23 January 2016

KFOG Broadcast - January 20, 2016

I spent a few minutes with Irish Greg and No Name on the KFOG Morning Show talking about the view of all 5 'naked eye' planets in the morning sky this week. If you don't have good weather now, keep trying and at least 4 of the 5 will be visible over the coming weeks. Here's to clear skies! Click here to listen.

20 January 2016

See 5 Planets in the Morning Sky

Five Planets in the Morning
The five naked-eye planets are all visible to us in the pre-dawn sky. Four of them are easy targets, with bright Venus and Jupiter in the east and west, and red-orange Mars and off-white Saturn filling in the arc across the southern sky, as neatly outlined in the image from Sky & Telescope. The challenge will be for viewers to find fleet-footed Mercury as it moves in retrograde into view low in the southeast 45 minutes before sunrise. Mercury is a fairly unremarkable pinprick of light and is tougher still because of its proximity to the horizon and the light of dawn. But take the challenge and try to find this little gem that rounds out a massive arc from west to east for the next few days.

Mercury will fade from view fairly quickly at the end of January but the other four planets will shine brightly for the next few months in their current positions.

You'll want a clear southern horizon to see this lineup at its best. Look 30 to 60 minutes before sunrise. At present, sunrise in San Francisco is at 7:20 am.

You can read much more in this write-up from Sky & Telescope: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/get-up-early-see-five-planets-at-once-01182015/

12 December 2015

Geminid Meteor Shower 2015

The Geminid Meteor Shower is one of the year's finest displays of meteors but you have to brave the cold to see it. The peak is Sunday December 13th and Monday December 14th, and with very little moonlight to distract, the viewing should be quite good. The constellation Gemini rises at 7:00 pm so the radiant of this shower should be high in the sky by late evening and the meteors visible in every direction.

The best way to enjoy a meteor shower is to find a dark open space, bring lots of blankets and warm clothes, and to be patient and enjoy the view directly overhead into the heavens. Although the meteors will appear to originate from the constellation Gemini, they scatter in all directions across the sky so your best view is looking upwards. Bring friends and enjoy the moment together.

Happy Viewing!

26 November 2015

Full Moon Setting and Other Morning Sky Wonders

Planetary Lineup
The Full Moon is a delight to see rising in the evening, but as we have long nights in November and December, I find the moonset to be equally engaging. This morning the Moon was blazing in the west an hour before sunrise (around 6:00 here in the San Francisco Bay Area) and the 'belt of Venus' shrouded the horizon just below the Moon. And facing east, the recent planetary conjunction has stretched into a planetary lineup across the sky.

If you are up early and the sky is clear, take in the sights facing east and west. You won't be disappointed.

Image courtesy Sky & Telescope.

28 October 2015

KFOG Broadcast - October 28, 2015

Today's conversation started out 'auf Deutsch' as Renee and I chatted a bit together in German language. But then we turned our attention to the magnificent morning sky and the conjunction of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Click here to listen.

22 October 2015

Planetary Conjunction Shines in the Morning Sky

Planetary Conjunction
With the late onset of sunrise, many people that don't normally see the heavens in the morning are getting a glimpse of a striking alignment of planets that shine high in the eastern sky, rising well ahead of the morning sun. The three planets are Mars, Jupiter and Venus, in order from bottom to top. The top planet, Venus, is by far the most brilliant, a piercing white light that outshines every other object in the entire night sky, with yellow-white Jupiter paler by comparison but nonetheless quite bright itself. Below the two is faint Mars, harder to detect but a beautiful red-orange that completes the trio.

Over the next few days, the trio changes position rapidly, with an extremely close encounter between Jupiter and Venus on Sunday morning October 25th. Check out the changes daily and enjoy this spectacular alignment.

Sky & Telescope has an excellent write-up and diagrams. One of the images is reproduced here.

14 October 2015

Saturn Fades in the West

Crescent Moon graces Saturn
After a long and glorious run in the night sky, Saturn is gradually fading into the west and will fade out of view in the coming weeks. Just before it is gone, the waxing crescent Moon will pass near it this week. For me, the evening sky with a young crescent Moon is always quite beautiful, a gentle curved glow that sometimes includes 'Earthshine' on the unlit part of the Moon visible to Earth.

Find a good southwestern horizon this week and enjoy the Moon as it graces the planet Saturn. Get out your binoculars or telescope for maximum effect!

Image courtesy Sky & Telescope.

24 September 2015

KFOG Broadcast - September 24, 2015

Stopped in at the KFOG studios to talk with Mike, Greg and Renee about the upcoming eclipse and the supermoon. Click here to listen.