A Triangle of Planets!

A trio of bright planets will gather together in the Name A Star Live constellation “Virgo” in early August, putting on quite a show for stargazers around the world!

To enjoy this heavenly treat, go outside about 45 minutes after sunset each night during the first week of August and face west.  (See diagram below.)  The red planet Mars, the beautiful ringed planet Saturn, and the hot and cloudy planet Venus will fly in a triangular formation that will change from night-to-night.

Triangle of Planets
Mars, Saturn, Venus and Mercury -- toward the western horizon -- about 45 minutes after sunset on August 28

Moreover, if you have a good, clear view of the western horizon you might also see the elusive planet Mercury.  If trees, buildings, hills or other structures are in your way, try to observe Mercury from an elevated location, like a hilltop or an upper-level office in a skyscraper or other building.

Back to the planetary triangle:  On August 1, Mars and Saturn will be quite close to one another, while Venus will stand aloofly apart.  But over the course of the next week, Venus will lose its shyness and gradually move closer and closer to Mars and Saturn.  By August 8, the three planets will form a compact triangle.

But don’t let appearances fool you!  While these three planets may appear to be close to one another, in reality they are quite far apart: On August 8, Saturn will be about 951 million miles (1.5 trillion kilometers) from Earth; Mars will be about 190 million miles (305 million km) from Earth; and Venus will be a paltry 72 million miles (115 million km) from Earth.  To put all that in perspective … If you could drive your car to nearby Venus at the leisurely rate of 55 miles per hour (about 89 km/hour), it would take you 149 years to get there!

July 2010 Night Sky

Want to see where your star is in the night sky?

Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky. Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations. Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation.

You can use our online World Constellation Guide to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight). Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star. (That’s why we include the SLOOH online telescope experience in our Deluxe, Framed and Ultimate Gift Sets!) But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope.

You can also find your constellation by using our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software. A planisphere is another useful device.

A Bullet from Another Galaxy

N49 -- A supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud
This beautiful composite image shows N49, the aftermath of a supernova explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy located near our own Milky Way. A new long observation from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, shown in blue, reveals evidence for a bullet-shaped object being blown out of a debris field left over from an exploded star. The object is traveling at about five million miles per hour. Click on the photo for more information. Credit: X-ray: (NASA/CXC/Penn State/S.Park et al.); Optical: NASA/STScI/UIUC/Y.H.Chu & R.Williams et al

The Planets This Month

Several planets are visible with the naked eye in July, including Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.

  • Venus is the bright object you’ll notice in the western sky around sunset this month. It is in the constellation Virgo throughout July.
  • Above Venus is the red planet, Mars, which is in the constellation Leo for most of this month, but moves into Virgo July 19.
  • Above Mars is the ringed planet, which is in the constellation Virgo all month. If you live in the northern hemisphere of Earth, look for Saturn toward the southwest after sunset. If you live in the southern hemisphere, look for Saturn toward the northwest after sunset. Like all the other planets, Saturn gradually moves west across the night sky. In fact, Saturn will be visible through most of each night in June.
  • If you’re an early bird, then you can see Jupiter in the hours before sunrise in July.  If you’re in the northern hemisphere of Earth, Jupiter will be the bright object in the sky almost due south at sunrise.  If you’re in the southern hemisphere, Jupiter will be almost due north at sunrise.   Next to Jupiter is the planet Uranus, but you’ll need a telescope to see it.
Views of Jupiter showing missing cloud band
The giant and stormy planet Jupiter has gone through a makeover, as seen in these comparative Hubble Space Telescope images taken nearly 11 months apart. Several months ago the dark Southern Equatorial Belt vanished. The last time this happened was in the early 1970s, when we didn’t have powerful enough telescopes to study the change in detail.
Left
A Hubble picture from July 2009 captures the planet’s familiar appearance from the past several decades with alternating zones of high altitude ammonia ice crystal clouds (white strips) and belts of lower altitude material (dark strips). The image was taken to study a wispy patch of dark debris in the far southern hemisphere caused by the suspected explosion of an asteroid plunging into the lower atmosphere on July 19, 2009.

Right
A Hubble picture from June 2010 reveals a slightly higher altitude layer of white ammonia ice crystal clouds that appears to obscure the deeper, darker belt clouds of the Southern Equatorial Belt. The Hubble Jupiter team predicts that these clouds should clear out in a few months.

Hubble also resolved a string of dark spots further south of the vanished belt. Based on past observations, the Hubble Jupiter team expects to see similar spots appear in the Southern Equatorial Belt, right before the white clouds clear out in a few months.

These natural colour comparative planet portraits were taken in visible light with Hubble’s new Wide Field Camera 3.

