Capital Weather Gang: Astronomy

Posted at 10:29 AM ET, 03/13/2013

Comet PanSTARRS as seen from Washington, D.C.

The skies parted early Tuesday evening, and Comet PanSTARRS revealed itself above the western horizon for skywatchers in Washington, D.C.

By Jason Samenow  |  10:29 AM ET, 03/13/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:45 PM ET, 03/08/2013

Aloha! Comet Panstarrs: cosmic snowball to sneak above our horizon

Nature rears back to pitch us a dirty, cosmic snowball: Comet Panstarrs, discovered from Hawaii, will likely sneak above our western horizon tonight or Saturday evening. It’s an apparition with an “Aloha!” flavor since to it we say, “hello and goodbye” rather fast.

By Blaine Friedlander  |  03:45 PM ET, 03/08/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:12 AM ET, 02/26/2013

Full snow moon over Washington, D.C.

Skies cleared, and Monday night’s full snow moon delivered for photographers lined up at the National Mall to watch its ascent.

By Jason Samenow  |  10:12 AM ET, 02/26/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:53 PM ET, 02/25/2013

Full “snow moon” and International Space Station in this evening’s sky

The moon officially became full at 3:26 p.m. EST and will rise tonight 6:07 p.m. We double our cosmic pleasure, as just as the moon is rising, the International Space Station will zip across the northern sky.

By Jason Samenow  |  03:53 PM ET, 02/25/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 09:57 AM ET, 02/15/2013

Surprise attack: Meteor explodes over Russia hours before giant asteroid flyby (VIDEO)

Today’s big celestial show was supposed to be the 150-foot wide asteroid 2012 DA14, closing within a razor thin margin of Earth, but passing safely (at 2:24 p.m. ET). But a very large, meteor or “fireball” stole its thunder, violently blowing up as it entered the atmosphere over central Russia, producing a shockwave that shattered windows, rocked buildings, and injured hundreds.

By Jason Samenow  |  09:57 AM ET, 02/15/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:27 AM ET, 02/14/2013

Earth to narrowly escape collision with asteroid 150 feet wide Friday

Early Friday afternoon, planet Earth will be buzzed by an asteroid some 150 feet wide, identified as 2012 DA14, as it intersects Earth’s orbit just 17,500 miles above our heads.

By Steve Tracton  |  11:27 AM ET, 02/14/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 04:36 PM ET, 01/18/2013

Inaugural beacons: Jupiter and the moon convene Monday

Take a break from the inauguration hoopla. While dancers sway to the music at Washington’s inaugural balls on Monday the cosmic couple Jupiter and the fattening moon deliver a heavenly waltz: They are less than a degree apart.

By Blaine Friedlander  |  04:36 PM ET, 01/18/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:59 PM ET, 01/02/2013

Quadrantids: first meteor shower of 2013 tonight

Late tonight, and I mean late: the Quadrantids meteor shower will peak with up to 50-100 or so meteors streaking through the sky per hour. The best viewing time will be between about 3 a.m. and dawn.

By Jason Samenow  |  02:59 PM ET, 01/02/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:54 PM ET, 12/20/2012

Winter Solstice 2012: Myths and facts about the shortest day of the year

The world won’t end on December 21, but the 2012 winter solstice is still on the astronomical calendar.

By Justin Grieser  |  12:54 PM ET, 12/20/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:48 AM ET, 12/17/2012

Two spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, to crash into Moon Monday evening

NASA’s twin moon-orbiting probes - Ebb and Flow - have reached the end of their lives. They’ve literally run out of fuel so they will be intentionally run into the ground.

By Jason Samenow  |  11:48 AM ET, 12/17/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 06:15 AM ET, 12/14/2012

Geminid meteor shower amazes night sky watchers

An onslaught of Geminid meteors dashed through the cloudless skies Thursday night and early Friday morning, putting on a dazzling spectacle.

By Jason Samenow  |  06:15 AM ET, 12/14/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 09:36 AM ET, 12/13/2012

Geminid meteor shower reigns tonight, thanks to a cosmic rocky road

In many ways, Thursday night’s peak of the Geminid meteor shower will rock.

By Blaine Friedlander  |  09:36 AM ET, 12/13/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 12/11/2012

Newly discovered small asteroid just misses Earth; next up is much bigger 12/12/12 asteroid

As if 12/12/12 wasn’t curious enough of a date already with the whole Mayan-doomsday-but-not-really thing, there’s also the dicey issue of tomorrow’s relatively close encounter with the huge (nearly three miles long) 4179 Toutatis asteroid, expected to pass within 4 million miles of Earth. As the author of this story puts it, “On the scale of the cosmos, that is a very close shave.”

By Steve Tracton  |  11:30 AM ET, 12/11/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:14 AM ET, 11/30/2012

Jupiter to make closest approach to Earth Saturday in years

Jupiter makes it’s closest approach to Earth tomorrow, Saturday, Dec.1. It won’t be this close again until 2021.

