Observing our Solar System

Comet PANSTARRS

A Comet Worth Waiting For?

Observers using the automated Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii have found a new comet. As of right now, it might brighten to 1st magnitude in early 2013, but it's far too early to be certain of that.

During the 2004 Geminid meteor shower, Alan Dyer caught a bright fireball with a tripod-mounted digital camera. He used a wide-field, 16-mm lens for a 1-minute exposure at f/2.8 with an ISO setting of 800. Expect to shoot a lot of frames before you get this lucky. Click image for larger view.

An Alpha Leonid Meteor Watch?

Few meteor showers are a cascade of shooting stars. Sky & Telescope contributing editor David H. Levy explains that there's simple pleasure in paying attention to sparser showers.

Aurigid meteors

Aurigids Aplenty!

Just as predicted, the Aurigid shower delivered a burst of meteors created by particles shed by a comet more than 2,000 years ago.

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Best Mercury of 2011

Mercury's best evening apparition of 2011 for Northern Hemisphere observers takes place this March. And with Jupiter to point the way, Mercury is unusually easy to locate from March 12–18.

Venus Express

Call for Images of Venus

Venus Express project scientists are inviting amateur and professional astronomers to contribute Earth-based images of the planet made at infrared, visible, and ultraviolet wavelengths.

The bright dot at upper right is Mercury, shining at magnitude -0.3 to the upper right of the 1½-day-old Moon on March 11, 2005. North Americans witness a nearly identical scene at dusk on May 6, 2008, except that Mercury will be to the Moon's lower left.

This photo is cropped from a much larger image that's available on the photographer's website.

Catch Mercury at Its Best

Mercury is normally elusive, but it's putting on an extraordinarily good evening show for observers at mid-northern latitudes from late April through mid-May 2008.