -

Tonight and over the next few nights are great opportunities to see the International Space Station  fly over your backyard looking like a superbright star zipping across the heavens. In fact it should look like the brightest object in the night sky after only the moon and comparable to planet Venus in the west!  Generally the passes will last a couple of minutes and it will appear like an unblinking, bright, white star gliding across the sky  Exact viewing times and directions of where you will see the station in the sky depends on your location – they are different for each city or town.

iss-visibilitytable-explanationSo best thing to do is click on the Space Station icon on the right-hand sidebar or go to my Sky Tonight page and click on your city of choice or choose Elsewhere, and get your customized viewing table.

For an explanation of how to read your viewing timetable chart click on the image to the left. It is a sample chart for Toronto that gives you a brief rundown on what the main sections mean.

If you have never seen the station now is a good time to find it because it will be so bright in the sky.

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Count Stars and Help Save our Night Skies

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 11, 2012 – 4:36 pm -

For a second time this year from April 11th to 20th skywatchers around the world get a chance to determine how bad light pollution is in their backyard by counting visible stars. Light pollution has without a doubt turned night into day and has robbed an entire generation out of a sky filled with stars.  It is a global threat that not only ruins our views of the cosmos, but also wastes money and natural resources.

Globe at Night campaign hopes to help change the course by getting you involved the battle to save the night sky. By utilizing the power of the internet coupled with handheld devices like tablets and smartphones – it now becomes and fun and easy project for entire families to participate and become aware of the natural heritage we are all being robbed of.

For more details on how you can participate then read my blog post I wrote for the last campaign in January at National Geographic News.

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Record-Setting Multiple Planet System Found?

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 11, 2012 – 12:08 pm -

A star about 127 light-years from Earth may have even more planets than the sun, which would make the planetary system the most populated yet found. According to a new study, HD 10180—a sunlike star in the southern constellation Hydrus—may have as many as nine orbiting planets, besting the eight official planets in our solar system.

What kind of alien worlds are they and what does this discovery say about our place in the cosmos? Read the rest of my story at National Geographic News.

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