20 February 2015

A Fantastic Conjunction: Moon, Mars and Venus

This evening three celestial objects form an impressive tight grouping: Venus, Mars and the Moon. On Friday they are all in a group, and on Saturday the Moon moves on but Venus and Mars are even more closely aligned in a conjunction. All you need is a clear western horizon and the rest will take care of itself.

More details on Sky & Telescope's website. Image courtesy of Sky & Telescope.

07 February 2015

The King of the Night Sky

Jupiter has taken its place as the dominant object in the night sky, outshining everything else around it for the coming months. It just reached 'opposition' as it has its closest approach to the Earth for the next year. At opposition, Jupiter and the Earth and Sun are in a straight line, and Jupiter is visible for the entire night, rising in the east as the Sun sets in the west, towering high overhead during the night, and setting in the west just as dawn breaks.

Details of Jupiter
The disk of Jupiter is at its maximum visible size, a clear ball with dominant cloudtops in backyard telescopes, with the four moons visible every night in an interplay that changes hourly. It's one of my favorite telescope objects because there is so much richness and visual beauty in the sight of this giant planet with its equatorial bands shining through.

Take a moment to appreciate the King of the Night Sky, currently passing through Leo the Lion. Jupiter's orbit takes it around the Sun in 12 of Earth's years, so each year we see it move to the next zodiac sign (Cancer in 2014, Leo in 2015, and Virgo in 2016).

Image courtesy Sky & Telescope.