Astronomy Features

News: Sun Picture from My New Solar Telescope

There is going to be an annular solar eclipse on May 20th that will be visible in a narrow pathway that covers part of Eastern Asia and the Western United States. The eclipse will be seen as a partial eclipse over a much greater region of the World. I live in Redding, California, which luckily happens to be right in the center of the path, giving a perfect ring of fire effect during the peak of the eclipse.

How To: Watch NASA's Curiosity Rover Land on the Surface of Mars Tonight (Live Online)

NASA will be attempting to land the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars tonight, and you can watch it live. Curiosity (the Mars Science Laboratory) was launched almost a year ago on November 26, 2011, and will be finishing its 354 million mile journey to the red planet tonight (Sunday, August 5th) at around 8:30pm PST. The craft will be deploying a supersonic parachute to slow itself, as it will be traveling at upwards of 1,000 mph. The show's not over though, as the first images from the ...

How To: Watch Tonight's Peaking Geminid Meteor Shower—About 100 Shooting Stars Per Hour!

The Geminid meteor shower happens every December and has been observed for over 500 years. It's is also known as Winter's Fireworks because when viewed from the right location, there are enough meteors to light up the whole night sky, and some of them can even be different colors. The shower appears to come from the Gemini constellation, but is actually caused by Earth passing through the tail of dust and debris left behind by the comet 3200 Phaethon.

Coming Soon: World's Biggest Digital Camera and Its 3.2 Billion Pixel View of the Skies

You're probably already impressed at some of the photos amateur astrophotographers can capture with their 16-megapixel digital cameras. I know I am. That's why I'm beefing up my camera skills, so I can also take some amazing pictures of our skies above. But if you can take photos this good with a 16-megapixel camera, imagine what you could do with something a little bigger, say, 3.2 billion pixels! That's a whopping 200 times more pixels!

News: Supermoon Pictures from Last Night

Last night was the so called "Supermoon," where the moon was at perigee, which is the closest orbital point to the Earth while the moon was in full phase. This makes the moon appear larger by up to about 14% and brighter by up to around 30%. I went out and used my 5-inch refracting telescope to take several pictures.

News: Quadrantid Meteors and Startrails

I took about 700 pictures over 7 hours late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning of the quandrantid meteor shower. I combined the clearest 300 of them to make the star trails, and then went and found individual pictures with the brightest meteors and overlayed them on top. I also found three planes flying overhead and overlayed those as well. The gaps in those plane streaks heading towards the horizon show how long my camera was taking between frames.

News: Watch NASA's Tracer Rockets Light Up the Sky with Cloud Trails

This morning, NASA launched the five suborbital sounding rockets from Virginia as part of ATREX (Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment). Each rocket was launched 80 seconds apart and released chemical tracers that created "milky, white clouds at the edge of space." Now, I've seen plenty of bullet tracers in my life, but these are far more poetic. Take a look at the time-lapse video and see for yourself. Why shoot these tracer rockets? To help scientists "better understand the process responsi...

How To: There's a Total Lunar Eclipse Monday Night—Here's How to Watch the "Blood Moon" Rising

Get ready to look up in the night sky very soon, because you're in for a real treat. There will be a total lunar eclipse on the night of Monday, April 14th, and folks living in the United States, Canada, and parts of Central and South America will be able to see the moon turn a dark blood-red shade for a little over an hour. This will be the first in a series of four total eclipses that are to happen over the next two years. What Is a Blood Moon?

News: Solar Scope Dialed in for the Eclipse

It's taken me several weeks to figure out the Meade Coronado SolarMax II 60 Double Stack telescope that I bought to produce a timelapse video of the solar eclipse but I'm pretty happy with the images I can produce now. Here's hoping for clear skies tomorrow!

How To: SETI Needs Your Help Renaming Pluto's Newly Found P4 and P5 Moons

In 2006, everything that revolved around my world shattered into tiny pieces as I learned that scientists had decided to rescind Pluto's planetary status. Given the ol' Jeff Probst treatment, Pluto was officially voted off our solar system in the blink of an eye, leaving us with only eight planets and a whole load of useless textbooks. The primary reason that Pluto was demoted down to a "dwarf planet" was due to Pluto's largest moon, Charon, being about half the size of Pluto; all the other p...

