Fun astronomy facts to impress your friends with!

September 2014

1st – Looking to the southwest around 8 o’clock tonight you will see the waxing crescent moon. Look to the right of the moon to see Saturn and red planet Mars!

2nd – The sky tells us that fall is almost here. Looking to the east around 9 o’clock tonight you will see 4 stars that form a square that are associated with autumn. This is the Great Square of Pegasus.

3rd – Looking to the east around 6 o’clock in the morning you will see Jupiter. Looking below Jupiter near the horizon you may be able to see Venus. You could fit 11 planets the size of Venus across Jupiter!

4th – Looking to the southeast around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the star Fomalhaut. The Hubble Space Telescope photographed an extra-solar planet near this star! You can see Hubble pictures by visiting www.hubblesite.org.

5th – Public Telescope viewing will be held at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium tonight with the St. Louis Astronomical Society. For more information visit www.slsc.org

6th –Tonight is International Observe the Moon Night. Looking to the southeast around 8 o’clock tonight you will see the waxing gibbous moon. Try looking at the Moon in a pair of binoculars tonight.

7th – Looking to the northeast around 11 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like an upside down letter “Y”. This is the fall constellation Perseus the Hero.

8th – On this date in 1966, NBC aired the first episode of the original Star Trek series. Looking to the northeast around 11 o’clock you will see Capella, one of the stars visited by Captain Kirk!

9th – Tonight’s full moon is known as the Harvest Moon because it is the first full moon that is closest to the Autumnal Equinox. Farmers used to get extra time to harvest their crops by the light of this Moon.

10th – The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way. This galaxy is 2½ million light years away which means the light we see from this galaxy is 2½ million years old!

11th – Looking to the south around 8 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like a teapot. This group of stars is part of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer.

12th – Looking to the west around 9 o’clock tonight you will see a bright orange star called Arcturus. This star is the 4th brightest star in the sky and is part of the constellation Boötes the Herdsman.

13th – Looking to the center of the sky around 10 o’clock tonight you will see three bright stars that form the summer triangle. You will see the summer triangle low in the west by November.

14th –– Looking to the northwest around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the Big Dipper. If you draw an imaginary line through the 2 stars in the front of the bowl upwards they will lead you to the North Star.

15th – Looking to the southeast around 5 o’clock in the morning you will see 3 stars in a row that form a line diagonally. These stars form the belt of Orion the Hunter.

16th – Looking to the northeast around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the bright star Algol. This is star changes in brightness and is an eclipsing variable star.

17th –On this date in 1789 William Herschel discovered Saturn’s moon Mimas.  Looking to the southwest around 8 o’clock you will see planet Saturn!

18th – Many people think the North Star Polaris is the brightest nighttime  star, however the winter star Sirius is the brightest. Look to the southeast around 5 o’clock tomorrow morning to see this star.

19th – Our Sun is one star among billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. The nearest star to the Sun is Proxima Centauri which is about 4.5 light-years away!

20th – Looking to the southeast around 10 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like the letter “w”. This is the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen.

21st –On this date in 1866 H.G. Wells was born. He wrote the novel “The War of the Worlds”, which depicts an invasion from Mars. Looking to the southwest around 8 o’clock tonight you will see Mars.

22nd – Today is the Autumnal Equinox or the first day of fall. We will have equal amount of daylight and night time hours today but the days will continue to get shorter as the Sun sets earlier each day.

23rd – Looking to the east around midnight you will see a group of stars together. This open star cluster is known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. These stars are much younger than our Sun!

24th – Looking to the east around 1 o’clock in the morning you will see the bright red star Aldebaran. This star is part of the constellation Taurus the Bull

25th – Looking high in the east around 5 o’clock tomorrow morning you will see the bright stars Pollux and Castor. These stars are part of the constellation Gemini and will be visible at night during winter.

26th – Looking to the east around 5 o’clock in the morning you will see the bright star Regulus. This star is part of a group of stars that look like a backwards question mark. This asterism is called the sickle.

27th – On this date in 1997 the robotic rover named Mars Pathfinder sent its final transmission. This little robot was used to test technology that was used to design the MER and MSL robots!

28th – Looking to the southwest around 8 o’clock tonight you will see the crescent moon. Look to the right of the moon to see Saturn. Look to the left of the Moon to see Mars just above the red star Antares.

29th – Looking to the south around 6 o’clock in the morning you will see 6 bright stars that form the winter circle. This circle will be visible in the early evening throughout winter.

30th – On this date in 1880 Henry Draper first successfully photographed the Orion Nebula. Looking to the south around 6 o’clock in the morning you will see Orion and below his belt is the nebula!

