Latest Astronomy Video!

Click on the image to go to the video on YouTube .

I’m delighted to share my latest video, “Tour of the Constellation Scorpius,” a 7-minute mini-film that will show you how, where, and when to look for this brilliant constellation.

Our view of Scorpius as we see it from Earth looks toward the very center of our own Milky Way Galaxy, in much the same way that an inward-looking view from a metropolis’s suburbs takes in the city’s downtown. Instead of the bright lights of big buildings, we have great numbers of fascinating nebula and star clusters—of several types—and an astonishing swath of stars from the galaxy itself.

The video will get you oriented and help you begin to understand the scale of what we’re really looking at out there, while taking you on a mini-tour of some of these objects—get ready for a great trip “downtown,” to the Milky Way!

February Skies 2019

by Zachary Singer

Some of our favorite planetary targets, Venus and Jupiter, are up in the pre-dawn sky this month, and Mercury appears in the evening, as we’ll see in “The Solar System,” below. In “Stars and Deep Sky,” we’ll take a look at two notable open clusters in Auriga, M36 and M37.

The Solar System

Mercury starts off February still lost in the solar glare, but begins to reappear after the first week of the month. It’s still difficult on the 10th, but the party is just beginning—just a few days later, on Valentine’s Day, you’ll see Mercury glowing at magnitude -1.2; look for it low in the west, Continue reading “February Skies 2019”

November Skies 2018

The Solar System

November will bring interesting observing opportunities for some of the planets (stay tuned!), but if you need one word to describe viewing Mercury this month, it’s “Meh.” The planet will be a difficult binocular target as the month begins—determined folks can look for it very low in the southwest, about a half-hour after sunset. Mercury’s angular separation from the Sun increases until the 6th, improving the situation slightly (and for a few days that follow); after that, though, it appears closer and closer to the Sun until it’s lost in glare.

Happily, Venus is a different story— Continue reading “November Skies 2018”

September Skies 2018

Viewing almost straight up in Denver at 9:00 PM on September 15th. Telrad circles are shown positioned to put NGC 6871 near the center of a finderscope field, after centering on Eta (η) Cygni and slewing toward Sadr. From here, a 1° slew to the southeast (perpendicular to the swan’s “neck,” or the line from Sadr to Albireo) will get the cluster in or near your low-power eyepiece field. Note position of Eta Cygni at trailing edge of the 4° Telrad circle. Also note the dotted line showing the alignment of M29, Sadr, and Omicron1 Cygni.
The Cygnus Rift, illustrated above, is an area of dust and gas that obscures the Milky Way’s stars and nebulae. It is the same type of structure as the “dust lanes” often seen in edge-on galaxies.
–Object positions, constellation and meridian lines charted in SkySafari, and then enhanced. (Tap on image above for larger version.)

© Zachary Singer

The Solar System

If you’ve been watching the sky after sunset in August, then you’ve likely noticed the striking vista of four bright planets—Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars—lined up from southwest to southeast. Even without a telescope, their sweep makes a memorable view, and the arrangement will continue well into September Continue reading “September Skies 2018”

August Skies 2018

August 2018 Skies as seen from Denver Colorado.
Viewing southward in Denver at 10:00 PM on August 15th. Telrad circles are centered on the Lagoon Nebula, M8; note position of the Trifid Nebula, M20, just inside the 4° circle, and thus in most finderscopes’ field of view (remember that M20 will be shown at the bottom of an inverted finderscope view). Vesta passes between b Ophiuchi and C Ophiuchi this month, as illustrated by the thin curving arrow at center-right. Look at last month’s chart to get a feel for this area of Ophiuchus, located right above Scorpius (just off this month’s chart at bottom-right). –Object positions, constellation and meridian lines charted in SkySafari, and then enhanced. (Tap on image above for larger version.)

© Zachary Singer

The Solar System

If you follow the planets, you’re likely aware that Mars is just past opposition at the beginning of August, and thus more or less at its biggest and brightest for the year. Dust storms, though, have blanketed the planet, cloaking surface details that should’ve been visible even in moderately sized telescopes. Recent NASA reports suggest Continue reading “August Skies 2018”