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.

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Look Up At Planet Sky Show

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 24, 2013 – 2:02 pm -

Skywatchers around the world get set to see a striking triple planetary meetup in the evening skies the likes of which won’t be repeated until 2026.

From May 24 to 27, Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter will appear to converge in the low northwest sky after sunset and all you need to see this event are just your eyes!

The best part of the show will be on May 26th when all three planets are huddled together in a tight triangular formation. Check the image below for what it will look like in your low northwestern sky.

Triple planetary alignment visible in the low northwest sky at dusk. Credit: NASA

Triple planetary alignment visible in the low northwest sky at dusk. Credit: NASA

For all the details check out my skywatcher’s guide at National Geographic News


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Jupiter joins Moon in the Evening Sky

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 12, 2013 – 9:20 pm -

If you have clear skies in your neck of the woods over the weekend of April 13th then step outside and look west for a beautiful pairing between the Moon and some of the brightest stars and planet in the night sky.

While conjunctions like thee are not rare by any means, they do make for a great opportunity to track down some celestial objects that otherwise may be a challenge to find for beginner stargazers.  And for those more experienced navigating the heavens, this cosmic close encounter makes for a pretty photo op.

Read all the details about the Moon-planet-star event, including detailed star charts,  at National Geographic News


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Jupiter Hit by Meteor Again!

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 13, 2012 – 2:22 pm -

Early Monday morning two American amateur astronomers  independently spotted a bright flash of light in the upper cloud-deck of Jupiter – the fourth impact on the gas giant discovered in just the last three years.

Early suspicion by astronomers is that a meteor or comet had hit the atmosphere of the planet – and the fact that it was visible from Earth through backyard telescopes more than 730 million km away – indicates it was probably a significant event.

Read the rest of my Jupiter explosion story at National Geographic News

Check out the actual 2-second video frames of the impact on Jupiter this week as captured by a webcam attached to a 12″ LX200 Meade telescope by a backyard astronomer in Dallas, Texas.


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Perseids Meteor Peak Tonite and Hit Moon!

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 11, 2012 – 12:30 pm -

Warm summer nights and awe-inspiring shooting stars are an unbeatable combination! That’s why skywatchers look forward to the annual Perseid meteor shower. Visible with the naked eye from the city to cottage country, dozens of “shooting stars” will light up the late-night skies. With the waning crescent moon rising above the horizon only around 1 am tonight, the peak date of August 11th, this cosmic light show will surely put on an impressive display. Skywatchers get to see a flurry of shooting stars start 10 pm with rates increasing until pre-dawn hours Sunday. Anywhere from 20 to 80 shooting stars per hour depending on local sky conditions.

Here is my Night Sky episode that talks all about the shower and some bonus planets that are joining the show too!

EXTRA:  Sky-watchers with backyard telescopes, though, might join NASA in training their lenses on the moon for an elusive, potentially flashy Perseid sideshow.

Read my National Geographic observers guide for more information on how some backyard telescope owners watch Persieds actually impact the moon!… http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/08/120810-perseid-meteor-shower-perseids-science-space-astronomy/


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Morning Cosmic Spectacle

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 29, 2012 – 11:49 am -

Credit: Marc Ricard,  Warkwoth, Ontario

Credit: Marc Ricard, Warkwoth, Ontario

It’s worth waking up early these days to check out the amazing view in the eastern sky at dawn. Venus dominates the sky, while Jupiter to its upper right and the Pleiades star cluster complete the picture postcard view!.

Astrophotographer Marc Ricard captured the cosmic scene this week from Warkworth, Ontario using a Canon 60D DSLR with a single 19 second exposure and 35mm, f/1.4 lens. Look carefully and you can even see the strong light from Venus illuminating the clouds in front of it! Wow! The goddess of love is burning bright now.


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Celestial Triangle Dazzles!

