planets

Ethereal apparitions from the dusty inner solar system this week seem certain to delight sky-watchers.  Zodiacal lights. Starting Monday, March 24, and continuing through the week, keen-eyed sky-watchers in the mid-northern latitudes will witness the ghostly glow of the zodiacal lights, which will appear about one to two hours after local dusk in the western sky....

Just in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the silvery moon guides sky-watchers to a stellar heart, just as the goddess of love shines at her brightest this week. Moon joins Jupiter. Check out the king of planets after nightfall on Monday, February 10, as Jupiter pairs up with the waxing, gibbous moon in the southeastern...

A newly discovered planet wobbles as it spins, astronomers say, though it’s in no danger of falling down. The planet, dubbed Kepler-413b, wobbles as it spins around on its north-south axis circling its stars. The wobbles have altered the planet’s tilt by as much as 30 degrees (the angle between the 12 o’clock and the 1...

Hurricanes as large as planets may sweep across the face of brown dwarfs—failed stars bigger than planets but smaller than real stars. A new study looks at 44 brown dwarfs using the infrared camera of NASA’s Spitzer space telescope. The astronomers report that they recorded periodic changes in brightness and saw the largest variations ever...

  The New Year promises a pair of lunar disappearing acts and a potential surprise meteor shower, among other celestial delights. While scores of amazing astronomical phenomena are in the offing, here are our picks for sky-watching events worth circling on your calendar for 2014. 1. Total Eclipse of the Moon This year sky-watchers will...

As festivities kick off the New Year, sky-watchers will revel in nights filled with shooting stars, the king of planets shining like a beacon, and grand planetary spectacles blooming in the heavens. Great Orion Nebula. With the moon reaching a new phase for New Year’s Eve, December 31, the dark skies are perfect for hunting...

Sky-watchers this week can follow Earth’s lone natural satellite as it glides across the sky and poses with some of the most well known celestial treasures. Moon and Pisces.  After nightfall on Monday, December 9,  look for the first quarter moon to hang just below the “Circlet,” the most easily recognizable part of the constellation...

The waxing crescent moon appears to play peek-a-boo with the planet Venus through a natural rock arch in this dramatic snapshot taken in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Sky-watchers this week got to see Earth’s lone natural satellite glide past the second planet from the sun in the southwestern skies. The two worlds...

NASA has released this week the best views yet of a bizarre hexagon-shaped cloud that blankets Saturn’s north polar region, courtesy of the Cassini spacecraft.  First seen by the Voyager probe during its flyby in the early 1980s, this six-sided weather system stretches 15,000 miles (25,000 kilometers) across and contains storms of various sizes, including a distinct vortex that appears to...

When MAVEN fires its thrusters and settles into Martian orbit next September, it will join a celebrity list of spacecraft already studying the red planet. Its launch today from Cape Canaveral, Florida, was a major step toward that goal, one that propels the satellite onward to its own fame during a year-long mission studying the...

Comets dominate the pre-dawn skies and their flybys of neighboring planets offer observing challenges for early bird sky-gazers.  Comet ISON Brightens. Late last week Comet ISON began to wake up and now shines ten times brighter than it did just a week earlier. At magnitude 5.5 it has finally reached naked-eye levels from dark locations, according...

Sky-watchers will see a sprinkling of shooting stars, bask under autumn’s brightest star pattern, and take a dip in a cosmic lagoon. Taurid meteors. Look toward the southeast sky on Monday, November 4, and into the following morning to catch sight of the minor South Taurid meteor shower. A moonless night means darker skies, which...

While Venus shines bright after sunset in the southwest, and Jupiter rises high late nights in the south, the moon dances with planets and stars this week. Orionid stragglers: If clouds kept you from viewing the peak of the Orionids in the early morning of Monday, October 21, then you can try your luck again...