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.

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...

Comet-2014Q2_Rhemann_Nov-27-2014_489x274

Binocular Comet Lovejoy Heading Our Way

A new Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, is heading our way. It may brighten to 5th magnitude from late December through much of January as it climbs into excellent viewing position for the Northern Hemisphere, high in the dark winter sky.

This Week's Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, December 12 – 20

Some daily sky sights among the ever-changing Moon, planets, and stars. Friday, December 12 This is the time of year when, around 8 or 9 p.m., Cassiopeia stands very high in the north as a flattened letter M. When will you see it perfectly level? This mostly depends on how far east or west...

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...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

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

Some daily sky sights among the ever-changing Moon, planets, and stars. Friday, December 5 The Moon is essentially full this evening and Saturday evening both (it's exactly full at 7:27 a.m. Saturday morning EST.) On Friday evening in the Americas, look for Aldebaran less than about 2° from the Moon. Watch the Moon shift...

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...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, Nov. 28 – Dec. 6

Some daily sky sights among the ever-changing Moon, planets, and stars. Friday, November 28 First-quarter Moon (exactly first-quarter at 5:06 a.m. Saturday morning EST). Look this evening for Fomalhaut far to the Moon's lower left, and for Enif, the nose of Pegasus, almost as far to the Moon's upper right. Saturday, November 29 The...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, November 14 – 22

Some daily sky sights among the ever-changing Moon, planets, and stars. Friday, November 14 Keep an eye on little Mars in the southwest at dusk. It will keep hanging in there month after month through this winter, as constellations of the zodiac slide behind it. Last-quarter Moon (exact at 10:16 a.m. EST). The Moon...

Moose and Crane provide symbolize practical needs and inner spirit

Make Way for the Wintermaker

There's more than one way to see the constellations. Here's a look through Native American eyes. Orion the Hunter is arguably one of the most recognizable constellations in the sky. Striding the celestial equator, he charges up from this eastern horizon around 9 o'clock in late November, club in one hand and shield in the...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, November 7 – 15

Some daily sky sights among the ever-changing stars and planets. Friday, November 7 The Moon, just past full, rises in the east at dusk. Once it climbs high, look for orange Aldebaran to its lower left and the Pleiades to its upper left. Catch Mercury in Saturday's dawn, as shown here. Saturday, November 8...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, October 24 – November 1

Some daily sky sights among the ever-changing stars and planets The monster sunspot continues in view; see "This Week's Planet Roundup" below. Friday, October 24 As the stars come out, Deneb is nearly straight overhead for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes. Brighter Vega is west of the zenith. Altair is farther from the zenith toward...

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 Monster sunspot alert — see "This Week's Planet Roundup" below. 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...