The Dance of the Fabulous 5- How to View this month’s Celestial Spectacle

For the next month, we can witness a rare celestial sight- five of our planets rising together in the pre-dawn skies!!

No matter what the weather is looking like this month, it’s definitely worth the trip outside to witness Mercury begin to crown over a (chilly) horizon. You’ve got a whole month to catch the show, so don’t fear some cloudy nights! During predawn, you’ll be able to trace an arc across the sky towards Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere should set their alarm clocks at least 45 minutes before sunrise to catch the middle of this daily spectacular show. Unfortunately, these are the only planets that can ever get together like this. Neptune and Pluto are too far away to ever be seen without a telescope, and Uranus can only sometimes be seen in the middle of a dark sky without any help. Making this really, really special event…!!

It’s been over 10 years since all the fab five planets have been together, so the time is NOW!!! These dazzling planets can be seen simultaneously from January 20th to February 20th. All five planets will be visible to the naked eye, but a telescope can add another dimension- how about being about to see Jupiter’s moons and Saturn’s rings? What a gorgeous sight!

Just so you know the celestial schedule: Jupiter will rise first in the evening; Mars makes its debut at midnight; and then Saturn, Venus, and Mercury appear respectively, according to EarthSky.org. Mercury, however, will be the hardest to view without the aid of (at least) binoculars until around Feb. 5th or 6th, but Jupiter and Venus will beam brightly throughout this month. If you’re having trouble tracing the course of this Twinkling Tango, you can also use the moon’s position to help guide you. It may also be useful to use a Sky Almanac– depending on your location, you can get a more accurate rising/setting time for the planets.  http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/mrst.php

If you’re having trouble deciphering what is a planet vs. a twinkling star, simply close one eye, stretch your arm out and slowly pass your thumb over a bright dot in the sky. If the dot dies out slowly, then it’s a planet if it immediately blinks out- it’s a star!

So make sure you prepare for the show, and figure out when Mercury will rise near you using the United States Naval Observatory’s webpage. Hope for clear skies and bundle up because this may be the best view of the five planets aligned for quite some time….
Works Cited:

http://earthsky.org/science-wire/when-will-all-five-visible-planets-appear-simultaneously

http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/visible-planets-tonight-mars-jupiter-venus-saturn-mercury

http://www.theverge.com/2016/1/19/10793954/rare-planet-alignment-january-february-2016
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/dont-miss-this-months-rare-planetary-alignment-180957874/#s7323yRtHFcLRCF4.99
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This Month’s Total Lunar Eclipse- Everything You Need to Know

Get ready my fellow star gazers! This month, on the night of September 27-28th there will be a total eclipse of the moon- concluding the *Lunar Tetrad (*a series of four lunar eclipses spaced 6 months apart). Representing the fourth and final eclipse of the lunar tetrad- this months Harvest Moon will also be a Blood Moon- making it a Super Harvest Blood Moon. Looking back at how this Tetrad began, the first Blood Moon eclipse happened on the night of April 14-15, 2014. The second one took place on the night of October 7-8, 2014, and the third one (the shortest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century) came to pass on April 4, 2015. The fourth and final total lunar eclipse of this Lunar Tetrad will fall on the night of September 27-28. For my friends across North America- get ready for an awe-inspiring show!

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The Perseid Meteor Shower

Swift Tuttle_708X450
Comet Swift Tuttle

During these cool summer nights, in the dark corners of a crisp midnight sky- you’ll find a billion of reasons why August is a perfect month to be stargazing. The month of August is a host to a multitude of celestial events. We just had the glorious Blue Moon a few days ago, and now have a chance to observe the finest light show of the year- the Perseid Meteor shower. Visible Worldwide, the 2015 Perseid Meteor shower can be viewed on the mornings of August 11-14th. Under the dark, cool summer nights- one might be able to see 50 or more meteors per hour (depending on light pollution).The Perseid Meteor shower is produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. As it orbits the Sun, this big “dirty snowball” sheds tiny grains of rock and dust. Over time, the particles spread out along the comet’s orbital path. Earth flies through this path every August, sweeping up some of the dust grains. They plunge into our atmosphere at more than 100,000 miles per hour, vaporizing as the streaks of light known as meteors.

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Tonight’s Blue Moon- Not what you’re expecting

For centuries, many cultures and religions have looked upon the moon as circuit to another worldly dimension. In her awe-inspiring phases, an eternal cycle of waxing and waning, she has ignited man’s imagination – and continues to do so. In its full state (full moon), the moon is still and powerful- an empyreal arena of reflected sunlight. Ages ago, cultures and civilizations kept track of the seasons by naming each of these recurring full moons. As we compare cultures and regions of the world, the name sets differ according to the differences in weather, seasonal changes and regions.

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