Label: Sky Watching

April 7, 2012















Did you see the full moon last night? The Native American Oto people call the April moon the "Little Frog Croak" moon, and I think that is a perfect name for this time of year.

Have you heard the "spring peepers" singing yet? If you are anywhere near a pond or wetlands on a warm spring night, you will hear their thousands of tiny calls. The male frogs have awoken from their winter hibernation and are looking for a mate near a pond where they can lay their eggs. Within a matter of weeks, we’ll start to see swimming tadpoles who will eventually develop legs and become full grown frogs.

The Oto people recognize this life cycle, with its call that signals the hope of spring to all of us, by naming the April moon after these tiny frogs. 


P.S. Have you noticed an extremely bright star in the sky these last few weeks? That is not a star - it is the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter. These are great days for skywatching!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, moon, Earth Day 2012, Frogs, Sky Watching   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 9, 2011

  Did you notice a very bright, silvery "star" just to the left of the moon last night? You were looking at Jupiter. This gas giant, the largest planet in our solar system, appears to be larger and brighter in the sky than it has since 1999 (last century!), and it won’t look this big and bright again until 2023.


It will be an equally spectacular sight all night tonight, with Jupiter on the right side of the moon. If you have binoculars, you will also be able see Jupiter’s four moons (Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa).

We will continue to be able to observe Jupiter all the way until April, although its light will gradually become fainter and it will be visible for a shorter time each night. Then, its orbit will carry it into the glare of the sun, and it will be awhile before we can spot Jupiter again from Earth.

I love standing out in the fresh air, tilting my head back and looking at the stars….don’t you? 

This sky map shows how Jupiter and the moon appeared in the night sky on Nov. 8, 2011. 

CREDIT: Starry Night Software  

 Read more about the largest planet in our Solar System in Seymour Simon’s DESTINATION: JUPITER.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: space, Astronomy, space books, moon, Jupiter, Sky Watching   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 27, 2011

If you were in the Atlanta, Georgia area last Friday night around 10:45 pm, you might have seen an object brighter than a full moon streak across the sky. People watching reported seeing bright blue-green flashes, luminous sparkles, and distinct fireball-shadows. If you thought you saw a UFO (Unidentified Flying Object), you did…. but it’s not "unidentified" any more.


According to Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, it was a disintegrating piece of comet. "This icy, fragile object was about 6 feet (2 meters) wide, hit the atmosphere at a speed of 86,000 mph (38.5 kilometer per second), and completely disintegrated about 75 miles (60 km) above the ground." The comet was recorded by a NASA fireball camera at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, GA, which is how he was able to tell us what it was. Bill Cooke says that "It was the brightest event we’ve seen in the three year history of our meteor network."

Here is the video. It is very short, but very bright, and comes to us courtesy of our Seymour Science favorite website.


Click here to see video from Seymour Science.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, space, Sky Watching   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 10, 2011

Set your alarm for just before dawn tomorrow morning, May 11 and you can see FOUR of the planets in our Solar System with your own eyes!













Mariano Ribas took this photo early today from his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The three "stars" that form a triangle high in the sky are Venus, Mercury and Jupiter. If you look down below, closer to the fence, there is a fourth faint light, which is Mars. 

This amazing sky show will continue all the way through the end of the month. Astronomers are excited about tomorrow because they say it will be the "best" day for viewing, with the two brightest planets in our Solar System, Venus and Jupiter, very close together.

Set your alarm, look to the eastern sky, and greet the planets. What a great way to start the day!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(6) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Solar System, planets, Sky Watching   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 20, 2010

I can just imagine how excited I would have been for this event when I was a young kid and a member of the Junior Astronomy Club at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Wait a second there, young Seymour   I’m STILL excited about it! Here’s what’s going on this evening: Jupiter, the biggest planet in our solar system, will be overhead in the night sky at midnight, shining brighter than everything except the Moon.

Jupiter and Earth each revolve around the sun in their respective orbits. Earth takes 365 days, one Earth year, to make one revolution.  It takes Jupiter nearly 12 Earth years, 4330 Earth days, to make one revolution around the sun. That means that the two planets are rarely very near each other in their orbits. But not tonight. Earth and Jupiter are the closest together in space that they will be for the 12 years, until 2022.

