Category Archives: Monthly Vodcast

Eyes on the Sky: March 2012

Eyes on the Sky: Feb 27 thru Mar 4

Ecliptic Occultation

The Moon occasionally occults – or covers – stars and/or planets from our point of view, on it’s journey around the Earth.  This week, on the night of the 1st into the morning of the 2nd, observers in northern sections of North America over towards Greenland may be able to spot this event.  If you are not sure if you will be able to see it, download the software Stellarium and input your location and local time.  For some, the Moon may have set by the time the occultation occurs; for those that can see the Moon and star but not the Moon covering it, watch how fast the Moon moves by the star through a telescope, if possible.

Also this week: Mars reaches opposition on the 3rd, and will get smaller as the Earth revolves faster around the Sun.  Nearby to the Red Planet are several brighter Messier galaxies in Leo the Lion, worth checking out in medium or larger telescopes.  Also discussed: Where to spot Venus, Jupiter, Mercury and Saturn this week.

Eyes on the Sky: Mar 5 thru Mar 11

Jupiter and Venus snuggle up

This week, the two brightest planets in the night sky, Jupiter and Venus, get closer each day until they reach conjunction early next week.  Watch this planetary pile-up over the next few days, and later in the week, spot both planets in the same field of view with binoculars.  As an added bonus, the speedy Mercury reaches it’s highest point above the horizon early in the week, making it an easy spot below the two brighter planets at evening twilight.

Also this week: The Moon moves by Mars early in the week, and sidles up to Saturn by Saturday; look for this to occur around midnight towards the south.  See the video for details.

Eyes on the Sky: March 12 thru March 18

Mars crashes the Messier party

The galaxies M95, M96 and M105 in Leo are far enough away from bright, easy-to-find stars that they can be a bit of a challenge to find. But this week, Mars literally passes right through their midst, and at magnitude -1 (brighter than most every star in the sky), it makes it a cinch to find them. Also, Jupiter and Venus are dancing past each other in the western, evening sky, unmistakably bright in some dimmer constellations. Look a bit towards the north though, and spot the constellation Perseus, with it’s treasure trove of open clusters visible in binoculars and small telescopes. And last but not least, Saturn has easily cleared the horizon well before midnight, so not is an ideal time to set your sights on the ringed planet.

Eyes on the Sky: March 19 thru March 25

Venturing through the Virgo galaxy cluster / catching a comet

The Virgo galaxy cluster is a “must-see” area of sky for any amateur astronomer looking to conduct a Messier marathon, which are popular to attempt around this time of year.  “Eyes on the Sky” points towards the “jump off point” to find several of these galaxies.  Swinging northward, Comet Garradd is still slowly making its way through our solar system, cruising past the pointer stars of the Big Dipper this week.  It is an easier target in a small, wide-field telescope, but can be spotted with binoculars in moderately light polluted areas with careful scanning.  Download and print this star chart from Sky and Telescope magazine to help you find the comet this week.

The star charts mentioned in the video:

  2. Chart 11a: Close up of VIRGO galaxies


Eyes on the Sky: March 26 thru April 1

Venus near Nymphs / Spotlighting the “Leaps”

Though the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter is several weeks past, there will still plenty of fantastic views to in the western and southwestern evening sky this week thanks to those planets, the Moon and some nearby stars and open clusters.  And looking towards the north, an oft-overlooked section of the Big Bear gets some attention this week, offering up some interesting insights into stellar evolution, colors and distance as the “Leaps” lead to luminous lights in the sky.


Eyes on the Sky: February 2012

Eyes on the Sky: Jan 30 thru Feb 5

Wandering the Winter Circle

Find the 6, easy to spot, naked eye stars of the Winter Circle (or Winter Hexagon), as well as Collinder 70 and Messier 41 within that area.  A tour of several bright stars in the area includes close-ups of each star to get a sense of their relative size, and later the ecliptic is examined thanks to the alignment of Venus, Jupiter and the Moon.

Eyes on the Sky: Feb 6 thru Feb 12

Find Uranus via Venus

Uranus is a 5.9 magnitude object in the sky; barely visible naked eye from very dark locations, and visible with binoculars from most light polluted areas. So how to find it among the other 5th, 6th and 7th magnitude objects in the area?  Use a brighter object to guide the way!  On our journey around the Sun, the other planets’ positions change relative to our own, and this week, we see Venus “passing by” Uranus in the night sky.  As many amateurs have never even seen Uranus through optical instruments, this is a great week to try and spot our solar system’s 7th planet.  Download the PDF chart here (4.1 MB) to help you spot Uranus this week.

Also in the sky: Mars and the Moon make a magnificent pair in the sky this week, and as Mars is close to opposition, now is a good time to view not only the Red Planet, but some Messier galaxies that are nearby as well – thought it is better to spot them in a week or so, after the Moon has revolved further east in the sky.



Eyes on the Sky: Feb 13 thru Feb 19

Measuring light pollution

The Globe at Night initiative enlists the help of amateur astronomers everywhere across the globe to submit what the sky looks like in their area with respect to how light pollution affects their visible sky. This week’s video focuses on that effort, and explains how to easily find the constellations used by Globe at Night as well as how to submit observations quickly and easily.

To learn more about this effort and to submit your observations, visit



Eyes on the Sky: Feb 20 thru Feb 26

Moon in motion

See the Moon pass Mercury, Uranus, Venus and Jupiter all throughout this week; the brightest stars of Gemini and M35 are spotlighted as well. Also discussed: Where and when to see Mars and Saturn in the night sky this week.


Eyes on the Sky : January 2012

Eyes on the Sky: Jan 2 thru Jan 8

All about Auriga

The all-new “Eyes on the Sky” kicks off by focusing on Capella, Auriga, three stellar Messier objects within it, and the Quadrantid meteor shower. Joining the fun is a cameo appearance by none other than Mr. Charles Messier himself! (Did they have film back then? Nah, but this is what makes astronomy fun!) See what’s in the all-new format, as well as what’s ‘up’ in the night sky this week.


Eyes on the Sky Jan 9 thru Jan 15

Mars and the Moon

Mars and the Moon take center stage in this week’s video; Mars has increased in size to about 10 arc seconds across recently, and will reach opposition in early March. So now is a good time to start observing the Red Planet to see what details are possible at this less-than-ideal opposition with it. The Moon is our closest celestial neighbor and offers great detail in a small telescope or binoculars, plus it recently acquired interest from two more spacecraft. Find out all about that and more and see what’s ‘up’!

Eyes on the Sky: Jan 16 thru Jan 22

Take a tour through Taurus, Part 1

Take a tour through Taurus (Part 1) by visiting Aldebaran and the Hyades, then set your sights on Saturn and it’s moons as the ringed planet reaches sufficient altitude in the sky by early morning to warrant telescopic viewing. Also covered: Where Venus, Jupiter and Mars can be found in the sky this week.

( I had rather add here that Auriga, Taurus and Orion don’t appear the way as shown by Dave in our skies. They actually appear the other way round.  Orion first, then Taurus and then Auriga. Look for the Orion’s belt, the guide starts there)

Eyes on the Sky: Jan 23 thru Jan 29

Take a tour through Taurus, Part 2

Finishing the tour of Taurus, this week’s “Eyes on the Sky” video focuses on how to find and see the Pleiades and M1, the Crab Nebula.  Light pollution and light trespass avoidance strategies to enhance viewing of dim celestial objects are discussed.  Also highlighted: Jupiter and it’s moons, plus notes on how and where to find Venus, Mars and Saturn this week as well.


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