By Blaine Friedlander  |  11:14 AM ET, 11/30/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 01:23 PM ET, 11/27/2012

Beaver full moon tonight, smallest of year; also penumbral lunar eclipse some areas

Get ready for the full moon’s least prominent, most underwhelming showing of the year. Tonight’s full moon coincides with the most distant point in its orbit known as the apogee, which will make it appear smaller and duller than the typical full moon.

By Jason Samenow  |  01:23 PM ET, 11/27/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:06 AM ET, 11/16/2012

Leonid meteor shower tonight, tomorrow morning: shut off the lights and look up

The Leonid shower in November has potential to be interesting, but this is a year of low strength.

By Blaine Friedlander  |  10:06 AM ET, 11/16/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:55 AM ET, 11/14/2012

Aurora radiate in northern night skies following burst of solar wind (PHOTOS)

On Tuesday night, an “energized solar wind” produced conditions prime for aurora at northern latitudes.

By Jason Samenow  |  10:55 AM ET, 11/14/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 04:23 PM ET, 11/13/2012

Total solar eclipse in northern Australia (Watch live)

As we speak, northern Australia is experiencing the last total solar eclipse until March, 2015.

By Jason Samenow  |  04:23 PM ET, 11/13/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:59 PM ET, 11/02/2012

Daylight saving time ends November 4 as Northern Hemisphere enters darkest quarter of the year

As November begins, evening daylight is increasingly in short supply. Soon the sun will set even earlier as daylight saving time (DST) ends this Sunday. On November 4, we shift our clocks back one hour at 2 a.m. local time, which offers a welcome extra hour of sleep but also more evening darkness.

By Justin Grieser  |  12:59 PM ET, 11/02/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:23 PM ET, 10/23/2012

Sun unleashes intense X-class flare; active sunspot region rotating towards Earth

The sun belted out the most powerful type of solar flare Monday night, known as an X-class flare. It was the latest in a flurry of 4 flares spewed out by the sun since the weekend. Fortunately, it was not directed at Earth.

By Jason Samenow  |  02:23 PM ET, 10/23/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:31 AM ET, 10/19/2012

Bits of Comet Halley: This year’s Orionid meteor shower peaks this weekend

Going deep into antiquity, ancient sky gazers saw the comet we now call Halley. In modernity, you can see Comet Halley’s bits and pieces this weekend as they light up the night October 20-21 when you behold the annual Orionid meteor shower’s peak.

By Blaine Friedlander  |  10:31 AM ET, 10/19/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 10/17/2012

Possible fireball seen over Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia Tuesday evening

Tuesday night, around 7 p.m., several witnesses report seeing a fireball streak across the sky in the Washington, D.C. region.

By Jason Samenow  |  12:30 PM ET, 10/17/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:40 PM ET, 10/11/2012

International Space Station to zip across Washington, D.C.’s skies tonight

Between 7:35 and 7:40 p.m. tonight, be sure to look up. The International Space Station (ISS), flying at altitude of about 220 miles up, will cruise through the clear autumn sky and make a pretty close pass to our nation’s capital.

By Jason Samenow  |  02:40 PM ET, 10/11/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:16 PM ET, 10/01/2012

Prominent harvest moon watches over Washington, D.C. (PHOTOS)

The full moon closest to the fall equinox is known as the harvest moon. It just occurred Saturday night this past weekend.

By Jason Samenow  |  03:16 PM ET, 10/01/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:48 PM ET, 10/01/2012

Solar storm produces northern lights in Maryland

A long filament of solar material erupted into space September 27, triggering a strong geomagnetic storm on earth Sunday.

By Jason Samenow  |  12:48 PM ET, 10/01/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:59 PM ET, 09/21/2012

Autumnal equinox brings first day of fall Saturday morning

Say hello to fall: the 2012 autumnal equinox occurs this Saturday, September 22 at 10:49 a.m. (EDT).

By Justin Grieser  |  12:59 PM ET, 09/21/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:04 PM ET, 09/13/2012

Close asteroid encounter tonight exposes potential hazard

A newly discovered asteroid - called 2012 QG42 - approaching the Earth will reach its minimum distance from our planet tonight (Sept. 13-14). However, be assured there is no reason to panic, at least this time.

By Steve Tracton  |  02:04 PM ET, 09/13/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:12 AM ET, 08/31/2012

Blue moon: one small mistake, giant folklore for the sky

If you call old friends only once in a blue moon, start dialing: Today is the last such event until 2015.

By Blaine Friedlander  |  10:12 AM ET, 08/31/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 08/22/2012

Mars weather: Curiosity rover measures out-of-this-world temperature swings

We’ve seen our fair share of extreme weather here on Earth these past few years. Yet when it comes to temperatures at least, Mars is far more volatile, as seen in the latest weather report from NASA’s Curiosity rover.

By Dan Stillman  |  12:30 PM ET, 08/22/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:53 PM ET, 08/09/2012

Lather up your weekend with the Perseid meteor shower

If you’re lucky, you’ll see a handful of meteors tonight.

By Blaine Friedlander  |  03:53 PM ET, 08/09/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 01:28 PM ET, 08/06/2012

The NASA Curiosity rover and weather on Mars

The touchdown of NASA’s Curiosity rover was a triumphant success. So what kind of elements might the rover encounter as it explores the Martian surface?

