All posts by Bob Berman

Fascinating facts about the Evening Star

Fascinating facts about the Evening Star

The night’s brightest object is the Moon, of course. But the second-brightest? Surprisingly, most people don’t know. That’s why a dazzling apparition can now dominate the western sky, shining a hundred times more brightly than the brightest stars, and yet travel incognito. It’s Venus, the Evening Star, and she’s in her glory from now through August.

Today’s strange Sun: Cycle 24 stays weird

Today’s strange Sun: Cycle 24 stays weird

Earth’s climate gets cooler when there are fewer solar storms. An extreme example happened between 1645 and 1715, when the normal 11-year sunspot cycle disappeared! This period, called the Maunder Minimum, was accompanied by bitterly cold winters in the American colonies. Fishing settlements in Iceland and Greenland were abandoned. Icebergs were seen near the English Channel. The canals of Venice froze. It was a time of great hardship.

The year’s best stars

The year’s best stars

This week we face into the winter Milky Way, the spiral arm that’s opposite the galactic core. The Aztecs and Mayas regarded this luminescent band as the path taken by the newly departed en route to heaven. In medieval Europe it was called by its Latin name, Via Galactica, meaning “Milk Street.”