Astronomical Information

Stargazing Notes

Stargazing Notes

  • Friday, June 9th
    The full Moon rises is to the upper left of the planet Saturn tonight. When a planet is near the full Moon it is also close to its opposition, the day it is on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun. The Moon will rise at sunset and set at sunrise, filling the night sky with moonlight all night long.

  • Thursday, June 15th
    Today the planet Saturn is at opposition in the constellation Sagittarius, rising as the Sun sets and setting as the Sun rises. The ringed planet is at its closest to Earth for this year, and appears brightest in the sky and biggest when viewed through a telescope.

  • Saturday, June 17th
    The Third Quarter Moon rises in Aquarius in the early morning hours, around 2:00 AM. The best view will be during the first light of dawn, around 5:00 AM.

  • Tuesday, June 20th
    A thin crescent Moon rises around 4:30 AM and a short distance to the left is the Morning Star, the bright planet Venus. The Moon and Venus will drift higher in the southeast until daylight fills the sky around 6:30 AM.

  • Wednesday, June 21st
    The Sun reaches its northernmost declination for the year this morning, just 24 minutes after midnight. This is when the Sun begins its turn to head south, and spring crosses into summer. Because day and night are of nearly equal length, this day is called the Summer Equinox.

  • Friday, June 23rd
    This is a good weekend to get away from city lights because the Moon is new so there won’t be any moonlight in the sky. The Milky Way is in the eastern sky when twilight ends, and rises to overhead in the early morning hours.

  • Friday, June 30th
    As twilight fades the First Quarter Moon in the constellation Virgo comes into view high in the southern sky. To the lower left of the Moon is the Giant planet Jupiter. Both the Moon and Jupiter will disappear below the western horizon a little after 1:00 AM tomorrow morning.

  • Thursday, July 6th
    The waxing gibbous Moon fades into view imbedded in the stars of the constellation Ophiuchus as the sky darkens tonight. A short distance below the Moon is the planet Saturn and the stars of Sagittarius. They will drift westward through the night and fade from view before setting as morning light fills the sky.

  • Sunday, July 9th
    Tonight the full Moon rises in Sagittarius as the Sun sets on the opposite side of the sky. Moonlight will fill the sky all night long, making faint stars and the Milky Way difficult to see, but with fewer stars visible, it is a good night for learning the major constellations from a star map.

  • Sunday, July 16th
    The Third Quarter Moon rises around 1:30 AM in the constellation Pisces. Through the night it will climb the eastern sky until at dawn. If you keep watch, the Moon will remain visible after sunrise until it gets low in the west around lunchtime. For a few days before and after the First Quarter, the Moon can be seen in daylight hours.

  • Thursday, July 20th
    Look for the thin crescent Moon just before dawn. Forty eight years ago today astronauts stepped on the Moon’s surface for the first time. Above the northern cusp (the point lit by the sun) you will see the bright planet Venus. As the Sun climbs into the sky, keep watch on the crescent Moon as a marker to help you see the planet Venus in daylight.

  • Saturday, July 22nd
    Get away from city lights during the darkest weekend in July. You will have an excellent opportunity to see the Milky Way and the summer stars. Jupiter lingers in the southwest and Saturn shines near the Milky Way in the south.

  • Sunday, July 23rd
    The new Moon will be crossing the sky with the Sun today, so there will be no moonlight throughout the night.

  • Tuesday, July 25th
    During the hour of dusk tonight, look low in the west for a thin crescent moon. Binoculars will be helpful as you look to the lower right of the Moon for two stars. The one on top is Regulus, the heart of Leo the lion. The one on the bottom is Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.

  • Thursday, July 27th
    The summer nights of shooting stars start up with tonight’s peak of the South delta Aquariid meteor shower. Meteors from this shower will be radiating out of the constellation Aquarius, which rises late in the southeastern sky. There may be a few early Persied meteors radiating out of the northeastern sky as well.

  • Friday, July 28th
    The wide crescent Moon passes above the planet Jupiter tonight. Look for the Moon and Jupiter in the southwestern sky, among the stars of the constellation Virgo.

  • Sunday, July 30th
    Look south as the sky darkens this evening for the First Quarter moon. It is low in the southwest where the stars of Libra appear when the sky has darkened. Even before those stars appear, around 9:30 PM look for the planet Mercury a little north of the west point on the horizon.

  • Wednesday, August 2nd
    The Moon is a wide gibbous shape as it rendezvous with Saturn tonight. Look for the ringed planet to the lower left of the moon, all low in the southeast with the stars of the constellation Sagittarius.

