March 2013 -
This month presents us with the unusual highlight of Comet PanSTARRS passing at its closest point to earth. The best dates to observe the comet are between March 12 and 17. On March 12 it appears within 5 degrees of the very thin crescent moon low in the western sky approximately a half hour after sunset. Using binoculars, look for a small hazy object within ten degrees of the western horizon.
Saturday, March 16, 8 - 8:20 p.m.
Park Ranger Paul Motts will be at the Beaver Marsh to view Comet PanSTARRS.This is when the comet will be high in the sky and most visible. Be sure to grab a warm coat, a small flashlight, and see what sights await you.
April 2013 -
Jupiter continues to dominate as the brightest object, shining high in the western sky throughout the month. On April 14, the planet is near the crescent moon.
Saturn is also very impressive, glowing bright yellow where it is easily seen in the southeast, rising approximately one hour after sunset toward the end of the month. On April 25, Saturn appears close and above the rising full moon.
May 2013 -
Throughout the month Saturn appears very high in the southeastern sky in the early evening. This is the best time of the year to use a small telescope to observe the ringed planet.
Throughout the month, it is possible to see two magnificent start clusters when viewing with binoculars after 9 p.m. To the east in Cancer the Crab, is the beehive cluster (M44), a very large open cluster, and to the west in Hercules, is the famous globular cluster (M13), containing approximately 300,000 stars.
June 2013 -
On June 18, Venus and Mercury dazzle the western sky appearing right next to each other. Look for the two very bright planets setting low to the horizon approximately 45 minutes after sunset. Visit the Beaver Marsh to observe this early evening event.
July 2013 -
Throughout the month, approximately two hours after sunset, look high in the east to see the three brightest stars of Vega, Deneb, and Altair that make up the summer triangle. On exceptionally clear dark nights it may be possible to see the summer triangle against the awe inspiring background of our Milky Way Galaxy.
The very bright star Deneb marks the head of the Northern Cross in Cygnus the Swan. At the foot of the cross is Albireo, a magnificent double star. View it with a high powered binoculars or a small telescope to reveal a bright deep blue and a gold star next to each other.
The brilliance of Vega draws our attention to the constellation Lyra the Harp. Within Lyra is the Ring Nebula (M57), a very faint ninth magnitude planetary nebula that becomes an inspiring sight when viewed with a small telescope under exceptionally dark skies.
August 2013 -
Late evening of August 11 and early morning of August 12 is the prime time to watch the Perseid meteor shower. This year will be ideal for observing the display under dark skies. The Perseids are well known for having very bright meteors with magnificent tails. Look to the east for meteors coming from the constellation Perseus.
September 2013 -
Both Saturn and Venus are visible throughout the month. In the early evening on September 20, look to the western skies to see Saturn just above Venus.
Throughout the month, starting at 8 p.m., look to the east for stars outlining the huge Great Square in Pegasus the Horse. Attached to the horse is Andromeda, a constellation that contains the brightest neighboring galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). This whirlpool spiral galaxy is like our own containing more than 100 billion stars that shine a bright glow when viewed with binoculars. Looking at the Andromeda Galaxy we see an image that occurred two million years ago from a distance of two million light years away.
October 2013 -
This month all the key circumpolar (never set) constellations reveal the greatest amount of detail.
Look northwest to find the big dipper in Ursa Major the Great Bear and from there on a dark night search high in the sky for other constellations of Ursa Minor (contains the North Star), Cassiopeia, Perseus, Cepheus, and Draco.
November 2013 -
This month, Venus dominates the heavens appearing as the brightest object to the west shortly after twilight. The planet often referred to as the "Evening Star" will be at its brightest in 2013.
Observe the constellation Taurus the Bull in the eastern sky, after 8 p.m. There are two features that are especially striking: the famous Pleiades open star cluster and the very bright orange star Aldebaran. The Pleiades, sometimes called the "Seven Sisters", appear to the naked eye as a tiny dipper but when observed through binoculars reveals an incredible array of countless stars, making this among the most magnificent of all the open clusters. The bright star Aldebaran, in the eye of Taurus, is a red giant that shines nearly 425 times brighter than our sun and for size comparison would represent a giant beach ball to our ping pong-size sun.
December 2013 -
Throughout the month, approximately three hours after sunset, Orion the Hunter appears in the eastern sky. Orion lets us know that winter is well on its way as it is the dominant constellation for the entire season. Near the brightest star in the sword is the Orion Nebula (M42), an impressive sight that is easy to see with binoculars.