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Talking about What We See in Space

Talking about What We See in Space
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Sky-watchers have had a busy year so far in 2024. There has been much to see among the stars and planets. In April, many people in the United States were able to watch a total eclipse of the sun. Coming up in the next few months there will be a nova of two stars. This week, we will learn about some of the special words you can use to talk about objects and events in the sky.

Visible to the naked eye

A nova is a star explosion. A pair of stars called T Corona Borealis, called the “Blaze Star,” will become very bright, so people almost everywhere on Earth, even in cities, can see it. Scientists say the event will be “visible to the naked eye” which means you do not need any special tools, like binoculars or a telescope, to see it. Visible is an adjective form related to the word “view.”


The two stars that form the Blaze Star produce an outburst, or increased period of energy, around every 80 years. Rebekah Hounsell is an assistant research scientist specializing in nova events at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“We don’t often see a repeated outburst in a human lifetime, and rarely one so relatively close to our own system,” Hounsell said. Material from one star moves toward another and causes the explosion, or outburst, of energy. This makes the bright light we can see from Earth.


Scientists say they are not sure exactly when we will be able to see the nova. But you will surely hear about it on the news. Your next question might be, “How can I find it in the sky?” This is when you will need to know the word “constellation” and how to find one in the sky. A constellation is a group of stars. Some constellations look like particular shapes to people on Earth. The nova coming this year is in the constellation Corona Borealis, or Northern Crown.

You can find Corona Borealis between the constellations Hercules and Bootes using this star map by NASA
You can find Corona Borealis between the constellations Hercules and Bootes using this star map by NASA


There are many uses for the preposition “between” for talking about the upcoming nova and its constellation. If you make an imaginary line between the stars it in you get a curved line that looks like a head piece worn by kings and queens. To find it, you can look for the two brightest stars in the Northern Hemisphere, Arcturus and Vega. In the space between them you will find two constellations, Hercules and Bootes. Northern Crown is between them.


People enjoyed another event in the sky in April: a total eclipse of the sun. The moon moved between Earth and the sun, causing a shadow, or an area of darkness, on Earth. The path of the moon’s shadow on Earth is called the “path of totality.” We can change an adjective such as “total” to a noun with the noun suffix -ity. The resulting noun means the state or condition of what the adjective describes. For example it is used with “active” to form “activity.”

The next total eclipse on Earth will be August 12, 2026, and it will be visible in Spain.

And that’s Everyday Grammar!

I’m Andrew Smith.

To learn more about the nova see our Science story:

A free online star map on this website will help you find the constellations in the sky where you live.

Jill Robbins wrote this lesson for Learning English.


Words in This Story

eclipsen. an occasion when the sun looks like it is completely or partially covered with a dark circle because the moon is between the sun and the Earth

novan. a star that suddenly increases greatly in brightness and then within a few months or years becomes less bright again

visibleadj. able to be seen

viewv. to look at (something) carefully

particular adj. used to indicate that one specific person or thing is being referred to and no others

curved - adj. having a round shape

Do you like looking at the events in space? What is your favorite place to watch the sky? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.