  • Monday, August 7th
    The full Moon rises in Capricornus as the Sun sets on the opposite side of the sky. If you are planning to travel to this summer’s total solar eclipse, this full Moon is a good time to try your photographic equipment out. The full Moon is a little smaller than the eclipsed sun, and about as bright as the solar corona. If you can get a good image of the Moon tonight, you will be all set for photographing the eclipsed Sun later in the month.

  • Saturday, August 12th
    The Persied meteor shower is at its peak tonight, with shooting stars racing across the sky from a spot in the northeast. Unfortunately, a wide gibbous Moon will be rising in that area around midnight, interfering with this year’s shower. The brightest meteors will still streak across the sky, but dimmer ones will be hidden by the moonlight.

  • Wednesday, August 16th
    The Moon is on its way to rendezvous with the sun, less than a week from now. The Third Quarter Moon rises in Taurus, near the bright star Aldebaran and the “V-shaped” Hyades star cluster that makes the face of Taurus at about 4:00 AM. Start paying attention to weather systems in preparation for next week’s total solar eclipse.

  • Saturday, August 19th
    In the early morning sky, the thin crescent Moon will pass below Venus on its way to Monday’s total solar eclipse. Look for the Moon and Venus as they rise in Gemini around 5:30 AM. If you are traveling to see the total solar eclipse, it’s time to double check your packing list to be sure you have the equipment you plan to use. The three day forecast for eclipse day is out, check it!

  • Monday, August 21st
    Today the Moon is new, and it will be in front of the Sun along a line that crosses the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. Today’s total solar eclipse will be a spectacular event along the path of totality, and even in Kalamazoo a lot of the Sun will be covered by the moon.

    The partial eclipse begins in Kalamazoo at 12:59 AM EDT, reaches its maximum at 2:24 PM EDT, and ends at 3:45 PM EDT. Do not look directly at the Sun during the eclipse. Use safe solar filter sunglasses, or project an image with a pinhole projector or by using a small mirror to bounce an image to a nearby wall. Look for natural images in pinholes of light shining through trees to the ground

  • Friday, August 25th
    Look for the thin crescent Moon low in the southwest as the sky darkens tonight. The planet Jupiter appears as a bright star to the lower right of the setting moon.

  • Tuesday, August 29th
    A ghost like Moon appears toward the east in the late afternoon sky even before the Sun sets. The Moon can often be seen during daylight hours if you know where to look. When dusk falls the First Quarter Moon is nearly south in the constellation Scorpius, where it joins the planet Saturn. The ringed planet is to the upper left tonight.

  • Wednesday, August 30th
    At dusk the Moon is still in the south within the stars of Sagittarius. Last night, Saturn was at the upper left, tonight the ringed planet is at the lower right of the moon.

  • Wednesday, September 6th
    The full Moon rises in Aquarius as the Sun sets on the opposite side of the sky. The Moon will cross the sky through the night, concealing faint stars with moonlight, and the Moon will glide below the western horizon as the Sun rises in the east tomorrow morning.

  • Tuesday, September 12th
    Tonight the wide, gibbous Moon is gliding across the Hyades star cluster getting nearer to the Aldebaran, but setting before the bright star is occulted. Farther west, Aldebaran will be covered by the moon. As the Moon gets very low in the sky, turn around toward the rising sun, where the planet Mercury is at its greatest elongation west of the sun. Mercury rises first and appears as a bright star in Leo at dawn.

  • Saturday, September 16th
    Looking East in the early morning sky, at about 5:40 AM, the bright planet Venus appears as the morning star in Leo, the lion. Far below Venus are Mercury and Mars separated by a very small distance.

  • Sunday, September 17th
    In the light of dawn, Venus is shining brightly at the lower left of a crescent moon. The Moon and planet are hanging out in the constellation Leo.

  • Monday, September 18th
    The crescent Moon is above and to the right of the planets Mercury and Mars. Use the color to identify the planets, Mars is the red one, and Mercury is the one closest to the moon.

  • Wednesday, September 20th
    The old cycle of lunar phases has ended and with the new Moon tonight, a new cycle begins. The Moon travels across the sky with the Sun today, so at night there will be no moonlight and the sky will be filled with stars.

