STARzology's New Year Countdown To 2010

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Perseid Meteor Shower Begins Tonite-11AUG2009

August 11, 2009

The Perseid Meteor Shower begins today August 11th and will be visible through the next couple of days between the hours of Midnite and 5AM...According to Robert Roy Britt of
"The annual Perseid meteor shower is expected to put on a good show this week for those willing to get up in the wee hours of the morning and wait patiently for the shooting stars.

In North America, the best time to watch will be between midnight to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, but late Tuesday night and also Wednesday night could prove fruitful, weather permitting.

Perseids are always reliable, and sometimes rather spectacular. The only things that puts a damper on the August show are bad weather or bright moonlight. Unfortunately this week, as the Perseids reach their peak Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the moon will be high in the sky, outshining the fainter meteors.

Still, skywatchers around the globe will have a good chance of spotting the brighter meteors. Some already are
enjoying the show.

The Perseids are bits of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which has laid down several streams of debris, each in a slightly different location, over the centuries as it orbits the sun. Every August, Earth passes through these debris streams, which spread out over time.

"They are typically fast, bright and occasionally leave persistent trains," says Joe Rao,'s Skywatching Columnist. "And every once in a while, a Perseid fireball will blaze forth, bright enough to be quite spectacular and more than capable to attract attention even in bright moonlight."

Low numbers of Perseids, including some
bright fireballs, have already been reported as Earth began entering the stream in late July. Seasoned observers have counted up to 25 per hour already, or nearly one every two minutes.
Most meteors are no bigger than a pea. They vaporize as they enter Earth's atmosphere, creating
bright streaks across the sky.

The Perseids appear to emanate from the constellation Perseus, which rises high in the sky around midnight and is nearly overhead by dawn. Like most meteor showers, the hours between midnight and daybreak are typically the best time to watch, because that's when the side of Earth you are on is rotating into the direction of Earth's travels through space, so meteors are "scooped up" by the atmosphere at higher rates, much like a car's windshield ends the lives of more bugs than does the rear bumper.

Astronomers expect up to 200 meteors per hour in short bursts of up to 15 minutes or so. But many of the fainter meteors will simply not be visible due to moonlight, and rates will go down even more for those in urban areas. More likely a typical observer under reasonably dark skies might hope to see a meteor every couple minutes when the bursts come, and fewer during lulls.

best time to watch is between midnight and dawn Wednesday. Forecasters say the best stretch could come between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. ET (1-2 a.m. PT), which would be after daybreak in Europe. Some Perseids might be visible late Tuesday night, and Wednesday night into Thursday morning could prove worthwhile, too.

Meteor forecasting is still in its infancy, however, so the best bet for anyone truly hungry to spot shooting stars is to get in as much observing time as possible from around 11 p.m. Tuesday night until dawn Wednesday, and if you miss that show, try the same time frame Wednesday evening into Thursday morning.

Meteors should be visible in the pre-dawn hours, weather permitting, all around the Northern Hemisphere.
"Earth passes through the densest part of the debris stream sometime on Aug. 12," said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "Then, you could see dozens of meteors per hour."

The best location is far from city and suburban lights. Ideally, find a structure, mountain or tree to block the moon. Then scan as much of the sky as possible. The meteors can appear anywhere, heading in any direction. If you trace their paths backward, they'll all point to the constellation Perseus.

People in locations where any chill might occur should dress warmer than they think necessary to allow for prolonged viewing. Seasoned skywatchers advise using a blanket or lounge chair for comfort, so you can lie back and look up for long periods. Allow at least 15 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness. Then expect meteors to be sporadic: You might see two in a row, or several minutes could go by between shooting stars.

