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 astronomy tips and resources you’ll need to observe the glories that light up the heavens.

Sky at a Glance – Our most popular column. Find out what’s up in the sky tonight!
Sky Tour Podcasts – Discover your night sky in a guided monthly tour led by J. Kelly Beatty
Interactive Observing Tools – Plan your observing tonight with our sky chart and other tools
Celestial Objects to Observe – A treasure chest of observing advice categorized by object type
Astronomy and Stargazing Projects – Find blueprints for observing projects

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...

J-F Millet, Sheepfold

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...

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.

Sky at a Glance logo

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...

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...