  • Friday, September 22nd
    At 4:02 this afternoon the Sun crosses the equator and enters the southern sky, marking the beginning of autumn. The Sun rises due east and sets due west so you can photograph it rising or setting between rows of buildings on east-west streets. After the Sun has set, took for a thin crescent Moon in the southwest. To the lower right the planet Jupiter accompanies the Moon until they set together.

  • Wednesday, September 27th
    The Moon is at First Quarter tonight, high in the south at sunset within the constellation Sagittarius. Below the Moon is the planet Saturn. Through the evening the Moon and Saturn glide westward until they set around midnight.

  • Thursday, October 5th
    In the early morning sky the planets Venus and mars join one another, rising at about 5:30 AM in Leo, just a little north of east. The planets will disappear as morning light fills the sky a short time later. In the evening, the full Moon rises at sunset and remains in the sky until it sets in the west at sunrise.

  • Sunday, October 8th
    The Draconid meteor shower reaches its peak tonight, with shooting stars radiating out of the northern sky. A wide gibbous Moon rises late in the evening and interferes so only the brightest meteors will be visible.

  • Thursday October 12th
    Just after midnight the Third Quarter Moon rises with the stars of Gemini. It will climb higher in the sky until sunrise, when it appears high in the south.

  • Tuesday, October 17th
    The thin crescent Moon rises in Leo at about 5:00 AM, and to the right is the red planet, Mars. A while later brilliant Venus follows the Moon over the horizon, rising in the first light of dawn.

  • Thursday, October 19th
    This is a last chance to get away from city lights for a moonless weekend this year. The new Moon travels across the sky with the Sun today, and will remain a very thin crescent through the weekend.

  • Saturday, October 21st
    The thin crescent Moon sets early, and the shooting stars of the Orionid meteor shower flash across the sky through the dark night.

  • Tuesday, October 24th
    A wide crescent Moon appears among the stars of Sagittarius, low in the southwest, as dusk falls tonight. When the sky darkens enough, the planet Saturn fades into view below and to the right of the Moon.

  • Friday, October 27th
    The Moon has grown to First Quarter and it appears high in the south, in the constellation Capricornus, as the sky darkens this evening.

  • Saturday, November 4th
    The Moon is full tonight, on the opposite side of the sky from the Sun. It rises at sunset and sets with the sunrise, filling the sky with moonlight all night long.

  • Sunday, November 5th
    Daylight savings time comes to an end tonight, so the stars will come out an hour earlier in the evening, allowing you a little more stargazing time before calling it a night. It will be worth it, because tonight the Moon will occult (cover up) the bright star Aldebaran, in Taurus, from 8:06 PM until 8:52 PM. Throughout the moonlit night the South Taurid meteor shower will be near its peak intensity, with shooting stars racing away from Taurus.

  • Friday, November 10th
    The Third Quarter Moon rises in Cancer around midnight, and drifts higher into the sky until sunrise when it fades from view high in the south.

  • Sunday, November 12th
    Tonight the North Taurid meteor shower reaches its peak, and shooting stars race out of the eastern sky during the evening. The radiant climbs higher in the sky through the night presenting more meteors to view until the crescent Moon rises in the early morning hours.

  • Monday, November 13th
    Two bright planets rendezvous in the constellation Virgo. Venus and Jupiter are separated by less than the apparent diameter of the Moon this morning, rising around 7:00 AM.

  • Tuesday, November 14th
    The Moon rises around 5:00 AM in the constellation Virgo. Below the Moon is the red planet, Mars.

  • Thursday, November 16th
    The Moon is now a thin crescent in the morning sky rising before the sun. Today it is in Virgo for a rendezvous with the planet Jupiter, which can be seen to the lower right of the Moon.

  • Friday, November 17th
    As dawn grows bright this morning, at about 7:10 AM, look for the bright planets Jupiter and Venus low in the east-southeast. Jupiter is the one highest above the horizon, and Venus is the brightest one. Rising to the lower left of Venus is a very thin crescent moon, and you may need binoculars to see it because tomorrow it will be a new Moon, in line with the Sun. As darkness falls tonight, watch for shooting stars of the Leonid meteor shower. It’s a moonless night, so even faint meteors should be visible away from city lights.

  • Saturday, November 18th
    The Moon is new today, rising and setting with the sun. The sky will be dark all night long.

  • Monday, November 20th
    A thin crescent Moon has returned to the early evening sky and is in the constellation Sagittarius. To the left of the Moon is the ringed planet, Saturn, and below the Moon the planet Mercury peeks out in the darkening sky just before setting. The grouping is visible low in the southwest at about 6:00 PM.

