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)!

October 17, 2017

Have you seen the media urging everyone to rush out and see the Supermoon? So, what is a Supermoon? Did you then expect that full Supermoon to look super huge? Well, enough is enough! The “Supermoon” media hype has gotten out of hand!  We understand the shorthand and agree it’s catchy—and anything that encourages us to explore the night sky is positive—but also let’s get our facts right. That expression did not even exist until someone concocted it recently. First, it was applied to the closest... more

October 12, 2017

Maybe you’ve already seen it. Low in the east, just before dawn—say at 6:15 or so—is the brightest “star” in the heavens. It’s been hovering there for months, generating UFO reports. It’s the Morning Star, Venus. Yes, really and truly, Venus is single-handedly responsible for more UFO sightings than any other object. (Even then-governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia phoned the state police to report a UFO that proved to be Venus.) Mars, Venus, and the Moon Just above dazzling Venus is a much-fainter... more

October 3, 2017

What is a Blue Moon? When is the next Blue Moon? There’s some confusion about its meaning. Here’s the scoop. 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 started in the 1940’s as a result of a mistake in an astronomy magazine. But it slowly went viral in the media. Nowadays,... more

September 21, 2017

On Tuesday evening, September 26, look at the Moon at nightfall, around 8:00 PM.  A star dangles just below it.  This is the planet Saturn.  It’s not often that Saturn is so easy to identify.  It’s not dazzling like Venus or even Jupiter.  It’s not a colorful like Mars.  It looks no different from lots of other stars even though it’s rather bright.  But there’s no mistaking it Tuesday evening. There it sits, directly below the Moon. Of course, Saturn’s in the news these days since the Cassini... more

September 14, 2017

The autumnal equinox occurs on Friday afternoon, the 22nd, at 4:02 P.M.  The reason for the equinox—and the Earth’s seasons—is frequently misunderstood.  Are Days and Nights Truly Equal? At the equinox, the Earth will angle perfectly sideways to the Sun. Neither pole will tip toward or away from it. And therefore, as the media never tire of reminding us, days and nights should theoretically be equal. But this is never true. Our atmosphere bends the Sun’s image upward so much that it rises two... more

September 10, 2017

It’s hard not to appreciate water, despite it being the most common compound in the cosmos. Besides its obvious life-giving properties, let’s consider that water is nature’s most magical compound. Usually, water takes the form of ice or gas, arrayed beautifully. Did you know: The rings of Saturn are countless ice chunks. Comet tails are mostly water vapor. Most stars are surrounded by steam. Here on Earth, it mostly shows itself in its rarest form: liquid.   (Gaseous water is actually invisible... more

September 9, 2017

If a total solar eclipse is the grandest celestial spectacle, then a good display of the Northern Lights comes in as number two. Both involve the Sun, of course. And both are being delivered to us just a couple of weeks apart.  At 5:10 a.m. EDT on Wednesday (September 6) an X-class solar flare—the most powerful Sun-storm short of a ten-billion-ton “coronal mass ejection”—erupted from an enormous sunspot near the center of the Sun. Then, in a seeming game of one-upmanship, it was dwarfed three... more

August 26, 2017

We certainly saw a lot of press about the 2017 total solar eclipse, but what happened? Here’s a thorough eclipse wrap of the event—and photos—from the path of totality. Who Saw Totality? Totality was something that had not been viewed in the continental United States since 1979.  Reports from countless readers and colleagues reveal the happy news that most people in the path of totality got to see the glorious event. But not everyone. Both coasts had various degrees of clouds, so that people in... more

August 22, 2017

One of the most frequent topics letter-writers contact us about is meteors. Also known as shooting stars or falling stars, they usually appear as fast streaks across the sky. People gasp when they see them. Although most are rather dim, they are occasionally brilliant and sometimes regarded as UFOs. Many wrong ideas abound. So here’s the true story. What is a Meteor? The average meteor is the size of an apple seed. It is a tiny fragment of a distant comet or asteroid and screams into our... more

August 18, 2017

Lately, several people have asked me what exactly to look for during a total solar eclipse. So if you’re traveling to this one on August 21, here’s what you’ll see at 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute, and totality! Or if you are planning to travel to the upcoming solar eclipse totalities—in Chile in 2019 or 2020, in Australia in 2023, or here in the Northeastern U.S. in 2024—save this page. When and Where Can You See It? The answer depends on your location. This NASA interactive... more

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