Weekly Stargazing Tips

Unless otherwise specified, viewing times are local time regardless of time zone, and are good for the entire Lower 48 states (and, generally, for Alaska and Hawaii). Check out last week's tips if you missed a night.

Last-Quarter Moon

The Moon will be at last quarter tonight. It aligns at a right angle to the line between Earth and the Sun, so sunlight illuminates one-half of the lunar hemisphere that faces our way.

Emptiness

It’s lonely here in the galactic suburbs. The distance to the Sun’s nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, is almost 29 million times the Sun’s diameter. At that scale, if you lived in a house that is 50 feet wide, your nearest neighbor would be farther than the Moon.

Time Bombs

Several time bombs are in view this evening. The list includes most of the bright stars of Orion, which is low in the west, plus Spica, the brightest star of Virgo, in the southeast. All of these stars are destined to explode as supernovae.

Moon and Venus

Venus, the “morning star,” perches just to the lower left of the crescent Moon at dawn tomorrow. As long as you have a clear eastern horizon you just can’t miss them.

61 Virginis

61 Virginis is one of the nearest star systems with known planets. Under dark skies, the star is bright enough to see with the unaided eye. It is a little below Spica, Virgo’s brightest star, which is due south a couple of hours after sunset.

Beta Coma Berenices

Tonight, you can see a star that shows us roughly what the Sun would look like seen from 30 light-years away. That’s how far it is to Beta Comae Berenices, a Sun-like star that’s south of the Big Dipper’s handle in the faint constellation Coma Berenices.

Loopy Planet

Bright orange Mars is high in the southeast at nightfall. Spica, the brightest star of Virgo, is close to its lower left. Mars is moving away from Spica, but soon will head toward the star as it completes its retrograde motion across the sky.

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