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What's up there?
#1
The long, cold nights of winter serve up a treat this year: Mars. We will pass by the Red Planet late in the month, so it shines brightest for the year. It is an orange beacon, shining steadily in the constellation Cancer, the crab. It will glow almost twice as bright at the end of the month as at the beginning. As Mars climbs to prominence, Jupiter drops lower in the west every evening. It's still the second-brightest object in the night sky this month, after the Moon.

January 16, 2010
A pack of dogs bounds across the southern sky on winter nights: the stars of Canis Major, the big dog. Tonight, they climb into view in the southeast by around 9 p.m. The leader of the pack is Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.

January 17, 2010
Look for the planet Jupiter near the Moon early this evening. It looks like a brilliant star to the upper left of the Moon at nightfall. They set by 8 or 9 p.m.

January 18, 2010
The planet Jupiter is the brilliant star-like point of light below the Moon at nightfall this evening. Jupiter far outshines all the true stars in the night sky, so it's hard to miss.

January 19, 2010
Aries, the ram, is high in the sky at nightfall. One of its most important stars is too faint to see without a telescope. Yet half a century ago, it helped scientists discover that most of the chemical elements are forged in the hearts of stars.

January 20, 2010
Betelgeuse and Rigel, the two brightest stars of Orion, are well up in the east-southeast at nightfall. Orange Betelgeuse is to the left of Orion's Belt, with blue-white Rigel to the right of the Belt.

January 21, 2010
Two old, bloated stars known as red giants are in good view tonight. Aldebaran, the "eye" of the bull, is high in the southeast at nightfall. Pollux, one of the twins of Gemini, is in the east, above the planet Mars. Like Mars, both stars look orange.

January 22, 2010
The Moon is at first quarter tonight, so sunlight illuminates half of the lunar hemisphere that faces Earth. The sunlight portion will grow larger each day until the Moon is full on the night of January 29.

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#2
This Week's Stargazing Tips
January 24, 2010
The orange planet Mars is well up in the east by two or three hours after sunset. It outshines everything else in the sky at that hour except the Moon, so it is hard to miss. And because it's so bright, its color is hard to miss, too.

January 25, 2010
The planet Mars is putting on quite a show. It is closest to Earth this week, so it shines at its brightest. It looks like a bright orange star. It rises around sunset, soars high across the sky during the night, and sets around sunrise.

January 26, 2010
The little planet Mercury just peeks into the dawn sky the next few days. It is in the east-southeast about 45 minutes before sunrise and looks like a bright star. It is so low in the sky, though, that any clutter on the horizon will block it from view.

January 27, 2010
Procyon, one of the most important stars in ancient Egypt, stands high in the evening sky this week. Procyon is high in the east around 8 or 9 p.m. The bright white star is well to the left of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.

January 28, 2010
Look for the planet Mars in the east this evening, well below the Moon. It looks like a bright orange star. Mars is passing closest to Earth this week, so it especially bright and beautiful.

January 29, 2010
The full Moon and the planet Mars are low in the east at nightfall, with orange Mars a little to the left of the Moon. In fact, Mars is at its brightest for the entire year, outshining all but a handful of stars and planets.

January 30, 2010
Auriga, the charioteer, rides high across winter's evening skies. To find it, look for its brightest star, Capella, which stands high overhead in mid-evening. Capella is one of the brightest stars in the night sky, and shines pale yellow.

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#3
This Week's Stargazing Tips

February 1, 2010
The planet Saturn stands to the lower left of the Moon as they rise in late evening, and to the upper left of the Moon at first light tomorrow. It looks like a bright golden star.

February 2, 2010
The star Spica and the planet Saturn flank the Moon late tonight. They rise by around midnight and are in the southwest at first light tomorrow. Golden Saturn is to the upper left of the Moon, with blue-white Spica to the lower left.

February 3, 2010
As the Moon climbs into view around midnight, a bright star shines just a little to its upper left: Spica, the leading light of the constellation Virgo. They will stand low in the sky at first light tomorrow, with Spica to the upper right of the Moon.

February 4, 2010
The extinct Musca Borealis, the northern fly, is visible low in the west just after sunset. It was created by a German astronomer several centuries ago. Astronomers no longer recognize the constellation. Its stars rest on the shoulder of present-day Aries, the ram.

