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 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

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.

Picture This

Discovering the X-ray treasures in Chandra’s archives

16 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Each year, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory helps celebrate American Archive Month by releasing a collection of images using X-ray data. Each of these six new images — representing just a small fraction of the treasures that reside in Chandra’s unique archive — also includes data from telescopes covering other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as visible and infrared light.

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

Find the Andromeda Galaxy in the late summer sky

2 September 2016 Ade Ashford

One of best deep-sky objects of the approaching season is the Andromeda Galaxy, or Messier 31, that is now accessible low in the east-northeast by 10pm local time in the UK and Western Europe. Here’s our comprehensive guide to locating this iconic Local Group galaxy.

News

Astronomers detect double ‘peanut shell’ galaxies

8 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, have discovered an unusually shaped structure in two nearby disc galaxies. The Swinburne team recently developed new imaging software, making it possible to observe the double “peanut shell shape” formed by the distribution of stars bulging from the centres of these galaxies.

Picture This

Hubble captures a low surface brightness galaxy

4 April 2016 Astronomy Now

This striking NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image depicts the low surface brightness (LSB) galaxy known as UGC 477, located just over 110 million light-years away in the constellation of Pisces. LSB galaxies appear to be dominated by dark matter, making them excellent objects to study to further our understanding of this elusive substance.

Observing

Find planet Uranus close to the Moon on the night of 22 November

22 November 2015 Ade Ashford

Have you ever seen planet Uranus? If UK skies are clear on the evening of Sunday, 22 November, the icy gas giant lies just 1.5 degrees (or three lunar diameters) from the 11-day-old waxing gibbous Moon, making it very easy to locate in binoculars and small telescopes. Here’s our online guide to locating this fascinating distant world.

Observing

See planet Uranus at its best in October with the naked eye or binoculars

11 October 2015 Ade Ashford

Uranus, the seventh planet from the Sun, reaches opposition on 12 October. It is therefore best placed for observation during 2015 and reaches a respectable altitude as seen from the British Isles. It can be seen with the naked eye from dark sky sites, so here is our guide to tracking down this gas giant during October using nothing more than an average binocular.

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