The red planet Mars swings to west quadrature on February 7, 2016. That means that – if you had a bird’s-eye view of the solar system – you’d see the sun, Earth and Mars making a right (90-degree) angle in space, with Earth at the vertex of this angle. It means the best time to see Mars in 2016 – in fact, the best time in about two years – is just ahead! Follow the links inside to learn more.
The Red Rectangle Nebula is a star in the last stages of its life. The star has puffed up and begun to shed its outer layers. The X-shape probably means something is preventing the uniform expansion of the star’s atmosphere, but what?
Face the northwestern horizon as darkness falls on winter evenings to find the Double Cluster in the constellation Perseus. Look above the M- or W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia. You may see the Double Cluster as a faint smudge of light, if your sky is dark enough. Binoculars will reveal a double smudge – really, two clusters of stars. Each cluster contains 300 to 400 stars at over 7,000 light-years away.
A record etched in rock from 120 million years ago shows the fragile beauty of an ancient butterfly-like insect.
Tonight, look for ruddy-hued Betelgeuse, one of the sky’s most famous stars. Kids especially like Betelgeuse, because its name sounds so much like beetle juice. The movie by that same name perpetuated this pronunciation. But astronomers pronounce it differently. We say BET-el-jews.
You can see all 5 bright planets – Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter – together in the sky before dawn, through mid-February.
Best photos from the EarthSky community of the 5 bright planets now visible at once in the sky before dawn. Thanks to all who posted!
Finding star distances isn’t easy. Here’s how it’s done, and why astronomers recently modified the distance estimate to the famous star Betelgeuse.
On this episode of EarthSky News, an update on the idea that the early Earth collided with a Mars-sized proto-planet to make the moon. That and more. Join us.