If you look through even a small telescope or a pair of high-magnification binoculars you should see Jupiter’s four big moons (called the Galilean moons because of their discovery in 1610 by the great scientist Galileo).  Galileo used a small telescope that is about 20x magnification.The four moons he discovered are name Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

 Here’s a photo of Jupiter and the shadow of Io on the surface of the planet. This was taken by Anthony Wesley of Australia (he used a much higher magnification, so you won’t be able to see Jupiter quite like this).  


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, planets, Jupiter, Sky Watching   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 26, 2010

Last night, June 25th, we were wandering among the stars. Well, actually we were looking at the night sky with a pair of binoculars waiting for a satellite flyby of the Space Station. We knew the direction it was coming from and the exact time it would appear (WSW, 10:08:08pm). We knew that it would be very bright (-3.9 magnitude) rivaling that of Venus (a bit brighter at -4.2 magnitude). While we were waiting for the moment that the satellite would appear, we looked at the stars coming out as the sky darkened. The moon was so bright that its light washes out the dimmer stars, so only the brightest stars appear. Venus was very bright above the western horizon, appearing even before the red colors of the sunset had faded. I took this picture of Venus just to the left of the trees and you can see the last colors of a very beautiful sunset.

As the sky darkened, Liz looked up at the sky with the binoculars at two other bright stars and proclaimed them planets. I looked at them and thought that she was probably right about one of them and maybe not about the other one. The one I thought she was right about turned out to be Mars, the red planet. And indeed, it looked red. The other one she was also right about. It was Saturn. All three planets are visible in the early evening these nights, be sure to take a look!

Then, right on time, the Space Station rose and sped across the sky. It was magnificent, bright and fast moving (much faster than the high-flying ligts of planes that we saw). It took only a few minutes to travel across our viewing area and then sank below the horizon to the the NorthEast. I have to say that I did something silly. I started to cheer and applaud and Liz joined in with me. It is a beautiful sight and not to be missed. You have more chances this weekend to see. Check the times in your local area (look at the preceding blog entry for where to check). 

I cheered not only because the satellite flyby was so beautiful (it is), but because the thought of humans flying by in space made me think of myself as a small boy reading science fiction stories. I always wondered and hoped that we would get to explore in space and we have. Maybe not as far as I wanted (I wanted for us to go to the stars), but at least it’s a first step for humankind.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Sky Watching, International Space Station, Venus, Sunset   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 26, 2010

I used Google’s Sky Map app on my Droid last night for the first time. Wow! They describe this app as "the universe in your pocket," and they’re not kidding. All you do is point your phone at the sky, and it shows you what you are looking at (this is how I proved to Seymour that I was indeed looking at Mars throught the binoculars, he he). You can choose different layers (see only planets, see only constellations, etc), or you can just see them all at once.

I haven’t had much experience with Astronomy - just an amateur love of the night sky. Last night, with Google Sky Map I was able to easily find Polaris (the North Star) and for the first time I learned about 1st magnitude stars like Vega and Arkturis (the fourth brightest star in the night sky), and knew what they were.

It is a wonderful app, intuitive and easy to use (I didn’t read any instructions, just turned it on and started using it). I can’t even describe how exciting it is to be looking at a disk that you are pretty sure is a planet, turning the Google Sky Map on it and having Saturn with its rings pop up on the screen. What fun!

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Summer Vacation Science, Saturn, Sky Watching, Google Sky Map   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 25, 2010

This is a great weekend for seeing the International Space Station with the naked eye. For the next few days, the  International Space Station (ISS) will be orbiting Earth in constant sunlight, which means that at times it will be almost as bright as Venus. Because the ISS is constantly reflecting light,  it shines  brightly in the night sky every single time it passes overhead - in some places, that may be as many as three or more times per night. has set up a this webpage where all you have to do is enter your zip code, and it will tell you what time the Space Station is passing overhead, and which direction to look. Grab a flashlight and head out to see this remarkable sky show!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Sky Watching, International Space Station   •  Permalink (link to this article)