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

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, especially in 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—and rockets in space. When America first blasted astronauts into space inside claustrophobic little Mercury capsules, the propellant those Atlas rockets used was, yep, kerosene. It was... 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. 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. Orion’s belt sits... 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

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

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

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