Avid meteor watchers might want to try scanning the northeastern horizon from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. local time (your local time, wherever you are) for Perseids that graze the horizon. "Earthgrazers are meteors that approach from the horizon and skim the atmosphere overhead like a stone skipping across the surface of a pond," Cooke explained. "They are long, slow and colorful – among the most beautiful of meteors." He notes that an hour of watching may net only a few of these at most, but seeing even one can make the whole night worthwhile. offers rich and compelling content about space science, travel and exploration as well as astronomy, technology, business news and more. The site boasts a variety of popular features including our space image of the day and other space pictures,space videos, Top 10s, Trivia, podcasts and Amazing Images submitted by our users."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Solar Eclipse Begins Today - 22JUL2009

July 22, 2009

The Moon reaches its "new" phase at 9:53 p.m. CDT. When new, the Moon crosses the imaginary line between Earth and Sun. Many societies have viewed new moon as a time of rebirth or renewal. Beginning today a total solar eclipse is visible across parts of Asia and the Pacific. A solar eclipse is defined as a dramatic celestial phenomenon in which light from the Sun is blocked from the Earth by the Moon. In order for this to occur, the Earth, Moon, and Sun must be in a line in that order, which means that the phase of the Moon must be new. More »(
Here is animation showing how the solar eclipse will look from Hong Kong. The solar eclipse of July 22, 2009 will be the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century, lasting at most 6 minutes, 39 seconds:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mars Appears Below Moon - 23MAR2009

March 23, 2009
Mars will stand just below the Moon early tomorrow, quite low in the southeast about 30 to 40 minutes before sunrise. You probably will need binoculars to spot the planet, which looks like a faint star.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The "Dog Star" Is Bright Tonight - 19MAR2009

March 19, 2009
The brightest star in the night sky stands due south at nightfall. The "dog star" Sirius is the leading light of Canis Major, the big dog.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Antares Bright Star Of Scorpius - 16FEB2009

February 16, 2009

The Moon passes Antares, the brightest star of Scorpius, in the pre-dawn sky tomorrow. Orange Antares will stand quite close to the left of the Moon at first light.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Aldebaran And Betelgeuse - 15FEB2009

February 15, 2009

Two bright orange stars stand high in the south this evening. Aldebaran is at one point of a V-shaped pattern of stars that outlines the face of Taurus, the bull. And Betelgeuse, to its southeast, is at the top left corner of a rectangle that outlines Orion, the hunter.

Lepus Beneath Orion This Month - 14FEB2009

February 14, 2009

Lepus, the rabbit, hops along beneath the feet of Orion, the hunter, on February evenings. Orion is well up in the south by the middle of the evening, and is quite easy to find. Lepus is much fainter, but its proximity to Orion will help you pick it out.

Spica Is In Virgo Constellation - 13FEB2009

February 13, 2009

Spica, the brightest star of the constellation Virgo, is just a little to the left or upper left of the Moon as they rise in late evening. It represents a stalk of wheat held by a young maiden.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Venus Is At Its Brightest This Year - 12 FEB2009

February 12, 2009

The planet Venus stages its most dazzling show of the year over the next couple of weeks. The "evening star" is high in the west at nightfall and remains in view for several hours. It is brightest for the year, too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Saturn Can Be Seen Tonight - 11FEB2009

February 11, 2009

The planet Saturn is in good view tonight. It looks like a bright star to the upper left of the Moon as they rise in mid-evening. Its largest moon, Titan, is visible through small telescopes. It looks like a tiny star quite near Saturn.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Watch For Regulus - 10FEB2009

February 10, 2009

The planet Saturn rises to the lower left of the gibbous Moon in mid-evening. The bright star Regulus, the leading light of Leo, the lion, looks on from above.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse Tonight!!! - 09FEB2009

February 9, 2009

The full Moon undergoes a barely perceptible eclipse tonight. You need to look carefully to notice anything unusual, though. Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, the lion, is a little to the left or lower left of the Moon as they rise.
(For more info on tonite's eclipse click here)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Get Ready For Lunar Eclipse - 08FEB2009

February 8, 2009

The Moon will undergo a barely perceptible eclipse tomorrow evening (February 9th) as it slips through the faint outer portion of Earth's shadow. Part of the eclipse will be visible across most of the United States, but you will need to look carefully to notice any darkening.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hydra, The Largest Constellation - 07FEB2009

February 7, 2009

Hydra, the sea serpent, is the largest of the 88 constellations, stretching a quarter of the way around the sky. Its head rises around dark, far to the lower right of the Moon. But it takes about six hours for the rest of its body to climb into view, so its tail doesn't rise until after midnight.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Eridanus "The River" Still In View - 06FEB2009

February 6

Eridanus, the river, twists to the lower right of the bright constellation Orion. Astronomers have been keeping a close eye on its brightest star, and recently found that it is really a binary system. Achernar marks the river's southern end.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Epsilon Eridani Bright Eridanus Star - 05FEB2009