By Jason Samenow  |  01:28 PM ET, 08/06/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:28 PM ET, 08/01/2012

Blue moon and Sturgeon moon in August 2012

A blue moon is kind of jazzy. It’s soothing, solid and definitely cool. In recent decades, the popular-notion, folksy people define a blue moon as the second full moon in a month.

By Blaine Friedlander  |  12:28 PM ET, 08/01/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:20 AM ET, 07/16/2012

Solar storm sparks beautiful aurora (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

After predictions ranging from minor to severe, the geomagnetic storm that struck Earth this weekend fell smack in the middle - at moderate intensity. The storm produced beautiful aurora shown in this post.

By Jason Samenow  |  10:20 AM ET, 07/16/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:31 PM ET, 07/13/2012

Solar storm incoming: Federal agencies provide inconsistent, confusing information

A geomagnetic storm is likely on Earth this weekend. NOAA predicts it will be minor, maybe moderate. NASA says it will be moderate to severe.

By Jason Samenow  |  12:31 PM ET, 07/13/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:31 PM ET, 07/12/2012

Giant sunspot shoots out intense, X-class solar flare

A massive sunspot region - known as 1520 - has unleashed a large solar flare. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center says the flare is rated an X1. This type of flare is considered “strong” according to NOAA, and can cause a blackout of high frequency radio communication on the sunlit side of Earth for one to two hours.

By Jason Samenow  |  02:31 PM ET, 07/12/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:32 AM ET, 06/20/2012

An alternative “temperature-based” definition of summer and the seasons

For most of the mainland United States the meteorological seasons, agree more with temperatures than the astronomical seasons. But I came up with a more precise way to define seasons based on temperatures.

By Jack Williams  |  11:32 AM ET, 06/20/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 09:20 AM ET, 06/20/2012

Summer solstice 2012: Longest day of year - how does daylight compare around the world?

If you’ve enjoyed these bright, sun-filled evenings for an outdoor barbecue or a neighborhood stroll, the summer solstice tonight marks the culmination of our long-lasting daylight. At 7:09 p.m. (EDT) today, the sun will shine directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer while the North Pole reaches its maximum tilt towards the sun. For the northern hemisphere, this marks the official start of summer and the longest day of the year.

By Justin Grieser  |  09:20 AM ET, 06/20/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 06/19/2012

Northern lights (aurora) captured in eastern Maryland Sunday morning (photos)

On Saturday night, two waves of plasma unleashed by the sun (coronal mass ejections) collided on their flight towards Earth. The result? A geomagnetic storm that produced eye-popping aurora (northern lights) as far south as the mid-Atlantic.

By Jason Samenow  |  11:15 AM ET, 06/19/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:55 AM ET, 06/15/2012

Fun with the sun: Bright nights at Nationals ballpark

If baseball and summer are synonymous, then the upcoming solstice June 20 – the official, astronomical start to summer – provides a good excuse to contemplate how much sunlight varies between the Washington Nationals farm club cities this time of year and Nationals Park, here in Washington, D.C.

By Blaine Friedlander  |  10:55 AM ET, 06/15/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:47 PM ET, 06/14/2012

Big asteroid to zip by Earth tonight; find the Snowman on asteroid Vesta

A super-sized asteroid - named 2012 LZ1 - will whiz by our planet tonight. There is no cause for concern of a deep impact or even a glancing blow, however. The space rock will pass 14 lunar distances or 3.35 million miles away.

By Steve Tracton and Jason Samenow  |  03:47 PM ET, 06/14/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:07 AM ET, 06/06/2012

Transit of Venus 2012: Celestial spectacle, clouds notwithstanding (PHOTOS)

In many parts of the United States, clouds interfered with the historic transit of Venus. But for some patient skywatchers, there were enough gaps to capture this rare event. That’s a good thing, because the next transit won’t occur for 105 years.

By Jason Samenow  |  11:07 AM ET, 06/06/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:41 AM ET, 06/05/2012

Transit of Venus 2012: A cloudy forecast for some

Venus crosses the sun for the last time until 2117 (105 years from now) later today. But will clouds spoil this chance of a lifetime (for most) cosmic opportunity?

By Jason Samenow  |  11:41 AM ET, 06/05/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:03 PM ET, 06/04/2012

Transit of Venus 2012: the last trip across the sun for 105 years

After Tuesday evening we sink into history’s pages, having witnessed a rare astronomical event: the Transit of Venus across the sun.

By Blaine Friedlander  |  03:03 PM ET, 06/04/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 06/04/2012

Partial lunar eclipse in the Pacific: a bite out of the moon (PHOTOS)

CAPITAL WEATHER GANG | Early this morning along the West Coast (and after sunset in Asia), the southern part of the full “strawberry moon” passed before the northern part of Earth’s shadow.

By Jason Samenow  |  10:30 AM ET, 06/04/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:19 PM ET, 05/30/2012

Manhattanhenge: Sunset and streets aligned in unique spectacle; a D.C. equivalent?

The summer solstice is still three weeks away, but this evening might offer New York City residents an enchanting sunset experience on the streets of Manhattan. Sun-observing enthusiasts call it “Manhattanhenge” – one of only two days of the year when the setting sun aligns perfectly with the city’s east-west street grid.

