As darkness falls over Western Europe on the evening of 9 February, near-Earth asteroid 2018 CB lies almost overhead as seen from the UK. We show you how and when to find this 30-metre-wide space rock as it speeds through the constellations of Perseus and Triangulum, passing just one-fifth of the Moon’s distance away at 22:27 UT (10:27pm GMT).
Set your alarm for 6am GMT if you wish to see three naked-eye planets in the UK dawn sky this week. Find a location that offers an unobstructed view of the horizon from southeast to south and let the waning Moon be your guide to locating Jupiter, Mars and Saturn on successive mornings from 7 to 11 February.
Possibly a kilometre or more in size, Apollo asteroid 2002 AJ129 passes just 10.9 lunar distances from Earth at 21:30 UT (9:30pm GMT) on 4 February — its closest approach for 114 years. For a few nights around this date the magnitude +12.6 body is well placed for observers as it gallops through the constellations of Virgo and Leo into Cancer at a rate of up to 40 degrees/day. We show you where and when to look for it.
While antipodean observers are enjoying views of the totally eclipsed Blue Moon in Cancer the Crab on the night of 31 January/1 February, Northern Hemisphere observers should look out for magnitude +6.9 1 Ceres at opposition in the northern fringes of the same constellation. The dwarf planet puts on a good show in the dark of the Moon during February.
On 31 January we experience the second full Moon of the month, which by one definition makes it a Blue Moon. However, for observers in north-western North America, Oceania, East Asia or central and eastern Russia, this full Moon will have a decidedly reddish hue since it will be immersed in the Earth’s shadow during a total lunar eclipse.
It currently pays to be an early riser if you wish to view the planets, for it’s all happening at dawn in the skies of Western Europe. Find innermost planet Mercury, see a near miss of Mars and Jupiter on 7 January, then a fabulous binocular conjunction of the waning crescent Moon, the Red planet and Jupiter on 11 January!
Observers in the UK with clear skies on the night of 30—31 December 2017 can see the 12-day-old waxing gibbous Moon glide through the Hyades cluster in Taurus, occulting a number of naked-eye stars along the way, culminating in the disappearance and reappearance of first-magnitude star Aldebaran in the small hours of New Year’s Eve.