Once in a Blue Moon…

July 29, 2015: “Once in a Blue Moon” is actually going to happen this Friday! More specifically, a full moon will occur late Thursday night into Friday morning.  The “Blue Moon” is the term for the 2nd full moon of the month (and not because it turns blue).

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

While the phrase “once in a blue moon” is used to describe something rare, the actual occurrence of a blue moon isn’t all that rare. The average lunar cycle (from full to new and back again) lunar cycle is 29 1/2 days, so almost every month can have 2 full moons if the timing is right. I say almost because February is the only month that can’t.  Sorry February; 28 days just doesn’t cut it.

The definition of the blue moon has changed a little within the last few decades.  It used to mean the 3rd full moon in a season (spring, summer, etc.) with 4 full moons. A misunderstanding eventually lead to the current definition of 2 full moons in a month. No matter what the moon is called this time around, see if you get the chance to take a peek and enjoy the view Thursday night!

– Alex


Posted under event, science, space

This post was written by Alex Kirchner on July 29, 2015

Look Up!

We will once again enjoy another clear, calm and cool night. So if you are looking for something to do on this Wednesday night, why not go outside and do a little star-gazing? As an added bonus, you’ll be able to view two of our solar system’s planets!


Look up into the south-southwest sky after sunset with the moon as your guide. The planet Saturn will be visible up and to the right of the waxing gibbous moon. A little more to the right and higher in the sky will be the faint red glow of Mars. These two planets will remain visible until about midnight or one o’clock.

Looking ahead, the next full moon occurs Friday night into Saturday morning (officially at 6:26am Saturday, July 12th). This full moon will be a supermoon! What is a supermoon, you might ask? It is a full moon that occurs while the moon is the closest distance to Earth on its orbit around Earth. This means that the moon will look larger than normal. Unfortunately, we may have a hard time seeing this supermoon. Keep and eye on the forecast, because cloudcover may keep us in the dark.



Posted under space, weather

This post was written by qni_it on July 9, 2014

Strawberry Moon

The Algonquin Native American tribes of the northern and eastern United States had a unique way of tracking the months and the seasons. Every month has at least one full moon (occasionally a month may have two full moons since the lunar cycle is about 29 days). Every full moon was named after a plant, animal, or weather condition that related to that particular time of year.

For example, the November full moon is called the Beaver Moon. During this time of year, beavers would be actively preparing for winter and the Native Americans would set up their beaver traps before the swamps and creeks froze.


The month of June is known for the Strawberry Moon. The reason behind this name is pretty simple. Berries and other wild fruits begin to ripen at this time of year. The Native Americans knew it would soon be time to gather these berries. Since wild strawberries have such a short harvest season, the full moon took on its name.



Posted under history, space

This post was written by qni_it on June 12, 2014

A Martian in the Sky

Tonight we will have a big and bright view of Mars thanks to its positioning and a mostly clear sky. Today is the “Opposition of Mars”, meaning that it a day when the Earth is directly between Mars and the Sun. As the sun sets in the west, look off to the east and you will find Mars slowly beginning to rise. Around midnight, look straight up! Mars will shine brightly and appear up to 10 times brighter than the brightest star in the sky. It will have a burnt orange color. If you have a telescope, it will be close enough to pick out the frozen north pole of the Martian planet. CaptureOh, and if you take any pictures, post them on our Facebook page or email us! – Greg


Posted under space

This post was written by qni_it on April 8, 2014

Northern Lights possible tonight

NORTHERNLIGHTSHey skywatchers!