By Justin Grieser  |  03:19 PM ET, 05/30/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:08 PM ET, 05/18/2012

Solar annular eclipse: viewing advice

For those of you in the Southwest and West lucky enough to be in the path of Sunday’s “ring of fire”, we want you to enjoy that shining moment when the moon fronts the sun. We hope you’ll share pictures, but, more importantly, protect your eyes.

By Jason Samenow  |  03:08 PM ET, 05/18/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:59 PM ET, 05/17/2012

Annular solar eclipse first in 18 years in continental United States on May 20

Fire up your flux capacitors! It’s time for an annular solar eclipse that’s going back to the future. The moon crosses in front of the sun, handing sky gazers an annular eclipse that starts Monday and ends on the previous Sunday, according to NASA and noted eclipse expert Fred Espenak. This will be the first solar eclipse visible in 18 years in the contiguous 48 states.

By Blaine Friedlander  |  03:59 PM ET, 05/17/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 01:55 PM ET, 05/11/2012

Space weather update: massive sunspot region now facing Earth, primed to hurl out solar flares

One of the biggest sunspot regions to front the Earth in years is now in position to unleash waves of plasma towards the planet. So far though, no problems.

By Jason Samenow  |  01:55 PM ET, 05/11/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 05/11/2012

What are these faint dots in a sea of black?

Test your interactive quiz.

By Steve Tracton  |  10:00 AM ET, 05/11/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 01:27 PM ET, 05/09/2012

Super-sized sunspot region eyes Earth, may eject big flares

NOAA calls it “prominent”, NASA says it’s a “monster”. This sunspot complex known as AR 1476 is rotating into direct alignment with Earth in the next few days. Then it will be primed to eject bursts of solar plasma that could disrupt radio and satellite communications, and produce dramatic auroras.

By Jason Samenow  |  01:27 PM ET, 05/09/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:59 AM ET, 05/07/2012

Clouds play Supermoon spoiler: photo and time lapse

With all of the hype about the amazing Super Moon that was scheduled to rise above Washington on the evening of May 5, I decided to make a trip to the Tidal Basin to try capture the event with both video and still images.

By Kevin Ambrose  |  10:59 AM ET, 05/07/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 08:39 PM ET, 05/05/2012

Supermoon 2012: Reactions and photos, May 5

It’s the biggest, brightest moon of the year. Here’s a collection of reader photos submitted to the Capital Weather Gang and their reaction to the Cinco de Mayo evening spectacle.

By Jason Samenow  |  08:39 PM ET, 05/05/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:02 AM ET, 05/04/2012

Supermoon and Aquarid meteor shower: Viewing tips for Saturday night, May 5

It’s a party in the night sky: the supermoon and Aquarid meteor shower coinciding Saturday night.

By Jason Samenow  |  10:02 AM ET, 05/04/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:34 AM ET, 05/02/2012

NASA video: “Pursuit of Light” inspires, shines bright

Want to see some of NASA’s most amazing imagery of the Earth and the universe all in one place? Solar flares, storms, planets, ice caps, moon craters, supernovas... It’s all there in the “Pursuit of Light.”

By Jason Samenow  |  10:34 AM ET, 05/02/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:38 PM ET, 05/01/2012

Supermoon Saturday: The biggest, brightest moon of 2012

Get ready for the moon’s most prominent, spectacular appearance of the year. On Saturday night at 11:34 p.m. eastern, the moon becomes full on its closest approach to Earth. This coincidence makes this moon a “Supermoon.”

By Jason Samenow  |  03:38 PM ET, 05/01/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:23 AM ET, 04/30/2012

A Lyrid meteor shower look back: Exploding fireball scatters debris over central California

Those who saw the Lyrid meteor shower were treated to a spectacular show of celestial fireworks during the pre-dawn of Sunday, April 22. In the central valley of California, a brilliant fireball exploded in full daylight Sunday morning!

By Steve Tracton  |  11:23 AM ET, 04/30/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 04:25 PM ET, 04/25/2012

Venus and the Moon - like peas in a pod tonight

Right after sunset tonight - breaks in cloud cover permitting - you can view glistening Venus and the crescent Moon standing over us nearly side by side.

By Jason Samenow  |  04:25 PM ET, 04/25/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 04/20/2012

Lyrid meteor shower and Saturn’s rings to light up night sky this weekend

Sky watchers are in for a rare treat this weekend. Sky conditions permitting, the annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks with the best observing between midnight and dawn Saturday night/Sunday morning. But that’s not all, celestially speaking. Saturn’s rings will also be at an optimal angle for viewing.

By Steve Tracton  |  10:45 AM ET, 04/20/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 01:10 PM ET, 04/17/2012

Sun unleashes dramatic flare

At 1:45 p.m. Monday, an outburst from the sun was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Laboratory. This violent burst of solar wind - known as a coronal mass ejection - was not pointed towards Earth. The sunspot area that emitted this flare is rotating and will face the Earth in a few days says Dan Satterfield at Wild Wild Science.