October 2014

1st –Today in 1958, NASA was the inaugurated. The acronym NASA stands for The National and Aeronautics and Space Administration. 

2nd –Looking to the southwest around 7:30 tonight you will see the red planet Mars just above the red star Antares. The word Antares means the rival of Mars!

3rd – Public telescope viewing will be held the James S. McDonnell Planetarium tonight with the St. Louis Astronomical Society. For more information visit www.slsc.org. 

4th –Sputnik, the first satellite, was launched on this date in 1957. Learn how you can spot the International Space Station from your backyard at http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/

5th Looking to the east around 11 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars close together. This is the Pleiades star cluster which contains hundreds of stars!

6th – Looking to the northeast around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the bright yellow star Capella which is part of the constellation Auriga the Charioteer.

7th – Looking to the southeast around 10 o’clock you may see Uranus with a pair of binoculars below and to the right of the Moon. Tomorrow morning we will experience a lunar eclipse starting around 4:14 a.m.

8th – Looking to the east around 7 o’clock tonight you will see the full Hunter’s Moon. In the past people could hunt by the light of the moon.

9th – Looking to the northeast around 9 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like an upside down letter “y”. This is the constellation Perseus the hero.

10th – Looking to the northeast around 11 o’clock tonight you will see a red star called Aldebaran. This red giant star is part of the constellation Taurus the Bull and is about 65 light years away!

11th – Looking to the south around 6 o’clock tomorrow morning you will see the bright winter star Sirius. This is the brightest star of the night sky as viewed from Earth!

12th – Looking to the east around 5 o’clock in the morning you will see a group stars that look like a backwards question mark. These stars form the head of Leo the Lion.

13th – Look in the northeast around 8 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like the letter “W”. The “W” pattern of stars is the chair of Cassiopeia the Queen.

14th – Looking to the southwest around 7 o’clock tonight you will see the red star Antares which is part of Scorpius the Scorpion.

15th –– On this date in 1997 the Cassini spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral. It has studied Saturn for the past 10 years. To learn more about Cassini visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/

16th –Looking to the southeast around 6 o’clock tomorrow morning you will see the waning crescent Moon. Look below the Moon to see Jupiter. You could fit 44 Moons across this planet!

17th – On this date in 1956 Mae Jemison was born in Decatur, Alabama.  She became the first African American woman in space in 1992 aboard the space shuttle Endeavour.

18th – Missouri native Edwin Hubble categorized galaxies in to 3 main types including: spiral, elliptical and irregular. The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy.

19th – Comet Siding Spring will make its close approach to Mars tonight. Looking to the southwest around 7 o’clock tonight you will see Mars. You can watch the event online at slooh.com.

20th – Looking to the east around midnight tonight and you will see the constellation Orion the Hunter. The red star Betelgeuse located in his shoulder is the 10th brightest star in the night sky!

21st –Tonight is the peak of the Orionid meteor shower. To best see the meteors get far from the city and look to the east at Orion from about midnight to 3 o’clock in the morning.

22nd – The Earth is about 93 million miles away from the sun. It takes light 8 ½ minutes to travel that distance. Pluto is 39 times that distance so it takes light around 5 ½ hours to reach Pluto!

23rd – Today there is a partial solar eclipse starting around 4:41p.m. Remember never look directly at the sun. You can watch the eclipse online at http://live.slooh.com/

24th – On this date in 1851, William Lassell discovered the moons Umbriel and Ariel. Each of the moons of Uranus is about one third the size of Earth’s moon.

25th – Looking to the northeast around midnight you will see the bright star Castor above its twin star Pollux. These stars are part of the constellation Gemini the Twins

26th –Looking to the east around 6:45 a.m. you may be able to see planet Mercury. This planet is now the smallest planet in the solar system since Pluto was demoted in 2006.

27th – Looking to the southwest around 6 o’clock in the morning you will see 6 bright stars that form a circle. This is the winter circle.

28th – Looking to the southwest around 6:30 tonight you will see the waxing crescent moon. Look below the Moon to see the red planet Mars. You could fit 2 of our Moons across Mars!

29th – Looking to the west around 11 o’clock tonight you will see the star Altair. This star is part of the constellation Aquila the Eagle.

30th –On this date in 1938 Orson Wells radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” panicked people believed Martians were invading. Looking to the southeast around 6 o’clock in the morning you will see Mars.

31st – Today in 1930 Michael Collins was born in Rome, Italy. Collins was part of the Apollo 11 crew but remained aboard the command module in lunar orbit.