February 5, 2009

Eridanus, the river, curls across the southwest this evening. One of its brightest stars, Epsilon Eridani, is just 10 light-years away. The star has an entourage of planets, one of which may pass near the region around the star that is most comfortable for life.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Aldebaran, The Eye Of Taurus - 04FEB2009

February 4, 2009

A star that huddles close to the Moon tonight shows us what the Sun will look like in the future. Aldebaran, the orange "eye" of Taurus, the bull, is nearing the end of its life, so it has puffed up like a balloon. The Sun will experience this same fate in several billion years.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Eridanus Is The River Of Light - 03FEB2009

February 3, 2009

A faint river of light meanders through the evening sky this month. It's the constellation Eridanus, a collection of stars that winds across a large section of the southwestern sky.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Dragon, River & Sea Serpent - 02FEB2009

February 2, 2009

Three "squiggly" constellations wiggle across the sky on winter evenings. Draco, the dragon, is in the north, wrapping around the North Star. Eridanus, the river, trickles across the southwest. And Hydra, the sea serpent, slithers into view in the southeast.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Pegasus Flys By Tonite - 01FEB2009

February 1, 2009

Pegasus, the flying horse, stands low in the west as darkness falls and sets by midnight. Look for four moderately bright stars that form the Great Square of Pegasus. The square stands on one point as it drops from view.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Sirius View Is Also The Brightest - 31JAN2009

January 31, 2009

The brightest star in the night sky has some teeth to it. It's the Dog Star, Sirius, in the constellation Canis Major, the big dog. Sirius is well up in the southeast in early to mid evening, with most of the other stars of Canis Major stretching below it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Venus Viewable Hours After SunSet - 30JAN2009

January 30, 2009

The planet Venus is in good view this evening. It is the brilliant "evening star" below the Moon. Venus sets around four hours after sunset.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Little Dipper - 23JAN2009

January 23, 2009

The Little Dipper stands in the north tonight and every night. The star at the tip of its handle is Polaris, the north star, which appears in the same position in the sky every night. The other stars of the Little Dipper rotate around Polaris, and never set.

Cepheus, King Of Constellations - 22JAN2009

January 22, 2009

The panoply of constellations includes one king: Cepheus, the mythological king of ancient Ethiopia. His constellation looks like a child's drawing of a house, with a rectangle of stars topped by a pointed roof. It is high in the northwest in early evening.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Vega And Fomalhaut - 21JAN2009

January 21, 2009

Like a pair of tacks holding up the descending curtain of twilight, two bright stars make a brief appearance in the western sky as night falls. Brilliant Vega is quite low in the northwest, while slightly fainter Fomalhaut is the same height in the southwest.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Antares, Brightest Star of Scorpius - 20JAN2009

January 20, 2009

The Moon brushes past Antares, the brightest star of Scorpius, the scorpion, in the dawn sky tomorrow. Antares shines with a distinctly orange hue. It is near the center of the scorpion's sinuous body.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Milky Way - 19JAN2009

January 19, 2009

The Milky Way arcs high overhead this evening. It forms a hazy, glowing band of light, like a subtle cloud. It is the combined glow of millions of stars in the disk of the Milky Way galaxy. But it's visible only from dark viewing locations, away from city lights.

Eye Of Taurus - 18JAN2009

January 18, 2009

The baleful eye of Taurus, the bull, stares unblinking from high in the sky tonight. Orange Aldebaran is one of the brightest stars in the night sky, and one that gives us a glimpse of the fate of our own star, the Sun.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Taurus The Bull Constellation Tonite - 17JAN2009

January 17, 2009

Taurus, the bull, charges high across the south on winter nights. Thanks to three "landmarks," he's one of the easiest constellations to find. The landmarks are his bright orange "eye," the star Aldebaran; his V-shaped face; and the Pleiades cluster on his shoulder.

