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. 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, he covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob, the world’s mostly widely read astronomer, also has a new weekly podcast, Astounding Universe

February 22, 2018

This year will indeed be extraordinary for planets. We will see one of the closest approaches of Mars in our lives, in mid-summer. We’ll have conjunctions galore. We’ll see all the planets lined up like a string of pearls. All that is mostly for the spring and summer. But the show is about to begin.  “I hope I die peacefully in my sleep like my father; not screaming and yelling like his passengers.” What has that old line have to do with planets? Hang in there. Have you missed the “Evening Star... more

February 17, 2018

In mid-February, the Moon returns to the evening sky. This brings up an ancient puzzle: How does the Moon affect us?  This issue often confuses people. We all know the Moon DOES control the tides which, in turn, controls much else. Certainly, the Moon can certainly can affect our emotions—from a sense of awe and wonder to perhaps a self-contemplative and spiritual feeling. But I’m speaking of the Moon’s effect on our bodies, not whether the Moon drives us crazy which a whole other story!... more

February 9, 2018

Let’s talk about winter air. Ever noticed that if you have frost on your car, it will probably be totally gone by the time you reach your destination, even if the weather is subfreezing? The cause is sublimation! The snow is turning from a solid directly to a gas, bypassing the liquid watery stage. Examples of sublimation include: Sunny snowfields shrinking and eventually vanishing without melting into water. Snowmen starting to shrink even though there’s still snow on the ground. Snow... more

February 8, 2018

When is the next Blue Moon? And exactly what is a Blue Moon? There’s some confusion about this popular phrase. Here’s the scoop. Why is it a Blue Moon? We got a lot of letters about this. Some folks imagine that it actually appears the color 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... more

February 1, 2018

Groundhog Day. Just a bizarre tradition involving rodents? Or, rather, marmots? Actually, Groundhog Day is full of amazing sky-related stuff. Even its date relates to the heavens. Held on February 2, this was traditionally the holiday of Candlemas, which marked the exact midpoint of winter. Midpoint of Winter  If you now count the days between winter’s start on the solstice of December 21, and the beginning of spring on the March 20 vernal equinox, you’ll see that, yes, February 2 comes very... more

January 29, 2018

Heard about this “Super Blue Blood Moon” on January 31? Let’s break this down: That’s a Supermoon, a Blue Moon, and a Blood Moon on the same night, thanks to a total lunar eclipse. A convergence of all three events last happened 150 years ago. Find out the best places to see this event. “Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse” is the description many Web sites are giving for the full Moon coming up. So, what does this mean? A Moon that’s super-big? One that’s blue? One that’s blood red? Maybe a... more

January 26, 2018

Easy astronomy? Deep, profound, cool stuff with no pain? That’s this weekend. On the evenings of January 26, 27, and 28, look up at the sky. The Moon will be surrounded by over a half dozen bright stars. Of the ten first magnitude stars in the heavens, eight of them will surround the Moon.  So let’s have some fun with this.  Look all around the Moon at those bright stars. First look for color. It’ll take just a few seconds to see that they’re not all white. They’re pastels. So happens, there... more

January 11, 2018

We’re in a period of dark, moonless, evening skies, so let’s do some old-fashioned stargazing, and go hands-on under the sky. All of Orion’s stars are easy to spot in the winter sky. Of the 88 constellations, most are incoherent, hallucinogenic smatterings. Orion is different. Along with the Big Dipper (best seen in the spring) Orion’s easily identified belt is often the first celestial pattern a child will notice.  Viewing the Orion Constellation More than merely obvious, the three-stars-in-a-... more

January 8, 2018

It’s been a cold meteorological winter so far, and the northeastern states hit their very coldest point this past Sunday morning, January 7. If you want consolation, you might turn to the sky because the universe seems like a frozen emptiness to be avoided rather than explored. Appearances, in this case, can be believed. The cosmos is a vast icebox punctuated by far-flung islands of unbearable heat. These nights, Orion, now in the east every evening, has more fiercely hot blue stars than any... 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

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