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Algol

Mon, 31 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Four stars in Perseus represent the Gorgons, the mythological sisters whose heads were covered with snakes. For a couple of hours every three days, the brightest of them, Algol, fades dramatically as one member of the binary system covers the other.




New Moon

Sun, 30 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

The Moon is new today at 12:38 p.m. CDT as it crosses the line between Earth and Sun. Our satellite world is lost in the Sun’s glare, but will return to view as a thin crescent shortly after sunset tomorrow or the next day.




Venus and Saturn

Sat, 29 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Two planets are slipping past each other in the early evening sky. Venus is the “evening star.” The fainter planet Saturn stands to the upper right of Venus this evening, and a bit farther from it on succeeding nights.




Eridanus

Fri, 28 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Eridanus, the river, flows into the evening sky this month. This long, winding trail of stars begins to rise around 8 or 9 p.m., but it is so long that its easternmost stars don’t clear the horizon until about midnight.




Moon and Jupiter

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Jupiter is in great view at dawn tomorrow. The solar system’s largest planet looks like a brilliant star a whisker to the upper right of the crescent Moon. Jupiter is the brightest object in the sky at that hour other than the Moon.




VV Cephei

Wed, 26 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Cepheus the king wheels high across the north on autumn evenings. It hosts one of the largest stars in the galaxy, VV Cephei. If it took the Sun’s place, it would swallow Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and maybe Saturn.




Cepheus

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Cepheus the king stands high in the north this evening, and looks like an upside-down child’s drawing of a house. It was passed down to us from ancient times through the Almagest, a famous text written almost 2,000 years ago by Claudius Ptolemy.




Moon and Regulus

Mon, 24 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, the lion, will crouch close above the Moon at dawn tomorrow. Regulus actually consists of at least four stars, which are split into two close pairs. The system is almost 80 light-years from Earth.




Big Neighbor

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Our closest neighbor, the Moon, is 240,000 miles away—equal to 10 trips around Earth’s equator. The closest planet, Venus, the “evening star,” is always at least a hundred times farther. And the closest star system, Alpha Centauri, is a million times farther still.




Andromeda

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Andromeda is one of the largest constellations. Its main figure is two streamers of stars that form a skinny V. But it takes some patience to find it. Right now, it is well up in the east and northeast at nightfall, and passes high overhead by midnight.




Almach

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

The colorful star system Almach climbs high across the sky on autumn nights. A telescope reveals one star that looks yellow-orange, and another that looks blue. Almach is one of the brightest stars of Andromeda, which passes high overhead early tomorrow morning.




Orionid Meteors

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

The Orionid meteor shower should be at its best late tonight. Unfortunately, the Moon rises around midnight, so it will cast its glow in the sky during the shower’s peak. The Moon also will be quite close to Orion, making things even worse.




M31

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

M31, the Andromeda galaxy, is visible to the unaided eye as a hazy smudge of light. It stands about half-way up the eastern sky as night falls. At a distance of 2.5 million light-years, it’s the farthest object that is easily visible to the eye alone.




Moon and Aldebaran

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

The Moon has been playing a game of hide-and-seek all year. Most months it has passed in front of Aldebaran, blocking the bright eye of Taurus from view. It will do so again tonight. The disappearing act will be visible across most of the United States.




Epsilon Eridani

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

One of our closest stellar neighbors is just visible to the unaided eye in the constellation Eridanus, well to the lower right of the Moon. Epsilon Eridani, which is about 10 light-years from Earth, rises around 10:30 p.m. The star has at least one planet, and probably more.




ExoMars

Sun, 16 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Mars perches low in the south as night falls. It looks like a bright orange star to the left of teapot-shaped Sagittarius. A European spacecraft, ExoMars, is scheduled to arrive at Mars later this week.




Hunter’s Moon

Sat, 15 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

It’s pretty easy to hunt up the Moon tonight. It’s full, so it rises around sunset and is in view all night long. And as the first full Moon after the Harvest Moon, it’s known as the Hunter’s Moon.




Uranus at Opposition II

Fri, 14 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Uranus is putting in its best showing of the year. The giant planet lines up opposite the Sun, so it rises at sunset and is in view all night. Tonight, it’s not far to the lower left of the Moon. You need binoculars or a telescope to see it.




Uranus at Opposition

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

The giant planet Uranus is at opposition. It lines up opposite the Sun, so it rises at sunset and is in view all night, in the constellation Pisces. The solar system’s seventh planet is so faint, though, that you need binoculars to pick it out.




Celestial Sea

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

A wide swath of the southern sky is known as the Celestial Sea — a series of constellations associated with water. All of them were created and named millennia ago, at a time when their appearance in the night sky heralded a rainy time of year.




Moving Group

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Five stars of the Big Dipper are members of the Ursa Major Moving Group, a collection of stars that were born together and that move through space together. The group appears to include stars in other constellations, including Orion, Aquarius, and Draco.




Pleiades

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

The Pleiades climbs into view by 9 or 10 p.m. and sails high overhead during the night. The star cluster looks like a tiny dipper outlined by six moderately bright stars, and covers about as much area of sky as a full Moon.




Naming Stars

Sun, 09 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

At nightfall this evening, some bright stars with famous names are in good view. Arcturus is low in the west, with Antares, the heart of the scorpion, lower in the southwest. And the stars of the Summer Triangle crown the sky: Vega, Deneb, and Altair.




California Nebula

Sat, 08 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

The California Nebula is in Perseus, which is high in the east by the time the Moon sets. It is a cloud of interstellar gas set aglow by radiation from a hot, bright star. The cloud’s outline resembles the state of California.




Moon and Mars

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Look for Mars to the lower left of the Moon this evening. The planet looks like a bright orange star. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun, which makes it the next outward from Earth.




More Moon and Planets

Thu, 06 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Venus is the brilliant “evening star” quite low in the western sky shortly after sunset. Saturn is close to the lower right of the Moon, with orange Mars farther to the left of the Moon.




Moon and Saturn

Wed, 05 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

The planet Saturn is in good view tonight. It stands close to the left of the Moon as night falls. It looks like a bright golden star, with its rings adding greatly to its luster. Any telescope will reveal the rings.




Moon and Planets

Tue, 04 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Start looking about 30 or 40 minutes after sunset for Venus, the “evening star.” It stands to the lower right of the Moon, quite low in the sky, so you need a clear horizon to spot it. A second planet, Saturn, is farther to the upper left of the Moon.




Moon and Companions

Mon, 03 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

Venus, the “evening star,” stands close below the Moon as night falls. Zubenelgenubi, one of the brightest stars of Libra, stands closer to the upper left of Venus. Its name means “the southern claw,” and refers to the star’s history as one of the claws of Scorpius.




Moon and Venus

Sun, 02 Oct 2016 05:00:00 +0000

The planet Venus stands in the west-southwest after sunset this evening. Although it is quite low in the sky, the brilliant “evening star” stands close to the left of the crescent Moon, so you shouldn’t have any trouble spotting it.