Observing

The sky is always changing. Planets dance in the evening, stars explode as supernovae, and new comets grace dawn skies. Here we bring together all the tips and resources you’ll need to observe the glories that light up the heavens.

We have star maps, podcasts, and detailed guides for what’s in the sky tonight. Read senior editor Alan MacRobert’s column This Week’s Sky at a Glance to find out what’s visible and where and when to look. Or check out our pointers on seeing asteroids or spotting Uranus and Neptune. (Did you know you could do that?) Meteor showers, record-thin Moons, and even sunspots — here’s where you’ll find the latest on what’s happening in the sky, both day and night.

This Week's Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, October 17 – 25

Some daily sky sights among the ever-changing stars and planets Friday, October 17 Before dawn Saturday morning, Jupiter shines above the waning Moon, as shown at right. Although they look rather close together, Jupiter is 2,100 times farther in the background — it's at a distance of 47 light-minutes, compared to the Moon's 1.3...

Cone of zodiacal light stretching into the sky from behind a dark silhouette of evergreen trees.

Zodiacal Light – Captivated by Comet Dust

October's a perfect time to see the zodiacal light, a tapering tower of comet dust standing high in the eastern sky before dawn. Here's how to find it. Wednesday morning, 5:30 a.m. I'm driving too fast down a country road in search of a clear sky to watch the total lunar eclipse. Totality is underway, but clouds...

ISS slips into shadow over Iowa

Watch a Sunset with the ISS Astronauts

See a space station sunset with both feet planted firmly on the ground. Beginning this week and continuing through late October, the International Space Station (ISS) will makes passes over much of the United States, Canada, and Europe during convenient evening viewing hours. Why not get out for a look before the bite of winter arrives? A typical...

Sequence of lunar eclipse images

Lunar Eclipse Roundup

Reports describing this morning's lunar eclipse are beginning to trickle in to our offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Night Owls Prepare for October 8th’s Lunar Eclipse

You'll need to be up after midnight to watch the Moon plunge deep into Earth's shadow tomorrow morning — but it'll be worth it. Sometimes astronomical events occur in prime time — soon after it gets dark yet before bedtime. But that won't be the case tomorrow morning when, for the second time this year,...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, October 3 – 11

Some daily celestial sights among the ever-changing stars and planets Friday, October 3 As evening twilight fades away, look very far to the lower left of the Moon for Fomalhaut, the Autumn Star, already climbing up from the southeast horizon. Saturday, October 4 The W pattern of Cassiopeia stands vertically (on its dimmer end)...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, September 5 – 13

Friday, September 5 Saturn, Mars, Delta (δ) Scorpii, and Antares form an equally-spaced ragged line in the southwest at dusk, as shown at right. Delta Scorpii used to be a bit dimmer than Beta above it. Then in July 2000 it doubled in brightness. It has remained bright, with slow fluctuations, ever since. Look...

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A Worldwide Night of Moonwatching

International Observe the Moon Night is an event that encourages people to "look up" and enjoy our nearest neighbor. This year's InOMN is Saturday, September 6th. Here's a quiz: What astronomical object looks amazing no matter what the magnification, never looks exactly the same no matter how often you view it, and can be...

Autumn sky sights near Vega

Tour September’s Sky: Farewell to Saturn

The astronomical calendar says autumn arrives on September 22nd. It's a season of transition, with plenty of celestial comings and goings in the evening sky. September’s equinox takes place on the 22nd at 10:29 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. At that moment the Sun shines directly overhead as seen from the equator. Days and nights...

Crescent cradles the 'old moon'

Earthshine, the Moon’s Darker Side

With a subtle beauty all its own, the earthshine we see glowing in the lunar night invites us to consider Earth's many connections to the Moon This week's crescent Moon offers more than two horns to hang your hat on. Take a close look, and you'll see an entire circle of moonlight. Sunlight illuminates...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, August 22 – 30

Friday, August 22 Altair is the brightest star shining halfway up the southeastern sky after nightfall. Look to its left, by a little more than a fist at arm's length, for the dim but distinctive constellation Delphinus, the Dolphin. He's leaping leftward, just below the Milky Way. In Saturday's dawn, the thin waning crescent...