Amazing Stargazing Sights This Week

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 11, 2014 – 10:46 pm -

This image of uranus was captured by Voyager 2 back in 1986. This week sky-watchers get to see the Green Giant through binoculars next to the moon.Credit: NASA

This image of uranus was captured by Voyager 2 back in 1986. This week sky-watchers get to see the Green Giant through binoculars next to the moon.Credit: NASA

The starry skies this week offer up a quite a wide variety of celestial sights, including planetary duos and one of the year’s best flurry of meteors.

While the moon may have just past its full phase and still dominates the evening sky, the planets still are easy to spot even from urban location.  Folks should keep an eye out for a coming close encounter between Mars and Saturn over the course of the coming weeks in the late evenings, while Venus and Jupiter have their own conjunction in the early mornings in the east.

Read all the details and get sky charts for these and other events on my National Geographic Viewer’s Guide.


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August Sky: Sayonara Saturn and Milky Way

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 10, 2014 – 5:36 pm -

MilkyWay-August

August tends to be some of the best times to glimpse the ghostly glows of the mythical Milky Way galaxy in the late night sky.

The best place to observe its faint band of light is away from light pollution, however with binoculars even Montreal suburbs can offer lots of stunning sights.

The Milky Way is a collection of stars, clouds of gas and dust we call a galaxy. Our Sun and its family of planets live inside this vast spinning pinwheel shaped island of stars. Home to about 100 billion suns, this Frisbee-shaped disk stretches some 100,000 light years across and is about 1000 light years thick. Yet, the Milky Way is only one of over 100 billion other galaxies that are thought to inhabit the Universe.

Look for the misty, white powder trail that is our Milky Way galaxy, stretching up from the northeastern horizon, arching high up the eastern sky, and then reaching down to the southern horizon.

The splash of Milky Way that we see in the summertime consists mostly of stars from one of its spiral arms and stars from its dense, bright core. The core hangs above the southern horizon when viewed from northern latitudes.

Sit back comfortably on a reclining lawn chair and cruise this entire swatch of glittering sky with binoculars, and you will notice that the galaxy’s hazy glow is actually a river of countless stars, all of them thousands of light-years distant.

Turning to planets, look for Venus, our next-door neighbour, shining like a stellar beacon throughout August in the early evening skies.

Gaze towards the low western sky about 30 to 45 minutes after sunset – you can’t miss it since it will be the brightest celestial object visible after the Moon.

If you have a telescope, check the planet out because its partially illuminated and looks like a miniature crescent moon.

If you have not looked out Saturn this summer yet, then do so now since the ringed marvel will be quickly sinking towards the western horizon by next month.  Look for a yellowish star in the west after nightfall and remember that to see those famous rings and its retinue of moons, you will need a small telescope.

Finally mark August 31 on your calendar as when to catch sight of the crescent Moon posing with Saturn. The cosmic pair will appear spectacularly close – less than the width of the disk of the moon will separate the two.

Make sure you grab your binoculars or telescope to get a high powered, ring-side seat for this pretty sky show.


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Rosetta Falls into Orbit After Ten Year Journey

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 10, 2014 – 5:35 pm -

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The Rosetta spacecraft is making it’s final at its target comet and now has entered into orbit after a ten-year journey.

Putting on the brakes for it’s last 62 miles (100 Km), it starts to beam down high-resolution images of its soon-to-be host, a strangely shaped chunk of ice and rock. While on it’s extended stay on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko scientists are hoping to unlock some of the secrets of the entire solar system!

Read the whole story at National Geographic News.


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Amazing Stargazing Sights This Week

Written by The Night Sky Guy on June 2, 2014 – 7:35 pm -

Jupiter and its largest moons will be one of this weeks highlights in the night sky.

Jupiter and its largest moons will be one of this week's highlights in the night sky.

Sky-watchers in the right place and the right time may get to see a green comet, a very rare triple shadow on Jupiter and the moon having close encounters with planets and stars.

By far the easiest sky events for the unaided eyes and visible nearly everywhere around the world will be when the moon has close encounters with Mars and the bright star Spica towards the end of this week.

Easily seen even under heavily light polluted skies within city limits, the moon and a handful of stars and planets never fail to please even the beginner sky-watcher.

So take the time to get outside the next clear night and look up!

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


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Tonight: Watch Meteor Shower LIVE Webcast

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 23, 2014 – 6:21 am -

Are you clouded out for the surprise meteor shower peaking on May 24th?

