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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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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Venus Dances with Seven Sisters

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 3, 2012 – 6:27 pm -

Skywatchers this week should check out super-bright Venus glide past one of the most famous and bright star clusters in the entire heavens – an event that occurs only once every 8 years.

Making for a pretty photo op the cosmic odd couple will be at their closest on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, separated by only 0.5 degrees – equal to the width of the full moon disk. It amazing to think that while the planet is about 100 million km from Earth, the beautiful Pleiades star cluster sits 400 light years away!


Also known as the Seven sisters, the Pleiades is one of the better known sky targets for binoculars and telescopes, but with Venus right next door – both objects will easily fit into view under low magnification.  Look towards the high western sky after sunset – waiting maybe at least 30 minutes or more – and you can see with the naked eye, the hazy patch of light  next to Venus. THe pair will set around midnight affording plenty of time to soak in this amazing sky spectacle. This rich open cluster actually has more than 40 young stars as members – no more than 10 million years old –  and most can be seen with binoculars and small telescopes. But the naked eye will still pick out the brightest five to seven of its stars.

If you have never seen this beautiful deep sky object, then let Venus be your guide.

Skywatching EXTRA: When out looking at the Venus -Pleiades match-up Tuesday and Wednesday nights,  spin around and look towards the southeast for the waxing gibbous moon. It will be making a tight triangular formation with orange hued planet Mars on the upper left and to its right, the 77 light year distant bright white star Regulus – the heart of the mythical Leo the lion constellation.  Here’s a star map on what it will look like….


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Latest Night Sky Episode

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 12, 2011 – 12:54 pm -

This week’s episode highlights the awesome new NASA satellite images of our Sun and gives stargazers a heads up on two lunar sky shows involving star clusters.

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Tonight: Moon Dances with Seven Sisters

Written by The Night Sky Guy on December 28, 2009 – 5:33 pm -

Moon and Pleiades in Taurus; click image to enlarge

Moon and Pleiades in Taurus; click image to enlarge

Take a gander at the gibbous moon anytime tonight with a pair of binoculars and you may notice a nice compact group of stars hanging on to its upper left side. The Pleiades or Seven Sisters open cluster will be less than 0.5 degrees away in the sky from the Moon – that is less than a full moon disk! In fact for most of of North America the Moon will glide right through the bottom portion of the Pleiades in the early evening.  The pair are located in the constellation Taurus, the Bull.

Start looking around 5 pm and you will notice that hour by hour thereafter the disk of the Moon will appear to slowly creep across the stellar members of this family of stars. Try and see if you can spot the Pleiades using just your eyes. It won’t be easy because of the glare from the near full Moon.


Moon occults cluster members; click to enlarge

Try blocking the disk of the moon out using your thumb – that way the fainter stars will come into view better as your eyes adapt to the darker surrounding sky. Interesting to note is that while the moon is only around 360,000 km away from us, the Seven Sisters is a whopping 400 light years away.

Remember where in the sky you see the cluster tonight, and by tomorrow evening you will have a much better view of it – even with the naked eye – since the bright, blinding Moon will have moved away.


Don’t  forget you can also get late-breaking stargazing news anytime by following me on Twitter and Facebook, or get  email alerts sent directly to your inbox

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Moon Meets Seven Sisters

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 13, 2009 – 4:30 pm -

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Friday morning in the early dawn, two cosmic celebrities share the spotlight above the eastern horizon. The waning crescent Moon will have an extremely close encounter with the most famous of all star clusters, the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters. The odd cosmic couple will be separated by only 0.5 degrees – about one full Moon disk apart. Your best bet in seeing the 400 light year distant open star cluster next to the glare of the Moon will be to use binoculars. By Saturday morning the Moon will leave behind the cluster and move closer to the horizon and meet up with another giant of the sky. Stay tuned for more on that on Friday morning.

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