The Sky Tonight Update: Dec. 3, Full Moon, Supermoon

Full Moon, Supermoon

This December 3, the Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 15:47 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. This moon has also been known as the Full Long Nights Moon and the Moon Before Yule. This is also the only supermoon for 2017. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 24, Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation

Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation

This November 24, the planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 22.0 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.

The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 18, New Moon

new moon, sky tonight

This November 18, the Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 11:42 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 17-18, Leonids Meteor Shower

Leonids Meteor Shower

The Leonids is an average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. The last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The nearly new moon will not be a problem this year. Skies should be dark enough for what should be good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 13, Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

This November 13, a spectacular conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will be visible in the evening sky. The two bright planets will be extremely close, appearing only 0.3 degrees apart. Look for this impressive pairing in the Eastern sky just before sunrise.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 4-5, Taurids Meteor Shower

Taurids Meteor Shower

The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10. It peaks this year on the the night of November 4. Unfortunately the glare from the full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors. If you are extremely patient, you may still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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Why You Should Never Buy a Star for Someone

star scams

Occasionally we’ll get people coming into the planetarium with expensive pieces of paper, wondering if we can show them the star that was purchased in their honor.  For over thirty years this romantic scheme has been going on.  No, the star that your loved-one bought for you is not officially recognized.  So, here’s the skinny on why those name-a-star registry companies should be looked at as entertainment only.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Feb. 11, Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

This February 11, a penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth’s partial shadow, or penumbra. During this type of eclipse the Moon will darken slightly but not completely. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of eastern South America, eastern Canada, the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Africa, and western Asia.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Jan. 19, Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation

Mercury elongation

This January 19th, the planet Mercury reaches its greatest western elongation of 24.1 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

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The Sky Tonight Update – Jan. 12, Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation

Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation

This January 12th, Tthe planet Venus reaches its greatest eastern elongation of 47.1 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Venus since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky.

Look for the bright planet in the western sky after sunset.

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