Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty

Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

What are those bright things in the sky right now?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

25-11-2008 7:58 CST


Every once in a while I get an email from a reader about something bright in the sky right now. They usually guess it's a planet but aren't sure how to figure out which one. There are lots of sites on the Internet that you can use to figure out what's going on in the night sky -- you can just search around and find your favorite -- but I'll tell you my favorite, and that's John Walker's Your Sky at I'm a big fan of interactive sites that have basic interfaces that just give me what I need without a lot of bells and whistles, and Your Sky does that. To use the site, you can either pick out a nearby big city from a list on the site, or plug in your latitude and longitude; to find that out, I just use Google Maps to zero in on my location, then click the "link" button on the map page, which produces a complicated-looking URL that has your latitude and longitude embedded in it (Pasadena, California is 34, -118, or 34N, 118W). Heavens-above is another good website, and it has the added benefit of providing tables indicating when you can see the Space Station or an Iridium flare overhead at your location.

And indeed, Jupiter and Venus are putting on an absolutely spectacular show in the evening sky right now; they are unmistakable, brighter than anything else in the sky (especially now, when the Moon isn't up at sunset), Venus lower in the sky and Jupiter higher, both in the west. With sunset happening early now (at least in the northern hemisphere) no one should have any trouble spotting them, no matter how polluted their sky is. Even my two-year-old points them out when we go outside in the evening, saying, "Look, it's Jupiter! And Venus!" There's no way to know what she really thinks that means, but it's cool nonetheless.

Since I'm talking about stuff in the sky, I thought I should mention this totally cool video, courtesy of of an object moving very quickly across the sky through the constellation Pisces. An object moving as fast as this one is can only be in low-Earth orbit. It's actually newly in orbit -- it's the toolbag that Astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper dropped in the confusion of trying to clean up its interior after a grease gun exploded while she was attempting repairs on a stubborn joint that rotates one set of the International Space Station's solar panels. Isn't that amazing -- that keen observers can spot an object as tiny as a toolbag in orbit around Earth?

See other posts from November 2008


Or read more blog entries about:


Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Blog Search

Planetary Defense

An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.


Featured Images

LightSail 2 and Prox-1
Bill Nye at LightSail 2 pre-ship review
LightSail 2 pre-ship review team photo
Swirling maelstrom
More Images

Featured Video

Class 9: Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune

Watch Now

Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

See More

Join The Planetary Society

Let’s explore the cosmos together!

Become a Member

Connect With Us

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!