As dusk fades to dark on Thursday, 17 January, observers in the British Isles and Western Europe can see the rising 10-day-old Moon less than 1 degree away from first-magnitude star Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus. Grab your binoculars to enjoy the sight of the gibbous Moon amid the Hyades open star cluster too.
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 close to 12h UT on 14 December, though high rates of activity should be encountered between 8pm GMT on Thursday, 13 December and 5pm GMT the following evening.
Bright Comet 46P/Wirtanen skims past Earth just 30 lunar distances away on 16 December when it could become a diffuse magnitude +3 object almost a degree wide located between the Pleiades and Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus. Grab your binoculars and find a dark sky location well away from streetlights to enjoy this Christmas comet before the glow from a waxing Moon gets too bright from 17 December.
Observers in Western Europe should try to locate Venus low in the western sky an hour after sunset. The 3-day-old slim crescent Moon acts as a convenient guide, located some 12½ degrees (or half the span of an outstretched hand at arm’s length) to the upper left of the brightest planet on 18 April. Prominent star Aldebaran lies in the same low-power binocular field of view as the Moon too.
On Thursday, 22 March observers in the British Isles with clear skies can see the 5½-day-old setting crescent Moon pass in front of first-magnitude star Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus soon after 11:30pm GMT. Depending on where you live in the UK, you might just see the star reappear again shortly before the pair set.
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.
Many will be looking skyward to see terrestrial pyrotechnics this Bonfire Night, but if you own a small telescope and can escape the light pollution, you can see the waning gibbous Moon hide three naked-eye stars in Taurus on the night of 5—6 November, culminating in first-magnitude star Aldebaran in the small hours of Monday morning.
Mercury attains a greatest easterly elongation of 19 degrees from the Sun on 1 April. This solar separation combined with a favourable inclination of the ecliptic to the western horizon an hour after sunset, means that the period 25 March to around 8 April offers the year’s best evening showing of the innermost planet for Northern Hemisphere observers.
On the night of 4-5 March 2017, UK observers with clear skies can see an occultation bonanza as the 6-day-old waxing crescent Moon passes in front of prominent members of the Hyades open cluster in Taurus. Some hours later, after the Moon has set in the British Isles, first-magnitude star Aldebaran is occulted across a large swathe of North America.