Then tune in to a live web broadcast of the sky show offered by Slooh, an astronomy outreach company that will cover this possible meteor storm and the parent comet live as it nears Earth during its orbit.

Slooh will broadcast the comet event from its telescopes located off the west coast of Africa, at the Institute of Astrophyiscs of the Canary Islands, on May 23rd starting at 3 PM PDT / 6 PM EDT / 22 UTC – International Times – and then will follow up with live coverage of the new meteor shower starting at 8 PM PDT/ 11 PM EDT/ 03 UTC (5/24) – International Times.

Viewers can ask questions during the comet show by using hashtag #slooh.

Comet Broadcast: Starts 6 pm EDT

Meteor shower broadcast: starts 11 pm EDT


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Possible Major Meteor Shower This Weekend

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 22, 2014 – 8:30 pm -

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Skywatchers across North America are waiting with much anticipation for a new meteor shower that may even rival the trusty Perseids in August.

Some predictions are calling for up to 200 shooting star per hour between 2 and 4 am Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday, May 24th (11 pm on May 23 to 1 am PDT).  And there is one prediction by an astronomer that it may even be a meteor storm coming our way with up to 1000 meteors per hour!

About three years ago astronomers studying comets and their deris stream made a prediction that on May 24, 2014 Earth may be graced by a never-before-seen meteor shower called the ‘May Camelopardilids’.  Like all other showers, this one gets its name from the constellation where it appears to radiate out from, which in this case is Camelopardis – the giraffe.

While all this sounds extremely exciting we have to remember that these are based on computer models that are plotting out where Earth may be plowing through a cloud of debris floating between the inner planets.  Meteor showers occur when our planet slams into a stream of particles left behind by comets.  In this case its debris deposited in the 1800’s.   So basically one big educated guess where exactly Earth will be crossing the cometary debris cloud that causes the meteor shower.

It could literally be the best sky show in decades or a big bust.

But since no one knows for sure, I know what I will be doing in the early morning hours of Saturday. Getting out my blanket, brew some hot chocolate and keep looking up.

Read my complete viewer’s guide with skycharts at National Geographic News.


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Apologies for Going Offline

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 22, 2014 – 8:12 pm -

I just wanted to apologize for dropping off with posts and updates the past few weeks. I have been battling a perfect storm of both illness and technical issues. Hopefully everything will be getting back on track soon.

Thanks for your patience.

Andrew


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Lunar Eclipse Paints Sky Red

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 15, 2014 – 12:40 pm -

The full moon blushed in the skies above the entire Western Hemisphere this morning.

The lunar eclipse has come and gone and it was a hit and miss affair for many as some locations were clouded out in North America.  But many got great views of the moon gliding through Earth’s shadow and stunning photo opportunities presented themselves. Check out this amazingly crisp and vivid portrait of our moon while in the totality phase by Joel Tonyan in Colorado.

Check out this great gallery for more eclipse shots.  Remember the next lunar eclipse will be on October 8, 2014!  Let’s hope for clear skies.

Credit:Joel Tonyan

Credit:Joel Tonyan


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Watch Lunar Eclipse LIVE Webcast

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 14, 2014 – 6:07 pm -

The Virtual Telescope Project and Astronomers Without Borders are teaming up to present the total lunar Eclipse on April 15 to everyone on the planet through live broadcasts from telescopes located throughout North America.

Catch the action starting at 2:30 am EDT /  06:30 UT right here. If video does not load on this page then go directly here.

2014TotalLunarEclipse

Also check out this alternate broadcast provided by the Coca-Cola Science Center at Columbus State University in Georgia. Feed should start Monday @ 11 pm EDT.

Live streaming video by Ustream


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Where is the Total Lunar Eclipse Visible?

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 14, 2014 – 6:13 am -

eclipsemap

Here’s a wonderful map of the Earth and link for the upcoming lunar eclipse that will tell you whether it’s visible where you are (weather permitting). If you’re in any of the red zone, all or part of the eclipse will be visible to you April 14-15!

Clouded out or wrong side of the Earth during eclipse time? Then join a special LIVE webcast and watch the eclipse unfold on your laptop or mobile device.  Check back  at 11 pm EDT (Monday) for the video feed right here…  eclipse begins at 2 am EDT (06:00 UT April 15).

For a viewer’s guide please check out my previous posts and links below.


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