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, July 25 – August 2

Friday, July 25 Mars and Spica shine in the southwest at nightfall. Mars keeps pulling farther away from Spica; they're now 6° apart. Saturn glows pale yellow to their upper left. Arcturus sparkles high to their upper right. Saturday, July 26 New Moon (exact at 6:42 p.m. EDT). Summer is hardly more than a...

Faculae along solar limb on July 18, 2014

Blank Sun? Faculae to the Rescue!

Fascinating faculae provide a way for anyone with a small telescope to track the ups and downs of the solar cycle — even when there are no sunspots. Sunspots get all the press. Last week the Web hummed with articles about a spotless Sun, the first time since August 2011 our star wore a...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, July 11 – 19

Friday, July 11 Mars and Spica form a striking pair in the southwestern sky at dusk! They're now just under 2° apart. On Sunday evening they'll be at their minimum separation, 1.3°. Watch them change day by day. Full Moon tonight and Saturday night (exactly full at 7:25 a.m. Saturday morning Eastern Daylight Time.)...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, July 4-12

Friday, July 4 Out to watch fireworks? As you're waiting for twilight to end, spot the Moon in the west-southwest with Mars and Spica off to its left, as shown for July 4 here. High above them all shines brighter Arcturus. Saturn is farther left (off the left edge of this illustration). Point them...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, June 27 – July 5

Friday, June 27 This is the time of year when, at the end of dusk, the dim Little Dipper floats straight upward from Polaris (the end of its handle) — like a helium balloon on a string, escaped from some summer evening party. Look due north. (Through light pollution, all that you may see...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, June 13 – 21

Friday, June 13 Vega is the brightest star shining in the east after dusk. It's currently the top star of the big Summer Triangle. The brightest star to Vega's lower left is Deneb. Look farther to Vega's lower right for Altair. The Summer Triangle will climb higher in early evening all through the summer,...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

Sky at a Glance, June 6 – 14

Friday, June 6 Look left of the Moon this evening for Mars, then Spica, as shown at right. With June under way, the Big Dipper is swinging around after dark to hang down by its handle high in the northwest. The middle star of its handle is Mizar, with tiny little Alcor right next...

Bright (and rare) Camelopardalid

First Reports: Camelopardalids Disappoint

Dynamicists had predicted that Comet 209P/LINEAR would create an active meteor display in the early morning of May 24th. But reports from observers across the U.S. and Canada suggest that the Camelopardalid meteor shower was weak at best.

This Week's Sky at a Glance

Sky at a Glance, May 23 – 31

Friday, May 23 Meteor Update Saturday morning: Well that was a dud! Meteor watchers all over North America who went out in the early morning hours for the new predicted Camelopardalid shower saw few if any. People indeed reported observing a handful of meteors from the new radiant, but just a few per hour....