By Jason Samenow  |  01:10 PM ET, 04/17/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:19 AM ET, 04/13/2012

Fireball in broad daylight? April 2 Texas sighting confirmed; Meteor seen in Chicago Wednesday

Early last week (April 2), thousands of people in and around San Antonio, Texas reported seeing what one eyewitness described as a piece of the sun falling from the sky during full daylight. This week, the sightings were officially confirmed as a rare fireball - at least one yard across - bright enough to be seen during daylight.

By Steve Tracton  |  11:19 AM ET, 04/13/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 03/27/2012

NASA successfully launches 5 rockets from Wallops (VIDEOS AND PHOTOS)

Almost two weeks after the first scrubbed attempt, NASA successfully launched 5 rockets to study winds in the upper atmosphere early this morning.

By Jason Samenow  |  11:00 AM ET, 03/27/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 09:56 AM ET, 03/27/2012

Crescent moon, Jupiter, and Venus dazzle in night sky (PHOTOS)

Monday night marked the curtain call for triangular trio of the crescent Moon, Jupiter and Venus. The Moon snuggled up to within three degrees of Venus while Jupiter sat beneath the Moon-Venus. The night before (Sunday), the Moon paired up with Jupiter as Venus looked down on them from above. Check out neat photos of these formations from CWG photographer Kevin Ambrose and several readers.

By Jason Samenow  |  09:56 AM ET, 03/27/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:13 AM ET, 03/26/2012

Curtain call for moon, Venus, and Jupiter

On several occasions over the past month, Jupiter, Mars, and Moon have arranged themselves in a captivating triangular formation. Depending on cloud cover where you live, you may or may not have had the opportunity to feast your eyes on them. Assuming the skies cooperate, tonight offers one final opportunity to catch a glimpse.

By Jason Samenow  |  11:13 AM ET, 03/26/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 09:51 AM ET, 03/19/2012

Spring equinox marks the official end of winter early Tuesday morning

Meteorologists consider March 1 the first day of spring, and this year it has certainly felt like it. Recent summerlike warmth across much of the country makes it hard to believe that winter has not officially ended – at least not according to the traditional definition of the seasons.

By Justin Grieser  |  09:51 AM ET, 03/19/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:22 PM ET, 03/13/2012

Jupiter and Venus get intimate in night sky

Just weeks ago, Jupiter and Venus, together with the moon, formed an unmistakable triangle in the night sky before the moon drifted away. Ever since, these two planets have drawn closer together. And tonight, they come about as close as they’ll ever get - separated by just three degrees in the night sky.

By Jason Samenow  |  02:22 PM ET, 03/13/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:17 PM ET, 03/09/2012

After the winter that wasn’t, time to “spring ahead” again

In case you forgot because the dark days of winter didn’t feel quite as cold and gloomy as they usually do, daylight saving time starts this Sunday, March 11 at 2:00 a.m. That means we turn the clocks ahead one hour (and unfortunately lose an hour of sleep in the process).

By Justin Grieser  |  02:17 PM ET, 03/09/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:07 PM ET, 03/09/2012

Solar storm peaks at strong level; why forecasting space weather is difficult

After the sun hurled out the biggest solar flare in five years, media were abuzz, sometimes hyperbolically, about the prospective solar storm threat. Then, when a mere “minor” storm arrived Thursday with minimal impact, headlines pronounced the storm a fizzler. But, just as it was presumed dead, geomagnetic storming surged early Friday, and a strong solar storm is presently underway. The twists and turns of this recent solar event illuminate the challenges in forecasting and reporting solar activity.

By Steve Tracton and Jason Samenow  |  12:07 PM ET, 03/09/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 03/09/2012

Moonrise over Washington, D.C. on March 7

It was not the perfect moonrise for postcard photos, but for a weather-watcher, the interplay of sunlight, clouds, and the rising moon was very cool. I captured a time lapse video and some still photos of the event. I hope you enjoy the scenes of our beautiful and interesting March 7th moonrise.

By Kevin Ambrose  |  10:15 AM ET, 03/09/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:05 PM ET, 02/27/2012

Jupiter, Venus and the Moon dance in night sky; five planets come into view

For the last two nights, Venus, Jupiter and the Moon have put on an amazing show. Positioned close together, they have shined brilliantly, forming an unmistakable triangle in the night sky, visible even amidst city light pollution. The trio will glow prominently yet again tonight.

By Jason Samenow  |  02:05 PM ET, 02/27/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:41 AM ET, 02/24/2012

D.C.’s longer daylight hours mean spring really is just around the corner

A balmy 60-degree day in early January might feel like spring, but when darkness falls around 5 p.m., we’re inevitably reminded that it is still winter. Now, at least, we’ve got the longer daylight and higher sun angle to accompany our spring-like temperatures, even if they are (once again) several degrees above average.

By Justin Grieser  |  10:41 AM ET, 02/24/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 06:30 PM ET, 02/23/2012

A cosmic hurricane and a tornado on the sun: extreme space weather

I’m not sure which is more impressive: a tornado the size of a planet on the sun or a wind gust of 20,000 mph in a black hole in outer space. But NASA has recently documented both of these phenomena.