Tonight may be your night to see the Northern Lights (aka Aurora Borealis). Residents in England caught some dramatic shots of these earlier in the night. As night falls on the eastern part of North America right now, I expect to see some come in. The big question is how far south will they be?

dark-sky-03There’s a pretty decent chance of seeing them in Northern Wisconsin tonight. Here in Northern Illinois? We’ll see! Remember, in order to see the lights you must get away from the city lights and look directly north. Your proximity to a city will decrease your chance to see them because of light pollution (shown in the image to the left). You may see some greens and reds if it intensifies at all. If you see them, click on our Facebook page and let us know! Of course, if you get any camera shots, send them at once (either on Facebook or via e-mail)! space station


Posted under space

This post was written by qni_it on February 27, 2014

Satellite may crash to Earth next week

1107-satellite-falling_full_600Just a week or so ago I blogged about an asteroid that passed close enough to come between the Earth and the Moon. Now astronomers are watching a satellite that ran out of fuel. Because there’s nothing to keep it in orbit, the Earth’s gravity will likely bring it down sometime next week!

The satellite, named GOCE, or the European Space Agency’s “Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer,” weighs 2,425 pounds. Calculations have it falling to Earth as early as Sunday, November 10th. The problem is no one can predict where it will fall!

What’s for certain is the satellite will break up into many pieces, but some of those pieces could fall to the earth. RedPlanet.com says some could weigh as much as 200 pounds.

This satellite is at the end of its life, but is a large piece of equipment. A day before reentry, scientists hope to pinpoint the impact to a four to five hour timeframe. Since most of the Earth is covered with water, it is not likely to crash-land in a city or highly populated area. Instead, it will likely fall in a 15-20 square yard uninhabited area.

We’ll keep you updated! -Eric


Posted under news, space

This post was written by qni_it on November 8, 2013

Asteroid to come between the Earth and Moon

asteroidNew information tonight about an asteroid that will pass very close to the Earth within the next hour. According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the space rock is about the size of a semi truck trailer. It will safely pass Earth October 29th around 4:45pm CDT.

According to NBC News, the rock was first observed just a few days ago, on October 25th. The path will bring it inside the orbit of the moon, which typically circles Earth from a distance of 239,000 miles. The asteroid is said to be between 39 and 89 feet wide, which means it is on the smaller end of near-Earth objects that NASA monitors as threats to our planet.

This asteroid is not expected to be visible, as it will not come in contact with Earth’s atmosphere. -Eric


Posted under science, space

This post was written by qni_it on October 29, 2013

Tips for seeing the Northern Lights

lightsEarlier this evening on the 13 Weather Authority Facebook page I gave you the heads up on possibly being able to see the Northern Lights tonight. I’ve seen a few reports from Southern Wisconsin. Before the 10pm newscast, I walked across the streets, allowed my eyes to adjust, and could see some faint green!

In order to see the lights, you must get away from the city lights and look directly north. Thankfully right now the Big Dipper is directly north. Allow your eyes to adjust by closing them completely for a minute or so. Then look north and focus on one spot. You may see some greens and reds if it intensifies at all.

Share your pics on Facebook or email to weather@wrex.com. Good luck! -Eric


Posted under space, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on October 8, 2013

Forecast: Small chance of Aurora Borealis next few nights

A Coronal Mass Ejection was observed on the sun early Tuesday morning. This video shows the filament, some 50 times the size of the Earth, exploding off the sun! It’s really cool to notice in the graphic below the size comparison between the Earth and the Sun.

The timing could produce a minor geomagnetic storm in the coming days. These could produce an Aurora (or Northern Lights) in the coming nights. We’ll be sure to let you know if we get to storm level! You can always check for yourself by bookmarking this link from the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.


Posted under space

This post was written by qni_it on August 20, 2013

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s… the I.S.S!

Tonight marks our third full moon out of four this summer (a rare occurrence) and is therefore considered a “blue moon”, but it isn’t the only reason you should look up tonight! CaptureThe International Space Station will be visible for two minutes tonight starting at 9:36PM and if you can’t make it outside tonight then you can catch it tomorrow. The space station will fly by at 8:47PM tomorrow and take 4 minutes to make its journey across the night sky. It will look similar to a shooting star but move far more slowly. The I.S.S. will track across the sky from the northwest to the southeast. -Greg


Posted under First Look, space

This post was written by qni_it on August 20, 2013