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.
Have you ever seen Uranus with the naked eye? If not, moonless nights in late October and November offer ideal conditions to test your visual acuity and sky clarity. Uranus reaches opposition in the constellation of Aries on 28 October 2019 and lies 48° above the southern horizon at midnight as seen from the heart of the British Isles. Here is our guide to tracking down the seventh planet from the Sun.
Their high detection rate reveals that near-Earth asteroids are commonplace, but they’re typically small, fleetingly observable and very faint. Hence an opportunity to view a large example bright enough to see in a typical backyard telescope shouldn’t be missed! Here’s our guide to tracking down 700-metre-wide 1998 HL1 between 25 and 29 October 2019.
When a nearby astronomical body passes between the observer and a more distant object, see say that an occultation is taking place. Since the Moon is our nearest celestial neighbour, it regularly passes in front of planets and stars. Observers in the British Isles can see naked-eye star Zeta (ζ) Tauri glide behind the Moon on Saturday, 19 October 2019.
The 12-day-old Moon lies in the same low-power binocular field as Neptune late into the evening of Thursday, 10 October 2019 when observers in the UK can find the pair highest in the southern sky against the constellation of Aquarius. The glare of the gibbous Moon will present a challenge, but well worth the attempt to find the outermost planet with modest optical aid.
Skywatchers in Western Europe and the UK should look low to the south-southwest at nautical dusk on 3 and 5 October 2019 to view the waxing Moon pass close to Jupiter and Saturn, the Solar System’s largest gas giant planets. Observers at northern temperate latitudes should make the most of any opportunities to view these planets before they are lost in twilight.
If you have never seen the International Space Station (ISS), make the most of clear skies over the next few nights. It’s capable of exceeding Venus at its brightest and visible for up to 7 minutes as it crawls across the sky in an arc from west to east. Find out when and where to see some favourable passes of this 420-tonne, 109-metre-wide spacecraft over the British Isles and Western Europe.
At around magnitude +9, C/201 W2 (Africano) is the brightest comet currently on show, passing closest to Earth on 27 September slightly less than half an astronomical unit away. Speeding through the constellations of Pegasus, Pisces and Aquarius, Comet Africano also lies within a binocular field of view of outermost planet Neptune on the night of 3–4 October.
Neptune reaches opposition on 10 September 2019 having returned to Aquarius, the constellation in which it was discovered in 1846. We show you how to locate the outermost planet using binoculars, a task made easier this month due to Neptune’s close passage to naked-eye star phi (φ) Aquarii on 6 September.
Depending on where you live in the British Isles, you may be fortunate to view a lunar occultation of naked-eye double star delta (δ) Geminorum at dawn on Tuesday, 27 August 2019. Observers fortunate enough to lie on the so-called graze line will see the star appear to flicker on and off as the mountains and valleys of the northern lunar polar regions drift by.