Saturday, January 31, 2009
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
Thursday, January 22, 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.