By Dave Fuller on 1/22/2015 9:09 PM
Those of us on Earth won't get a chance to see a triple moon transit across the face of Jupiter for another 17 years... so if it's cloudy, well, you may just have to settle for this animated gif:

Jupiter triple transit animated gifLasting a mere 25 minutes - really a few minutes less than that by the time each Moon is fully into view or before it leaves view - there is not a lot of time to see it. But, there will be plenty of time to view and share this event. 

What will you see? In the graphic above, Io is on the left, Callisto is center, and Europa's shadow on the right. If you look several hours earlier in the evening, you can see Io first on the right side of the shadow of Callisto, then racing to catch up, and actually passing it on the left side. 

So if clouds thwart your efforts later, or you just plain get tired, you can still at least see a double transit occurring. While not rare, they don't happen all the time. 

...
By Dave Fuller on 1/19/2015 4:11 PM
Mercury has just about had enough of us Earthlings gazing at it for the last couple of weeks during this greatest eastern elongation in the western sky (Mercury's furthest highest point towards the east above the horizon in the west after sunset is called the greatest eastern elongation.) But while the rocky innermost world was sharing the stage with brilliant Venus, with Mars hovering over the two, the Moon was finishing it's rounds on the morning side of our sky.

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Moon on Jan 21

Now it returns to the evening, and YOU can capture this event with either your naked eye (look carefully!), binoculars, or with a camera (use a tripod).

On January 21st, the Moon will be about "three finger width's at arm's length" or 5 degrees or so away from Venus, and a bit less than that from Mercury. These graphics display the Moon's...
By Dave Fuller on 1/14/2015 9:12 PM
Comet Lovejoy remains quite bright and easy to find with binoculars of 7x35 or larger under most skies. The comet does not dim appreciably, but over the next 7 days or so, it is very near to the easily found Pleiades. It isn't quite within a single binoculars field of view (typically 7 degrees or so), but it is close enough that making the "hop" over to it should not be too difficult.

Check out the day by day descriptions of how to find the comet at the bottom of this post. First, here's the large, wide field view so you can get oriented (look mostly south, around 8 pm or so for most people). 

Comet Lovejoy wide field star chartThe Pleiades make the better "jump off" point for the next 7 days or so. Note that just like in the prior post,...
By Dave Fuller on 1/12/2015 4:13 PM
Marveling at Mercury Have you ever seen Mercury? Not the metal found in thermometers; the actual planet. It is surprisingly bright, but many people don't know when or where to look. This month offers the perfect time to try and spot this elusive solar system speedster.

Mercury is the innermost planet of the solar system. As such, we refer to both it and Venus as "inferior" planets - that is to say, they orbit the Sun inside of Earth's orbit (the other planets are called "superior" planets). Because of this location in our solar system, these planets never cross the sky, and they never reach opposition with Earth. Rather, the best time to see them is when they obtain the position of "greatest elongation." Yet Mercury is somewhat elusive. It orbits the Sun in just 88 days - less than a full season on Earth. Despite shining at over magnitude 1 much of the time when it is brightest, it is forever stuck in the twilight glow of the Sun. One never sees it under a truly dark sky, so observers really HAVE to be...
By Dave Fuller on 1/10/2015 6:14 PM
Comet Lovejoy is a bright comet by most standards. In a way, it is fortunate that it was not hyped by news media as a "BRIGHT, NAKED EYE COMET!" because unless it's Hale-Bopp bright? Then most people will be disappointed. So Comet Lovejoy C2014 Q2 actually is nice in the respect that it kept expectations low, then exceeded them when it brightened up nicely over the past couple of weeks. Now that the Moon is mostly out of the way, this is a perfect time to see the comet, despite the fact that it is just past it's closest point to Earth. It is still bright, it isn't getting appreciably farther from Earth over the next couple of weeks, and the Moon is now nicely out of the way for most viewing opportunities.

