Observing

The Moon, Jupiter and star Spica line up at dawn on 19 January

18 January 2017 Ade Ashford

Before sunrise on Thursday 19 January, observers in Western Europe can see an interesting celestial conjunction in the southern sky. At about 6am local time, the waning gibbous Moon, largest planet Jupiter and Spica — the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo — all lie in a line encompassed by the field of view of a typical 7x or 8x binocular.

Observing

See brightest asteroid Vesta at its best

17 January 2017 Ade Ashford

On Wednesday 18 January, brightest asteroid 4 Vesta comes to opposition in the constellation of Cancer bordering on Gemini, ideally placed for observation by Northern Hemisphere skywatchers. While the truly eagle-eyed among you might glimpse it with the unaided eye on dark, moonless nights, Vesta is an easy binocular object.

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

Don’t miss the Quadrantid meteor shower’s peak on 3 January

2 January 2017 Ade Ashford

It’s time to direct your attention skyward for some celestial pyrotechnics from the first major annual meteor shower — the Quadrantids. The short-lived peak of this active shower is predicted to occur at 2pm GMT on 3 January, favouring observers in the west of North America, but most Northern Hemisphere observers with clear skies will still see some shooting stars.

Observing

See Mars and Neptune get close on New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day

31 December 2016 Ade Ashford

The young crescent Moon’s nightly motion from 31 December 2016 to 3 January 2017 carries it past dazzling planet Venus and first-magnitude Mars. A small telescope also reveals outermost planet Neptune, which passes just 0.02 degrees from Mars around 7h UT on 1 January, offering observers around the world a New Year’s Day treat.

Observing

See the Moon hide Aldebaran in Taurus on 12-13 December

10 December 2016 Ade Ashford

On the night of 12-13 December, the waxing gibbous Moon glides in front of the loose open star cluster known as the Hyades in the constellation of Taurus, culminating in the occultation of bright star Aldebaran around 5:24am GMT for observers in the British Isles. In North America, the event occurs at a more sociable hour late into the evening of 12 December.

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

See the crescent Moon near Venus on 3 December

1 December 2016 Ade Ashford

Observers in the UK will find Venus almost directly below the three-day-old Moon low in the south-southwest in deep twilight an hour after sunset on 3 December. The pair will fit in the same field of view of most 8x and 7x binoculars, but a deep-sky treat lies in store for telescope users.

Observing

Catch Mars and Venus in the early evening sky of late November

25 November 2016 Ade Ashford

Find a location that offers you an unobstructed view of the horizon from south to southwest an hour after sunset. With clear skies, you’ll be able to follow Venus and Mars from night to night on their celestial peregrinations through the constellations of Sagittarius and Capricornus. The two planets almost keep pace with each other throughout the remainder of November.

Observing

Waning crescent Moon joins Jupiter in the dawn sky of 25 November

18 November 2016 Ade Ashford

Around 6:30am GMT on Friday 25 November, as nautical twilight starts for the centre of the UK, the 25-day-old waning crescent Moon lies just 2½ degrees away from largest planet Jupiter low in the southeastern sky. This juxtaposition of the two brightest objects in the dawn sky will be nicely framed in a typical binocular.