Credit: NASA, ESA, M. H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley, USA), H. B. Hammel (Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado, USA), A. A. Simon-Miller (Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA) and the Jupiter Impact Science Team.

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June 2010 Night Sky

Want to see where your star is in the night sky?

Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky. Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations. Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation.

You can use our online World Constellation Guide to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight). Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star. (That’s why we include the SLOOH online telescope experience in our Deluxe, Framed and Ultimate Gift Sets!) But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope.

Star-forming galaxies like grains of sand

Thousands of galaxies crowd into this recently-released Herschel Space Observatory image of the distant Universe. Each dot is an entire galaxy containing billions of stars. These galaxies are located in the constellation Ursa Major, one of Name A Star Live's constellations. Credit: European Space Agency

You can also find your constellation by using our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software. A planisphere is another useful device.

The Planets This Month

Several planets are visible with the naked eye in May, including Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.

  • Venus is the bright object you’ll notice in the western sky around sunset this month: It will set in the west a couple of hours after sunset. It is in the constellation Cancer now.
  • Mars is in the constellation is in Leo this month: If you live in the northern hemisphere of Earth, Mars will appear toward the west-southwest after sunset. If you live in the southern hemisphere, Mars will appear toward the north-northwest at sunset.
  • The ringed planet Saturn will be to the east of Mars — in the constellation Virgo. If you live in the northern hemisphere of Earth, look for Saturn toward the southwest after sunset. If you live in the southern hemisphere, look for Saturn toward the northwest after sunset. Like all the other planets, Saturn gradually moves west across the night sky. In fact, Saturn will be visible through most of each night in June.
  • If you’re an early bird, then you might see the mighty planet Jupiter as it rises above the eastern horizon before sunrise this month. Next to Jupiter is the planet Uranus, but you’ll need a telescope to see it.
This illustrates the relative sizes of Uranus, Earth and Earth's Moon. The images are shown at the proper relative size, but not the correct relative distance from each other. Uranus is approximately 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers) in diameter, or about four times the size of Earth. The Earth is approximately 7,900 miles (12,800 kilometers) in diameter, or about four times the diameter of the Moon, 2,100 miles (3,500 kilometers). Credit: NASA, ESA and L. Sromovsky (University of Wisconsin)
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May 2010 Night Sky

Want to see where your star is in the night sky?

Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky.  Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations.  Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation.

You can use our new, online World Constellation Guide to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight). Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star.  (That’s why we include the SLOOH online telescope experience in our Deluxe, Framed and Ultimate Gift Sets!)  But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope.

You can also find your constellation by using our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software.  A planisphere is another useful device.

Galaxy Cluster
Galaxy Cluster MACS J025.4-1222. Click image above to view video.
Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, M. Bradac (University of California, Santa Barbara), and S. Allen (Stanford University)

The Planets This Month

Several planets are visible with the naked eye in May, including Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.

Saturn
Hubble Space Telescope photo of Saturn: Note the aurora at the bottom of the planet. Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Clarke (Boston University), and Z. Levay (STScI)

  • Venus is the bright object you’ll notice in the western sky around sunset this month: It will set in the west a couple of hours after sunset.
  • Mars is in the constellation Cancer this month: If you live in the northern hemisphere of Earth, Mars will appear toward the south after sunset. If you live in the southern hemisphere, Mars will appear toward the north at sunset.
  • The ringed planet Saturn will be to the east of Mars — in the constellation Virgo. If you live in the northern hemisphere of Earth, look for Saturn toward the southeast after sunset. If you live in the southern hemisphere, look for Saturn toward the northeast after sunset. Like all the other planets, Saturn gradually moves west across the night sky. In fact, Saturn will be visible through most of each night in May.
  • If you’re an early bird, then you might see the mighty planet Jupiter as it rises above the eastern horizon shortly before sunrise this month.

Get a rare look at Mercury — Venus too!

April 2010 is a particularly good time to see the planet Mercury.  Mercury is the innermost planet to the sun, and is thus difficult to observe.  But you can get a good look at Mercury in early April this year, especially if you live in the northern hemisphere of Earth.

Look toward the west at sunset (being careful not to look at the sun!).  You should see two bright points of light above the western horizon.  The object on top is the planet Venus, and the object beneath that is the planet Mercury.   Both planets are in the constellation Aries, which is a Name A Star Live constellation.  So if you have a star in Aries, then if you find Venus and Mercury, you know your star is nearby!

Venus and Jupiter at Sunset
Venus and Jupiter shortly after sunset, June 2002. Credit: NASA

Mercury and Venus will appear closest together on the evenings of April 3 and 4.  Again, the best views will be from the northern hemisphere of Earth.  If you live in the southern hemisphere, then the two planets will appear so close to the western horizon at sunset that you may not get a good view.  (Again, don’t look at the sun!)

