The planet Venus has its turn in the celestial spotlight in 2015 as a brilliant night sky object. See how to see Venus in the night sky for the New Year.
Our monthly podcast offers the key highlights for stargazing in January: where to find bright stars and planets, and a special look at the Pleiades star cluster.
Early in January, look low in the west about 30 minutes after sunset. You’ll easily spot brilliant Venus, but look carefully below Venus for much dimmer Mercury. These two are a few degrees apart as the year begins but close to within 1° of each other by January 10th.
How To See Comet Lovejoy Tonight
Comet Lovejoy, glowing at 4th magnitude, is entering its best two weeks. It's nicely placed high in the evening sky before moonrise for your binoculars or low-power, wide-field telescope. The comet may be dimly visible to the unaided eye under excellent dark-sky conditions — if you know exactly where to look!
November is a time of transition in the night sky. The signature star pattern of summer, the Summer Triangle, drops down the western sky during the evening hours, while some of the leading constellations of winter, including Orion and Canis Major, creep into view by mid- to late-evening. The zone between them is devoid of bright stars and constellations. It is dominated by the "celestial sea," a collection of relatively faint star patterns with a watery theme that stretches from Capricornus, the sea goat, to Cetus, the sea monster. Lonely Fomalhaut, in Pisces Austrinus, the southern fish, is the only bright spot in this watery stretch of stars.
October is always pleasant for observing the night sky because evenings are cool and come relatively early. Use our downloadable stargazing podcast to find all the month's highlights.Without a doubt, the big sky events this month are a pair of cosmic coverups — a total lunar eclipse on October 8th, the night of full Moon, and then a partial solar eclipse two weeks later on the 24th, when the new Moon slides directly between us and the Sun.Planetwise, the pickings are getting slim. Mars and Saturn are both observable low in the southwest after sunset as October opens, but by Halloween Saturn will have disappeared in the twilight glow.
Skywatchers have plenty of reasons to look up toward the heavens this month.
October brings a number of stargazing treats, including eclipses of the moon and sun, a dependably dazzling meteor shower, and good opportunities to view planets such as Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. A comet will also make a dramatic flyby of Mars; though that event won't brighten Earth's skies, it should find its way onto computer screens around the globe, thanks to the phalanx of probes circling and studying the Red Planet.
September’s equinox takes place on the 22nd at 10:29 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. At that moment the Sun shines directly overhead as seen from the equator. Days and nights are both 12 hours long — that’s where the word equinox comes from — and no matter where you live the Sun rises due east and sets due west.As darkness falls on September 1st, look for the planets Mars and Saturn to the Moon’s lower right. At month’s end, the Moon will have gone through nearly a complete cycles of phases and return to this stretch of sky. But by then Mars and Saturn will have shifted somewhat. Look for a very thin crescent Moon to Saturn’s right on the 27th. The ringed planet will soon sink from view..
Late summer offers the Teapot of Sagittarius and the nearby arc of the Scorpion's Tail in the evening, the Perseid meteor shower, and a spectacular pairing of Venus and Jupiter before dawn.August will be a busy skywatching month in the evening sky. Two bright planets, Mars and Saturn, are low in the west at dusk. They’re joined by the star Spica. Look for a line of three obvious “stars,” all about the same brightness. The one on the left is Saturn, on the right is Spica, and Mars is in between.
August nights provide an excellent chance to see the spectacle of the Milky Way, especially early and late in the month, when there’s little or no moonlight to overpower its subtle glow. It arcs directly overhead around midnight, anchored by teapot-shaped Sagittarius in the south. The dazzling planets Venus and Jupiter, and the fainter planets Saturn and Mars, zip past each other in the last half of the month.
Darkness might not last very long this month, but there's lots to see in the night sky tonight and every night during July! By playing or downloading this month's 6-minute audio tour, you'll get a great introduction to the stars and planets overhead during July.
This is an especially good month for conjunctions between the Moon and bright stars and planets. The Moon splits the gap between Mars and Spica on the night of the 5th, huddles close to Saturn a couple of nights later, then goes eye-to-eye with Aldebaran late in the month. As the Moon’s journey plays out, the summer constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius climb into good view in the southern sky. On moonless nights, the subtle glow of the Milky Way extends upward from these constellations, providing a breathtaking view for those who can escape the glow of city lights.