Of the 12 constellations of the zodiac, which mark the sun’s annual path through our sky, Cancer the Crab is the faintest and most challenging to locate. By the first week of March, the Crab has climbed high up in our eastern sky, tucked in between the more prominent constellations of Gemini the Twins to the west and Leo the Lion to the east.
Canis Major has its flashy alpha star, Sirius, outshining all of the other stars in the area, even Canis Minor’s very bright star Procyon. So, I’m dedicating this Celestial News to all the “little dogs” out there, and Canis Minor in particular.
The celestial Unicorn is a relative newcomer to the sky. It doesn’t date back to the time of the Babylonians or ancient Greeks, as many of our constellations do, but seems to have appeared from out of nowhere on a star chart published in 1624 by Jakob Bartsch, the son-in-law of famed astronomer Johannes Kepler.
High overhead as darkness falls on crisp February evenings is a tiny cluster of stars that often is mistaken for the Little Dipper. Although it does have a dipper shape, with a tiny bowl and a tiny handle, its ancient name is the Pleiades star cluster.
What can you expect to see and do at the Crystal Observatory?
Astronomers who study the violent deaths of stars must look to other nearby galaxies to have a reasonable chance of seeing and studying one. That’s why the appearance of a type Ia supernova in a nearby galaxy last week has created such excitement in the astronomical community.
The three bright stars in a neat little row stand out among the other stars like a neon sign. Some call them the Three Marys, others, the Three Wise Men, but officially, these three stars mark the Belt of Orion, the Hunter.
Orion the Hunter rules the winter sky, but, if you can pull your eyes away from his magnificence, you can use Orion to find some other cool constellations.
Venus and Jupiter are both closer to the Earth this week than they will be all year, but on opposite sides of our planet – Venus on the sunward side and Jupiter on the anti-sunward side.
Early risers on the mornings of Friday, Jan. 3 and Saturday, Jan. 4 might see as many as 40 to 60 meteors per hour in the dark hours before sunrise.
Year 2014 will be one of eclipses. Two total eclipses of the moon and a partial eclipse of the sun will be the real headline grabbers in 2014, but there are plenty of bright planets and showers of shooting stars to keep us looking up all year long.
JImmy Westlake's 2014 cosmic calendar of celestial events
For centuries, astronomers have wondered about the nature of this Star of Bethlehem. Was it a one-time supernatural event, never seen before and never seen since?
The winter solstice is the astronomical moment that marks the end of the season of fall and the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. It happens this year at 10:11 a.m. MST Saturday.
The best annual meteor shower of the year is in progress this week and is rising toward a spectacular peak before dawn next Saturday morning Dec. 14. It’s the Geminid meteor shower, and it could bring as many as 120 shooting stars per hour to our sky.