Astronomy Blogs

December 16, 2017

What is a Blue Moon? When is the next Blue Moon? There’s some confusion about its meaning. Here’s the scoop. When is the Next Blue Moon? As of this writing, the next Blue Moon is January 31, 2018. See the January Full Moon page. Why is it Called the Blue Moon? We got a lot of letters about this. Some folks imagine that it actually appears blue. Others assume it’s a term that originated with Native American folklore. Neither is true. Also, Blue Moon is not an astronomical term. This term only... more

December 15, 2017

When a supermoon arrives (the next is January 1, 2018), the media goes crazy for it. But is it really worth all the hype? Read on to find out what a supermoon is—and what it isn’t! January 2018 brings full Moons—both supermoons! The first is the night of January 1—on New Year’s. This is the biggest supermoon of the year, aligning nearest to perigee—the Moon’s closest point to Earth in its monthly orbit.  (January 31 is the second full Moon—also a Blue Moon!) “Supermoon” is not an astronomical... more

December 7, 2017

Did you know that early December is when the darkest days of the year occur? It’s a major winter milestone: the days of our earliest sunsets. This puzzles people, but in fact it’s a reliable yearly sequence. First comes earliest sunset, in early December. Then there’s the winter solstice half a month later, the day with the fewest minutes of daylight. Finally, another two weeks later, in early January, we get our murkiest morning—the latest sunrise. So we’re now slam bang at the low point of... more

December 6, 2017

Maybe you’ve heard those radio commercials. The announcer says, “If you’re looking for a perfect gift for that special someone … then have a star named after them!” The International Star Registry is still in business. More than 30 years ago, when I first saw their advertisements, I thought that Ira Downings of Toronto, the person behind it, would make a quick buck and then vanish. I was wrong. After he sold the franchise to U.S. entrepreneur Phyllis Mosele, the now Illinois-based outfit grew... more

November 29, 2017

In some rural areas, folks heat their homes with oil. Some buy kerosene, which is similar but a bit more refined. They use it during the coldest months because it doesn’t gel in the lines. The rest of us fondly remember kerosene for all the times we used a Coleman lantern when camping. It was easy to love. Believe it or not, all this connects with astronomy. When America first blasted astronauts into space inside claustrophobic little Mercury capsules, the propellant those Atlas rockets used... more

November 29, 2017

In December, many people start to notice Orion the Hunter in the night sky.  It’s one of the most famous constellations—seen by everyone on Earth! Learn more about Orion—and get viewing tips. What is Orion the Hunter Constellation? Step out anytime after 9 P.M. in early December and you’ll see Orion appearing over your eastern horizon. Look around for anything bright! The first thing you’ll notice is Orion and its famous belt, those three-stars-in-a-row. They float in a very special space.... more

November 21, 2017

Most of us have a lot to be thankful for. It would be nice to hold a Thanksgiving star party, where astronomers could rattle off their own special reasons to be grateful. I’ll go first. I’m thankful that at star parties, nobody plays music through the loudspeakers. Problem, of course, is different tastes. I think rap music should never be played when the Milky Way is out, but you may think Saturn looks better accompanied by hip-hop. We can be grateful for the way stargazing soothes the soul and... more

November 16, 2017

Much attention is being paid to the Leonid meteor shower, which peaks in the wee hours before dawn on Saturday morning, November 18. But it’s like mice that keep following the same maze even though there’s no more cheese at the end. The Leonid have no cheese to give us. Not this year. But not to worry. Coming up soon are the best meteors of 2017. The Leonids used to produce thousands of meteors! In 1833 and 1966 the Leonids produced storms, where people saw 60 shooting star each and every... more

October 26, 2017

It’s an annual autumn ritual: The reappearance of the glorious Seven Sisters. During Halloween’s week it always rises in the east before 7 PM and is nicely up after 8 PM. Learn more about the Pleiades—and thr connection to All Hallows’ Eve. The Pleiades is a tightly packed cluster of stars. There’s nothing else like it. No obstetrician attended the birth of the Pleiades, 60 million years ago. As these fiercely hot suns awakened from the dazzling and dangerous gaseous nursery, the newborn stars... more

October 20, 2017

The Sun is setting earlier and earlier: It’s really dark. The leaves are dropping quickly now, so barren branches now tremble in the wind. And yes, even that wind is generally stronger during the cold months. Gather round the campfire. It’s the perfect time to tell blood curdling tales of the sky’s sinister side. Ramping up the scare-factor is that backyard sky-gazers are usually on our own. Seldom can we coax others to join us on freezing fall nights to stare at a rambling star pattern that we... more

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