This Week's Amazing Sky


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 12, 2016

The year’s very best meteor shower is usually the Geminids, on Tuesday night, December 13, 2016. This year, there’s some competition. The Geminids are the sky’s “Old Faithful” when it comes to shooting stars. They produce between one and two meteors every minute. And they’re much slower than those famous summer Perseids or the hit‑or‑miss Leonids because they do NOT strike us head‑on. The Geminids come at Earth sideways. At 20 miles per second, they lope along at half the speed of the other... more

December 1, 2016

Look for Venus to hover spectacularly to the left of the crescent Moon on Friday evening, December 2, and to dangle below the Moon the next night, Saturday. And she will continue to shine! Read on … This Evening Star’s been missing since July.  We miss her! The blaze of Venus in evening twilight has been a beloved sight for countless centuries and an obsession for cultures as disparate as the Babylonians and the Maya. Our “Sister Planet” has instead lurked either invisibly on the far side of... more

November 3, 2016

Of all the things happening in the universe this year, the November 14, 2016, Supermoon will probably get the most media attention.  This truly ultra-close lunar approach is the real deal. Supermoon was never a term uttered by astrophysicists. But the public loves this concept, and, after all, it’s a rare celestial event that physically affects us.  If you live anywhere where tides go up and down, you’ll see them do that next Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. It’s a tangible connection between our... more

October 14, 2016

This Sunday, October 16, 2016, is the full Moon (or Saturday, depending on your time zone).  And some media outlets are calling it a “Supermoon.” This has  gotten out of hand. First, in astronomy there is no such term as “Supermoon.”  It has no actual scientific definition.  But a few years ago some in the media were starting to use the word Supermoon for any full Moon that was unusually close to us. This was logical.  The Moon’s orbit is not circular but elliptical and it even changes shape. ... more

September 30, 2016

We’re seeing media hype about a “Black Moon” on Friday, September 30, 2016.  Don’t get too excited. It’s just a nickname for a New Moon.  A New Moon is practically invisible to the naked eye, so there’s nothing to see! What is a Black Moon? “Black Moon” is not an astronomical term. In fact, if you ask a sample of astronomers, both professional and amateur, very few will have even heard of it. It’s not even a particularly widely known folklore thing. As for its definition, some people (like some... more

September 23, 2016

After the Moon, Venus is the brightest thing in the night sky.  Nothing else even comes close.  No wonder civilizations through the ages, like the Maya, worshiped it.  But Venus is not always there.  Sometimes it’s behind the Sun.  Sometimes it’s very low in our sky, hidden in twilight behind hills. For nine months at a time it’s only visible in the pre-dawn as a gift for early risers and insomniacs. And nearly all this year, it’s been invisibly lurking behind the Sun. When it finally does... more

August 30, 2016

Tonight or on your first clear night, face south between 8:30 and 9:00 PM.  You’ll see a striking triangle.  Three bright stars.  You can’t miss it. Then from September 7 to 9, 2016, the triangle is near the Moon. This picturesque triangle near the Moon is created by Saturn, Mars and Antares–and will stay out until late evening. Rarely is astronomy this easy.  The leftmost star is the brightest, with an obvious orange color.  This is the planet Mars.  It came closest to us in May and is still... more

August 3, 2016

The best meteors of the year occur with the Perseid meteor shower, so get viewing tips for the meteor shower and learn about the history (and foreboding future) of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. Everyone loves when “shooting stars” rip across the sky. Well, the game is on. Each night from now on, there will be more and more from the Perseid meteor shower. The peak intensity happens this Thursday August 11 and the following night. Whichever is clearest and least hazy, that’s your night. Check your... more

August 2, 2016

Seen any shooting stars lately? Worried about being clobbered by a meteor? Here’s why you don’t have to worry about meteor safety! For reasons no one can explain, meteors are mostly crammed into the final five months of the year. Right now the Delta Aquarid shower is underway, and so is the richer and more famous Perseids. Their numbers will keep increasing until the night of August 12. These August “falling stars” are mostly the size of apple seeds. But larger ones are out there too, and some... more

July 20, 2016

We’re never too surprised when the night sky has a sudden flash. Sometimes it’s late-summer fireworks. And nature creates flashes too. Lightning Flashes The usual cause, of course, is thunderstorms. As the Almanac says, “Thunderstorms in July are nearly as abundant as ants at a picnic.” Sometimes it’s surprising to see a flash of lightning when the sky is clear and starry. Such amorphous flickers of light are common in July and August.  The usual culprit: distant lightning. Unlike winter... more



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