See Five Planets At Once! (6, If You Count Earth)

January 24, 2016

Tony Berendsen told me there is an opportunity to meet with Tony and other astronomers at the UNR Redfield campus on Mt Rose Highway & Wedge Parkway across from the Raley’s shopping center in Reno, NV, around 5:30 in the morning on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. Mercury should come up over the horizon and into view around 6:20. It will be followed by the other planets.


Star Guide: See 5 planets at once! (6, if you count Earth)
by Tony Berendsen

Five naked-eye planets ride the early morning sky in late January and early February. They are recast, like the characters of a Sergio Leone spaghetti Western “A Fistful of Dollars,” where Sergio portrayed western cowboys in a realistic fashion, rather than the traditional “villain wears black, hero wears white” structure of early Hollywood. As we gaze at the original five naked-eye planets over the next few weeks, we see them in new light,and with a depth of knowledge.

No longer do the planets represent mythological gods, nor does our understanding of them suffer from the crude blurry telescopic images of early planetary ground-based exploration that left many to imagine canals, vegetation, and alien civilizations. Instead the planets are cast in the stark realism of modern science. We have been to all of these planets; some of them many times. We have gone to them via robots sending back a Robert Ballard-style telepresence to our computer monitors, TVs and periodicals. Our children know them as “other worlds,” and in the near future some of them will set foot on at least one of them.

In comparison to the Earth, the planets vary wildly in size and environment. The only planet similar to our home is Mars, but even though it was once wet, it’s a very different and hostile place. Dusty, arid and cold, with almost no magnetic field to keep harmful cosmic rays and high energy particles from hitting its surface, we would not survive its surface without spacesuits and enclosed habitats.

Venus, the brightest of the naked-eye planets, is the most similar in size to the Earth. It is our closest neighbor and is even more hostile than Mars, with atmospheric pressures similar to ocean depths, lots of carbon dioxide, sulfuric acid rain, and surface temperatures so high lead would melt! The surface of Venus is completely obscured by clouds. We have only see the surface by Russian landers and radar mapping.

Mercury is the nearest planet to the Sun, and only sightly larger than our Moon. It it is a dense barren globe of rock and iron with the thinnest atmosphere of all the planets. Daytime temperatures can be as high as 800 F and because of the thin atmosphere the temperature can drop to -280 F at night.

Jupiter is the largest and second-brightest naked-eye planet. It is tremendously larger than the Earth and big enough that it could fit within its volume all the planets and the asteroids too. Jupiter is a gas giant with an atmosphere so thick that pressures would be greater than the bottom of Earth’s oceans before finding solid ground.

Saturn is the most distant of the five at almost 900 million miles from the Sun. It takes light about 8.3 minutes to travel from the Sun to the Earth, but almost 80 minutes to reach Saturn. Saturn’s rings make it the most distinctive-looking planet in the solar system. It has a low density too — so much so that if you had a cosmic ocean large enough it would float like a ringed fishing bobber.

The early morning “fistful of planets” lineup begins the last week of January and continues for the first couple weeks in February. On Jan. 29, 2016 at 6:30 AM, check out the view: Mercury on the eastern horizon, then Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter all strung along the ecliptic toward the west with the Moon in between Jupiter and Mars. Mercury can be the most difficult to find, so I suggest loading up the SkyPortal astronomy app to help. Find a vantage point with a clear view of the eastern horizon and arrive a little early to find your bearings and enjoy a rare glimpse into the solar system.

Reprinted with permission from Tony Berendsen, aka Tony the Star Guide. He runs Tahoe Star Tours. He can be reached at 775-232-0844 or


Celebrate Earth Hour This Saturday! #YourPower

March 26, 2015

World Earth Hour happens this coming Saturday (It is always observed on the last Saturday of March.) wherever you are on Earth at 8:30 p.m. Local Time.

Another interesting site explaining Earth Hour and all kinds of family activities is from the group that started it in 2007: World Wildlife Fund.

Here is a story about it from – Earth Hour tells it like this.

Check out also .

How dark will your city/town/village get? We will see!

Check out other ideas and activities to do with kids on by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

Fascinating Letter to Grandson

January 4, 2015

Knight A Kiplinger normally writes for investors and executives. In his December 19, 2014 letter, he actually wrote a letter to his first grandson who was born in 2014 in the same fashion as his grandfather did for him and three other grandsons back in 1963. He also gave permission to share his special letter which is what I am now doing with you.

You can read it here.

It is available to download as PDF from if you would like to do that.

Check out other ideas and activities to do with kids on by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

Reno Area Fireworks July 4th 2013

July 4, 2013

There will be several fireworks displays in Northern Nevada celebrating July 4th in style. I’d much rather have people go see the professional shows than to get an accidental fire started due to people playing with illegal ones! It is just too dry to take the chance!

Carson City: after dark at Mills Park
Fallon: ~8:45-9 off Rattlesnake Raceway
Incline Village/Crystal Bay: after dark at Incline Beach
Reno: ~9 pm at Wingfield Park
Sparks: ~9:45 pm off the top of John Ascuaga’s Nugget
Tahoe City: at dusk on Commons Beach
Virginia City: after dusk in the Comstock Hills for 25 minutes

Have a Happy and Safe 4th of July!

Check out my blogs about things to do with kids on by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

How to Get to the Mall for Washington DC Fireworks

July 4, 2013

If you haven’t experienced it before, you should check out the the Washington DC fireworks!

For most of us who are not in Washington DC at the moment, we can watch the Washinton DC fireworks on PBS Television tonight: A Capitol Fourth 2013. Every year has been just AWESOME!! PBS TV runs the program live and then re-runs it again for those who missed it! Here is the link:

If you are lucky enough to be physically in the neighborhood, here is an article about the best places to see them: Here is another article: Washingtonian

Here are suggestions for how to get to the Mall: Getting to the Mall Suggestions

Going by car is not suggested. Use public transportation, i.e. take the Metro! Stations nearby include Smithsonian, Metro Center, Gallery Place-Chinatown, Judiciary Square, Federal Triangle and L’Enfant Plaza. The Smithsonian Metro station will be open all day! It typically takes 1 ½ to 2 hours to clear the Mall after the fireworks.

If you must drive, here are parking garages near the Mall – but I’m not sure all of them will be available: Parking suggestions

On the 4th of July all visitors must go through security checkpoints to enter the National Mall and areas along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Coolers, backpacks, packages and persons will be subject to inspection. Possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages and the use of personal fireworks are prohibited.

Here is an explanation of how fireworks work:

Check out ideas and activities to do with kids on by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

Space Shuttle Endeavour Trip Across LA Streets

October 16, 2012

The LA Times has a great time-lapse video of the Endeavour‘s journey from LAX to the California Science Center in Exhibition Park for display. Enjoy it here: LATimes video

Check out my other blogs about things to do with kids on by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

New Cover Displays Contest Seals For Grandpa!

November 29, 2011

Check out the new cover for Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too! on – I’m so excited! It is published just in time for the holidays!

Check out my other blogs about things to do with kids on by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

%d bloggers like this: