By Dave Fuller on 1/30/2016 2:36 PM
The last couple of weeks have a number of articles on the five naked eye visible planets in the morning sky. A lot of them are well meaning, but don't offer much help in the way of assisting the observer in identifying the stars AND planets visible, or specifically when and where to look. 

I created this chart to specifically tackle that issue. You can download the five planet identification guide here. Also, check out the homepage for a video on finding the planets, along with other great "how to find it" videos. 

On January 30, 2016, I took a photo of the sky with these planets in it (see below) Although the Moon was near Spica then, it will move towards Mars, Saturn and eventually Venus and Mercury by February 6th. 

Five naked eye planets in sky, January 30, 2016...
By Dave Fuller on 12/30/2015 10:41 AM
Don't give up! Telescopes seem like they are easy to use - just point it generally where you think the object is you want to see, and it should be visible in the eyepiece, right? I mean, that's what we do with our phones and cameras - just point it, and "Boom!" - there it is!!

So why isn't a telescope so simple? What are you doing wrong? 

There's a few things that beginners may not realize they're doing. Here's how to find things more easily with a telescope your first time out. 

1) Make sure the mount and tripod are steady

This is easy to overlook, but it is VERY important. Your telescope only shows a very narrow slice of the sky, even at low power. Keep in mind, if you drew a line from horizon to horizon, that is 180 degrees. Your telescope only shows 1/180th of that line, at low power. So even very small movements of the tripod or mount will appear to be HUGE changes in the eyepiece! Think about zooming in a camera all the way, without using a steadying feature to smooth out your...
By Dave Fuller on 9/8/2015 8:08 PM

Check out the slim crescent Moon as it first appears above, then in between, the planets of Mars and Venus in the eastern morning sky. This video shows when and how to see the planets and Moon together. 

For more on what you can see, check out the blog's past posts, or the home page for the most recent video(s). There's also info on basic stargazing and how to understand telescopes

By Dave Fuller on 9/8/2015 7:55 PM

Composed of three stars, in three different constellations, the Summer Triangle is really just a convenient way to look for Cygnus, Lyra and Aquila in the summer sky. How to find it at this time of year? Easy? Check out this quick 30 seconds long video:

For more on what you can see, check out the blog's past posts, or the home page for the most recent video(s). There's also info on basic stargazing and how to understand telescopes

By Dave Fuller on 9/3/2015 8:12 PM
Today, I saw this question on the astronomy sub-reddit:

If the Earth is moving at 30 km/s around the Sun, and the Sun is orbiting the center of our galaxy at about 200-250 km/s, and our galaxy is moving relatively to the Local Group where it orbits, and the local group moves around the Virgo Cluster - How do the stars stay so consistent in the sky?

I don't particularly think I'm all that smart when it comes to astronomy. I mean, I know how to find things in the sky. I understand what they are, in a very general sense. I know a lot about telescopes, and a fair amount about how they work. And I understand cosmic scale, which is towards the edge of my understanding. 

So when I see someone struggling with a question, I will do my best to respond to it in a way that I'd like to see it answered - that is, give me something I can relate to in the response. It's the only way I'll grasp the concept fully. 

So here was my answer to the question (lightly edited for clarity):

The mountain...
By Dave Fuller on 9/2/2015 8:43 PM

I point Saturn out to them with a green laser, or say, "It's just to the right of that bright star," and their surprised reactions like, "Really? That's it, right there?" tell me that they didn't know it was so easily seen. I mean, it's a naked eye object, and has been for as long as humans have looked up at the sky.

How to find Saturn, September 2015

So try something: Share this graphic. Let people know how easily they can see Saturn right now, this week. Let's see how many people we can educate about some of the simpler-to-see celestial sights. 

By Dave Fuller on 9/2/2015 10:28 AM
Have you seen a "new star" in the eastern, morning sky just before sunrise? What IS that bright thing anyway? Of course, it's not actually a star, it's the planet Venus! The 2nd planet from the Sun switched from the evening sky over into the morning sky. But check out what is also nearby - the planet Mars. Neither will look like much in a telescope now - well, you can probably see a significant sickle-shape "phase" with enough magnification on Venus, but not much detail on either one. 

Venus and Mars in morning sky, Sept 2015

That doesn't mean they aren't worth taking a look at, given that one is inside our orbit (Venus), and the other outside of it (Mars). So you could say that Venus and Mars are the "bread" to an Earth sandwich. (Or not!) Okay, so maybe it's just more fun to think about the fact that we can see the next inner and outer planets right near each other in the sky.

By Dave Fuller on 9/1/2015 12:40 PM

Neptune just reached opposition with Earth, and the oft-overlooked 8th planet has some interesting stats. Plus, it is not hard to find in the night sky with binoculars (see video below in this blog post).

Neptune by the numbers

This video shows exactly how to find Neptune in the night sky through the month of September. 

By Dave Fuller on 8/29/2015 8:39 PM
The text below is what was posted on the home page of Eyes on the Sky for quite a few months earlier this year, but the hiatus ended this week with a new Eyes on the Sky video in a different format, and some Stellarium "how-to" videos. 

* * * * * 

Eyes on the Sky began 7 years ago as a simple article in a local newspaper. It graduated to YouTube videos in late 2010, and became a monthly video highlighting what people could see in the sky, interspersed with "Dark Sky Facts" to educate about light pollution. Later in 2011, Eyes on the Sky went weekly, and remained that way until early 2015. 

It was a Herculean effort, requiring a minimum of 8 to 12 hours per week, with just some donations to help defray some costs, and me largely the only person to do everything: Writing, researching, shooting and editing video, hosting, uploading, attending to social media, etc.. But the goal was always the same: Educate about light pollution by talking about what could be seen in the night sky. 

By Dave Fuller on 2/22/2015 8:19 PM
I've loved astronomy ever since I was about 8 or 9 years old. I can recall my 4th grade teacher telling our class about a meteor shower that would be visible, and begging my parents to let me watch it. 

But I've been camping for far longer; my parents took me to many a campground in and around New England when I was just a baby, and I can recall many trips we took, both with their pop-up trailer and then tent camping sometimes with my dad.  

I am grateful for those experiences; they've made transitioning into doing camping with my family much more fun. And I've discovered that the more I get out there and do astronomy, that camping shares many things with star gazing. 

Star parties

There used to be just a few major star parties in the United States; now there many dozens of star parties that attract 25 or more amateur astronomers. There are countless others that are smaller, less organized affairs, where a few hardy folks travel to a dark sky site, set up a few telescopes, and enjoy...

The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.