February 5, 2010
The Moon is at last quarter at 5:58 p.m. CST today. At last quarter, the Moon lines up directly ahead of Earth in our orbit around the Sun, so sunlight illuminates half of the lunar hemisphere that faces our way.

February 6, 2010
Antares, the brightest star of Scorpius, the scorpion, is just to the left of the Moon at the first blush of twilight tomorrow. It shines with a distinctly orange color. Antares is a red supergiant. If it took the Sun’s place, it would extend far beyond the orbit of Mars.

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#4
I'm sorry for missing last week, but I was away and totally forgot about it

February 2010

As one planet leaves the evening lineup, another continues to shine brightly this month. Early in the month, Jupiter is quite low in the west as night falls. The planet is bright, but it is so low in the sky that you need a clear horizon to pick it out. Over in the east, though, Mars is already well up in the sky, shining with a steady orange glow. It soars high across the south during the night. It fades a bit during the month, however, so it's not quite as eyecatching at month's end.

This Week's Stargazing Tips
February 13, 2010
An obscure cat pads through the northern sky at this time of year. Known as Lynx, it stands high in the northeast in early to mid evening. It’s about halfway between the outer stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper and the bright “twins” of Gemini.

February 14, 2010
The Big Dipper stands straight up from the northeastern horizon a couple of hours after sunset, with the bowl above the handle. Line up the two stars at the top of the bowl and follow them to the left to Polaris, the North Star.

February 15, 2010
Look for a very thin crescent Moon low in the southwest shortly after sunset this evening. As the sky grows darker, you may see the entire lunar disk. The dark gray portion of the disk is illuminated by "earthshine" -- sunlight reflected off Earth's surface.

February 16, 2010
The crescent Moon is in the west early this evening. You may just make out the scars of giant impacts: the dark lunar seas. Billions of years ago, giant asteroids slammed into the Moon, forming wide basins. Molten rock filled the basins to form the dark volcanic plains.

February 17, 2010
Just above the W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia, toward neighboring Perseus, look for a faint smudge of light. Binoculars reveal dozens of individual stars packed together into two clusters. Together, they are known as the Double Cluster.

February 18, 2010
A star named Navi forms the middle point of W-shaped Cassiopeia, which is high in the north this evening. The name comes from Ivan “Gus” Grissom. He and his Apollo 1 crewmates named three stars for themselves as a joke. When they died in a launchpad fire, the names stuck.

February 19, 2010
The constellation Puppis scoots low across the south on winter evenings. It is below and to the left of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Puppis represents the deck at the back of the Argo, the ship that carried Jason and the Argonauts.

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#5
March 2010
The warmer nights of spring bring a panoply of new stars and constellations for skywatchers to enjoy. Leo is in good view by nightfall, climbing straight up from the eastern horizon, led by his bright "heart," the star Regulus. Virgo follows the lion a couple of hours later. Boötes, the herdsman, is to the maiden's left, marked by yellow-orange Arcturus, one of the brightest stars in the night sky. The planet Venus begins its climb into the evening sky, where it will remain until about Halloween.

This Week's Stargazing Tips

March 5, 2010
Antares, the leading light of the scorpion, stands low in the south at first light tomorrow, to the lower left of the Moon. It will be a little closer to the right of the Moon on Sunday morning.

March 6, 2010
Pyxis, the celestial compass, is in the southeast at nightfall. It's a short streak of faint stars that aims toward the remnants of the Argo -- the ship that carried Jason and the Argonauts. Pyxis represents the Argo's compass.

March 7, 2010
The constellation Coma Berenices (Berenice's Hair) stands well to the south of the Big Dipper's handle. It is home to a grand gathering of galaxies, called the Coma Cluster, which is centered about 350 million light-years away.

March 8, 2010
Leo, the lion, is in the east at nightfall. A backward question mark represents his head and mane, while a triangle of stars to the lower left forms his hindquarters and tail. Leo's brightest star is Regulus, at the bottom of the question mark.

March 9, 2010
Regulus, the heart of the lion, is well up in the east at sunset. The star that we see as Regulus is much hotter and brighter than the Sun. But it has two smaller, fainter companions that are revealed only by a telescope.