If you observe the two planets through a telescope. you’ll notice that Venus looks like a bright, almost-full circle, while Mercury looks like a semi-circle — or even a crescent shape.  This is because Mercury is so very close to the sun that we never really see the full face of the planet.

Don’t wait!  Your best views of Venus and Mercury will be in the first week to 10 days of April.

April 2010 Constellations

Want to see where your star is in the night sky?

Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky.  Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations.  Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation.

You can use the World Constellation Map below to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight) in April. Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star.  (That’s why we include the SLOOH online telescope experience in our Deluxe, Framed and Ultimate Gift Sets!)  But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope.

Name A Star Live world map

DIRECTIONS: Find your approximate location in one of the horizontal bars on the map, and then note the corresponding red number (1-7).  Then find your number in the list below to identify what Name A Star Live constellations you can see this month from your corner of the world.

1. For those of you in far northern climes, it doesn’t really get dark till past midnight in April.  But if you’re willing to go outside at around 1:00 am you can see stars in the constellations Leo, Cancer, Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, and Ursa Minor.
2. Cancer, Gemini, Leo, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor and Virgo are visible before midnight.
3. Cancer, Gemini, Leo, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor and Virgo are visible.
4.r Look for Cancer, Gemini, Leo, Ursa Major and Virgo this month.
5. Cancer, Gemini, Leo, Libra and Virgo are visible this month.
6. Cancer, Leo, Libra and Virgo are visible.
7. Libra and Virgo are visible.

You can also find your constellation by using our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software.  A planisphere is another useful device.

See the planet Mars!

A heart-shaped surface feature on Mars.
From Mars, With Love. This heart-shaped pit on the surface of Mars was photographed by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor.

Pull out your telescope and look to the skies above, for this is a good time to see the planet Mars as the famous “Red Planet” is near what’s called “opposition.”  This means that Mars and Earth are close to one another in their orbits around the Sun.  (See diagram below.)

Name A Star Live diagram of Mars at opposition
At opposition Mars and Earth are at their closest approach to one another in their orbits around the Sun. (Note that this diagram is not to scale.)

It’s called “opposition” because, when viewed from Earth, Mars and the Sun appear at opposite sides of the sky at sunset: on the day of opposition, Mars rises over the eastern horizon just as the sun sets over the western horizon.  While the Mars opposition was January 29, 2010, you can get good views of Mars throughout February.

If the star you have named is in the constellation Cancer then you’re in luck, for Mars is in the constellation Cancer as well for the next few months:  If you find Mars, then you’ve found the constellation Cancer!  Mars appears as a rather bright, reddish-orange object in the eastern sky during the first few hours after sunset this month.

Mars
Hubble Space Telescope image of Mars Credit: David Crisp and the WFPC2 Science Team (JPL/CIT), and NASA

If you have any trouble finding the planet, just use your Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software, which is included in our Deluxe, Framed and Ultimate Gift Sets.  Also, you can view Mars through the SLOOH online telescope — Name A Star Live is the only name-a-star company to offer SLOOH.

Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to view the Red Planet as Mars oppositions occur only about once every 26 months.

Top Ten Valentine’s Star Messages

Each Name A Star Live Gift Set includes a letter-size star certificate that displays the name of the star, astronomical information about the star, and an area where you can include a brief personal message for your gift recipient.

Here are some notable Valentine’s messages our customers wrote in January (we’ve changed the names to protect our customers’ privacy):

  1. There are not enough stars in the sky to compare to the love that I will always have for you.   Happy Valentine’s Day, my beautiful Roger.
  2. Happy Valentine’s Day! This is to celebrate our first Valentine’s together.  Remember me every time you gaze at the stars – yours will be the brightest and most beautiful of them all =)    I love you.
  3. No star could ever compare to you.  I love you so much.
  4. To the woman that means the world to me. I give you this star as a sign of my love for you.   My love extends to our star and back again. I love you, always and forever yours…
  5. To the one whom I love most in this galaxy… Forever my wife.   Happy Valentine’s Day!
  6. Kiss me and you will see Stars.   Love me and I will give them to you.
  7. For our first Valentines.  Every time I am away I will look up in the night sky and see your star and think of you.  Always…
  8. You are everlasting in my heart.   Every time you think of your star, remember, like the stars, my love for you endures forever.
  9. I love you more than life. You are my world, my one true love, and my shining star.
  10. Mi Amor, I Love you so much.
Name A Star for Valentine's Day!

Be sure to check out our Twitter and Facebook pages where we’ll keep you up-to-date on all things Name A Star Live!

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February 2010 Constellations

Want to see where your star is in the night sky?

Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky.  Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations.  Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation.

