“By far the noblest (sight) astronomy affords.” That’s how Sir Edmund Halley of Halley’s Comet fame described a transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun.
In an eerie re-creation of last December’s sunrise lunar eclipse, the full moon once again will slip into the Earth’s dark shadow by the dawn’s early light on the morning of June 4.
Centaurs figured heavily in the mythology of the ancient Greeks — so much so that two of them are immortalized in the stars as our constellations of Sagittarius the Archer and Centaurus the Centaur.
I can’t help but chuckle a little when the news media pick up on a rather mundane celestial event and blow it way out of proportion. Such was the case with this past weekend’s so-called “super moon.”
Not since May 10, 1994, has a central eclipse of the sun been seen from the 48 contiguous United States. It has been a long eclipse drought, but come May 20, folks living in the southwestern U.S. will have a ringside seat for an annular eclipse of the sun.
Winging his way across our springtime sky is a delightful little constellation named Corvus the Crow. In most constellations, the designation Alpha is bestowed upon the brightest star, but Corvus is a notable exception.
April not only brings snow and rain showers to the mountains of Northwest Colorado, it also brings the annual Lyrid meteor shower.
There are 88 constellations in our sky, and only one of them begins with the letter B: Bootes the Herdsman, and it could be the most ancient of our constellations.
In space, there is no up or down, no top or bottom. On Earth, gravity defines our “down” as toward the center of the Earth and our “up” as the direction opposite that, but these have no meaning once you are away from the Earth’s influence.
One of the sure signs that spring has arrived is the return of the Big Dipper to our early evening sky. Look toward the northeastern sky at about 9 p.m. to find the seven bright stars of the Big Dipper, propped up on its handle.
Ah, springtime. The early signs are all here: the mud, the blackbirds, the return of the Big Dipper to our early evening sky, more mud and the gradual lengthening of our daylight hours.
Have you ever seen a red star? No, I mean a really red star. Tucked in under the handle of the Big Dipper is one of the reddest stars in the sky, named La Superba.
During the first two weeks of March our evening sky is swarming with bright planets — Mars in the east and Jupiter and Venus in the west. You might even catch a glimpse of the elusive Mercury.
Once every 780 days, Earth passes in between Mars and the sun, placing the two planets as close together as possible. This alignment of worlds is called opposition.
Have you ever wondered why February has only 28 days most years but occasionally has 29 days, as it does this year? This whole leap year thing started back in the days of the Roman Empire under the reign of Julius Caesar.
If you were a constellation made of very faint stars and didn’t want to draw attention to yourself, there couldn’t be a better spot for you to hide than among the brilliant stars of winter.
The very familiar star pattern of Orion the Hunter is found overhead at 8 p.m. in early February. The bright stars Betelgeuse and Rigel at his shoulder and foot, respectively, join the three stars in a row marking Orion’s Belt to form one of the most widely recognized star patterns in the entire sky.
Groundhog Day is coming up this week. The origin of this unusual holiday can be traced back hundreds of years, although not in the same form that we celebrate it today.
High overhead as darkness falls on cold January evenings is a tiny cluster of stars that is often mistaken for the Little Dipper. Although it does have a dipper shape, with a tiny little bowl and a tiny little handle, its real name is the Pleiades star cluster.
Winter is an excellent time to start learning the constellations. The winter sky contains more bright stars and constellations than any other season of the year.
Venus, the lovely evening star, is dominating our evening sky right now. She is the first “star” that you’ll see pop out of the evening twilight, so feel free to make a wish on her.
This year promises to be one of the most exciting years in recent memory for sky watchers. There are solar and lunar eclipses, a rare transit of Venus, conjunctions of bright planets and showers of falling stars to keep us looking up all year long.
On any given night of the year, a single observer can expect to see about five or six shooting stars, or meteors, every hour of the night.
The winter solstice, marking the moment that fall ends and winter begins in the northern hemisphere, is at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. The winter solstice is a very happy day and a very sad day.
Shower appears to be getting stronger, better each year
The annual Geminid meteor shower peaks this week, but it will be competing against the bright December moonlight. You can see some Geminid meteors several days before the shower actually peaks Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, and for several days thereafter.
Saturday is the closest that Colorado will come to a total lunar eclipse until April 15, 2014, so you’d better take advantage of this brush with totality.
Solar activity is on the rise, which means so are the chances of seeing the Northern Lights from Colorado.
Shining brightly in the southern sky as darkness falls is one of autumn’s few bright stars, a blue gem named Fomalhaut.