By Jason Samenow  |  06:30 PM ET, 02/23/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 09:55 AM ET, 02/08/2012

The spectacular Full Snow Moon over Washington, D.C.

NASA, who provides jaw-dropping visuals of the Earth and outer space every day, has outdone itself with a photo in our very own backyard. It captured last night’s full snow moon in dramatic fashion as it rose over the Capitol.

By Jason Samenow  |  09:55 AM ET, 02/08/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 01:34 PM ET, 02/06/2012

The Full Snow Moon comes Tuesday, and see the far side...

On Tuesday, February 7, the Earth facing side of “Full Snow Moon” will shine brightly in the night sky. And thanks to NASA, close-up views of the moon’s other side, are coming online.

By Jason Samenow  |  01:34 PM ET, 02/06/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 06:08 PM ET, 01/10/2012

January full “wolf” moon splendor (PHOTOS)

Variable sky conditions over the last week have offered a diverse back drop for the moon, which reached full phase on January 9 at 2:30 a.m. ET. Currently waning (95% full), the moon still appears almost perfectly spherical in the night sky.

By Jason Samenow  |  06:08 PM ET, 01/10/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:47 AM ET, 01/05/2012

Top space weather and astronomy events of 2011

This selection of 2011’s top space weather and astronomy events doesn’t necessarily represent the most scientifically significant or historic set of a much larger set of possible choices. Rather, it is simply my personal list of highlights as an all-things space enthusiast.

By Steve Tracton  |  11:47 AM ET, 01/05/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 01:50 PM ET, 01/03/2012

Quadrantids meteor shower may dazzle under moonless sky late tonight

In 2011, shooting star gazing was frequently stymied by blinding moonlight. But tonight, NASA says, the Quadrantids meteor shower will peak after the moon sets around 3 a.m., setting the stage for a “brief, beautiful show.”

By Jason Samenow  |  01:50 PM ET, 01/03/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:41 AM ET, 12/23/2011

Comet Lovejoy awes NASA astronaut aboard International Space Station

When International Space Station commander Daniel Burbank caught sight of comet Lovejoy streaking through space, he could not believe his eyes.

By Jason Samenow  |  10:41 AM ET, 12/23/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:03 AM ET, 12/21/2011

Winter solstice – and other interesting sun facts – explained

If you’ve grown weary of short days and are looking forward to more sunlight, you won’t have to wait much longer. Tomorrow is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, bringing us the shortest daylight period and longest night of the year.

By Justin Grieser  |  10:03 AM ET, 12/21/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:25 PM ET, 12/16/2011

Comet Lovejoy survives sweltering encounter with sun

The newly discovered comet Lovejoy defied the odds Thursday, enduring an apparent suicidal journey very near the sun’s simmering surface.

By Jason Samenow  |  02:25 PM ET, 12/16/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 12/13/2011

Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight, but moonlight - again - to interfere

The Geminid meteor shower, one of the year’s top night light shows, peaks tonight. But due to a nearly-full moon, the meteors will be somewhat more difficult to see. Nevertheless, NASA expects a decent showing between 10 p.m. local time and sunrise (on December 14)

By Jason Samenow  |  11:10 AM ET, 12/13/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 12/09/2011

Western U.S. states to see unusual total lunar eclipse early Saturday morning

While the East Coast misses out, residents in central and western states will catch a unique total lunar eclipse Saturday morning.

By Justin Grieser  |  10:00 AM ET, 12/09/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 01:10 PM ET, 11/08/2011

Asteroid to just miss Earth on tonight’s flyby

The largest asteroid to come this close to Earth since 1976 will zip past Earth tonight at 30,000 mph, just inside the moon’s orbit. The closest pass to Earth will occur at 6:28 p.m. ET

By Jason Samenow  |  01:10 PM ET, 11/08/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:52 PM ET, 11/04/2011

Monster sunspot poses threat of significant solar storms

A major sunspot is presently emerging on the surface of the solar disk facing Earth. According Jess Whittington at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), the huge and still growing sunspot is the most active part of the sun since 2005. The area, being referred to as a “benevolent monster” generated a solar flare which shot out a burst of charged particles but - this time -was not aimed at Earth.

By Steve Tracton  |  12:52 PM ET, 11/04/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:33 AM ET, 11/04/2011

Daylight saving time ends this Sunday: get out and enjoy the sun an hour earlier

This year daylight saving time (DST) ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 6, which means we move our clocks back one hour and return to standard time. The good news is we get a 25-hour day (and an extra hour of sleep). The bad news: it will get dark even earlier in the evening.

By Justin Grieser  |  10:33 AM ET, 11/04/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:43 AM ET, 10/25/2011

Aurora (northern lights) seen in more than half United States

A stunning auroral display amazed and awed sky watchers as far south as Arkansas Monday night. reports the unusual northern lights display was observed in more than half of the U.S. states. MSNBC called it the “farthest-reaching auroral shows in years”

By Jason Samenow  |  10:43 AM ET, 10/25/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 09:42 AM ET, 10/21/2011

Orionids meteor shower peaks tonight

Skies early tomorrow morning (Saturday) before twilight should be clear and starry along the East Coast and across large parts of the country, but showers are a virtual certainty. Still, early rises risers venturing outdoors can leave the umbrella behind. The showers of which I speak will be bright streaks in the sky associated with the peak of the Orionids meteor shower centered on the morning of October 22.

