This Week's Amazing Sky

July 17, 2020
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. Look up to the skies to know it’s going to be humid! Here’s how. How Can You Tell That It’s Humid? You can quickly judge moisture by glancing up. A…
June 23, 2020
Normally, our sky explorations involve the Moon and planets. But the practical effects on our lives come from very different sky components—the ones called clouds. And now that summer’s officially here, the clouds have changed. Wherever you are right now, let’s walk outside or look out the window for some cloud gazing. We take clouds for granted because the sky is part of nature and…
June 1, 2020
On Friday, June 5, the Moon will pass through the edge of Earth’s shadow, resulting in a “penumbral eclipse.” It’s one of four penumbral eclipses in 2020! Yep, a weird penumbral quartet. What is a penumbral eclipse, anyway, and how does it occur? Bob Berman explains.   *Note: The June 5 eclipse is visible only from the western Pacific Ocean and parts of Australasia,…
May 15, 2020
“Closest black hole” is the astro-news this past week. And let’s briefly explore it, just so you know the real story behind this scary-sounding object. Because black holes are headline-grabbers and objects of public fascination, but the truth about them is more fascinating than the hype. First let’s be clear: They’ve had very bad “PR” – which makes people think a black hole goes…
April 24, 2020
April 27, 2020 (EDT), or April 28, 2020 (UT), is officially the planet’s brightest evening in years—though the planet will dazzle you anytime this week. It’s so unusually high and brilliant, it’s safe to say that you’ve never seen it looking better, not in your whole life. How to Find Venus After the Moon, Venus is easily the night sky’s brightest object all of April…
April 15, 2020
What’s the most spectacular sky object? A bright comet is certainly on my top-five list. A few weeks ago, you may have heard about Comet ATLAS. If not, no matter. It fizzled. And you’ll probably hear about new comets in the skies, like Comet SWAN. But how often do bright comets truly appear?  Certainly, a bright comet is something amazing to behold. Of all the sky objects…
March 3, 2020
Who hasn’t heard of the Dog Star, Sirius? It’s the brightest star in the sky in late winter and early spring. And boy, is it easy to find. Just face south at 8 P.M. and look for Orion. Plus, you also have a chance to see its pup! Yes, it’s a two-dog night. How to Find Sirius Simply locate Orion. See its famous belt made up of three bright stars? The belt…
March 1, 2020
What are signs of spring in the sky? Perhaps you’ve noticed the earlier sunrises. Let’s observe a few more signs in the sky—including a springtime smile from our very own Moon. Once spring is under way, nature lovers can find it hard to keep up with the rapid day-to-day changes on the ground. Much less well-known is that the sky starts this process first. The Sun Shifts…
February 28, 2020
The rumors are true. It’s the earliest spring of your life. Spring, marked by the vernal equinox, will begin on March 19, 2020 in all US time zones. Spring is earlier than it has been in 124 years (since 1896). It’ll even get earlier in a few years. And there’s an amazing story behind this. The Quirks of Our Calendar If you went to school in the 60’s, say, you remember…
February 11, 2020
Mercury is now an evening star hovering at its most prominent position of 2020. It’s definitely worth taking a look. You don’t need a telescope or binoculars, and it’s not hard to find. Here are viewing tips plus a few surprising facts about planet Mercury. Simply look toward sunset at around 6 PM any time for the the next couple weeks. As the fading light of dusk hugs the western sky,…
February 3, 2020
Ever noticed how snow will disappear without melting? Even in sub-freezing weather, the frost on your car or the snow bank will get smaller. How does this happen? It’s called sublimation. Bob explains … On a cold sunny day, you may have noticed that the huge piles of snow pushed onto the edges of parking lots by plows sometimes look as if they’re steaming. This is…
January 18, 2020
This past week, the star Betelgeuse (Orion’s “left shoulder”) dimmed. Most reports jumped on the supernova angle. What really happened? There’s nothing like a space mystery to spark interest … For a quick background: A burst of gravitational waves was detected near the star Betelgeuse. At the same time, Betelgeuse has mysteriously dimmed in recent weeks. So, many folks…