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.

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Where To See Comet Lovejoy Tonight

The new Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, should brighten from 5th to 4th magnitude from late December through January as it climbs into excellent viewing position for the Northern Hemisphere, high in the dark winter sky.

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Rare Triple Shadow Transit Not to Miss!

Complete guide to Friday night's triple shadow transit of Jupiter's moons and a remarkable "pre-game" show of mutual events. Cross your fingers and hope that Friday January 23rd will be clear. That night observers from western Europe to the Americas will witness a rare triple shadow transit of three of Jupiter's moons — Io,...

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...

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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...

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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.

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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, December 19 – 27

Some daily sky sights among the ever-changing Moon, planets, and stars. Friday, December 19 Have you ever tried to catch Sirius actually rising? If you can find a good view down to the east-southeast horizon, watch for Sirius emerging about two fists at arm's length below Orion's Belt. It now rises sometime around 7:30...

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...

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...