We are all finding new ways to have fun at home. Naturally and predictably, I’m recommending you step into your backyard and simply look up around dinnertime, just as darkness falls. So happens, this is a most extraordinary time to gaze at the heavens. Halfway up the western sky you’ll see an unbelievably bright “star.” This is of course the planet Venus, also known as the Evening Star.
In the “current affairs” department, no other topic could be explored on this page right now. You wouldn’t think “germs” and “astronomy” would ever share the same headline or news story, but it has happened three times.
There are two foolproof ways to ascertain Earth’s true shape without needing to trust photos or any astronaut.
Media outlets such as Earth and Sky are saying that we are entering a “SuperMoon season,” with three SuperMoons in a row, on March 9, April 8 and May 7. Yet there’s no mention of this in any of the world’s astronomical publications. Something strange seems to be afoot.
In 1935, Albert Einstein and two colleagues, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, wrote a now-famous paper in which they addressed one particular aspect of quantum theory. Examining the prediction that particles created together (“entangled”) can somehow know what the other is doing, the physicists argued that any such parallel behavior must be due to local effects, some contamination of the experiment, rather than some sort of “spooky action at a distance.” But recent experiments, including additional ones from 2015, show that Einstein was wrong.
Mercury alters its brightness more than any other planet, varying by three hundredfold. Each year its light goes from fainter than the “Seven Sisters” to more than double the brilliance of the Dog Star Sirius, the brightest star. These nights it’s near its brightest, but it’s fading rapidly.
Remember the movie Contact, starring Jodie Foster? She contacted aliens from a famous star that in the movie was pronounced “VAY-ga.” Well, that star’s name was spelled Wega for centuries, and spoken as “WEE-ga,” meaning a falling eagle in Arabic. It evolved to be spelled Vega and spoken as “VEE-ga” in the 19th century. And it remains “VEE-ga” today. Those who Latinize it as “VAY-ga” are getting it wrong.
A supernova in our lifetimes is not impossible.
The famous star Betelgeuse is dimmer than anyone has seen it in a century.
This is the very finest test of vision in all the heavens.