March 10, 2010
Leo, the lion, springs high across the eastern sky this evening. The king of the jungle is no slouch in the skies, either. It's the 12th largest constellation. And unlike most constellations, Leo looks like its namesake.

March 11, 2010
One of the most beautiful double stars is Algieba, in Leo, the lion, a constellation that is prominent during spring. Seen through a telescope, both of its stars shine a lovely golden yellow.

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#6
March 12, 2010
The two closest and most prominent star clusters are high in the west at nightfall. The Hyades looks like a downward-pointing letter V, with a bright orange star at one point. The dipper-shaped Pleiades is to the right of the Hyades.

March 13, 2010
The divided halves of a snake are moving into the evening sky. Known as Serpens, the serpent, they rise beginning in late evening. The constellation is split because the snake wraps around the intervening stars of Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer.

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#7
March 14, 2010
A pale pyramid of light sometimes rises from the western horizon on moonless March evenings. It's called the zodiacal light because it is found in the zodiac. This glow is caused by sunlight reflecting off of microscopic dust grains in space.

March 15, 2010
The Moon is "new" at 4:01 p.m. CDT as it crosses the imaginary line between Earth and Sun. It is lost from sight in the Sun's glare, but should return to view on Wednesday evening as a thin crescent low in the west shortly after sunset.

March 16, 2010
The planet Venus is slowly returning to prominence. It is quite low in the west at sunset, and sets in early evening. Look for it a little to the left or upper left of the Moon as darkness falls tonight, and well below the Moon tomorrow evening.

March 17, 2010
When spring arrives on Saturday, the Sun will be passing through the constellation Pisces. Over time, though, the Sun's location at the vernal equinox slips westward. About 6,500 years ago, it was just above the head of Orion, the hunter.

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March 18, 2010
Spring is just about to spring, but a great pattern of stars named for winter still dominates the western evening sky. The Winter Circle includes some of the most prominent stars of all, including Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.

March 19, 2010
Spring arrives in the northern hemisphere tomorrow, at a moment known as the vernal equinox. This is the point at which the Sun crosses the equator heading from south to north. In many ancient societies, the equinox marked the beginning of a new year.

March 20, 2010
The crescent Moon and the Pleiades star cluster snuggle close together tonight. They are high in the west at nightfall and set after midnight. The Moon is to the left of the small, dipper-shaped Pleiades.

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Sorry for missing the 21st and the 22nd <!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s:oops: -->

March 23, 2010
The constellation Coma Berenices, which represents the hair of a legendary Greek queen, is well up in the east by mid-evening. It is about half-way between the bright stars Arcturus and Regulus, which highlight the eastern sky.

March 24, 2010
The Moon, the planet Mars, and the twins of Gemini form a beautiful grouping the next couple of nights. Tonight, Mars is to the left of the Moon as darkness falls, with Gemini's twins -- the stars Pollux and Castor -- above them.

March 25, 2010
The planet Mars stands above the Moon at nightfall. It looks like a bright orange star. Mars and the Moon remain close together as they move across the western sky in the wee hours of the morning.

March 26, 2010
Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, the lion, is a little to the lower left of the Moon as night falls this evening, and keeps company with the Moon as it sails high across the sky later on.

March 27, 2010
Aries, the ram, is low in the west at nightfall. It's a faint pattern marked by only a couple of fairly bright stars, Hamal and Sheratan. Look for them above or to the upper right of Venus, the "evening star," which is quite low above the horizon.

March 28, 2010
The bright Moon keeps company with a bright planet the next couple of nights. They are in good view in the east by 8 or 9 o'clock. The planet Saturn stands to the left or lower left of the Moon tonight, and looks like a bright golden star.

March 29, 2010
The Moon rises in mid-evening tonight, with the bright golden planet Saturn above it and the star Spica to its lower left.

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#10
March 30, 2010
Look for the Moon and Spica climbing into view by mid-evening. Spica, the brightest star of the constellation Virgo, is just to the left of the Moon as they rise.

March 31, 2010
Venus and Mercury will be huddling close together for the next couple of weeks. Venus, the "evening star," is quite low in the west shortly after sunset. Fainter Mercury is a little to its lower right.

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