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 15, 2012 – 6:11 pm -

Conjunction between Jupiter, crescent Moon, and Venus in front of my house this morning. Credit: Andrew Fazekas

Conjunction between Jupiter, crescent Moon, and Venus in front of my house this morning. Look carefully to the right of Venus and you can see the orange star Aldebaran 65 light years away joining the sky show. Credit: Andrew Fazekas

View of Jupiter, Moons and Venus from my Montreal driveway July 15th at 4:50 am

View of Jupiter, Moons and Venus from my Montreal driveway July 15th at 4:50 am


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Shots of the Sunset Show this Week

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 27, 2012 – 11:28 am -

In Montreal,  Canada, where I am based skies are about 60% cloudy so chances are usually that I miss an astronomical event but this week I have been blessed with some clear skies and managed to catch at least some of the planet-moon show going on in the western sky at sunset.  Here are a couple of my attempts at capturing the cosmic beauty of the Venus-moon conjunction of March 26, 2012.

Venus visible to the naked eye during daytime above crescent Moon. This shot was taken 3 hours before sunset. credit: Andrew Fazekas

Venus visible to the naked eye during daytime above crescent Moon. This shot was taken 3 hours before sunset. credit: Andrew Fazekas

On Marc.26th the crescent moon snuggles with Venus while Jupiter sits below the pair. THe sky show was easily seen from light polluted Montreal suburb. credit: Andrew Fazekas

On Mar.26 the crescent moon snuggles with Venus while Jupiter sits below the pair. THhe sky show was easily seen from light polluted Montreal suburb. credit: Andrew Fazekas

On Mar.26 while Venus is in conjunction with our moon, skywatchers could eaisly see Earthlight light up the dark part of the moon's disk- called Earthshine. credit: Andrew Fazekas

On Mar.26 while Venus is in conjunction with our moon, skywatchers could eaisly see Earthlight light up the dark part of the moon's disk- called Earthshine. credit: Andrew Fazekas


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Venus and Jupiter Close Encounter Now

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 11, 2012 – 12:36 pm -

If you have been watching the early evening skies at all in the last few weeks you probably noticed the two superbright ‘stars’ in the west are drawing closer together by the day.  Two of the most brilliant planets in our solar system, Venus and Jupiter, are about to get a lot more cozy in the heavens.

The main event will be from March 12 to 15 when the two worlds will come closest together in the sky.

To get a full observers guide read the rest of my article on National Geographic News


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Watch the Moon Join Jupiter and Stars

Written by The Night Sky Guy on January 28, 2012 – 3:58 pm -

jan28-2012Over the course of the next few evening the waxing crescent Moon will be gliding by some bright star-like objects in the southwest sky. As the Moon heads higher in the sky as it goes through it’s monthly cycle it regularly has close encounters with planets and some of the brighter more conspicuous stars.

For casual skywatchers it can sometimes be hard to differentiate which bright pinpoint of light in the sky is either a planet or an alien sun light years away. After all both look pretty much the same in the night sky, don’t they? Well this is where the Moon on specific dates, can point certain planets and stars out for us.

On Saturday, Jan.28th look towards the southwest as night falls and you can watch the Moon appear sandwiched between two widely separated bright stars – forming a striking, diagonal line titled towards the left. The creamy coloured star shining above the moon is Jupiter, sitting at 748 million km away while the brighter, white star below Luna is Venus, located 170 million km from Earth. BTW the Moon is only 398,000 km distant.

jan30-2012By Sunday and Monday, Jan.29th and 30th the Moon will have floated up to pay a visit to Jupiter. The pair will appear to be very close to each other at only 5 degrees apart – that’s equal to the width of 3 middle fingers held at an outstretched arm.

Of course their proximity is just an illusion since the planets themselves are separated by hundreds of million of kilometers of space. They just happen to be aligned one in back of the other in a near straight line to provide this special view for us Earthbound observers.

feb1-2012Finally on Wednesday, Feb.1st the waxing gibbous moon will tuck itself underneath a stellar jewel box known as the Pleiades star cluster.

Because the glare of the moon may filter out some of the light from this group of seven naked-eye stars – it’s worth pointing your binoculars at the cluster. This way you can get to see some of the dozens of fainter stars that make up this young stellar association – and should really show off this 400 light year distant stellar treasure!

The bright moon can be the bane of astronomers, but for beginner stargazers it can really be one of the best guides to finding your way around the heavens. So remember the next few evenings to go outside if its clear and look up for some cosmic eye candy.


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