Stars are born in clusters — families of dozens to hundreds of stars that share the same age and chemical makeup — but they don’t remain in clusters their entire lives. Like fledgling birds, stars eventually leave the nest in which they were born to roam the galaxy alone.
What’s that twinkly, golden star hovering over the northeastern mountains as darkness falls in mid-November? It’s Capella, the third brightest star visible in Colorado skies and the brightest star in the constellation of Auriga, the Charioteer.
Mercury and Venus, the two innermost planets in our solar system, are moving out from behind the sun and into our early evening sky.
One of my favorite times of year for sky-watching is early fall, when the nights are clear but not yet frigid. On moonless autumn evenings, one almost can see to infinity. In fact, the fall sky offers the opportunity to see the two most distant objects visible to the unaided human eye.
Most stars shine with a constant brightness in our sky throughout timescales of centuries, millennia and even eons. But it’s the stars that don’t shine steady that are among the most interesting.
What’s that really bright star rising over the eastern mountains shortly after darkness falls this month? Trick question — it’s not a star at all. It’s the giant planet Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.
If you enjoy watching the sky for shooting stars, mark the night of Oct. 8 on your calendar. You just might get treated to a flurry of meteors courtesy of the comet Giacobini-Zinner.
This year, Neptune completes its first full orbit of the sun since its discovery in 1846.
The very thought of having to utter the name of the seventh planet in public is enough to strike fear in the heart of even a veteran reporter. Well, giggles or not, now is the prime time to see Uranus.
Summer is slipping away from us, and the changing constellations are a sure sign of the approach of autumn.
The late-summer sky is dominated by several giant constellations that eat up a lot of territory: Hercules the Strong Man, Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer and Ursa Major, the Great Bear, to name a few. Tucked in between these sky-hogs are a few tiny constellations that are a snap to locate because they are so small.
Two of my favorite things happen in early August: The serviceberries ripen, and the Perseid meteors shoot across the sky. I spend my waking hours scanning the high branches for the sweet Rocky Mountain berries and what should be my sleeping hours scanning the skies for shooting stars.
Moons, asteroids and comets may be the little guys in our solar system, but they’ve been making some big news lately. By the latest reckoning, there are 13 planets and dwarf planets in our solar system and between them they own 171 moons.
Late July and early August often are the hottest weeks of summer for much of the northern hemisphere. This stretch of sizzling temperatures has been referred to as the dog days of summer for centuries, but most folks use this phrase without really knowing what it means or where it came from.
There are two starry crowns that twinkle in our summer sky, one in the north and one in the south. Although each is a tiny constellation, their shapes are so distinctive that locating them is a snap. They lie on opposite banks of the river of stars we see as the Milky Way arching across our summer sky.
The discovery of the minor planet Ceres by astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801 set off a series of discoveries of many other mini-worlds circling the sun in the huge gulf of space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
There aren’t many constellations that resemble the objects or creatures for which they are named. Scorpius, the Scorpion, is a delightful example of one that does. This celestial scorpion scurries across our southern sky on summer evenings, so this month is prime time for scorpion hunting.
The nebula is a the result of a dark space in the sky
Have you ever looked up at the fluffy clouds on a summer’s day and imagined a menagerie of animals in the sky? You can do the same thing at night, using the star clouds of the Milky Way. The dark of the moon in early July this summer will allow us to see something truly wonderful, the elusive Great Dark Horse Nebula.
The summer solstice, marking the official beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere, is at 11:16 a.m. today. Ever since the winter solstice, the time interval between our sunrise and sunset has been increasing, giving us more minutes of daylight.
Lupus the wolf is so far south some stars never crack our horizon
The constellation of the wolf, mimicking real life, seems to get very little respect, in spite of the fact that it contains many bright stars of second and third magnitude. Perhaps this is because of its unfortunate position in the sky.
Perhaps you’re an Ophiuchan and you don’t know it. Ophiuchus is one of our 88 official constellations. It represents the great mythological witch doctor Aesculapius, who learned from a serpent the secret of raising people from the dead. In fact, it was Aesculapius who brought the great hunter Orion back to life after he was mortally wounded by a scorpion’s sting.
In the course of one year, the sun makes a 360-degree circuit of the sky, passing through 12 constellations that form a band around the sky called the Zodiac. Take a closer look at that list of constellations in the “circle of animals.” Notice anything odd? The circle of animals includes one non-animal — Libra the Scales.