Back on New Year's Day, 2019, the world got its first glimpses of MU69, a tiny rock orbiting our Sun almost a billion miles farther out than Pluto, in the heart of the Kuiper Belt. This rock represented our first up-close look at such a distant solar system object. Though it dwells in the same…Read more Inspiration From An Interplanetary Snowman
Imagine, for a moment, what the world would have been like in the 15th and 16th centuries, if Magellan, de Gama, Cortez, Columbus, and all the other seafaring European explorers heading out for "the New World" knew exactly what they were in for. If, Viking exploration aside, the entire European population was aware not only…Read more Goodbye, Kepler
Wow, there's a lot of cool stuff going on in the night sky this week. I can't wait til this pattern of East Coast thunderstorms lets me see it! Let me give a quick rundown, in the order of my own particular interest and excitement. Your mileage may vary. Mars at Opposition Mars is back,…Read more The Moon, Mars, a Comet, and Maybe a Fireball (Astronomy: Week of 7/22/18)
As a quick followup to my post last week about Mercury being at elongation (that was back on Thursday, July 12) - I failed to mention, because I didn't know, that the brand new baby moon would be right next to Mercury on Saturday night (the 14th). Here's what I saw: Mercury is actually fairly…Read more Mercury and the Moon
Hey all, a quick one this week - I'm out in the woods (hooray!) this week with no (little) internet. A nice tradeoff, honestly... BUT, as I've been out this week under clear skies, looking at Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars (midnight or so), I've also caught a glimpse of Mercury. All five (six if…Read more Mercury at Elongation (Astronomy: Week of 7/8/18)
Not so long ago, we had no planets in our evening skies. Now Venus hangs in the west, Jupiter is bright and high in the south, and starting tonight, Saturn will be joining the party. Saturn is at opposition - directly opposite the Sun, rising as it sets - on June 27, just as the…Read more Saturn Joins The Party (Astronomy: Week of 6/24/18)
Around here, meteorologically at least, spring has been sort of hard to get a grip on. We've gone from weeks of rain (very spring-y), to cold dreary late-winter holdouts interspersed with days of mid-summer 90-degree temps and high humidity. It's been a confusing time -- and so it's hard to really get a grip on…Read more Summer?
A lot has happened in the two weeks I've gone silent... spring has sprung, the evening peepers have given way to Chuck-Will's-Widows and both screech and barred owl calls. Trees have leafed out (and flowered, as copious pollen can attest), and I've watched redbuds, dogwoods, wisteria, and locust trees bloom. In the meantime, I've been…Read more Jupiter is Back (Astronomy: Week of 5/6/18)
As I write this, on 3/31/18, a Blue Moon is rising on the night before Easter Sunday. By convention (and agreement per the Council of Nicaea in the year 325), Easter occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs after the Vernal Equinox - one of the few remaining holidays that…Read more Ah… Spring, and Stuff (Astronomy: Week of 4/1/18)
As twilight ended on March 18, we could see our entire inner solar system in one shot: The Earth, Moon, Venus, and Mercury (left to right).
I am writing this on St. Patrick's Day. Erin Go Bragh! And I'm casting a glance fairly frequently out the window these days, looking for green. Spring is coming - the vernal equinox actually occurs on the 20th this year (Tuesday) - just after noon (12:45pm EDT). Often confused with "the first day of Spring",…Read more Spring Planets! (Astronomy: Week of 3/18/18)
It's been raining and cloudy for weeks. Then we had a Nor'easter barrel through with 60 mph winds, leaving us with clear skies - just in time for the Venus-Mercury conjunction on March 3. This picture was taken March 4 - not the closest approach, but not far - about a half hour after sunset. …Read more Venus and Mercury
I stumbled across an innocuous piece of information this time last year - I don't know if it's an apocryphal source for a more common saying? A coincidence? But it's cool... However, hold that thought, I'll get to it. First, interesting things THIS WEEK: 1) As I mentioned, Venus is making its way back into…Read more Lions, Planets and Bears (Astronomy: Week of 2/25/18)
OK, yes, I'm late getting this done this week - things have been busy... but better late than never! This week, Venus is reappearing in our night skies! It will be a while yet before it's making a significant showing as the "Evening Star", but it is there! If you have a clear western horizon,…Read more Xolotl is Back! (Astronomy: Week of 2/18/18)
Earlier in the week, I referred to an effort to find the dwarf planet Ceres, while carefully sharing a photo of Orion to disguise the fact that "finding" Ceres meant little more than identifying one dot of many as a rocky planet, and not a star like the rest of them. For me, "discovery" meant…Read more Discovering New Worlds (Astronomy: Week of 2/10/18)