By Steve Tracton  |  09:42 AM ET, 10/21/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:56 PM ET, 10/20/2011

Watch simulation of ROSAT satellite death spiral (video)

The remains of the German satellite ROSAT are predicted to crash into Earth this weekend, including its 1.7 ton heat-resistant mirror. If you have difficulty visualizing this process, Analytical Graphics, Inc. has come to the rescue. It has created an excellent animation of the satellite’s re-entry which deftly depicts ROSAT’s current orbit, the burn-up as it clashes with the Earth’s atmosphere, the remnant debris and the satellite’s ground track. Watch it in this post.

By Jason Samenow  |  02:56 PM ET, 10/20/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 01:01 PM ET, 10/19/2011

German satellite ROSAT forecast to wallop Earth this weekend

More space junk is about to plummet through the heavens and collide with Earth. Sometime this weekend (October 22 or 23), the remains of the German satellite ROSAT (the ROentgen SATellite) are projected to come crashing through our atmosphere.

By Jason Samenow  |  01:01 PM ET, 10/19/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 04:10 PM ET, 10/06/2011

Dramatic Draconid meteor shower possible Saturday

This Saturday, not a mere meteor shower but a meteor “outburst” or “storm” may spray through the heavens. NASA is predicting up to 750 meteors per hour from the dust stream of Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, known as the Draconid meteor shower.

By Jason Samenow  |  04:10 PM ET, 10/06/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 01:05 PM ET, 10/04/2011

Watch: comet collides with sun, then solar blast

You don’t see this every day. On Saturday, a newly discovered comet crashed into the sun. Moments later, the sun unleashed a massive coronal mass ejection (CME), or blast of solar wind. Watch the video.

By Jason Samenow  |  01:05 PM ET, 10/04/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:52 PM ET, 09/28/2011

Solar storm smashes into Earth, stunning aurora at high latitudes

Did you know the high latitudes experienced a severe geomagnetic storm Monday which still lingers? At the mid-latitudes, the storm was moderate, but powerful enough for aurora to be seen as far south as New York state.

By Jason Samenow  |  02:52 PM ET, 09/28/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:45 PM ET, 09/22/2011

Autumnal equinox marks the official start of fall Friday morning

While meteorological fall already began three weeks ago, the autumnal equinox occurs Friday at 5:04 a.m. (EDT), signaling the official start of fall in the Northern Hemisphere. Besides ushering in a new season, the fall equinox marks the time at which the sun shines directly overhead at the equator, which results in nearly equal periods of daylight and darkness at all latitudes. Until the winter solstice in December, the sun will continue its southward migration towards the Tropic of Capricorn, bringing us increasingly shorter days and a lower sun angle in the months ahead.

By Justin Grieser  |  02:45 PM ET, 09/22/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:18 AM ET, 09/22/2011

Video: Awesome aurora Australis from International Space Station

Thanks to NASA and the crew of Expedition 29 on the International Space Station, we’re treated to this surreal video of the southern lights, known as Aurora Australis.

By Jason Samenow  |  10:18 AM ET, 09/22/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 09/20/2011

Crashing NASA satellite: Are you more likely to be struck by lightning?

Joel Achenbach today wrote that “a 12,500-pound NASA satellite the size of a school bus” will plummet to Earth Friday, give or take a day. He said NASA calculated the odds of the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) hitting a person is 1-in-3,200. Multiply that by the human population of about 7 billion of your odds are about 1-in-22.4 trillion. How does that compare to the odds of being struck by lightning?

By Jason Samenow  |  11:00 AM ET, 09/20/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:21 AM ET, 09/19/2011

International Space Station time lapse of Earth flyover: clouds, city lights, lightning

Watch this magical time lapse of the International Space Station orbiting Earth, and be dazzled...

By Jason Samenow  |  10:21 AM ET, 09/19/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 05:35 PM ET, 08/15/2011

Shooting star from space: U.S. astronaut on International Space Station captures amazing image

This may well be a first: NASA astronaut Ron Garan photographed a shooting star blazing through Earth’s atmosphere from the International Space Station. He captured the image on Friday - around the time the Perseid meteor shower was peaking, and also, coincidentally, not long before we could see the International Space Station making a pass over our skies. Garan posted the picture on Twitter for the world to see. Cool stuff.

By Jason Samenow  |  05:35 PM ET, 08/15/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:30 PM ET, 08/12/2011

Perseid meteor shower and International Space Station flyby late tonight - double pleasure

Whether you were able or not to view Perseid meteor showers earlier this week, tonight’s peak should still provide a good show despite the interference of this month’s full moon. Moreover, tonight will be a double treat, for coincidentally the International Space Station will be visible (local sky conditions permitting) over much of the U.S.

