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, 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....

This Week's Sky at a Glance

Sky at a Glance, May 16 – 24

Friday, May 16 Look for Mercury as twilight darkens. It's low in the west-northwest, far to the lower right of Jupiter and lower left of Capella. Mercury is having its highest showing of 2014 (for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes). Saturday, May 17 Arcturus shines high in the southeast these nights. Vega shines much lower...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

Sky at a Glance, May 9 – 17

Friday, May 9 The waxing gibbous Moon in the evening sky forms a curving line with Mars to its left, and Spica to the lower left of Mars. Saturday, May 10 Bright Mars shines left of the Moon. Although they look rather close together, Mars is 260 times farther away — and twice as...

View of Saturn through a large backyard telescope

See Splendid Saturn at Its Best

Your first view of Saturn with a telescope can introduce you to the riches of stargazing — and now is the perfect time to observe it. Saturn is entering the early evening sky this spring just as Jupiter begins its exit in the west. Here's a quick guide to spotting the ringed planet by...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

Sky at a Glance, May 2 – 10

Friday, May 2 How soon after sunset can you see the first stars and planets coming out? The brightest this spring is Jupiter. Look for it high in the west, almost two fist-widths at arm's length above or upper left of the Moon this evening. Next brightest is Sirius, sinking in the southwest. Saturday,...

Why is Jupiter's Great Red Spot shrinking?

Jupiter’s Not-So-Great Red Spot

Astronomers don't know why Jupiter's iconic Great Red Spot has been gradually shrinking since the 1800s — or why the downsizing has accelerated during the past two years. Update: On May 15th, NASA released newly taken images of the Great Red Spot (at bottom below) to show its declining size since 1995. Thanks to...

This Week's Sky at a Glance

Sky at a Glance, April 18-26

Friday, April 18 Jupiter shines right under the big Arch of Spring this year. The Arch spans much of the western sky. Pollux and Castor form its top (as seen from mid-northern latitudes). To their lower left is Procyon, one end of the Arch. Farther to their lower right is the other end: Menkalinen...