Blog Archives

Stars of the First Magnitude

No, we aren’t talking about Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep. These are the stars you see in the sky at night. If you have ever been confused by statements like the following, then let’s see if we can help you

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Posted in Sky Phenomena, Stars

Name That Star!

How many stars can you call by name? Unless you are a devotee of the night sky, the number will likely not require more than one hand to count. Betelgeuse perhaps, simply because its pronunciation brings to mind a movie

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Posted in Sky Phenomena, Stars

Astronomy in 2011

(This post has been edited slightly from the original to include the MESSENGER mission to Mercury and to correct a misstatement about galactic black holes.) As the end of calendar year 2011 approaches, I thought my readers might enjoy a look

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Posted in Cosmology, Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft, Stars


There is a reason why most of the major observatories in the U.S. are west of the Mississippi River. The clouds and rain we have had in Virginia for the last several weeks have reduced our view of the heavens

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Posted in Cosmology, Stars

Enjoy Watching!

Traveling to the southern hemisphere is a treat for anyone, but for astronomy enthusiasts, it holds a special appeal. The center of the Milky Way, hidden in near-horizon murk for those of us in the northern hemisphere, shifts to an

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Posted in Stars

If You Are REALLY Into Astronomy…

…then I have the site for you. Astrobites ( is the “astrophysics reader’s digest”, a role which it fills admirably. (Full disclosure: one of the writers for the site is the daughter of a friend and professional colleague.) Astrophysics graduate

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Posted in Cosmology, Stars


One of the many things we have learned from doing more than a year of public outreach events at the observatory is that there are some celestial sights guaranteed to evoke the “wow!” reaction from our guests. The first sight

Posted in Observatory and Telescopes, Stars