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 8/13/2014 6:29 PM
Early in the mornings this week, the two brightest planets in the sky, Jupiter and Venus, skim past each other so closely that they may look like one single bright planet. They'll be close enough together, in fact, that both will be visible in the same telescopic field of view at moderate magnification.

Start by looking late in the week for the two planets as they saunter towards each other. Venus will initially be the higher, and brighter object. Look below it for Jupiter, dimmer by about 2 full magnitudes. Despite the twilight glow, both of these wanderers in the sky are bright enough that they ought to be visible for quite some time in the increasing twilight before sunrise. Look for your local sunrise time, and and 45 minutes to an hour beforehand, look towards the east-northeast with an unobstructed or very low horizon. 

Jupiter and Venus meet in the sky animated gif

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By Dave Fuller on 1/26/2014 10:34 PM
The waning crescent Moon near Venus

This is truly a week for the Moon to be nearby objects. About an hour before sunrise on the morning of January 28, look out towards the east-southeastern sky where you have a clear, unobstructed view. Venus will be hard to miss, it's vivid, bright sparkling light dancing about 10 degrees above the horizon. 

But despite being technically brighter by almost 50 times, the larger surface area of the Moon may be harder to see, due to the very slim crescent of a Moon phase just a day or so before new. in the northern hemisphere, look to the right of Venus about 10 degrees or so (will vary somewhat based on location and time zone). Binoculars can help you pick out the narrow lit section of the Moon, though unfortunately the...
By Dave Fuller on 11/3/2013 7:18 PM
Here's what's happening in the night sky for the week of November 4 thru November 10 Want to see what's up in the sky this week? This daily reminder chart will let you know lots of individual, time-sensitive events occurring. Also, don't miss this week's Eyes on the Sky video about the Moon and THREE Comets you can see: ISON, Encke and Lovejoy.

Not sure how to convert the Universal Times to your local time zone? For U.S. observers, click here. For other visitors, check this site.

Monday, Nov 4:  Look for one day old Moon about 20 to 40 minutes after sunset (use binoculars; see this week's Eyes on the Sky video) Look at stars in Cepheus...

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.