Weekend Sky Report / Uranus
February 15, 2019
Mars is bright and easy to spot in the western sky until the beginning of summer. But for the next few days, you can use Mars to spot the 7th planet… the ice giant Uranus.
Now, disclaimer… you may need access to a halfway decent telescope to see it. A very small or toy telescope probably won’t cut it for this one. It might if the moon weren’t also out in the evening, but it is… and it’s big and bright, so it’s washing out a lot of the dimmer targets.
But if you have a telescope, here’s what you do. Find Mars. It’s that bright orange dot in the western sky in the evening. The later it is, the lower it’ll be. Once you find Mars, scan straight down very slowly until you see a pale turquoise-colored dot. And there it is.
Even though Uranus wasn’t discovered to be a planet until the late 18th Century, it was almost certainly observed before then… Ancient greek astronomers may have mistaken it as a star, as did 17th Century English astronomer John Flamsteeed. But in 1781, William Herschel observed it and initially recorded it as a comet. But upon further observation, determined it to be a planet beyond Saturn.
Uranus is on its side compared to other planets. And it was long hypothesized that this was the result of a giant collision. It wasn’t until recently that this was looked at more closely. Research done at England’s Durham University suggests that somewhere between 3 and 4 billion years ago … an object larger than Earth hit Uranus, effectively knocking it over.
So tonight, find Mars… then scan down to see a planet that’s more than a billion and a half miles away.
May 22, 2020
Some amateur astronomers in the northern hemisphere say that Spring is galaxy season. Basically what that means is that the Virgo Cluster is high in the evening sky.
May 15, 2020
To the West, the last remnant of the Winter Triangle. To the East, the first stellar sign of the coming summer.
May 08, 2020
We're halfway through Spring. A perfect time to look for what some call the "Great Diamond."
May 01, 2020
When the moon is out, it's hard to see dimmer stars and deep sky objects. But there's still plenty to appreciate about our natural satellite.
Apr 24, 2020
Messier 3 is a remarkable globular cluster. It's over 33,000 light years away, but it's bright enough to see with a small telescope, which means it's dense. Around half a million stars exist there.
Apr 17, 2020
The Lyrids are active all weekend, so you may see some tonight under dark skies, but the big peak comes early this coming Wednesday morning April 22, 2020. This year we're expecting 10 to 15 meteors per hour.
Apr 10, 2020
To find Gemini, look to the west and find the familiar Orion. You'll know it by its iconic "Belt" of three bright stars in a row. Then, simply look above Orion for two bright stars next to each other.
Apr 03, 2020
As Venus continues its rise in the evening sky through the end of April, it will travel through many constellations. Tonight, Friday, April 3rd, it will be in the middle of the Pleiades star cluster.
Mar 27, 2020
If we're lucky enough to get clear skies in the early morning--before 7am Eastern, look to the south and you'll see three bright points of light. From left-to-right, it's Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter.
Mar 20, 2020
The Beehive Cluster is right smack in the middle of Cancer the Crab, which is actually a very dim constellation.
Mar 13, 2020
Blue stars that are really close to red stars can appear to us as a greenish blue. One good example is Antares B, the binary companion to the red giant Antares A, the heart of Scorpius.
Feb 28, 2020
Leo sweeps across the southern sky all night this time of year. In the evening, it's to the east. To find it, look for the Big Dipper. It'll be straight up and down with the cup at the top. Connect the two stars at the top that make up the end of the cup, and from that straight line, extend the line to the right toward the east, and when you hit the bright star Regulus, you've arrived.
Feb 21, 2020
Every good hunter needs support. Orion and his two dogs have reigned the evening sky in the winter since before human civilization. One of the earliest representations of Orion appeared in cave art dated more than 32,000 years ago.
Feb 14, 2020
On Tuesday morning, February 18, 2020, just after 7am Eastern, Mars will disappear behind the moon. An event known as a lunar occultation.
Feb 07, 2020
Sirius is a binary system consisting of the very bright, main sequence stage star we can see with the naked eye, Sirius A, and a much smaller companion white dwarf stage star, Sirius B.
Jan 31, 2020
Venus is 15 times brighter than the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius. And planets don't twinkle like stars do.
Jan 24, 2020
The Triangulum Galaxy gets its name from the constellation where it's found. It's a small constellation and, as the name suggests... it's a triangle.
Jan 17, 2020
The Orion Nebula is just over 1300 light years from our solar system, and it's believed to be an enormous 24 light years across. Because it's so big, and... relatively close, it's easily visible with binoculars or a telescope, even under fairly bright, suburban skies.