The Dance So Far — the last 25 years
Total Solar Eclipse of 1999
Looking into the Heart of Our Galaxy
How Astronomy Begat Astrology
I'm a naked eye astronomer, as were all astronomers before the invention of the telescope, four centuries ago. I love to watch the sky at night, observing the slow dance of the planets amongst the stars.
Today we get only a dim glimpse of what earlier peoples must have seen in skies free from dust pollution and, in urban areas, from the light pollution that bleaches out all but the moon and brightest stars.
Here are some things you can see in the night sky as the never-repeating, never-ending, cosmic dance continues. (Positions are for evening sky, unless otherwise stated.)
Comet ISON should be visible from late November through December, with a conjunction with Mercury and Saturn on Nov 26. It will be easiest to spot in East before sunrise during early Dec.
Mercury is usually hard to see because its stays close to the sun. Its orbits the sun once every 88 days, and so alternates between evening sky and morning sky approximately every 6 weeks.
Venus hangs bright but low in the Western evening sky through Summer and Fall. It is at its brightest mid December, just before it races off into the sunset in early Jan. It then reappears as morning star through early 2014
Mars is rising late evening at end of year, and sooner early 2014.
Jupiter is rising around dusk at end of year, and will dominate evening sky through early 2014.
Saturn is rising a few hours before sunrise at end of year. It will start becoming visible in evening sky in Spring of 2014.
Sky at a glance for current week.
NASA Solar System Simulator for a view of the planets and their moons at any time, and almost any angle.
Animated orrery Beautiful bird's view of solar system.
Quadrantids. Maximum at January 3-4
The twelve Zodiacal constellations (Taurus, Pisces, Gemini, etc.) also lie on the ecliptic -- they are the constellations the planets pass through.