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January Skies 2015

The winter stars are the brightest of the year.  Orion becomes the center of attention, with his three belt stars drawing a line to the right, pointing to the red star Aldebaran, the “eye” of Taurus, the Bull.  To the left, Orion’s Belt leads to the rising star Sirius - the brightest star in the night skies.  The Big Dipper is just starting to lift a little higher in the northeast, while the Milky Way sketches out a frosty path across the top of the sky.  The month opens with Venus climbing slowly higher in the west, a piercing light joined during the first two weeks by the elusive Mercury just below.  Mars loiters in the southwestern twilight, while Jupiter rises earlier each evening, starting at 7:30 on New Year's Day, but 5:30 at month's end.  Saturn is the lone planetary attraction in the morning sky. 

25 –  High in the northern skies Cassiopeia, the Queen rules from her throne.  Finding first the zig-zag of stars that looks like an “M” this time of year, use the fainter stars to perhaps see an upside down throne, the tall back angling lower to the right, and the legs extending up and left.

26 –  The Big Dipper is beginning to rise into the northeast. The two stars on the end of the "bowl" of the Dipper, known as the "pointer stars", can serve to form a line, extending to the left where they guide you to Polaris, the North Star.

27 - By 8:30 PM this evening the stars of Leo, the Lion should be showing up in the east. The brightest star, Regulus, is due east, and forms the bottom of a "backward" question mark, or a sickle blade.  To the upper right of Regulus, Jupiter gleams as the brightest object, other than the Moon.  




The latest information on the Rosetta Mission from ESA, solar activity, and the Aurora Borealis (northern lights).

Venus and Mercury in the evening skies (click on image for larger image in a new tab) 
Venus and Mercury




Astronomy Resources

Sky and Telescope’s safe eclipse viewing guide

You can view the partial eclipse safely and easily following the directions provided.


The Mars Science Laboratory – Curiosity Rover

This is the home page for the Curiosity Rover.  Explore the site to find images, videos, and volumes of science information.


The Mars Exploration Program

This is the home page for all of the on-going missions to Mars.


The Mars page of the website Nine Planets

Nine Planets is a great website featuring information about each planet (and even though there are only eight “planets”, you’ll find information about nearly all of the moons, dwarf planets, and other small solar system bodies)


Sky & Telescope's Interactive Star Chart

You must register first (it's free) to use this on-line chart.  Follow the directions to get a chart that will show the sky for any location, at any time.  You can also create a .pdf file to view from your computer any time.


The Old Farmer's Almanac


Astronomy Picture of the Day

Each day brings a fascinating look at astronomy, and an explanation of what you are seeing.

Vermont Astronomical Society

The Vermont Astronomical Society (VAS) is a group of amateur astronomers that has been serving northern Vermont for over 45 years. Membership ranges from beginning naked-eye stargazers to advanced amateurs with home observatories and elaborate equipment.



NASA Science

This is the home of NASA, where science ranges from the Earth to the ends of the universe.  That means there's a lot to explore!  


News and information about the Earth-Sun environment, including astronomy events (eclipses, moon phenomena, asteroids, etc.), discoveries, and Northern Lights.  


Sky & Telescope Magazine

 Astronomy Magazine

Books: There are thousands of books, and each has information that can be helpful.  You might collect a few before you find one that matches your taste and way of thinking about astronomy.  To help you get started, check with your local library or favorite book store for the following titles:  

The Stars by H. A. Rey

Rey, well known for writing and illustrating the "Curious George" books, wrote this wonderful introduction to the night sky in the 1950s, and it remains one of the best for a wide range of ages and interests.  

NightWatch by Terrence Dickinson

This ring-bound book leads the beginning star gazer through the heavens, rich in photographs, charts, and lots of practical information.  

Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning by Richard Hinkley Allen 

For those who love the myths and origins of star names and constellations, this is a wonderful start.  Some of the interpretations have been challenged in recent years as others have looked into the subject, so it is not considered the final authority.  But it is still a wealth of ideas and information.  

Night Sky: A Guide to Field Identification (Golden Field Guides) by Mark R. Chartrand

This all around guide book shows you how to find the constellations, describes the nature of the heavens and the objects we see, and how to set up and use a telescope  

Exploring the Night Skies with Binoculars by David Chandler

This is must, because it gives such practical and realistic expectations about what you can see.   

Also of interest:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Astronomy by Christopher De Pree and Alan Axelrod

Cosmos by Carl Sagan

365 Starry Nights by Chet Raymo

The Sky: A User’s Guide by David Levy
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