What am I looking at?

We are having an unusually clear night (so far) in Houghton, Michigan, located on the northwestern edge of the Upper Peninsula (almost surrounded by Lake Superior). All my windows face east (it’s a “box” apartment). Tonight I am seeing two extremely bright lights high in the sky that I don’t remember seeing, but again that may just be because it is seldom this clear. One is in the northeastern quadrant of the sky, and does not twinkle, so it would be either a planet or a satellite. The other is in the southeastern quadrant, and it does not seem to the naked eye to twinkle, but when I put binoculars on it, it seems to twinkle. But that might be because I sometimes have a slight hand tremor. Both lights are blue-white in color. I really want to know what they are. Any amateur astronomers around here?

FC might be able to help you out. He’s been an astronomy buff since 3rd grade.

one could be the space station .

[quote=“njc17, post:3, topic:45982”]
one could be the space station .
[/quote] any way to know?

[quote=“Susanna, post:2, topic:45982”]
FC might be able to help you out. He’s been an astronomy buff since 3rd grade.
[/quote] what are you seeing tonight where you live?

Patricia, not really. Unless Venus is near, that can light up pretty well. These days the Space station does become the brightest non stellar object out there.

[quote=“patriciareed, post:5, topic:45982”]
what are you seeing tonight where you live?
[/quote] after browsing the internet for a bit tonight, my money is on the planet Jupiter for the super-bright celestial body I was seeing in the northeast quadrant this evening. The ISS looks like a good bet for the slightly less brilliant (but still standout) light in the southeast quadrant.

Neither is visible to me any longer now at 10:30 pm. But they were super bright while I could see them. I have not much hope for tomorrow night, as it will probably be snowing according to the forecast.

I did research and Jupiter seems to be the standout planet right now.

[quote=“njc17, post:8, topic:45982”]
I did research and Jupiter seems to be the standout planet right now.
[/quote] yeah, I think that had to be it in the northeast. It is quite stunning! Look for it in your area tomorrow night. We have some snow coming in this weekend–hoping it doesn’t come in right away Friday evening. Jupiter (assuming that’s what I saw) came out pretty early.

I think the other bright one, not quite as bright, was the ISS? It was supposed to be quite visible Thursday evening too, and would have been (way, way) southeast of here according to the map I looked at, and that was the direction the second brightest “star” was in.

[quote=“Susanna, post:2, topic:45982”]
FC might be able to help you out. He’s been an astronomy buff since 3rd grade.
[/quote] Did FC get a chance to look for these Thursday evening? I got pulled away from the computer and was “out of touch” most of the night. I would think they would be noticeable again Friday evening if your sky is clear enough. I’m going to check them out again, but am worried about cloudy skies.

Mostly clouds and single-digit temps… :awkward:

I’m not sure what is where right now, but Venus will always be somewhere relatively low on the horizon; to the west if it’s up in the evening, and of course the east if it’s up in the morning.

One neat thing about Venus is that if you look at it in a telescope, it’s always a partial phase (half phase is when it’s at its most visible in terms of being well up after dark) like you often see the moon.

I was thinking that I was seeing Jupiter at a much warmer time of the year. If I get a good chance to look for it, I’ll be able to tell (Jupiter looks distinctive in a small telescope; a distinct disc, and you can make out a couple of the more prominant cloud bands, as well as some or all of its four biggest moons).

I’d like to find out what constellation Saturn is in these days; I haven’t seen it in a telescope since my teens. It looks tiny, but even in a small telescope, you can make out the rings (not the individual rings, but collectively).

[QUOTE=Fantasy Chaser;713684

]Mostly clouds and single-digit temps… :awkward:
I was afraid of that.

I’m not sure what is where right now, but Venus will always be somewhere relatively low on the horizon; to the west if it’s up in the evening, and of course the east if it’s up in the morning.
Both of my dazzlers were in the east in the early evening. That seems to knock Venus out of the running here.

