Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

— Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law

Kevin's blog

Visitors to Both Jupiter and Saturn

by David Prosper

 Have you observed Jupiter and Saturn moving closer to each other over the past few months? On December 21, the two worlds will be at their closest, around 1/5 of a full Moon apart! While the two gas giants may appear close, in reality they are hundreds of millions of miles apart. Despite this vast distance, a select few missions have visited both worlds by using a gravity assist from giant Jupiter to slingshot them towards Saturn, saving time and fuel.

Hubble at 30: Three Decades of Cosmic Discovery

 Hubble Telescope

Hubble at 30: Three Decades of Cosmic Discovery

David Prosper

Dim Delights in Cancer

 55 Cancri

Dim Delights in Cancer

David Prosper

Cancer the Crab is a dim constellation, yet it contains one of the most beautiful and easy-to-spot star clusters in our sky: the Beehive Cluster. Cancer also possesses one of the most studied exoplanets: the superhot super-Earth, 55 Cancri e.

 

 

Advice on buying your first telescope

Hobby Killers

For some good advice on how to buy your first telescope, or if you need some guidance on buying one as a gift, check out this article from Sky & Telescope magazine:

Springtime Planet Party

Springtime Planet Party

David Prosper

                                  

March brings longer days for Northern Hemisphere observers, especially by the time of the equinox. Early risers are treated to the majority of the bright planets dancing in the morning skies, with the Moon passing between them at the beginning and end of the month.

Earth EquinoxThe vernal equinox occurs on March 20, marking the official beginning of spring for the Northern Hemisphere. Our Sun shines equally on the Northern and Southern Hemispheres during the moment of equinox, which is why the March and September equinoxes are the only times of the year when the Earth’s north and south poles are simultaneously lit by sunlight. Exacting astronomers will note that the length of day and night on the equinox are not precisely equal; the date when they are closest to equal depends on your latitude, and may occur a few days earlier or later than the equinox itself. One complicating factor is that the Sun isn’t a point light source, but a disc. Its edge is refracted by our atmosphere as it rises and sets, which adds several minutes of light to every day. The Sun doesn’t neatly wink on and off at sunrise and sunset like a light bulb, and so there isn’t a perfect split of day and night on the equinox - but it’s very close!

 

 

 

Observe Apollo 8’s Lunar Milestones

NASA Night Sky Notes:

Observe Apollo 8’s Lunar Milestones  

By David Prosper

                                   

December marEarthriseks the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 8 mission, when humans first orbited the Moon in a triumph of human engineering. The mission may be most famous for “Earthrise,” the iconic photograph of Earth suspended over the rugged lunar surface. “Earthrise” inspired the imaginations of people around the world and remains one of the most famous photos ever taken. This month also brings a great potential display of the Geminids and a close approach by Comet 46P/Wirtanen

 

 

 

 

 

Observe the Moon

 

Observe the Moon

By Jane Houston Jones and Jessica Stoller-Conrad


This year’s International Observe the Moon Night is on Oct. 20. On that night the 11-day-old waxing gibbous Moon will rise in the late afternoon and set before dawn. Sunlight will reveal most of the lunar surface and the Moon will be visible all night long. You can observe the Moon’s features whether you’re observing with the unaided eye, through binoculars or through a telescope.

A Trip Through the Milky Way

A Trip Through the Milky Way

By Jane Houston Jones and Jessica Stoller-Conrad


Feeling like you missed out on planning a last vacation of summer? Don’t worry—you can still take a late summertime road trip along the Milky Way!

The waning days of summer are upon us, and that means the Sun is setting earlier now. These earlier sunsets reveal a starry sky bisected by the Milky Way. Want to see this view of our home galaxy? Head out toyour favorite dark sky getaway or to the darkest city park or urban open space you can find.

While you’re out there waiting for a peek at the Milky Way, you’ll also have a great view of the planets in our solar system. Keep an eye out right after sunset and you can catch a look at Venus. If you have binoculars or a telescope, you’ll see Venus’s phase change dramatically during September—from nearly half phase to a larger, thinner crescent.

Dimming stars, erupting plasma, and beautiful nebulae


Dimming stars, erupting plasma, and beautiful nebulae

By Marcus Woo

 

Boasting intricate patterns and translucent colors, planetary nebulae are among the most beautiful sights in the universe. How they got their shapes is complicated, but astronomers think they've solved part of the mystery—with giant blobs of plasma shooting through space at half a million miles per hour.

Planetary nebulae are shells of gas and dust blown off from a dying, giant star. Most nebulae aren't spherical, but can have multiple lobes extending from opposite sides—possibly generated by powerful jets erupting from the star.

The Loneliest Galaxy In The Universe

Spaceplace LogoThe Loneliest Galaxy In The Universe

By Ethan Siegel