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Tonight

Best time to see Saturn is here!

Let brilliant Mars guide you to the planet Saturn and the star Antares for months to come.

Let brilliant Mars guide you to the planet Saturn and the star Antares for months to come.

Tonight – or any night in late May 2016 – start watching for the ringed planet Saturn, which is found near the planet Mars and the star Antares. Saturn comes closest to Earth for the year on Friday, June 3 – only four days after Mars’ closest approach to Earth on Monday, May 30. It’s coming up fairly early in the evening now, and its best time to be observed in all of 2016 is nearly upon us.

Half-lit last quarter moon on May 29

Last quarter moon

Last quarter moon

Enjoy the January 29, 2016 last quarter moon! And know that the Earth and moon are like mirrors to each other in that – when we see a last quarter moon in our sky – those on the moon would see a first quarter Earth.

Four keys to understanding moon phases

This morning's waning gibbous moon - December 29, 2015 - from Deirdre Horan in Ireland.

This morning’s waning gibbous moon – December 29, 2015 – from Deirdre Horan in Ireland.

Why does the moon seem to change its shape every night? Remember that the moon is a world in space with a day side and a night side.

Look for the beautiful Northern Crown

Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, as captured by Fred Espenak.  Used with permission.  Visit Fred Espenak's Portal to the Universe.

Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, as captured by Fred Espenak. Used with permission.

Here is a constellation that’s easy to see on the sky’s dome, if your sky is dark enough. Corona Borealis – aka the Northern Crown – is exciting to find. It’s an almost-perfect semi-circle of stars. This beautiful pattern will adorn the evening sky from now until October.

Find a famous globular star cluster, M13

M13

Photo of M13, the great Hercules globular star cluster, by John Giroux of Syracuse, New York. Thank you John!

M13 is a densely packed globular cluster of about 300,000 stars, more than 25,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Hercules.

Find the Keystone in Hercules

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From mid-northern latitudes, you can easily find the brilliant star Vega in the eastern sky at dusk and nightfall. Vega acts as your guide star the Keystone – a pattern of four stars in the constellation Hercules. The Keystone, in turn, is your ticket to finding a famous globular star cluster in Hercules, otherwise known as Messier 13.

Star of the week: Polaris is the North Star

Ken Christison captured these glorious star trails around Polaris, the North Star.  He wrote,

Ken Christison captured these glorious star trails around Polaris, the North Star. See more photos from Ken Christison.

The North Star or Pole Star – aka Polaris – is famous for holding nearly still in our sky while the entire northern sky moves around it. Polaris is not the brightest star in the nighttime sky, as is commonly believed. Polaris is only about 50th brightest. Still, this star has been a boon to travelers throughout the Northern Hemisphere, both over land and sea. Follow the links inside to learn more about Polaris, the North Star.

Coming to know Corvus the Crow

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One of my favorite constellations, little squarish Corvus the Crow, can be found in the south after sunset at this time of year. It’s not far from the bright star Spica – brightest light in the constellation Virgo the Maiden.

Astronomy events, star parties, festivals, workshops

Jim Elliott of Powell, Ohio, contributed this photo. He wrote: “The moon over Jupiter over Columbus, Ohio, at the OSU planetarium star party. April 16, 2016.”

Jim Elliott of Powell, Ohio, contributed this photo. He wrote: “The moon over Jupiter over Columbus, Ohio, at the OSU planetarium star party. April 16, 2016.”

Summertime star parties! We just added many new events to this list of astronomical events throughout the U.S. and Canada. Find one near you, join in and have fun!

Close and far Martian oppositions

What's really cool is that you can use the brilliant planet Mars as you guide

What’s also cool is that you can use the brilliant planet Mars in 2016 as your guide “star” to the planet Saturn and the star Antares.

Tonight – May 23, 2016 – we’re just one day past Mars once-in-26-months opposition. In other words, yesterday Earth flew between Mars and the sun. What a wonderful event! However, 2016’s opposition of Mars – although good – doesn’t bring Mars as close to Earth as the extremely close opposition of 2018. Find out about close and far Martian oppositions, inside…