Observing

Leonid meteor shower maximum blighted by the Moon

16 November 2016 Ade Ashford

The maximum of the annual Leonid meteor shower, when up to around 15 shooting stars per hour might be expected in a dark sky, is predicted to occur in the small hours of Thursday 17 November for observers in Western Europe and the UK. However, the famously swift, bright Leonids — some with persistent trails — will have to contend with a Moon just three days after full.

Observing

The Moon meets Aldebaran and the Hyades in the evening sky of 15 November

15 November 2016 Ade Ashford

As dusk fades to dark on the evening of Tuesday 15 November, observers in the British Isles and Western Europe can see the rising 16-day-old Moon less than 2 degrees away from Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus. While an occultation of the star occurs around 17h UT for observers in Japan, central Asia and the Middle East, skywatchers in the UK will have to settle for a near miss.

Observing

Let the Moon be your guide to locating planet Neptune on 9 November

8 November 2016 Ade Ashford

The penultimate 2016 occultation of Neptune by the Moon occurs on 9 November for observers in Western Asia, Eastern Europe and northernmost Africa. In Western Europe, the nine-day-old waxing gibbous Moon merely brushes by the outermost planet, but the pair will be close enough to be seen within the same field of view of a typical binocular from the UK.

Observing

Halloween near-Earth asteroid 2003 YT1 has Polaris encounter on 2 November

31 October 2016 Ade Ashford

At 9:24am GMT on 31 October 2016, near-Earth asteroid 164121 (2003 YT1) will safely fly by at a distance of 3.2 million miles (5.2 million kilometres), or 13.5 times the distance of the Moon. Furthermore, this 1.1-mile-(1.7-kilometre)-wide Apollo asteroid also passes very close to Polaris early on 2 November, creating a rare astrophotographic and observing opportunity.

Observing

See the old crescent Moon close to Jupiter in the morning sky

27 October 2016 Ade Ashford

UK observers with a clear sky an hour before sunrise on Friday 28 October should look very low in the east-southeast to see the slim crescent of the 27-day-old Moon less than four lunar diameters away from largest planet Jupiter. The Moon and Jupiter are also joined by third-magnitude double star gamma (γ) Virginis, commonly known as Porrima.

Observing

How to find Ceres, the nearest and brightest dwarf planet at its best

23 October 2016 Ade Ashford

Ceres, the largest minor planet inside the orbit of Neptune, passed closest to Earth on the evening of 22 October — the night of the last quarter Moon. With the lunar crescent now confined to the morning sky, grab your binoculars or telescope, print out some star charts from our online guide and track down the brightest of the dwarf planets while at its best.

Observing

See planet Uranus at its best in the autumn sky

8 October 2016 Ade Ashford

Have you ever seen Uranus with the naked eye? If not, moonless nights in October offer ideal conditions to test your visual acuity and sky clarity. Uranus reaches opposition on 15 October and attains a respectable altitude in the southern sky as seen from the British Isles. Here is our guide to tracking down the seventh planet from the Sun.

Observing

See Mercury at its best in the east at dawn

25 September 2016 Ade Ashford

Mercury is currently putting on a fine show in the east before dawn. Find a UK location with an unobstructed view due east an hour before sunrise to see the innermost planet some 6 degrees above the horizon from about 25 September—5 October. The very old crescent Moon lies just 2 degrees from Mercury at dawn on Thursday, 29 September.

Observing

See the Moon hide planet Neptune on 15 September

14 September 2016 Ade Ashford

Observers up for an extreme observing challenge may care to make an attempt at viewing the almost full Moon pass in front of planet Neptune soon after 8pm BST on Thursday, 15 September. The planet’s disappearance occurs at a low altitude in twilight for the British Isles, but can also be seen from a large swathe of Europe and western Russia.

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