Observing

Venus dazzles at dusk and closes in on Neptune

13 January 2020 Ade Ashford

Even casual skywatchers cannot fail to notice brightest planet Venus currently hanging like a lantern above the southwest horizon at dusk. But as Venus moves eastwards through Aquarius on successive nights, it draws closer to outermost (and faintest) planet Neptune until the pair reach a particularly close conjunction on the UK evening of Monday, 27 January.

Observing

Watch the Moon hide naked-eye star Tejat in Gemini on 9 January

5 January 2020 Ade Ashford

Magnitude +2.9 star Mu (μ) Geminorum, better nown as Tejat in the constellation of Gemini, is occulted (hidden) by the rising 13-day-old waxing gibbous Moon early on the evening of Thursday, 9 January 2020 as seen from the entire British Isles. This is a spectacle for small telescopes and large binoculars, the first bright lunar occultation of a busy year for such events.

Observing

Don’t miss the Quadrantid meteor shower peak at UK dawn on 4 January 2020

23 December 2019 Ade Ashford

For an early astronomical treat to usher in the New Year, seek out the natural pyrotechnics of the rich Quadrantid meteor shower. Peak shooting star activity occurs within a four-hour window centred on a prediction of 8am GMT on 4 January 2020 – a time that favours UK skywatchers at astronomical dawn, or North American observers around local midnight.

Observing

Hunting for colourful double and triple stars in the constellation of Cassiopeia

13 December 2019 Ade Ashford

The instantly recognisable five-star M-shaped pattern of stars representing the constellation Cassiopeia (pronounced kas-ee-uh-pee-uh) lies almost overhead in the early evening as seen from the British Isles over the festive period. Cassiopeia is rich in wonderful double and multiple stars, so here’s our guide to some of the best for typical backyard telescopes.

Observing

Bright Moon photobombs Geminid meteor shower peak on 14 December

5 December 2019 Ade Ashford

The December Geminid meteor shower is generally regarded as the richest and most reliable of the major annual shooting star displays. This year the predicted peak occurs between 2h and 23h UT (2am to 11pm GMT) on Saturday the 14th, but its bright and slow-moving shooting stars will have to contend with the glare of a nearby Moon just two days after full.

Observing

See Mercury at its best meet Mars in the dawn sky

18 November 2019 Ade Ashford

Innermost planet Mercury puts on its best morning display of the year for Northern Hemisphere observers from late November to early December. Skywatchers in the British Isles should find a location offering an unobstructed view of the southeast horizon about 45 minutes before sunrise to get the best views, with the Red Planet and star Spica – the brightest in Virgo – also nearby.

Observing

Moonlight challenges Leonid meteor shower maximum on 18 November

15 November 2019 Ade Ashford

The maximum of the annual Leonid meteor shower is predicted for 11pm GMT (23h UT) on Monday, 18 November 2019. However, the famously swift, bright Leonids — some leaving persistent trails — will have to contend with the glare of a 21-day-old waning gibbous Moon close by visible from 9:30pm GMT to dawn on the 19th.

Observing

How to safely observe Mercury crossing the Sun on 11 November

7 November 2019 Ade Ashford

On Monday, 11 November 2019 just after 12:30pm GMT, suitably equipped observers in the British Isles can witness the start of a 3.7-hour spectacle that hasn’t been seen for three-and-a-half years — the silhouette of innermost planet Mercury crossing the face of the Sun. Here’s our online guide to observing this fascinating and comparatively rare event in complete safety.