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

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Is There Such a Thing as a Random Meteor?

Meteor showers like the Perseids get all the press. But have you ever wondered where all the random meteors come from? We explore their origins.  We've all seen them. The sporadics. Those random meteors that flash across the sky on any old clear night. If you were to make a lifelong tally of meteors,...

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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.

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...