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)!

July 10, 2016

In most of the Northern Hemisphere, July is the hottest month. But when folks grumble about feeling uncomfortable, they often say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” That’s so true. How Can You Tell That It’s Humid? You can quickly judge moisture by glancing up. A deep blue sky means dry air. A light blue sky with a nearly white horizon means average humidity. A sky that’s milky overhead is very humid. That’s the summertime norm in the Carolinas and the Gulf States. Warm air can hold... more

July 3, 2016

Which telescope should you buy? Let’s examine the different types of telescopes that you might purchase—to help you select the telescope that’s best for you. Read “How to Buy a Telescope Part I: Rules of the Game” first. Every telescope is composed of the same basic components because the main purpose is the same: to gather the light from celestial objects. This could be light from objects that produce it such as stars and galaxies. Or light from bodies such as planets, comets, and our Moon... more

July 3, 2016

Here is advice on how to buy (or not buy) a telescope. Amateur astronomy is a hobby that can hold your attention for a lifetime, so it’s worth starting out right. You don’t need to spend a fortune. But whatever your price range, you want to get the most for your money. Inexperienced telescope buyers make the same unfortunate mistakes year after year. It is far too easy to spend your hard-earned dollars on poor-quality instruments, and the awful performance of these telescopes often discourages... more

July 1, 2016

With this week’s fireworks fresh in mind, we’re allowed to wonder: What is the universe’s most awesome energy?  Right now, when early summer solar power is so strong, we might first say that “The Sun” is the most powerful force. Not a bad starting point. The Energy of our Sun We’re talking nuclear fusion, first revealed in 1920. Turns out, at a high enough temperature, four ordinary hydrogen atoms fuse into one of helium. This always releases energy. The Sun’s core emits 96 billion megatons... more

June 21, 2016

Monday is the half Moon.  Officially, the last quarter.  It may be the coolest lunar phase and I’ll prove it. Monday morning the 27th of June, any time at all, look around the day sky.  There it is, a perfect half Moon lit up on its left side.  The earlier you look the higher it will be.  It pops out because it happens to occupy the darkest part of the blue sky. This is the only Moon that hovers directly in front of us as we zoom around the Sun. It serves as a kind of reconnaissance scout. ... more

June 15, 2016

On June  20, 2016, the Full Moon appears on the same night as the summer solstice! It’s rare, all right.  A full Moon hasn’t landed smack on the solstice since 1948.  But that’s what’s actually happening on Monday, June 20. This has visible in-your-face consequences.  First, there’s the solstice … The solstice is, of course, the day with the most minutes of sunshine.  It’s when the midday Sun is the year’s highest.  The sun rises at its leftmost spot on the horizon and sets at its rightmost ... more

May 26, 2016

Planet Saturn is at its best this June, 2016. as it comes closest to Earth. It’s easy to find, astonishing to see! In our culture of publicity and hype, the media often cry wolf. But one planet never disappoints. Through any telescope with more than 30x, Saturn elicits gasps. As an observatory director I’ve shown the ringed planet to thousands of people over the past 35 years. Most folks who see it through a good telescope either say, “Oh my God!” or “That’s not real!” No other planet packs... more

May 11, 2016

The Blue Moon meets the Red Planet—just as it comes closest to Earth—on May 21, 2016. Get ready for true spectacle as it’s a one-night affair. Live this Saturday! Blue Moon Show! At 8PM (EDT) this Saturday, May 21, I’ll be hosting a livestream of the Full Moon and Mars. We’ll be looking through Slooh’s giant telescopes for the best possible view of this event. Watch livestream on this page. Blue Moon Meets Red Planet Look up Saturday night. The Full Moon hovers just above Mars. The Red Planet... more

May 3, 2016

Why do stars twinkle? And why don’t planets? You’d think the “Twinkle, Twinkle…” nursery rhyme would have ignited a question that everybody would want answered sooner or later. What Causes Twinkling Stars? Well, here it is:  Stars twinkle because they look like dimensionless points of light even through the largest telescopes, so that their tiny images are easily bent by passage through our thick atmosphere. But why do they twinkle some nights and not others? Key point. The answer reveals what... more

April 19, 2016

Astronomers have been ranting and raving about the upcoming Transit of Mercury, on Monday, May 9. It is purportedly the year’s biggest sky event. Or, is it? The transit is when the smallest, speediest planet partially eclipses the Sun.  And it’s kind of rare. The last happened ten years ago. The next two will occur in November 2019 and then November 2032. But honestly, I’m not at all sure this will pan out for the vast majority of people.  So let’s look at the positives and negatives of this ... more

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