Observing our Solar System

Comet Garradd's two tails

Comet Garradd in Transition

A decently bright visitor from the solar system’s fringe has lingered in the evening sky for months. As it nears perihelion, Comet Garradd (C/2009 P1) will soon be seen better in northern morning skies before dawn.

Comet Lovejoy rounds the Sun

Comet Lovejoy: A Solar Survivor

The odds were stacked against it, but a comet discovered just two weeks ago has passed just 116,000 miles from the Sun's surface and — like a celestial phoenix — reemerged into view. Here's the latest on what veteran observer John Bortle calls "one of the most extraordinary events in cometary history."

Crescent Moon and Venus at sunset

Could the lunar crescent be seen in a telescope at new Moon?

Is the Moon’s orbit inclined sufficiently that, when it misses the Sun by the greatest amount north (or south), the lunar crescent could be seen in a telescope at new Moon? Probably not. The inclination of the Moon’s orbit to the ecliptic varies from 5.0° to 5.3°. French astronomer André Danjon (1890–1967) showed that no…

Jupiter's appearance in 2010

Disappearing Act on Jupiter

One of the giant planet's signature bands, the South Equatorial Belt, began fading late last year. Now, for the first time since 1992, it's completely missing. Amateur and professional observers worldwide are eagerly hoping to witness its return.

Ecliptic and equator illustration

Equinox Arrives September 22nd

Although many of us are already seeing seasonal changes, autumn for the Northern Hemisphere officially begins on Sunday, September 22nd, at 20:44 Universal Time. But why is the time of the equinox so specific? S&T's editors explain.

The crescent Moon meets Venus

Follow the Morning Moon

The Moon is the great highlight of the early morning sky this week, as it heads for a spectacular rendezvous with Venus at dawn on Thursday, January 10th.

Go See the Sun

If you have a solar filter or another way to safely view the Sun, be sure to check out the latest group of sunspots marching across its disk.