Observers in the British Isles and Western Europe should look low to the east about an hour before sunrise on Wednesday, 18 October to see the slim crescent of a very old Moon close to the brightest planet, Venus. Mars is also nearby for the keen-eyed among you, but don’t leave it too late or the growing twilight will drown out the Red Planet.
At 6:42am BST on Thursday, 12 October our best orbit prediction for a 20-metre-wide space rock designated 2012 TC4 indicates that it will hurtle by Earth just 43,800 kilometres (27,215 miles) above the ocean between Australia and Antarctica. If UK skies are clear on 11 October and you have an 8-inch or larger telescope, you might just see it too.
Urban dwellers may resign themselves to spotting the Moon, planets and the brightest stars with the unaided eye on a clear night, but every so often a bright satellite will catch your attention as it glides silently across the sky. The brightest is the 400-tonne International Space Station (ISS) whose orbit carries it directly overhead as seen from the British Isles and parts of Western Europe tonight.
The diminutive yet distinctive constellation of Lyra is home to dazzling star Vega, the Ring Nebula (M57) and the celebrated double-double star epsilon (ε) Lyrae. But did you know that Lyra harbours yet another ‘pair of pairs’ that are somewhat easier to resolve in smaller telescopes? Ade Ashford shows you how to locate the beautiful Struve Σ2470 and Σ2474.
A waxing crescent Moon hanging low above the horizon in evening twilight is always a pleasant sight to behold, but observers in the UK watching the 4-day-old Moon through a telescope around 40 minutes after sunset on Sunday, 24 September have an additional treat in store in the form of an occultation of naked-eye star gamma (γ) Librae.
Observers in the UK and Western Europe should find an observing location offering an unobscured eastern horizon an hour before sunrise on Sunday, 10 September to see innermost planet Mercury just 0.6 degrees from Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. Conspicuous planet Venus is your convenient celestial guide to finding Regulus, Mercury and Mars.
During the first week of September, observers have an opportunity to see a bright near-Earth asteroid known as 3122 Florence (aka 1981 ET3) as it sails by our planet. On the night of 2—3 September, observers in the UK and Western Europe can see this 4.4 kilometre-wide space rock pass through a prominent asterism in the constellation of Delphinus, the dolphin.
It’s been nicknamed the Great American Eclipse as totality returns to the USA for the first time in twenty-six years. On 21 August 2017, the Moon will move in front of the Sun along a strip cutting diagonally across more than a dozen different states, from Oregon on the west coast to South Carolina.
The serene beauty of the International Space Station sailing silently overhead needs nothing more than the naked eye to appreciate. But when the dazzling ISS is also in conjunction with a pair of prominent Solar System bodies — such at the Moon and Saturn on the night of 2 August 2017 in the UK — you may wish to grab your binoculars and look low in the south-southwest just before 11:20pm BST.