It’s time to direct your attention skyward for some celestial pyrotechnics from the first major annual meteor shower — the Quadrantids. The short-lived peak of this active shower is predicted to occur at 2pm GMT on 3 January, favouring observers in the west of North America, but most Northern Hemisphere observers with clear skies will still see some shooting stars.
Astronomers have uncovered evidence for a vast collection of young galaxies 12 billion light years away. The newly discovered “proto-cluster” of galaxies, observed when the universe was only 1.7 billion years old (12 percent of its present age), is one of the most massive structures known at that distance.
On the afternoon of 21 March, Comet 252P/LINEAR brushed by Earth just 14 lunar distances away. The comet’s separation from Earth now exceeds 20 million miles, but it’s still a suitable target for binoculars and small telescopes — if you know exactly where to look. Here’s our UK observing guide for 252P/LINEAR in the constellation Ophiuchus between midnight and moonrise over the coming week.
Pale Red Dot is an international search for an Earth-like exoplanet around the closest star to us, Proxima Centauri. It will be one of the few outreach campaigns allowing the general public to witness the scientific process of data acquisition in modern observatories via blog posts and social media updates. The Pale Red Dot campaign will run from January to April 2016.
Having brushed by bright star Arcturus on 1 January, Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) continues its trek through the constellations of the far north. Now a circumpolar object for the British Isles, in the early hours of 17 January it lies between famous double star Mizar (ζ Ursae Majoris) and the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101), virtually overhead in the UK.
The first major annual meteor shower is the Quadrantids that is active from 1 to 6 January. While it is a display that can rival the August Perseids or the December Geminids at its best, most of the peak activity occurs within a six-hour window centred on a short, sharp maximum that is predicted to fall on the UK morning of Monday, 4 January 2016.
Discovered on 31 October 2013 by the Catalina Sky Survey, C/2013 US10 is an Oort Cloud comet making its first foray into the inner solar system. Currently dashing northward through the constellation Boötes, Comet Catalina passes within ½ degree of Arcturus, the brightest star of the northern sky, on the morning of 1 January 2016.
Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) is currently a morning object in Virgo low in the southeast before dawn twilight for UK observers. The comet has a photogenic close encounter with Venus and the waning crescent Moon on the mornings of 7—8 December, then rapidly heads north through the constellation Boötes for a closer brush with Arcturus on New Year’s Day.
Markarian 820, also known as Mrk 820, LEDA 52404 or IRAS F14379+3142, is a lenticular galaxy in the constellation Boötes, about 300 million light-years from Earth. Galaxies like this one are in the transition zone between ellipticals and spirals and lie right where the fork divides in American astronomer Edwin Hubble’s classification scheme of galaxies from 1926.