This is a great time to view Jupiter, the king of the planets. It’s well up in the east by the time the sky grows dark, and very high by late evening.
Orion floats high in the south on January evenings. Its seven main stars form a pattern that has been likened to a giant man or woman all around the world.
At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is at its highest in the south. And even brighter Jupiter flies high above it.
More bright stars are visible now than at any other time of year. Seven of the sky’s 21 first-magnitude stars are concentrated in a single, amazing formation called the Winter Hexagon.
The December solstice occurs in the early afternoon on Saturday, the shortest day of 2013. After this, days will be getting longer and nights shorter for the next six months.
The Geminid meteor shower peaks on Friday night and Saturday morning. The Geminids are caused by a mystery object that seems to be halfway between an asteroid and a comet.
Comet ISON will reappear this week if it survives its encounter with the Sun. And the Andromeda Galaxy, the nearest big spiral galaxy to our own, soars high in the evening.
Mercury and Saturn appear amazingly close together in the predawn sky early in the week. And Comet ISON skims just 700 thousand miles above the Sun’s surface on Thanksgiving Day.
Mercury, the innermost planet, appears in the predawn sky as Comet ISON races toward its rendezvous with the Sun. And Saturn, the ringed wonder, joins the action late in the week.
If we’re lucky, Comet ISON will become faintly visible in the predawn sky this week. But comets are notoriously unpredictable, so nobody can say for sure what will happen.
The ancient constellations of the Great Sea fill the southern sky, from Cetus the Sea Monster to strange Capricornus the Sea Goat, whose origin is lost in the mists of time.
Look to the right of Cassiopeia for a formation that I call the Really Big Dipper. It’s composed of the three brightest stars of Andromeda together with the Great Square of Pegasus.
The Perseus constellation group fills the northeastern sky. The W of Queen Cassiopeia is most striking. Her son-in-law Perseus below is home to one of the sky’s best but least-known star clusters.
Dazzling Venus creeps through Scorpius, passing a short distance above the strikingly red star Antares. And in the predawn sky, Mars passes slightly farther from Regulus, the brightest star of Leo.
Venus passes the star Delta Scorpii this week. In June 2000, Argentine stargazer Sebastián Otero caught Delta in a midlife crisis, changing from a normal star to one that varies in brightness.
S&T senior editor Alan MacRobert tells you what you need to know to get ready for Comet ISON.
Jupiter, the king of the planets, passes extraordinarily near the star Wasat in the sky. Although they appear close together, they’re actually totally different kinds of objects at wildly different distances from Earth.
You can view the change of seasons in the evening sky. The signature constellations of summer are setting in the west, while bright Cassiopeia, Perseus, Andromeda, and Pegasus rise in the northeast.
Autumn begins on Sunday, September 22nd. The full Moon closest to this date, called the Harvest Moon, rises just before sunset on Wednesday and sets just after sunrise on Thursday.
The waxing Moon traverses the sky this week. If you want a great project, track its appearance each night as it changes from 20% to 85% lit. Remarkably, we always see the same side of the Moon.
The Moon pairs with Mars early on Monday morning, and it’s spectacularly close to Venus at dusk on the following Sunday. In between, Venus passes a finger’s width above the bright star Spica.
Deneb, the faintest star of the Summer Triangle, belongs to the magnificent constellation Cygnus, the Swan, which flies along the Milky Way. Cygnus’s brightest stars form the splendid Northern Cross.
Vega, the brightest star of the Summer Triangle, is almost overhead now. Together with five fainter stars, Vega forms the strikingly geometric constellation Lyra, the Lyre.
The Perseid meteor shower winds down this week. Learn about the different kinds of meteoroids, and what happens on the rare occasions when they strike Earth’s surface.
The Perseid meteor shower is ramping up this week, reaching its strongest from midnight on Sunday, August 11th, to dawn’s first light the next morning.