You can use the World Constellation Map below to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight) in February. Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star.  (That’s why we include the SLOOH online telescope experience in our Deluxe, Framed and Ultimate Gift Sets!)  But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope.

Name A Star Live world map

DIRECTIONS: Find your approximate location in one of the horizontal bars on the map, and then note the corresponding red number (1-7).  Then find your number in the list below to identify what Name A Star Live constellations you can see this month from your corner of the world.

1. Those of you in northern climes can see Andromeda, Aries, Cancer, Cassiopeia, Gemini, Orion, Taurus, Ursa Major (where the “Big Dipper” is) and Ursa Minor (where the “Little Dipper” and the North Star are located).
2. Andromeda, Aries, Cancer, Cassiopeia, Gemini, Leo, Orion, Taurus, Ursa Major  and Ursa Minor are visible.
3. Andromeda, Aries, Cancer, Cassiopeia, Gemini, Leo, Orion,  Taurus, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor are visible.
4. Look for Aries, Cancer, Gemini, Leo, Orion and Taurus this month.
5. Aries, Cancer, Gemini, Leo, Orion and Taurus are visible this month.
6. Cancer, Leo, Gemini and Orion are visible.
7. Orion is visible.

You can also find your constellation by using our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software.  A planisphere is another useful device.

November 2009 Constellations

Want to see where your star is in the night sky?

Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky.  Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations.  Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation.

You can use the World Constellation Map below to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight) in November. Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star.  (That’s why we include the SLOOH online telescope experience in our Deluxe, Framed and Ultimate Gift Sets!)  But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope.

constellation_map2

DIRECTIONS: Find your approximate location in one of the horizontal bars on the map, and then note the corresponding red number (1-7).  Then find your number in the list below to identify what Name A Star Live constellations you can see this month from your corner of the world.

1. Those of you in northern climes can see Andromeda, Aries, Cassiopeia, Gemini, Pisces, Taurus, and Ursa Minor, where the “Little Dipper” and the North Star are located.
2. Andromeda, Aquarius, Aries, Capricorn, Cassiopeia, Gemini, Orion, Pisces, Taurus  and Ursa Minor are visible.
3. Andromeda, Aquarius, Aries, Capricorn, Cassiopeia, Gemini, Orion, Pisces and Taurus are visible.
4. Look for Andromeda, Aquarius, Aries, Capricorn, Cassiopeia, Gemini, Orion, Pisces and Taurus this month.
5. Andromeda, Aquarius, Aries, Capricorn, Orion, Pisces and Taurus are visible this month.
6. Aries, Pisces, Orion and Taurus are visible.
7. Aries, Orion, Pisces and Taurus are visible.

You can also find your constellation by using our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software.  A planisphere is another useful device.

Here’s a neat image from the Hubble Space Telescope of a beautiful object that can be seen from just about anywhere in the world at this time of the year:

The Pleiades
M45, The Pleiades Star Cluster

Located in the constellation Taurus, the Pleiades Star Cluster (designated “M45” by astronomers) is one of the most famous and beautiful objects in the night sky.  The Pleiades, which can be seen without the aid of a telescope,  are often confused with the Little Dipper due to the arrangement of the Pleiades’ brightest stars in a ladle-like formation.  While, using the naked eye, we can distinguish anywhere from six to nine stars in the Pleiades (depending on local observing conditions and one’s eyesight), in reality M45 has approximately 500 stars located about 400 light-years from Earth.

The Pleiades are also known as “The Seven Sisters” that represent the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione from classical mythology.  The story goes that when Orion attempted to burst into the private sanctuary of the sisters’ home, Venus turned them into a flock of doves so they could fly away to safety.

The Aborigines also interpreted this group of stars as a cluster of young girls. These girls were seen as musicians who played for a group of boys, which are represented by the stars that are seen in the Belt of  Orion.

The Zuni people of North America called the Pleiadies “seeds” because the first appearance of the Pleiades helped the Zuni decide when to plant their crops. The Zuni also knew that when the Pleiades moved directly overhead in the early morning it was time to harvest what they had planted, because the winter was coming soon.

The Japanese word for this set of stars is “Subaru,” after which the famous Japanese car company is named.  In fact the Subaru corporation’s logo is patterned after M45.

November’s Planets

Jupiter still dominates the evening skies this month: For those of you in the northern hemisphere of Earth, look for the bright, steady light towards the south shortly after sunset.  For those of you in the southern hemisphere, look for Jupiter towards the north shortly after sunset.

You earlybirds in the northern hemisphere will see Mars almost due south (almost due north for those of you in the southern hemisphere) shortly before sunrise this month.  Regardless of where you live, Saturn will be above the eastern horizon before sunrise in November.