Each season, different planets and constellations are easier to spot, and others actually disappear altogether from our ordinary view. Late summer and early fall are the best times to see the activities in the sky. So on a clear night take a look to see what is in the sky.
Where to go – Ideally, you want to be farther away from the lights of the city. But if that’s not possible, some planets and formations are bright enough that you can still spot them.
Equipment – Just your eyes, and if you have them, a good pair of binoculars. Don’t think you need a telescope; in fact, most telescopes available for purchase won’t work any better for you. What’s up there:
- The northern hemisphere night sky is divided into 88 constellations, most of which are visible from Canada at different times of the year.
- At various times throughout the year, you can see five of our solar system’s eight planets, a few star clusters, a spiral galaxy, and sometimes a comet.
- The Big Dipper is always the first and easiest star formation to find. Look for its handle and bucket.
- When you’re away from the city, it’s almost guaranteed that you will see the mass of stars of the Milky Way.
- If you look at the dark sky long enough, you will most likely spot a shooting star.
- Meteor showers are seen during specific times.
Meteor Shower “schedule” 2013:
- August 10-13 – Perseids, the most well-known.
- October 7 – Draconids
- October 21 – Orionids
- Jupiter – the largest planet in our solar system, makes it’s best appearance in September when it lines up opposite the sun. Jupiter spends most of its time in the constellation of Pisces.
- Mercury – our solar system’s smallest planet never strays far from the Sun so it’s tough to find in the glare. From the northern hemisphere, it is visible in the morning sky this year in February, May, June and September.
- Venus – the easiest planet to see, outshines all the other stars and planets in the night sky. It moves into a very good view through the spring and into the summer. It disappears from view in October as it passes between Earth and the Sun.
Constellations, for the expert eye!
- Sagitta (Sagittarius) or “The Arrow” is visible in late summer in the northern hemisphere. It is supposed to be a torso of a man riding a horse, pointing his arrow at another constellation visible in late summer.
- Scorpius (the Scorpion) The entire constellation can be hard to make out, but the top, which resembles a tea pot with handle and spout, is easier to see. Now look west for Antares, an extremely bright star that often glows red. It is at the heart of Scorpius (the Scorpion), which actually does resemble a scorpion, with a curved tail and head.