By Steve Tracton  |  02:30 PM ET, 08/12/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 08/09/2011

Perseid meteor showers peak late week; best viewing probably late tonight

There are very few instances beyond a day or two, especially during summer, that one can predict showers with complete certainty. This week is just such a case, except the showers are not rain, but the annual appearance of the Perseid meteor shower. This year, the issue is if and when the meteors will be visible. And it turns out, they may be most visible very late tonight.

By Steve Tracton  |  12:00 PM ET, 08/09/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 05:00 PM ET, 08/04/2011

Significant solar storm headed to Earth Friday

A “moderate to strong” solar storm is on its way to Earth Friday. An erupting sunspot has unleashed three solar flares in as many days, the third particularly potent.

By Jason Samenow  |  05:00 PM ET, 08/04/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 07/08/2011

Weather cooperates for Atlantis launch

The last launch in NASA’s 30-year space flight program is set for 11:26 a.m. today, weather permitting. The official Atlantic (STS-135) launch weather forecast assigns a 70 percent probability that weather will prohibit the launch. This post contains weather updates every 15-30 minutes as the launch time approaches.

By Jason Samenow  |  10:30 AM ET, 07/08/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 07:00 PM ET, 07/01/2011

International Space Station viewable Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights

If you look up in the sky the next several evenings at the right time, you’ll be treated to a view of the International Space Station.

By Jason Samenow  |  07:00 PM ET, 07/01/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 06/30/2011

Minotaur rocket launch seen from the Capitol

A Minotaur rocket launched from NASA Wallops Flight Facility late last night. Check out the view of the rocket passing by the U.S. Capitol Building on its way to space!

By Ian Livingston  |  10:30 AM ET, 06/30/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:00 PM ET, 06/29/2011

Minotaur Rocket and International Space Station in D.C.’s sunset and night sky

After being delayed a day due to thunderstorms, NASA’s launch of a new military satellite, ORS-1, should go off without a hitch this evening. The U.S. Air Force’s Minotaur 1 rocket is scheduled for liftoff at 8:28 p.m. (update: changed to 10:05 p.m.) from the Wallops Flight Facility and Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Less than two hours later, the International Space Station will take a pass through the night sky. Both should be viewable in the Washington metro region.

By Justin Grieser  |  03:00 PM ET, 06/29/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 06/27/2011

Asteroid to barely miss contact with Earth

A newly discovered asteroid estimated between 30 feet in size and named “2011 MD” will pass by the Earth over the south Atlantic around 1 p.m. EDT today missing a direct hit by only 7500 miles. In the vastness of space of the inner the solar system, this is considered a really close call – less than about 3% of the distance between Earth and the moon and visible even with a small telescope. An even closer encounter occurred earlier this year when another small asteroid missed the earth by just 3400 miles.

By Steve Tracton  |  10:45 AM ET, 06/27/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 01:30 PM ET, 06/21/2011

Understanding space weather forecasts and the risk of solar storms

I recently reviewed the background and nature of the threats of space weather. I concluded that major solar storms have the potential to: 1) occur with limited advanced warning, 2) strike with insufficient means to protect vital earth and satellite based systems, 3) be disastrous to technology dependent societies and 4) leave in their wake totally inadequate resources and capabilities to recover for a periods ranging from weeks to years – at a cost of trillions of dollars. In light of the severity of threat, understanding the basics of solar weather phenomena becomes important. Such basic information is the focus of this post, the second part in my three-part series. It should help you understand the nature of the threat if and when it becomes real. Although a solar strike may not happen tomorrow, it is clearly in the realm of possibilities anytime over the next few years.

By Steve Tracton  |  01:30 PM ET, 06/21/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:50 AM ET, 06/21/2011

The summer solstice – and other interesting sun facts – explained

Most of us can agree that summertime heat and humidity have been well underway in our area since meteorological summer began on June 1. Yet for those who prefer the astronomical definition of the seasons, today marks the official start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This year the summer solstice occurs at 1:16 p.m. EDT. It marks the time at which the sun’s rays are at zenith (directly overhead) at 23.5 degrees north latitude, better known as the Tropic of Cancer.

By Justin Grieser  |  10:50 AM ET, 06/21/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:45 PM ET, 06/15/2011

Longest lunar eclipse in eleven years to elude North America

As the full moon passes through the Earth’s shadow later today over a course of 100 minutes, sky-watchers in most continents will watch its glow transform to fiery shades of orange and red. But across North America, the eclipse won’t yet be visible and, tonight, an ordinary “strawberry” full moon will shine in the sky.

By Jason Samenow  |  12:45 PM ET, 06/15/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 05:00 PM ET, 06/07/2011

Video: Huge explosion on sun - what does it mean?

The sun unleashed a massive solar storm today in a spectacular eruption that some have called the most impressive yet observed by the NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. The video shown below is dramatic.

By Steve Tracton and Jason Samenow  |  05:00 PM ET, 06/07/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 06/07/2011

Video: Majestic timelapse of Milky Way from Great Plains

The video shown below, an astonishing time lapse of the Milky Way photographed in central South Dakota by Randy Halverson, is making the rounds through cyberspace. When you watch it, you will understand why. It is truly stellar and out of this world.

By Jason Samenow  |  12:30 PM ET, 06/07/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)