This Week's Amazing Sky

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About this Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s blog on stargazing and astronomy. Wondering which bright objects you’re seeing in the night sky? Want to learn about a breathtaking sight coming up? Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, we’ll cover everything under the Sun (and Moon)!

September 23, 2016

After the Moon, Venus is the brightest thing in the night sky.  Nothing else even comes close.  No wonder civilizations through the ages, like the Maya, worshiped it.  But Venus is not always there.  Sometimes it’s behind the Sun.  Sometimes it’s very low in our sky, hidden in twilight behind hills. For nine months at a time it’s only visible in the pre-dawn as a gift for early risers and insomniacs. And nearly all this year, it’s been invisibly lurking behind the Sun. When it finally does... more

September 15, 2016

This Friday, September 16, the Moon turns full.  And it’s a penumbral eclipse. And what does penumbral even mean? First, the facts:  The Harvest Moon rises this Friday.  It’s dubbed with this name because its early moonrise (right after sunset) over successive days provides extra light to give more time for folks to gather their crops at harvest time. That itself is kind of cool. It’s also a penumbral eclipse. The eclipse happens on Friday after lunch (EDT), when the Moon won’t even be out.  ... more

August 30, 2016

Tonight or on your first clear night, face south between 8:30 and 9:00 PM.  You’ll see a striking triangle.  Three bright stars.  You can’t miss it. Then from September 7 to 9, 2016, the triangle is near the Moon. This picturesque triangle near the Moon is created by Saturn, Mars and Antares–and will stay out until late evening. Rarely is astronomy this easy.  The leftmost star is the brightest, with an obvious orange color.  This is the planet Mars.  It came closest to us in May and is still... more

August 3, 2016

The best meteors of the year occur with the Perseid meteor shower, so get viewing tips for the meteor shower and learn about the history (and foreboding future) of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. Everyone loves when “shooting stars” rip across the sky. Well, the game is on. Each night from now on, there will be more and more from the Perseid meteor shower. The peak intensity happens this Thursday August 11 and the following night. Whichever is clearest and least hazy, that’s your night. Check your... more

August 2, 2016

Seen any shooting stars lately? Worried about being clobbered by a meteor? Here’s why you don’t have to worry about meteor safety! For reasons no one can explain, meteors are mostly crammed into the final five months of the year. Right now the Delta Aquarid shower is underway, and so is the richer and more famous Perseids. Their numbers will keep increasing until the night of August 12. These August “falling stars” are mostly the size of apple seeds. But larger ones are out there too, and some... more

July 20, 2016

We’re never too surprised when the night sky has a sudden flash. Sometimes it’s late-summer fireworks. And nature creates flashes too. Lightning Flashes The usual cause, of course, is thunderstorms. As the Almanac says, “Thunderstorms in July are nearly as abundant as ants at a picnic.” Sometimes it’s surprising to see a flash of lightning when the sky is clear and starry. Such amorphous flickers of light are common in July and August.  The usual culprit: distant lightning. Unlike winter... more

July 10, 2016

In most of the Northern Hemisphere, July is the hottest month. But when folks grumble about feeling uncomfortable, they often say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” That’s so true. How Can You Tell That It’s Humid? You can quickly judge moisture by glancing up. A deep blue sky means dry air. A light blue sky with a nearly white horizon means average humidity. A sky that’s milky overhead is very humid. That’s the summertime norm in the Carolinas and the Gulf States. Warm air can hold... more

July 3, 2016

Which telescope should you buy? Let’s examine the different types of telescopes that you might purchase—to help you select the telescope that’s best for you. Read “How to Buy a Telescope Part I: Rules of the Game” first. Every telescope is composed of the same basic components because the main purpose is the same: to gather the light from celestial objects. This could be light from objects that produce it such as stars and galaxies. Or light from bodies such as planets, comets, and our Moon... more

July 3, 2016

Here is advice on how to buy (or not buy) a telescope. Amateur astronomy is a hobby that can hold your attention for a lifetime, so it’s worth starting out right. You don’t need to spend a fortune. But whatever your price range, you want to get the most for your money. Inexperienced telescope buyers make the same unfortunate mistakes year after year. It is far too easy to spend your hard-earned dollars on poor-quality instruments, and the awful performance of these telescopes often discourages... more

July 1, 2016

With this week’s fireworks fresh in mind, we’re allowed to wonder: What is the universe’s most awesome energy?  Right now, when early summer solar power is so strong, we might first say that “The Sun” is the most powerful force. Not a bad starting point. The Energy of our Sun We’re talking nuclear fusion, first revealed in 1920. Turns out, at a high enough temperature, four ordinary hydrogen atoms fuse into one of helium. This always releases energy. The Sun’s core emits 96 billion megatons... more

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