  • Thursday, November 23rd
    This evening the planet Mercury is at its greatest elongation east of the sun, so it follows the setting Sun below the horizon. You may be able to glimpse the innermost planet by looking southwest in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius at about 6:00 PM. Mercury will not be up long, it sets at about 6:10 PM.

  • Sunday, November 26th
    The Moon is at First Quarter tonight, fading into view among the stars of Aquarius almost due south at sunset. Our nearest neighbor in space appears to drift westward, setting around midnight.

  • Tuesday, November 28th
    Low in the southwest the planet Saturn and the planet Mercury come together in Sagittarius. A clear horizon and no haze will be required to glimpse these planets right around 6:00 PM.

  • Friday, December 1st
    A comet may be peeking over the western horizon beginning this week. Panstarrs (C/2011 L4) could be as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper, but comets are hard to predict. The comet is moving across the stars of Ophiuchus.

  • Sunday, December 3rd
    The largest full Moon of the year rises in Taurus at sunset and sets at sunrise. In recent years the term Supermoon has been used to describe full moons that occur within a day of the moon’s closest approach to Earth, which is called Perigee. The astronomical term for the event is Perigee Moon. The full Moon will appear about 7% larger and 15% brighter than an average full Moon, but it will still be so small that you can cover the Moon with a dime held at arms length.

  • Tuesday, December 5th
    In the western sky comet Panstarrs (C/2011 L4) remains in the constellation Ophiuchus, appears higher above the horizon, and sets an hour after the sun. The comet is fading in intensity, but the sky is darker in the early evening because the moon does not rise until after the comet has set.

  • Sunday, December 10th
    Comet Panstarrs (C/2011 L4) continues to fade in the western sky remaining above the horizon in the constellation Hercules for an hour or so after twilight ends. The Third Quarter Moon rises in Leo at about 1:00 AM. It will be highest in the sky at dawn.

  • Wednesday, December 13th
    Comet Panstarrs (C/2011 L4) is rapidly fading as it climbs higher in the western sky while passing through the stars of Hercules. In the predawn sky, look for the crescent Moon rising at about 4:30 AM.

  • Thursday, December 14th
    In the early morning, look for a thin Waning Crescent Moon rising in the constellation Libra at about 5:30 AM. Below the moon is the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. Tonight is the peak of the Geminied Meteor Shower. Shooting stars will be radiating out of the constellation Gemini as it crosses the sky from the northeast at dust to the northwest at dawn. Because the thin Waning Crescent Moon does not rise until about 5:30 AM, the sky is dark all night long.

  • Monday, December 18th
    You will need binoculars to continue following Comet Panstarrs (C/2011 L4) across the constellation Hercules, but the sky is dark all night ling because the Moon is new so there is no moonlight to interfere. The comet will quickly loop around the far side of the sun, and then return to the evening sky in a few days.

  • Thursday, December 21st
    At 11:28 AM the Sun stops at its southernmost point, then begins moving northward again. This is the Winter Solstice, the moment that marks the beginning of Winter on our calendar.

  • Friday, December 22nd
    A thin Waxing Crescent Moon is low in the southwest, and will be setting around 9:00 PM. The crescent points in the direction of the sun, and it may be possible to see a faint line of light near the horizon in that direction, the faint tail of Comet Panstarrs (C/2011 L4) as the comet swings around the sun and back toward Earth. After the moon sets, watch for shooting stars of the Ursid Meteor Shower which peaks tonight.

  • Monday, December 25th
    The head of Comet Panstarrs (C/2011 L4) will appear over the southwestern horizon with the comet’s tail stretching above its head. The comet’s tail points back to the Sun, well below the horizon at 6:00 PM.

  • Tuesday, December 26th
    The First Quarter Moon in Pisces is revealed in the darkening sky this evening. It comes into view high in the south and drifts toward the western horizon through where it will set around Midnight. Check for Comet Panstarrs (C/2011 L4), low in the southwest where the constellation Aquila is setting. Look for the comet below the bright star Altair, the southern point of the Summer Triangle.

  • Saturday, December 30th
    The Waxing Gibbous Moon is near the bright star Aldebaran as the sky darkens. Look toward the moon with Binoculars around 6:00 PM to see the star getting closer to the moon. At 6:17 the star disappears behind the bright side of the Moon. In a darker sky, Aldebaran emerges from behind the dark edge of the moon at 7:08 PM. When a star passes behind the moon we say the star is occulted.