Observing

See Venus farthest from the Sun, in conjunction with Neptune on 12 January

10 January 2017 Ade Ashford

Thursday 12 January brings not only a full Moon, but also finds brightest planet Venus at its greatest easterly elongation from the Sun. By the time darkness falls in Western Europe and the UK, Venus also lies just 0.4 degrees from outermost planet Neptune, while Mars lies less than the span of a fist at arm’s length to their upper left.

Observing

See Mars and Neptune get close on New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day

31 December 2016 Ade Ashford

The young crescent Moon’s nightly motion from 31 December 2016 to 3 January 2017 carries it past dazzling planet Venus and first-magnitude Mars. A small telescope also reveals outermost planet Neptune, which passes just 0.02 degrees from Mars around 7h UT on 1 January, offering observers around the world a New Year’s Day treat.

Observing

See the Moon pass in front of Neptune on 6 December

4 December 2016 Ade Ashford

For the seventh and final time this year, the Moon occults outermost planet Neptune on Tuesday 6 December. Weather permitting, this event will be seen over a swathe of the Western Hemisphere including the northeastern USA, eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland and the western British Isles.

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.

News

Hubble makes first atmospheric study of Earth-sized exoplanets

21 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have conducted the first search for atmospheres around temperate, Earth-sized planets beyond our solar system. They found indications that increase the chances of habitability on two exoplanets known as TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c orbiting a red dwarf star approximately 40 light-years away.

Observing

Let the Moon be your guide to finding Neptune on 23 July

18 July 2016 Ade Ashford

Outermost planet Neptune reaches opposition on 2 September 2016, this year marking the 170th anniversary of the gas giant’s discovery. But you don’t have to wait six week to observe the farthest known planet of the solar system, because the waning gibbous Moon drops close by in the small hours of Saturday, 23 July as seen from the British Isles.

News

ALMA spots monstrous baby galaxies cradled in dark matter

6 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) have discovered a nest of colossal baby galaxies 11.5 billion light-years away. The young galaxies seem to reside at the junction of gigantic filaments in a web of dark matter. These findings are important for understanding how enormous galaxies like these are formed and how they evolve into huge elliptical galaxies.

Observing

See outermost planet Neptune at its best

29 August 2015 Ade Ashford

When Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006, Neptune regained the title of the solar system’s outermost planet. Since this fascinating gas giant reached opposition on 1 September in the constellation Aquarius, now is a great time to seek it out. We show you how to locate Neptune with binoculars and small telescopes.