2023 A3 Tsuchinshan-ATLAS: a Bright Comet for the End of 2024?

Comet F3 NEOWISE over Kitt Peak in 2020. Image Credit and Copyright: Rob Sparks

New Comet C/2023 A3 Tsuchinshan-ATLAS may put on a show at the end of next year.

Could this one be the next great comet? Though caution is always warranted when it comes to icy interlopers from the Oort Cloud, a recent discovery has given us pause, and a reason to take notice. We’re talking about the recent discovery of Comet C/2023 A3 Tsuchinshan-ATLAS, just announced last week.

Continue reading “2023 A3 Tsuchinshan-ATLAS: a Bright Comet for the End of 2024?”

ESA’s Solar Orbiter Spies a Transit of Mercury

Mercury Transit
Mercury Transit

Solar Orbiter’s unique vantage point recently allowed researchers to make a crucial observation of the solar system’s innermost world.

You never know when a chance for some extra space science will present itself. Recently, European Space Agency (ESA) mission controllers had just such a chance, when the planet Mercury passed in front of our host star as seen from the Solar Orbiter’s point of view in space.

Continue reading “ESA’s Solar Orbiter Spies a Transit of Mercury”

Cosmic Conjunction: Jupiter Meets Venus on March 1st

Jupiter vs Venus
Jupiter meets Venus from 2015. Image credit: Roger Hutchison.

The two brightest planets pass less than half a degree apart at dusk during a spectacular conjunction on the night of March 1st.

It has begun. Once every 12 to 18 months or so, I start fielding “what are those two bright objects in the sky?” questions. They’re none other than the third and fourth brightest natural objects in the sky (behind the Sun and the Moon), the planets Jupiter and Venus. If skies are clear, you can see them get ever closer together from one night to the next, as they meet up during a spectacular conjunction on the night of March 1st/2nd.

Continue reading “Cosmic Conjunction: Jupiter Meets Venus on March 1st”

Check Out This Great View of Comet 96P Machholz, Courtesy of SOHO

Comet 96P
Comet 96P Machholz, as seen from SOHO's LASCO C3 imager. Credit: NASA

Now’s the time to catch periodic Comet 96P Machholz on its encore dawn performance, before it slides out of view.

So, have you been following the touted ‘green comet,’ E3 ZTF? To be sure, it’s nothing more than a fuzzy patch, a binocular comet sliding through the constellation Auriga looking like a globular cluster that refuses to resolve into focus. Though E3 ZTF may not live up to the hype, it does have one thing going for it: it is currently well-placed for northern hemisphere viewers. It also put on a great show for astrophotographers as it recently completed an orbital plane-crossing, as seen from our Earthly vantage point.

Continue reading “Check Out This Great View of Comet 96P Machholz, Courtesy of SOHO”

Comet E3 ZTF Brightens as the First Good Comet of 2023

Comet E3 ZTF

The first good comet of the year, Comet E3 ZTF is a fine object for northern hemisphere observers in January.

As in years previous, 2023 kicks of with another decent binocular comet.

If you haven’t seen C/2022 E3 ZTF yet, you’ll soon have your chance. Discovered by the Zwicky Transient Survey searching for supernovae, E3 ZTF was first spotted as a +17th magnitude object gliding through the constellation of Aquila the Eagle on the night of March 2nd, 2022.

Continue reading “Comet E3 ZTF Brightens as the First Good Comet of 2023”

Astronomy 2023: Top Sky Watching Highlights for the Coming Year

Annular Eclipse
An annular eclipse from 2013. Credit: Shahrin Ahmad.

Astronomy 2023 highlights include two fine solar eclipses, the Sun heading towards solar maximum, a series of spectacular lunar occultations and much more.

Been out enjoying the sky in 2022? The past year saw two fine total lunar eclipses, a surprise meteor outburst from the Tau Herculids, a fine occultation of Mars by the Moon and more. Astronomy 2023 promises more of the same, plus much more. We’ve been doing this yearly roundup of things to look for in the sky now for well over a decade in one form or another, and the cosmos never disappoints. So, without further fanfare, here are the very best of the best events for astronomy 2023, coming to a sky near you:

Continue reading “Astronomy 2023: Top Sky Watching Highlights for the Coming Year”

Mars at Opposition 2022: The Full Moon Occults Mars Wednesday Night

Moon occults Mars
The Moon occults Mars in September 2020. Image credit and copyright: Delberson Tiago de Souza. Used with permission.

A rare event transpires Wednesday night, as the Full Moon occults Mars near opposition.

Have you checked out Mars lately? The Red Planet currently rides high to the east at dusk, rising as the Sun sets. We call this opposition season, the biannual span when Mars passes closest to the Earth and offers observers optimal views of the planet. Mars opposition 2022 is special however, as three events converge in one night: Mars at opposition, the Moon reaches Full, and the Moon occults (passes in front of) Mars, all on the evening/morning of Wednesday/Thursday, December 7th/8th.

Continue reading “Mars at Opposition 2022: The Full Moon Occults Mars Wednesday Night”

BlueWalker-3 Unfolds, Brightens One-Hundredfold

An artist's impression of BlueWalker-3 unfolded in orbit. Credit: ASTSpaceMobile

After months of waiting, we’re getting our first good looks at a fully deployed BlueWalker-3.

A new high-profile satellite may now be visible in a sky over you. We recently wrote about AST Space Mobile’s new BlueWalker-3 satellite, and its potential to be among the brightest objects in the night sky. Launched on September 10th, 2022 an a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket along with the Starlink Group 4-2 batch, BlueWalker-3 is the first of the company’s planned mega-constellation of 110 BlueBird satellites set to be deployed by the end of 2024 for worldwide communication.

Continue reading “BlueWalker-3 Unfolds, Brightens One-Hundredfold”

Are We in for a Leonid Outburst Friday Night?

Leonid from 2001
A lone Leonid meteor from 2001. Image credit and copyright: Frankie Lucena.

The November Leonid meteors may produce a surprise outburst this weekend.

If forecasters are right, a notorious meteor shower may put on a surprise showing soon, right after its expected peak. The meteor shower in question is the November Leonids. Most years, the Leonids are really nothing to wake up early for, producing an average hourly rate of 10 meteors an hour, barely double the background sporadic rate. But every 33 years or so, the Leonids are the source of great storms of meteors, as the Earth plows headlong into the stream of debris laid down by comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle on its 33-year orbit around the Sun.

Continue reading “Are We in for a Leonid Outburst Friday Night?”