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 9/2/2015 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.

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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 1/12/2015 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 8/26/2014 5:52 PM
No. 

Again, NO.

Mars will not EVER appear as large as the full Moon, not until humans are within ~475,000 miles of it. And Mars will never be that close to Earth short of some catastrophic solar system event which everyone would certainly know about.



So just stop with the "Mars is as big as the Moon" stuff already.

There's a lot more here on Eyes on the Sky. For example, every week on the homepage there is a new astronomy video about observing objects in the night sky. They're only 5 minutes long - why not check out the latest one right now? For those new to astronomy, don't miss Eyes on the Sky's Ultimate Beginner's Guide!

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By Dave Fuller on 7/25/2014 8:26 PM
Every so often the stars, planets and Moon make some lovely alignments in the sky. Despite appearing small and close together, they are often far enough away from one another than photographs do not do them justice. However, their proximity in the sky naked eye often makes for a lovely sight.

Moon position August 1-5, 2014 From August 1 through August 5 2014, the Moon travels near the ecliptic - that imaginary line in the sky along which the Sun appears to travel. Because the planets of the solar system are mostly along the same plane, so do the Moon and planets. This week, the waxing crescent Moon will first stop near the first magnitude star Spica in Virgo on August 1, then split the space between Spica and Mars the folowing night of August 2nd. The following night it will have passed Mars and have Mars to the west and Saturn to the east. On August 4 the Moon...
By Dave Fuller on 1/26/2014 10:10 PM
Mars near Spica last week of January 2014

For the next week or so, the Red Planet of Mars will be nearby the bluish white star of Spica. The two will not be much above the horizon at midnight, but an hour later achieve enough elevation to be reasonably observed. The contrast between them should make for an interesting sight, too: Mars has a very distinct, orange hue to it, and Spica is a large, B-spectral class star that glows with a bluish tint. 

With the two objects at nearly the same magnitude, and just a few finger width's apart from each other, they are well suited to comparison. Of course, the actual size and distance is fascinating to consider as well. 

Mars is a mere 1 Astronomical Unit from Earth this week - or about 150,000,000...
By Dave Fuller on 2/26/2012 8:28 AM
It's not a bad night when you've seen a nice, steady image of Mars, even if it's not the best opposition ever.  But it's still worth the look, because the next really good opportunity won't come around for another 2 years or so.  And like par for the course playing golf on an otherwise beautiful day, if Mars is at opposition and steady, what more can you ask for when the conditions are right? 

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.