view counter

Sky Watch by J. Alex Knoll

The sun’s lost ground is the skywatcher’s gain

  As if to hammer another nail into summer’s coffin, the sun this week sets before 7:00. The darkening sky reveals Venus tight above the southwest horizon, and while the evening star is brilliant at magnitude –4, it, too, is fleeting and sets shortly after the sun.

Looking at a star map, the world really is turned upside-down

A reader asked what she was seeing from her northeast-facing window. “Would I see evening or morning stars in this direction?” And would the same be true for planets? “I did look at your column and thought I understood the paragraph about Venus, but now I'm not so sure. Help! Thanks a bunch.”

The statues of Easter Island have front-row seats for solar eclipse


This week, the west is best


July’s Thunder Moon deadens all but the brightest lights


Saturn, Mars and Venus vie for position in the west at twilight


Tiny particles make bright lights


With the autumnal equinox, that footwear comes to life

Labor Day has come and gone, but the celestial clock still reads summer. While our days are still longer than our nights, we have lost two hours 45 minutes of sunlight over the past three months. After this week, the hours of darkness each day will trump those of light.

There’s more to Shaula and Lesath than appears at first glance

Soon after sunset on September 10th and 11th, the nascent crescent moon joins Venus low in the west. These two are the first two lights to appear after sunset, around 7:20 Saturday, when Venus shines six degrees to the right of the moon. Sunday, the moon and Venus form a loose triangle with the dim star Zubenelgenubi in the constellation Libra.

Less daytime and a waning moon leave plenty to see

With summer on the wane, the sun sets around 7:30 at week’s end, shedding more than a minute of evening sunlight each night. In the morning it’s more of the same, as the sun rises at 6:37 Saturday and almost a minute later each morning.