Author Archives: Bob King

About Bob King

Amateur astronomer since childhood and long-time member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), Bob King also teaches community education astronomy. The universe invites us on an adventure every single night. All we need do is look up.

Saturn Hubble for ST

Splashy Saturn At Its Best and Brightest

Saturn reaches opposition this week, offering the best view of it we've had in years. This guide will help you explore the ringed planet's many charms. "That doesn't look real." "I've never seen anything like it." "Wowwwww ...!" Sound familiar? Then you must have shown somebody Saturn through a telescope. Or maybe one of those describes your...

Aurora Venus Better 480x274

Visit Venus in Its Darkest Hour

Keep your eye on the prize in the western sky. Venus sets exceptionally late this month, presenting skywatchers with several unusual observing opportunities. This season's apparition of Venus has been a happy one for northern hemisphere skywatchers as the planet continues to part from the Sun and increase in brightness. In May, Venus stands high in Gemini, an...

Lovejoy480x274_v2

Catch Comet Lovejoy in Cassiopeia

Still bright and easier than ever to find, Comet Lovejoy continues to delight skywatchers. Watch as it cuts through Cassiopeia this week. Comet Lovejoy, now a long-time visitor to our night sky, lies poised at the limit of naked eye visibility. Hovering around magnitude 5.8, the comet looks like a faint star from a dark sky,...

Rings 480x274

Crazy About Concentric Craters

With the Moon riding high this week, what better time to look for its three best-known yet enigmatic "ring" craters? We welcome back the waxing Moon this week. It's a chance for many of us to put dark-sky targets on the back burner and give some love to she who lights the night. During fall, the evening...

Sketching makes the eye grow sharper

Pleasures of Keeping an Astro Journal

Keeping a record of what you see in the telescope is not only fun but helps grow your observing skills. Learn how to start a journal and see how other amateurs keep theirs.  Do you write down what you saw after a session at the telescope? I've been doing it since I was a kid....

Sporadics orbital 480x274

Is There Such a Thing as a Random Meteor?

Meteor showers like the Perseids get all the press. But have you ever wondered where all the random meteors come from? We explore their origins.  We've all seen them. The sporadics. Those random meteors that flash across the sky on any old clear night. If you were to make a lifelong tally of meteors,...

The center of the stellar merry-go-round

A Visit to the Sky’s North Pole

Unlike the terrestrial North Pole, the heavenly version is easily accessible any clear night of the year. We explore curiosities within one degree of the celestial north pole and take a journey back in time.  What could be more appropriate in January than a jaunt to the north celestial pole? When the polar vortex comes howling and temperatures...

J-F Millet, Sheepfold

What Makes Moonlight Special?

Romantic, mysterious, soothing, and radiant, moonlight has its own special qualities. We explore how we perceive the night under a bright Moon. A moonlit stroll is starkly different from a walk in the sunshine. Moonlight's dark, spooky quality contrasts with the clarity of sunlight. And while it may not grow hair on your face, we...

Simple anatomy of a nebula

How to See the Orion Nebula in 3D

Add another dimension of viewing to winter's favorite deep sky object, the Great Nebula of Orion. The Orion Nebula is arguably the centerpiece of the winter sky. This bright, richly-detailed blossom of glowing gas and dust invites repeated observation. How many of us have pointed our telescope or binoculars in its direction five, six, or even ten...

Meek beginnings for the brightest planet

Venus Finally Comes Out of Hiding

Welcome back, Venus! Brightest planet in the sky returns just in time for the holidays. "There are so many stars shining in the sky, so many beautiful things winking at you, but when Venus comes out, all the others are waned ... Mehmet Murat ildan from the play Galileo Galilei (2001) I miss Venus. The brightest planet in...

Carbon stars' color make them visual magnets

Carbon Stars Will Make You See Red

Treasure hunting for carbon stars, the rubies of the night sky. Color can be tough to come by in the deep sky, especially if you own a small telescope. Planets serve up a medley of subtle hues, as do a few planetary and bright nebulae. Stars show tints of blue, yellow, and orange, but there's nothing quite like the color...