Winter is a great time for stargazing

The featured photo shows the Rosette Nebula. The photo was taken by Bryan Shumaker from Boyne City.


Holiday greetings to all of you, my fellow astronomy and night sky devotees!

Not much to say about the weather, but it’s been several weeks since we really had good clear skies.

As this is the season for hope and happiness, perhaps the weather will cooperate and allow us at least a few nights of crystal clear night skies.
Winter officially began Dec. 21 at 11:48 p.m.


Giovanni Cassini, who discovered Saturn’s moon Rhea, was born on Dec. 23, 1672. One of the large gaps in Saturn’s rings is called the Cassini Division in his honor.

On Christmas Day, the moon is Full. Isaac Newton, perhaps one of the greatest scientific minds we have ever seen, was born on this day in 1642.

He formulated many of the laws concerning the path of objects, orbits, and gravity. He also invented calculus (simultaneously developed by a mathematician named Leibniz).

We still routinely use his equations on orbital mechanics to plan complex missions to points in space.

Johannes Kepler was born December 27, 1571. Devoutly religious, he was caught in the crossfire of the Protestant Reformation.

He managed to spend time with Tycho Brahe, the brilliant but eccentric Danish astronomer. Kepler was the first to realize the planets orbit the sun not in a circular orbit, but in an elliptical one. Several laws concerning orbital motion were discovered by him, and he is considered one of the astronomy “greats” of all time.

We are now entering the realm of the winter constellations.

Most of the very bright stars are seen during this season, usually in easily recognizable constellations.

Weather allowing, go outside and admire mighty Orion, Cassiopeia, Taurus the Bull, the Pleiades (Seven Sisters), and Auriga (the Shield).

You might also check out the dim constellation of Monoceros (the Unicorn).

The picture at the top of this column is of an enormous emission nebula in this constellation.

The blue color is due to ionized oxygen, the red from ionized hydrogen, and the clear area around the central cluster of very bright stars is from intense solar winds from these hot young stars which are gradually clearing away the gas and dust.

In several million years, this spectacular sight will have disappeared.

Don’t forget to use a sky chart or night sky app to find these lovely constellations. Before you know it, you should be able to easily recognize them without any aid at all!

It will give you a feeling of deep satisfaction and a real connection to the cosmos.

We talked about Jupiter just clears the eastern horizon around midnight, but is always a great telescopic sight.

The four large Galilean moons show up next to mighty Jupiter even with binoculars!

Best time to view is in the immediate hours or so before dawn.

By the way, it is still not too late to get some advice and input about an astronomy purchase, don’t hesitate to contact me ASAP at I’ll get back to you right away!

Have a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, and safe New Year!

Remember, go outside and keep looking up!