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Astronomy Essentials

Comet Halley's position in May, 2016. The view is from the north side of the solar system, whereby the planets orbit the sun in a counterclockwise direction - but Halley's Comet orbits the sun clockwise. Click here for Comet Halley's present position, or if you'd like, change the date to view its position in any chosen year.
Science Wire | Apr 25, 2016

Comet Halley, parent of 2 meteor showers

The 2 meteor showers spawned by the famous Comet Halley. And a word about Isaac Newton’s Vis-viva equation, his poetic rendition of instantaneous motion.

Eta Aquarid in 2013 by Colin Legg
Tonight | Apr 25, 2016

Everything you need to know: Eta Aquarid meteor shower

In 2016, Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks on mornings of May 5 and 6. How to watch, history, radiant point, what part of Earth is favored, here.

Photo by Justin Ng
Tonight | Apr 23, 2016

EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2016

A list of major meteor showers in 2016. Next one up: the Eta Aquarids. Peak mornings May 5 and 6, but it’s a broad peak … watch several mornings around peak dates.

Earth will between between the sun and Mars on May 22, 2016.  Then, the distance between our two worlds will be at its least for this two-year period, and Mars will appear brightest in our sky.  Image via Fourmilab.
Science Wire | Apr 21, 2016

Mars is getting bright! Here’s why

We’ll pass between Mars and the sun about a month from now, on May 22. Watch Mars brighten dramatically between now and then!

Lyrids and others via NASA/MSFC/D. Moser
Tonight | Apr 12, 2016

Everything you need to know: Lyrid meteor shower

Full moon is out all night at the peak of this year’s Lyrid meteor shower. Best time to watch before dawn on April 22, 2016, but … will you see any meteors?

Skywatcher, by Predrag Agatonovic.
Tonight | Mar 31, 2016

April 2016 guide to the 5 bright planets

Jupiter appears as brightest “star.” Mars and Saturn moving toward their best. Mercury has its best evening apparition for N. Hemisphere. Great month for planet-watching!

Science Wire | Mar 28, 2016

Give me five minutes and I’ll give you Saturn in 2016

Learn how to identify Saturn for the rest of 2016.

Moon shot with blue filter via our friend Jv Noriega
Science Wire | Mar 23, 2016

What is a Blue Moon?

The next Blue Moon will be on May 21, 2016. It’s a seasonal Blue Moon, the third of four full moons between the March equinox and the June solstice of 2016.

Tonight | Mar 20, 2016

Everything you need to know: Vernal equinox 2016

Earliest spring since 1896! The 2016 vernal or spring (or fall) equinox comes on March 20 at 4:30 UTC (March 19 at 11:30 p.m. CDT).

Sunrise over Red Sea by Graham Telford
Tonight | Mar 19, 2016

Fastest sunsets near equinoxes

Here’s a natural phenomenon you might never have imagined. That is, the sun actually sets faster around the time of an equinox.

Blogs | Mar 18, 2016

Is it possible to have three eclipses in one month?

Three eclipses in one calendar month are rare. Three eclipses in one lunar month are more common. From 2000-2050, it happens 14 times.

Photo by John Foster, Oregon Parks and Rec
Science Wire | Feb 29, 2016

Astronomy events, star parties, festivals, workshops

We just added a bunch of new events for various parts of North America in the coming months. Click in, and find some astronomy fun!

Zodiacal light
Tonight | Feb 16, 2016

Everything you need to know: zodiacal light or false dusk

The zodiacal light is an eerie light extending up from the horizon. No matter where you are on Earth, springtime or autumn is the best time to see it.

From late January, and through mid-February, 5 bright planets were visible at once in the predawn sky. This image is from February 8, 2016.  It's by Eliot Herman in Tucson, Arizona.  View on Flickr.
Science Wire | Feb 08, 2016

See 5 bright planets at once

First time we can see 5 planets at once since 2005. All 5 are up before dawn, still, and all 5 will remain visible until Mercury disappears in the dawn just after mid-February.

Science Wire | Feb 07, 2016

Mars’ west quadrature on February 7

At west quadrature on February 7, 2016, the red planet appears 90% illuminated as seen through a telescope. Fantastic time to see Mars is just ahead.

Photo Credit:  A. Dupree, R. Gilliland, NASA
Science Wire | Feb 05, 2016

How far is Betelgeuse?

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.

Groundhog Day
Science Wire | Feb 02, 2016

Everything you need to know: Groundhog Day 2016

Groundhog Day – a celebration with its roots in astronomy – comes every year on February 2. It’s the year’s first “cross-quarter” day.

J-shaped Scorpius with Shaula and Lesath
Tonight | Feb 02, 2016

Two stars in Scorpius are harbingers of spring

Go ahead. Treat yourself to something beautiful, and hopeful: a glimpse of two stars that represented a Pawnee version of Groundhog Day.

Photo credit: Gattou
Science Wire | Jan 23, 2016

Can you tell me the full moon names?

For both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, the full moons have names corresponding to the calendar months or the seasons of the year.

Image via shadowandsubstance.com
Blogs | Jan 05, 2016

Dates of lunar and solar eclipses in 2016

The next eclipse is a total solar eclipse – caused by a supermoon – on March 8-9, 2016.

Total solar eclipse via Fred Espenak
Blogs | Jan 05, 2016

How many solar and lunar eclipses in one calendar year?

Each calendar year has at least four eclipses – two solar and two lunar. Most years have four, but five, six or even seven eclipses are also possible.