StarDate

StarDate Online

  • Algol

    Four stars in Perseus represent the Gorgons, the mythological sisters whose heads were covered with snakes. For a couple of hours every three days, the brightest of them, Algol, fades dramatically as one member of the binary system covers the other.

  • New Moon

    The Moon is new today at 12:38 p.m. CDT as it crosses the line between Earth and Sun. Our satellite world is lost in the Sun’s glare, but will return to view as a thin crescent shortly after sunset tomorrow or the next day.

  • Venus and Saturn

    Two planets are slipping past each other in the early evening sky. Venus is the “evening star.” The fainter planet Saturn stands to the upper right of Venus this evening, and a bit farther from it on succeeding nights.

  • Eridanus

    Eridanus, the river, flows into the evening sky this month. This long, winding trail of stars begins to rise around 8 or 9 p.m., but it is so long that its easternmost stars don’t clear the horizon until about midnight.

  • Moon and Jupiter

    Jupiter is in great view at dawn tomorrow. The solar system’s largest planet looks like a brilliant star a whisker to the upper right of the crescent Moon. Jupiter is the brightest object in the sky at that hour other than the Moon.

  • VV Cephei

    Cepheus the king wheels high across the north on autumn evenings. It hosts one of the largest stars in the galaxy, VV Cephei. If it took the Sun’s place, it would swallow Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and maybe Saturn.

  • Cepheus

    Cepheus the king stands high in the north this evening, and looks like an upside-down child’s drawing of a house. It was passed down to us from ancient times through the Almagest, a famous text written almost 2,000 years ago by Claudius Ptolemy.

  • Moon and Regulus

    Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, the lion, will crouch close above the Moon at dawn tomorrow. Regulus actually consists of at least four stars, which are split into two close pairs. The system is almost 80 light-years from Earth.

  • Big Neighbor

    Our closest neighbor, the Moon, is 240,000 miles away—equal to 10 trips around Earth’s equator. The closest planet, Venus, the “evening star,” is always at least a hundred times farther. And the closest star system, Alpha Centauri, is a million times farther still.

  • Andromeda

    Andromeda is one of the largest constellations. Its main figure is two streamers of stars that form a skinny V. But it takes some patience to find it. Right now, it is well up in the east and northeast at nightfall, and passes high overhead by midnight.

  • Almach

    The colorful star system Almach climbs high across the sky on autumn nights. A telescope reveals one star that looks yellow-orange, and another that looks blue. Almach is one of the brightest stars of Andromeda, which passes high overhead early tomorrow morning.

  • Orionid Meteors

    The Orionid meteor shower should be at its best late tonight. Unfortunately, the Moon rises around midnight, so it will cast its glow in the sky during the shower’s peak. The Moon also will be quite close to Orion, making things even worse.

  • M31

    M31, the Andromeda galaxy, is visible to the unaided eye as a hazy smudge of light. It stands about half-way up the eastern sky as night falls. At a distance of 2.5 million light-years, it’s the farthest object that is easily visible to the eye alone.

  • Moon and Aldebaran

    The Moon has been playing a game of hide-and-seek all year. Most months it has passed in front of Aldebaran, blocking the bright eye of Taurus from view. It will do so again tonight. The disappearing act will be visible across most of the United States.

  • Epsilon Eridani

    One of our closest stellar neighbors is just visible to the unaided eye in the constellation Eridanus, well to the lower right of the Moon. Epsilon Eridani, which is about 10 light-years from Earth, rises around 10:30 p.m. The star has at least one planet, and probably more.

  • ExoMars

    Mars perches low in the south as night falls. It looks like a bright orange star to the left of teapot-shaped Sagittarius. A European spacecraft, ExoMars, is scheduled to arrive at Mars later this week.

  • Hunter’s Moon

    It’s pretty easy to hunt up the Moon tonight. It’s full, so it rises around sunset and is in view all night long. And as the first full Moon after the Harvest Moon, it’s known as the Hunter’s Moon.

  • Uranus at Opposition II

    Uranus is putting in its best showing of the year. The giant planet lines up opposite the Sun, so it rises at sunset and is in view all night. Tonight, it’s not far to the lower left of the Moon. You need binoculars or a telescope to see it.

  • Uranus at Opposition

    The giant planet Uranus is at opposition. It lines up opposite the Sun, so it rises at sunset and is in view all night, in the constellation Pisces. The solar system’s seventh planet is so faint, though, that you need binoculars to pick it out.

  • Celestial Sea

    A wide swath of the southern sky is known as the Celestial Sea — a series of constellations associated with water. All of them were created and named millennia ago, at a time when their appearance in the night sky heralded a rainy time of year.

  • Moving Group

    Five stars of the Big Dipper are members of the Ursa Major Moving Group, a collection of stars that were born together and that move through space together. The group appears to include stars in other constellations, including Orion, Aquarius, and Draco.

  • Pleiades

    The Pleiades climbs into view by 9 or 10 p.m. and sails high overhead during the night. The star cluster looks like a tiny dipper outlined by six moderately bright stars, and covers about as much area of sky as a full Moon.

  • Naming Stars

    At nightfall this evening, some bright stars with famous names are in good view. Arcturus is low in the west, with Antares, the heart of the scorpion, lower in the southwest. And the stars of the Summer Triangle crown the sky: Vega, Deneb, and Altair.

  • California Nebula

    The California Nebula is in Perseus, which is high in the east by the time the Moon sets. It is a cloud of interstellar gas set aglow by radiation from a hot, bright star. The cloud’s outline resembles the state of California.

  • Moon and Mars

    Look for Mars to the lower left of the Moon this evening. The planet looks like a bright orange star. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun, which makes it the next outward from Earth.

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