[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]I was thinking that I was seeing Jupiter at a much warmer time of the year. If I get a good chance to look for it, I’ll be able to tell (Jupiter looks distinctive in a small telescope; a distinct disc, and you can make out a couple of the more prominant cloud bands, as well as some or all of its four biggest moons
. I hope you get a chance in the next couple of evenings. I’m almost certain it is Jupiter.

I’d like to find out what constellation Saturn is in these days; I haven’t seen it in a telescope since my teens. It looks tiny, but even in a small telescope, you can make out the rings (not the individual rings, but collectively).
that would be so cool! (here Patricia struggles with a brief but powerful bout of telescope envy!)

Ordinary binoculars can be enjoyable for stargazing, too. You don’t get the magnification of a telescope with common varieties, but the Milky Way, the moon, the Pleiades, other star clusters, and the Orion nebula all show up well in binoculars; so do naked-eye comets.

[quote=“Fantasy_Chaser, post:13, topic:45982”]
Ordinary binoculars can be enjoyable for stargazing, too. You don’t get the magnification of a telescope with common varieties, but the Milky Way, the moon, the Pleiades, other star clusters, and the Orion nebula all show up well in binoculars; so do naked-eye comets.
[/quote] I do have fairly good binoculars. Hoping to see my dazzlers again tonight, but the sky is much more overcast than last night. I knew I was getting a rare treat last night.

The blue-white that you mentioned kind of argues against Jupiter. Sirius (the brightest star in the sky outside of the sun) is in that part of the sky, to the lower-left of Orion (the easiest to identify constellation in the sky, mainly because of the three bright stars that make up Orion’s belt; his sword is where the Orion nebula (M42) is). Procyon is another bright star in that general part of the sky, to upper left of Orion, some ways farther to the left than Sirius.

[quote=“Fantasy_Chaser, post:15, topic:45982”]
The blue-white that you mentioned kind of argues against Jupiter. Sirius (the brightest star in the sky outside of the sun) is in that part of the sky, to the lower-left of Orion (the easiest to identify constellation in the sky, mainly because of the three bright stars that make up Orion’s belt; his sword is where the Orion nebula (M42) is). Procyon is another bright star in that general part of the sky, to upper left of Orion, some ways farther to the left than Sirius.
[/quote] But stars twinkle, right? No twinkle at all with my northeastern object. For some reason, couldn’t tell for sure with the southeastern one. This is all still from Thursday night, too cloudy to see anything last night. A somewhat puzzling thing was that even Thursday night, I could not see very many stars in the sky, if any. that was another thing that made the two I did see stand out (altho they were so brilliant they would anyway). But if it was a clear night I should have seen some of the constellations you mention but I didn’t. It may have been a partly cloudy sky.

Twinkling is a function of atmospheric conditions rather than the object being viewed. You get it a lot in the summer, not so much in the winter.

Never knew that! Was taught in school (so very long ago!): “stars twinkle, planets [and presumably satellites] don’t.” I am still convinced that what I saw Thursday night was Jupiter, because when I checked the internet, skimming a whole bunch of stargazing sites, they all were excited about Jupiter being so especially close, large, and bright right during this week (it was a jaw dropper), and right in the part of the sky where I saw it (northeast quadrant), and right at the time I saw it (early evening).

The other bright one, quite far away from my presumed Jupiter, I’m not totally sure about. The ISS would, I believe, be the other extra bright object in the sky, but most of the sites said “southwest sky” and what I was looking at was southeast. And I did not see visible movement–do you see that with the ISS? If not ISS, what would be best bets on that southwest bright object? At this time I was looking, early evening, I wasn’t even seeing the moon yet (of course I only see the eastern sky) and no other stars–just the two super-bright objects I have described.

I presume that the reason “stars twinkle and planets don’t” is that the planets are much closer than any star, so not as much distortion. Although, it would seem that there is no more atmosphere between us and the stars, and between us and the planets.

It might be also that the light of a planet is not its own light but merely reflected light from some other source. Whereas when we look at a star, we are actually looking at a blazing fire.