Betelgeuse and The Winter Circle - 16JAN2009

January 16, 2009

The Winter Circle blazes forth tonight. It is in good view by around nightfall, and wheels across the south during the night. It is so big that it fills almost an entire quadrant of the sky. Its hub is Betelgeuse, the orange "shoulder" of Orion

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Winter Skies Are Summer Nights - 15JAN2009

January 15, 2009

If you long for warm nights under the stars, recall the summer sky about an hour before sunrise tonight. The stars that appear during early evening in summer also appear just before dawn in winter. So tomorrow, you will see the stars as they will look during July.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Saturn Becomes A Bright Golden Star - 14JAN2009

January 14, 2009
The planet Saturn looks like a bright golden star a little to the left of the Moon as they rise around 11 p.m. It keeps company with the Moon as they climb high overhead during the wee hours of the morning.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Moon Escorted By Saturn & Regulus - 13JAN2009

January 13, 2009

The Moon glides between the star Regulus and the planet Saturn tonight. Regulus is a little to the upper left of the Moon as they rise late this evening. Saturn is farther to the lower left of the Moon.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Regulus: Leo's Brightest Star - 12JAN2009

January 12, 2009

Leo's brightest star, Regulus, is a little below the Moon as they rise in mid evening. The rest of Leo spreads out below and to the left of Regulus, which is at the tip of a pattern of stars that looks like a backwards question mark, known as the Sickle.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Venus vs. The Moon - 11JAN2009

January 11, 2009

The planet Venus, which is the dazzling "evening star," stands farthest from the Sun over the next few nights. It is well up in the southwest at nightfall and doesn't set until 9 or 9:30 p.m. It far outshines everything else in the night sky except the Moon.

Two Brightest Stars Are In The South - 10JAN2009

January 10, 2009

The two brightest stars in the night sky scoot across the south late tonight. Sirius stands high in the sky in late evening. Canopus is far below Sirius, though you have to be at the latitude of Dallas or points southward to see it.

Winter Skies = Bright Constellations - 09JAN2009

January 9, 2009

The stars of winter are brighter than those of the other seasons. Winter skies feature constellations like Orion, Taurus, Gemini, and Canis Major, which are home to the brightest stars in the night sky.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Big Dipper Tonite - 08JAN2009

January 8, 2009

Look toward the northeast during late evening for the Big Dipper. The handle points toward the horizon, with the bowl high in the sky. The second star from the end of the handle is called Mizar. If you look carefully, you might see its faint companion, Alcor.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sirius "The Dog Star" - 07JAN2009

January 7, 2009

Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, rises in the southeast in early evening and climbs across the south during the night. It looks so bright in part because it is one of our closest stellar neighbors, at a distance of just 8.6 light-years.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Argo Navis Constellation Of "Heroes"-06JAN2009

January 6, 2009

The story of Jason and the Argonauts is retold in the remains of the constellation Argo Navis, which has been split into four constellations in modern times. Parts of these constellations are visible low in the south on winter evenings.

Polaris (The North Star) Stays Steady-05JAN2009

January 5, 2009

Polaris, the north star, marks Earth's northern axis on the dome of the sky. As Earth turns, all the stars appear to move across the sky except Polaris. As though forming the hub of a wheel, Polaris stands still while the other northern stars circle around it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Perihelion Today: Earth's Orbit Closest To Sun

January 4, 2009

Earth is closest to the Sun today for the entire year, a point in its orbit known as perihelion. The average distance to the Sun is about 93 million miles, but today we are about 1.5 million miles closer than that.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mercury Shows Up Starting Tonite - 03JAN2009

January 3, 2009 The planet Mercury puts in a meek appearance the next few nights. Look for it beginning about 30 minutes after sunset. It looks like a moderately bright star, but you will need a clear southwestern horizon to spot it, and binoculars will enhance the view. This image shows Mercury down and to the right of the Moon as a very faint-looking star.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower - 02JAN2009

January 2, 2009
The Quadrantid meteor shower is at its best tonight. It is named for the extinct constellation Quadrans Muralis, which represented an astronomical instrument. The shower is fairly reliable, so during its short peak, you may see a few dozen "shooting stars" per hour.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

International Year Of Astronomy - 01JAN2009

January 1, 2009

Today marks the start of the International Year of Astronomy. It celebrates the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's first use of the telescope as an astronomical instrument. Galileo's discoveries helped confirm that Earth is not the center of the universe.

The Universe: A Very Very Brief History Of Time

You can get the "gist" of Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" regarding the universe in two minutes: