Monday, January 12, 2015

Venus, Mercury and Lovejoy

Now that the storm is past us, bright clear skies have returned at night. Be sure to go out and catch Venus and Mercury dancing in the twilight. 

As show above, Venus and Mercury are nearly kissing low in the west right after sunset. Mercury is near its maximum brightness right now but Venus is about 15 times brighter. Both will be very easy to see in the twilight by about 5:20 pm. But don't wait too long as they will set soon after 6:00 pm. Keep watching for the next few nights as Mercury begins to pull away from Venus and dim, till it is lost in the glare of the setting sun by month's end. But before the show is over, there will be  a special guest as the new Moon make its debut, right next to Mercury.

As we mentioned last time, comet Lovejoy is now well placed for spotting with binoculars. It has brightened a bit to magnitude 4, so if you are off in the desert you may even be able to see it with your naked eyes. The comet has now sailed into the stars of Taurus the bull, high in the southern sky and the moon is no longer in the way as it does not rise till late. For details and a sky chart see Sky and Telescope.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Venus and more!

Hi all,
Hope you are all enjoying the clear night skies we have been having. There is so much to see right now: winter stars, planets, and a bonus comet.

Moon, Mars and Venus at dusk, Dec. 23-25, 2014

Venus is back:

After spending most of the year in the morning sky, Venus is returning to our night sky. If you have a clear view down to the western horizon, you can spy Venus as soon as it gets dark, right near where the sun set. But you have to be quick because she  will set early, by 5:45 tonight. On your way home from Shul tonight will be a perfect time to look. Each coming evening  Venus will get a little higher and set a little later.


As you practice spotting Venus be on the lookout for Mercury. This elusive planet will pop up next week near Venus and the two will pair for a bright conjunction by Jan 11. There is a beautiful graphic showing the pair dance at

Binocular comet:

Comet Lovejoy 2014 is speeding through the southern sky below Orion. This will be a challenge to spot, but with dark skies and binoculars you could get lucky. It is currently at magnitude 5.5 and does not show a tail, even through a medium telescope. But you should be able to see a small fuzzball. See details here .

Now that the winter solstice has passed, we can all look forward to the bright constellations of winter. Enjoy!

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Open evening at the wise observatory

Hi Y'all,

Wise Observatory, Israel
The wise observatory near Mitzpe Ramon will be open to the public next Thursday. 
This is the one time a year you can get in to see and learn about the largest telescope in the country.

The program includes:

Between 17:30 and 22:30:

  • Talks about current research topics in the observatory
  • Guided tours in the observatory and around the different telescopes.
  • Automated observations of various astronomical objects
  • Observations through small telescopes
  • Guided stargazing

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

See Mars next to the Moon tonight

Mars has recently come into opposition. That is not as bad as it sounds. It just means that Mars is now closest to Earth, as happens about every 2 years. So it means Mars now appears biggest and brightest in our sky. Even f you  are not good with a star map, Mars will be very easy to find tonight as it is right next to the Moon high in the sky. 

Keep looking up!

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Moon, Venus and Jupiter tonight!

Tonight will be the first chance to see the new moon of the month of  Shvat. You may be able to spot the Moon almost as soon as the sun sets at 16:36.

It is also one of the last nights to see Venus very low in the southwest before it disappears in its rendezvous with the Sun. As an added treat, if you turn around you can also spot Jupiter as it rises low in the northeast.

The sky tonight showing Venus and the Moon at upper left with Jupiter in the lower right.

To catch the full view, you will have to find high ground with an unobstructed view down to both the east and west horizon.   The best time will be between 17:15 and 17:30. The show will be over by the time Venus sets at 17:45 with the Moon following at 18:10. However if you are late, you can still enjoy Jupiter which will be up all night long.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Winter Solstice, Jupiter, Venus

Hi Y'all,

Now that the snow storm is behind us, it is time for winter to officially begin. The solstice will be tomorrow, Saturday night at  19:11 Israel time. Literally "Sun stop", the solstice is when the apparent motion of the Sun to the south stops and the sun turns to come back north. It is also the shortest day of the year, and thus will also be the shortest Shabbat of the year. We astronomers have a special warm feeling for this day, as it is also the night with the longest opportunity to watch the stars!

Aside from the bright winter constellations now rising in the east after sunset, we have a new visitor, namely Jupiter. As king of the planets in size, Jupiter is also the 2nd brightest, right after Venus. You may have noticed Jupiter as that bright "star" hanging near the nearly full moon the past few nights. But as the moon speeds in it's orbit around us hear on earth, it will leave Jupiter to shine alone impressively next to the bright stars of Orion, Gemin and Sirius.

I hope you have all been enjoying the bright show of Venus in the west for the past 11 months or so. This month Venus is at it brightest and highest, but paradoxically it will soon dive down to the horizon, and disappear in the glare of the Sun by months end. It will reappear a week later, but only for those who get up early on frosty mornings, to see it rise just before the sun.

As Venus sets about an hour  and a 1/2 after sunset, Jupiter will be rising opposite in the sky,  low in the east. By 8:00pm it should be high enough to easily spot. Although it will be in good company near the  bright stars of winter it will outshine them, and be easy to pick out.

Shabbat Shalom,

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Eclipse report

Hi Y'all,
Hope you all enjoyed the eclipse today.

I had a small crowd on the roof at work with a telescope for projection and some solar glasses filters. We could follow the eclipse till about 4:20 when the Sun dipped behind the hill of Malcha.

Gadi got some great pictures from Tel Aviv, all the way down to sunset

Inline image 1Notice the sunspot group in the bottom center of the Sun!

And my neighbor Zev, got a great shot just before the sun set over the hills of Gush Etzion.

Inline image 2.

Don't worry, if you missed the eclipse, the next one visible from Israel will be on March 20, 2015!

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