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)!

March 22, 2017

The Big Dipper is an old friend to most of us. Poetically, it is spring itself, the season of renewal, right now, when the Dipper is best seen. Go out between 9 and 10 p.m., and you’ll see that it hovers so high in the north, it’s almost overhead. Where is the Big Dipper? The Dipper floats forlornly in a dark desolate region of the sky. It’s actually a section of the Great Bear high in the North. This realm lies far from the Milky Way. Hence, the Dipper guides our eyes away from the flat plane... more

March 22, 2017

Monday 20 brings the spring equinox. If this date surprises you because you associate vernal equinoxes as occurring on the 21st, you’re dating yourself. Spring arrived on the 21st during most of the 20th century. They slide earlier and earlier during the 400-year Gregorian calendar cycle. The final March 21 equinox was in 2007, even if we use Greenwich Time as many almanacs do. Now the 21st is gone for keeps, unless you believe in reincarnation and want to check back in the 22nd century. In a... more

March 22, 2017

During Moonless weeks in late March, the most widely recognized constellation at nightfall is Orion, standing upright in the southwest. People who appreciate the outdoors and the night sky may know this prominent constellation best. Of the 88 constellations, Orion is distinctive with its famous belt, those three-stars-in-row. They float like a navigational buoy in the middle of the sky. Can the sky really have a “middle?” Yes, because Orion’s belt, that most fashionable article of cosmic... more

March 2, 2017

The most dramatic happening in the sky these days is not unfolding at night.  It’s in the day.  And it affects all of us, big-time.  Many assume that the change to warmer weather is due to the Sun being out longer and longer—the growing change in daylight length.  That’s partially true.  But the biggest factor in our transition to spring is the height of the Sun. Never stare at the Sun, of course.  But many of us take quick squinting glances to see how high up it appears at Noon.  Two months... more

February 21, 2017

The word “infinity” is intriguing, but frustrating. That’s because infinity cannot be visualized. How do you picture it? Let’s explore … What is Infinity? Infinity is the idea of something that has no end. Infinity does not “get larger.” Infinity is not a real number. In our world, there is nothing like this. Most things have an end, but infinity is endless. We do not go “to infinity … . and beyond!” because it doesn’t go anywhere.  And since the 2012 discovery of the large scale flat topology... more

February 20, 2017

This month brought exciting space news. A new star will appear in the night sky, in about five years.  An astronomy professor at a small U.S. College, along with some of his students, predicted that an odd type of exploding star called a red nova will appear in our skies in 2022.  It would be the first naked eye nova in decades.  And the mechanism behind it is fascinating as well. This story really begins 10 years ago, when astronomers closely monitored a distant star in Scorpius.  This was a... more

February 8, 2017

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about the media. Are they accurate or do they exaggerate? Believe it or not, the same issue applies to the universe. And it all comes to a head Friday night, February 10.  One Web site has the headline: “Friday night spectacle: See an eclipse, full Moon, and comet all at the same time!” That certainly sounds cool.  If I were an astronomer, which I am, I’d mark Friday night on my calendar and check it out. But considered in a different way, there’s nothing... more

February 8, 2017

Dazzling Venus is getting even brighter in February! And “dazzling” is no exaggeration. The evening star will reach its greatest brilliance on February 16–17. Here are highlights of some serious in-your-face performances unfolding right now. Venus in the Sky for February 2017 On Tuesday, January 31, at nightfall, look for the crescent Moon to form a gorgeous triangle with brilliant Venus and fainter, orange Mars. Simply look westward, you can’t miss it. The next night, Wednesday, February 1,... more

February 7, 2017

Tonight, February 10, 2017 will bring the year’s first lunar eclipse. It’s a penumbral eclipse. What exactly does this mean? First, the facts:  This penumbral lunar eclipse is this evening, Friday, February 10, 2017. It will begin at 5:34 p.m. with best viewing at 7:44 p.m. This is a very subtle kind of eclipse which may appear like a darker-than-usual Moon. It’s easiest to view from the eastern portions of North America, as it will be too light in the western time zones. From many internet... more

January 11, 2017

Don’t miss beautiful planet Venus dazzling in the evening sky this month. It’s that bright “star” you see just after sunset—the third-brightest object after the Sun and Moon. Let’s be Venus groupies!  Centuries ago, a number of cultures like the Maya pretty much worshiped Venus.  As the evening star each gets maximally prominent every 19 months, sure enough, the Maya had a 19 month calendar.  Well, these evenings just after sunset Venus hovers in the west so brilliantly it’s impossible to... more

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