Mars, Venus, and the crescent Moon

The crescent Moon, Venus, and fainter Mars in near alignment on February 20, 2015.

No, that’s not a typo. The word syzygy (pronounced “SIZ-i-jee”) is an obscure astronomical term that refers to an alignment in a straight line of three celestial bodies bound by gravity. I thought of this old term last week as I snapped the above image during the lovely conjunction of the crescent Moon, Mars, and Venus after sunset. While this alignment was not a syzygy in the proper sense, it was close.

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Jupiter Observing Guide for 2015

jupiterWhat’s that bright star in the east? That’s no star… it’s Jupiter, the biggest planet in the solar system and perhaps the most interesting object to see with a small telescope. The planet reached opposition this month and remains ideally placed for viewing through May. On this page, you can download the PDF notes and audio of a short guide that takes you on a tour of Jupiter and shows you how to see and understand the fascinating features on the face of this big planet.

(Publisher’s Note: This guide to Jupiter is just a tiny part of the year-long astronomy course called The Art of Stargazing. This course is offered once a year at One-Minute Astronomer, and will be open to new students during the last week of February 2015).

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‘Leave Home’ – A Timelapse of New Zealand

L E A V E H O M E – A NEW ZEALAND TIMELAPSE PROJECT from Manoj Kesavan on Vimeo.

Thanks to photographer Manoj Kesavan for sharing this timelapse of beautiful New Zealand. He worked on this project from mid-2013 until late 2014, and the results are mesmerizing. Called ‘Leave Home’, the timelapse was shot from many locations in Palmerston North, New Zealand as well as Taupo and Auckland. Early in the timelapse you see daytime views of the New Zealand landscape but halfway through the night views of the southern skies commence.

All-Sky View of the Southern Summer Skies

An awesome all-sky view of the southern summer stars from from their location at Siding Spring in Australia. You can see the southern Milky Way from the two bright stars of Centaurus, at left, moving right to the Southern Cross and the Coalsack, into the thick star fields of Carina and Vela. Sirius and Orion are at right. The Magellanic Clouds at lower left. And at top you see the full constellation Leo and brilliant Jupiter just a few days past opposition. Just to the lower right of Jupiter, you can see the faint fuzzy patch of the Beehive Cluster. At extreme right are the bright stars Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini. A great image for armchair stargazers.