Mark your calendars and organize star parties with your family, friends, and fellow astronomy enthusiasts to catch these noteworthy 2013 night sky events. If all goes well, 2013 will be a wonderful year for comet viewing! Comet Pan-Starrs and Comet ISON have the potential to become spectacular sights if they survive their close approaches to the Sun. If they remain intact, these comets will provide stunning sights in the starry skies of March and December.
January - Start the New Year with great views of the winter Milky Way and explore the many interesting sights within our namesake constellation Orion! Big planet Jupiter will be a great planetary target all month long. Don't miss the Quadrantids meteor shower on the evening of January 3rd as meteors will radiate from the constellation Böötes.
February - The second month of 2013 continues to offer great views of the winter Milky Way. Two of our favorite constellations, Gemini and Auriga, will be well-placed for telescopic explorations. Jupiter continues to put on a wonderful show in February skies.
March - Some of the best galaxies to see in a telescope are spread across the night sky from Ursa Major to Virgo. Take out a big telescope and set sail for these island universes! Comet-lovers are hopeful that Comet Pan-STARRS will remain bright enough for good views in March. If all goes well, this comet will be visible low in the western evening skies of March.
April - Spring galaxies continue to be great targets in April. Don't miss the Lyrids meteor shower which peaks on the evening of April 21st. Look towards the constellation Lyra after midnight for your best chance to see meteors. Ringed Saturn reaches opposition on April 28th, so it will be a great planetary target all month.
May - In late May, be sure to get outside on clear evenings for an unaided-eye treat as Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter form a conjunction in the sky. Galaxy season continues! Use a big telescope and catch great galaxies like M51, M81 & M82, M101 and more!
June - Summer stargazing season kicks off with great opportunities to see a host of globular and open star clusters, emission nebulas, and more. Scan the Summer Milky Way with big binoculars or a telescope for great views.
July - With the constellation Hercules overhead and Scorpius to the south, there's plenty to explore as summer continues. Try to pick out the three bright stars of the Summer Triangle (Altair, Deneb and Vega) with unaided eyes on a clear evening.
Aungust - Use 50mm or larger binoculars and/or a telescope to explore the summer Milky Way in August for nice views of various star clusters, galaxies, and cloudy nebulas. Get outside after dark on August 11th to catch meteors from the Perseids shower radiating from the constellation Perseids.
September - The Fall stargazing season begins with wonderfully placed spiral galaxies M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), M33 (Triangulum Galaxy), and M74 in Pisces. Use a big telescope to see these glittering island universes.
October - As nights become cooler in October, gigantic Jupiter takes over the night sky. Enjoy nightly views of the biggest planet in our solar system and see its four brightest moons (Io, Ganymede, Europa and Callisto) change position each night. See the Orionids meteor shower on the night of October 20th as meteors radiate from the constellation Orion.
November - Bundle up for bright skies! See our namesake constellation Orion arch its way across the sky along with lots of bright star clusters. Get outside on the evening of November 17th to see the Leonids meteor shower as meteors radiate from the constellation Leo.
December - Amateur astronomers all over the world are hoping that Comet ISON will put on a spectacular show in December skies. If the comet survives its close approach to the Sun in late November, it will be extremely bright throughout December - perhaps as bright as the Full Moon! As long as the comet stays intact, its closest approach to Earth on December 26th will be a heavenly holiday gift for all stargazers! You won't want to miss the Geminids meteor shower which peaks on the evening of December 13th - look for meteors coming from the constellation Gemini.
Featured Customer - Richard C. Dedicated stargazer and astrophotographer Richard C. is this month's featured customer. Richard has been curious about outer space since his youth, and within the last few years he has amassed an enviable collection of Orion equipment which has helped him not only observe night sky wonders, but to also capture their beauty in his astrophotos.
Featured Astrophoto - Up Close Inside The Pelican Nebula We found this month's Featured Customer, Richard C. thanks to this striking astrophoto he captured which takes us up-close inside the beautiful Pelican Nebula. This astrophoto was recently selected as an award-winner in our sixth annual StarShoot Photo Contest.
Featured Article - How Do I Judge Sky Conditions? Read this month's Featured Article to learn tips on how to judge the various factors of night sky seeing conditions. Since factors such as transparency, stability, and limiting magnitude affect how you see things through astronomical binoculars and telescopes, learning how to assess sky conditions is worthwhile for every amateur astronomer.