How To: Help NASA Write Code to Fix the International Space Station and You Could Win $10,000!

The International Space Station is a habitable man-made satellite currently in orbit around the Earth. Launched in 1998, the ISS is used mainly as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory where astronauts perform experiments in large variety of fields, including biology and physics. In order to be hospitable for crew members and scientists, the ISS needs energy. To do this, the station uses its solar panels to capture rays of sun and power the station up. In order to garner th...

News: Astronomical Observing News (3/28 to 4/3)

Grab your binoculars and telescopes, because there's a lot going on in the night skies this week. The usually dim Little Dipper will appear brighter as it moves to the right of Polaris, creating a cool effect with the Big Dipper. There's also a first-quarter moon and a really good view of Saturn. If you know of something else, share with us in the comments below!

News: Timelapse Footage of a Moonrise

This is a really quick video I took of a moonrise last year. It has been sped up by a factor of 8 and was taken using a 2600 mm equivalent lens (75 times zoom for a 35 mm lens). The mountain it is rising over is about 40 miles away.

News: Jupiter and Venus Rising Before the Sun

Right now, Jupiter and Venus are rising in the early morning hours just before dawn. I went outside on the morning of the 4th of July and saw Jupiter and Venus right next to each other with the Pleiades (The Seven Sisters) just above them and knew that the next morning I was going to have to get up early and set up my tripod to try and capture what I saw. I used my Panasonic GH2 with the stock zoom lens set to about 40 to 50 mm equivalent and with the aperture open to about f/5. I set my ISO ...

How To: Find and Observe the Garradd Comet

If you haven't seen one, a comet is one of the most spectacular astronomical objects in the sky, partially because it is so close to Earth. At the closest, it is only 1.3 a.u. (194,477,400 kilometers) away from Earth. Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd was discovered by Gordon J. Garradd on August 13, 2009. It never comes closer to the sun than Mars's orbit. Usually, a comet moves fast, but it has stopped moving so fast recently, making it really easy to observe. It can be observed by a telescope or wit...

News: Solar Flare Gives Earth Biggest Radiation Storm in 7 Years; Auroras Likely

NASA reports that the sun erupted late last night with a large solar flare—an M8.7 class flare. The classification is calculated according to the peak flux of 100 to 800 picometer x-rays near Earth measured from the GEOS weather satellite. There are 5 letter classifications for solar flares, each with a linear 1-9 number scale of severity. M is the fourth most powerful class, with X leading the way. But last night's earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME), captured by the Solar Dynamics Ob...

Earth's Shadow: Time-Lapse Video of the Total Lunar Eclipse of 12/10/11

I woke up at 4:00 am this morning in order to take some video of the last total lunar eclipse visible from North America till 2014. The eclipse was beautiful. It was amazing to watch the shadow of our planet creep slowly across our nearest neighbor. Once the shadow was blocking out most of the light from the sun, the moon was significantly dimmer and the color had changed to a reddish orange. This color is caused by the same effect that makes our sunrises and sunsets so colorful. The light fr...

News: Top 5 Extraordinary Types of Stars!

There is many different types of stars in the universe. Majority of them are red dwarf stars. However, there are plenty of stars like ordinary stars (like our sun), red giants, blue stars and etc. Furthermore, when you look in the night sky, we see a lot of small and bright stars. What people don't know is that there are stars that are not even completely understood by astronomers and scientists.

How To: Observe the Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Note: This shower is only visible in the Northern Hemisphere. The Quadrantid meteor shower is one of my personal favorites, mainly because of the amount of meteors it produces. You can sight more than 100 meteors per hour- that's more than 1 meter per minute. Even though that doesn't sound like much, it will make your observing experience much more exciting. The peak is short, typically lasting no more than an hour or so. It is more easily observed on the fourth, with its peak at 1:00 AM EST.

News: Milky Way Over Abandoned Kilns

From Astronomy Picture of the Day, Milky Way Over Abandoned Kilns by Tom McEwan. McEwan shot some historic kilns in rural Nevada, stitching together a panoramic "digital conglomerate of five separate images taken in early June from the same location. Visible above the unusual kilns is a colorful star field, highlighted by the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy appearing along a diagonal toward the lower right."