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)!

April 12, 2016

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

April 8, 2016

The Devil’s Triangle is a striking sky event which will be present in the night sky for the next month.  It begins at around 1:30 AM.  Unless you’re in your teens or twenties, you’ll probably sleep through it.  But here’s why it’s worth setting an alarm. Look south. From then until daybreak, a striking triangle dominates the southern sky. It’s not high up but neither is it too low down to be blocked.  The stars on the triangle’s right side are a dramatic orange color—with the topmost one being... more

April 4, 2016

The Old Farmer’s Almanac sponsored a fun contest to name that elusive Planet Nine. For your enjoyment, we share the winning name—and the winners of a new set of Celestron binoculars! Planet Nine’s Proposed Name We received over 800 entries and appreciated each and every one; much thought was evidenced by the great suggestions submitted. The Almanac editors decided to focus on the mythological names, akin to the other planets in our solar system. And our winner is … “Fortuna” as it is lucky... more

March 31, 2016

April 2016 is the year’s best time to see planet Mercury as an evening star. It’s strangely satisfying, and there’s no rush. How to See Mercury After Sunset You do need an unobstructed horizon to see Mercury, our solar system’s innermost planet. Look up your local sunset time, add 40 minutes, and then look in the direction of the sunset. (See YOUR local sunset times here.) The time is important. Twilight deepens as dusk progresses, which makes finding Mercury easier, and yet it’s sinking lower... more

March 23, 2016

See ten common astronomy blunders that we’ll help you avoid! Let’s start with the equinox. We read each year that days and nights are equal on the equinox. But if you looked at your local newspaper’s listing of sunrise and sunset, you saw those times didn’t match. There was more day than night. Astronomy mistakes are prevalent even when it’s not the equinox. Here’s a top 10 list of space and astronomy blunders. Total solar eclipses do not make the day pitch black. It’s brighter during totality... more

March 17, 2016

It’s a lunar eclipse! Get ready for an eclipse of the full Moon! Should we call our friends? Wake the kids? There’s a story here. A lunar eclipse is not usually a “total” lunar eclipse.  An eclipse come in several flavors. One variety is the “penumbral” type, when the Moon only ventures into Earth’s barely-there outermost shadow. Technically, it’s an eclipse. In reality, nothing happens. It just keeps looking like an ordinary full Moon. That’s especially true if it’s not a “deep” penumbral... more

March 14, 2016

Equinox! Does that word have zing, or what? The media love it too: No TV weatherperson neglects to say “Days and nights are equal today” even though it’s never true. Why Aren’t Day and Night Equal on the Equinox? It’s false because the light rays from the Sun are bent by Earth’s atmosphere and the thick horizon air, ensuring at least 10 minutes more day than night on the equinox.  (This is why the Sun appears squashed when it sets.) They are bent in such a way that we are actually able to see... more

March 5, 2016

When you see the thinnest of crescent Moons—just before and after the new Moon—you may see a glorious phenomenon called Earthshine! What is Earthshine? It’s the faint glow of our planet’s reflection on the lunar surface. It gives the dark, unlit portion of the Moon an eerie radiance. This is unique in all the universe: Only the Moon is near enough to reflect back our own light for our narcissistic enjoyment. When to See Earthshine Look on your Moon Phase Calendar for the two days before and... more

March 1, 2016

Spring will be off to a very early start in 2016, thanks to leap day weirdness! Have you noticed that the equinox used be on the 21st? This year, spring begins March 19 or 20, depending on your time zone. February 29 has consequences that affect more than just being the rarest birthday. ​ Let’s back up … The calendar is nearly as perfect. Time is something we humans do perfectly. Atomic clocks divide each second into 9,192,631,770 parts, and the superaccurate time is then transmitted to anyone... more

February 18, 2016

Let me prove how easy and fun astronomy can be.  And how dramatic.  All you need is a mostly clear sky this Tuesday evening, February 23. Anytime after around 8:30. There’s the Moon—almost fully illuminated. And on the same night, a single brilliant star is almost touching it. That’s Jupiter—returning to our skies after a long absence. It’s one of the most eye-catching of all celestial goodies—a bright conjunction. That’s all you need to know. The Moon and Jupiter. Both together, brilliant, and... more

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