That makes this ideal. How to find it? Below are both a wide-field, and a detailed chart for January 11 through 15. These are listed as Universal time, so for European viewers, it's about in that spot at midnight. For North American viewers, it is in that spot early in the evening (for most, around 7...
By Dave Fuller on 11/17/2014 8:59 PM
Eyes on the Sky is in a transition period. Since November of 2011, a weekly video has been made to highlight one or more things visible in the night sky that week. The goal was always to highlight light pollution, and help others make changes to reduce light pollution. But as I've learned more about it, I've realized that more needs to be done.

However, given the time involved in making the weekly videos, I couldn't do both. So at the moment, there are a lot of things happening "behind the scenes" with Eyes on the Sky to get some new things set up. In the future, there will be ~70 or so objects that any observer will be able to find from most anywhere on Earth (except the very worst light polluted areas, like Broadway or downtown Hong Kong). There is a lot of website writing and setting up to do with that. There are also a lot of scripts to write for the videos that will accompany those pages. I'm in the process of doing that. 

And as for light pollution, each of these videos will feature information...
By Dave Fuller on 9/15/2014 7:34 PM
I've often commented on dark sky initiatives when they are highlighted in the media. One thing I've noticed is that some people who comment seem to be under the impression that people who advocate for dark skies are for complete, total, utter darkness.

Please allow me to disabuse you of that notion right here and now. 



When dark SKY advocates are asking people to aim LIGHTS downward, we are not saying, "turn off all lights and make everything pitch black." Now are there times when there is still overlighting? Yes. Are there many area where we could use less light than is being sent out from fixtures and bulbs? Yes also. 

Here's the thing: Dark SKY advocate means just that - don't light up the sky, it doesn't DO anything useful, either for function, form or safety. It's literally wasted light and energy....
By Dave Fuller on 9/10/2014 8:45 PM

A month or so ago, I met a gentleman named Chris who is part of a group that is trying to revitalize the downtown Kankakee area by supporting artistic endeavors. What they do is very wide-ranging, and last month he asked me to introduce one of their film nights, "2001: A Spacey Odyssey" that he indicated I could talk about anything I wanted that had to do with space. After doing that, we talked a bit about what other ways we could collaborate. We decided to do a "Sidewalk Astronomy" event, and it was held last night. We did not do a lot of promoting of the event - a few Facebook posts and shares, but not much else. I also highlighted the event with the Kankakee Area Stargazers club and two of our members offered to join me.


It turned out to be a GREAT night.

By Dave Fuller on 8/29/2014 5:18 PM
Spica during the day? 

Today is the day that the Moon was to be within 2 degrees of Spica in the daytime sky. Cloudy weather and even a bit of rain was the order of most of the day today. But I just went outside a little bit ago, and realized... hey, it's clear! Well, clearish. Not exactly superb transparency by any means. 

Moon points to Spica during the dayBut always being one to try for all things astronomical whenever possible, I hauled out my 6" f/5 scope, as it was the quickest and easiest scope I could get out the door while the Moon was still in between two sets of tall pine trees to my southwest. Found the...
By Dave Fuller on 8/26/2014 7:49 PM
People are surprised that they can see stars during the day that are not the Sun. “What? Really? How is that possible?” It is possible because bright stars are... well, bright! The trick is that you need to know the exact spot to look, because you won't have the crutch of a dark sky to make the star's contrast with the sky as obvious.

So how to find a star in the sky this week? Use the Moon as your guide. On Friday August 29th, the Moon will be a waxing crescent. Now, some people are still surprised that the Moon can be seen during the day, but that's another matter. Even crescent like this shines at magnitude negative nine, more than sufficient to be seen in a clear blue sky.

Moon and Sun in sky Aug 28 2014

The first step is to find the Moon in the sky, and you have a window of a couple hours for the easiest spotting of the star. For the first opportunity, look slightly before 3:00 pm EDT/12:00 pm PDT....

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.