For weekly updates on the night sky and astronomy news, visit the Planetarium's Jersey Skies column on nj.com. Click here.
The International Space Station is often visible in the skies over New Jersey. The station will appear as a very bright moving star. Check the Heavens Above web site for times and details. Remember that your fist at arm's length is about 10 degrees wide. Use your fist to get an idea of how high it will be in the sky.
The Sun's magnetic field varies over time. Large eruptions on the Sun can cause charged particles to hit the Earth's magnetic field and then the atmosphere. This causes the air to fluoresce. This is known as the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). This can occasionally be strong enough to be seen from New Jersey.
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Buying a Telescope
There are many "automated" telescopes becoming available. While this may seem appealing to own a telescope that will do all the work for you, be aware that these are often quite complicated and don't always perform as well as advertised. You still need to know some basic constellations and names of the brighter stars in order to use them. Although some of these telescopes can point for you, once aligned properly, it can't see for you. Looking through a telescope is a skill that takes time to learn. Dobsonian style telescopes are very popular with stargazers. Easy to set up, easy to use and inexpensive for their size, they are considered the best choice for beginners.
Keep in mind the following tips:
- Consider joining a local astronomy club before buying a telescope. Amateur astronomers are a good source for advice, especially if you're a beginner.
- The size of the mirror or lens is the most important thing about a telescope—not magnification! The larger its diameter, the better the view. Don't fall for the old "Magnifies 900x!" trick.
- Consider buying a pair of binoculars as a first telescope. They are inexpensive and very portable. "10 X 50" size binoculars are good for stargazing.
- I have yet to find a good telescope under $300. Don't fall for the old "$500 telescope on sale for only $99.99!" scheme.
- Don't blow your entire budget on the telescope itself. You will likely need additional eyepieces, finderscopes, maps and other accessories to use with the telescope.
Check out the following article for more information: Sky & Telescope: "Choosing Your First Telescope"