Observing

Let Venus be your guide to Mercury at its best in February

1 February 2020 Ade Ashford

Mercury is poised to put on a fine evening show for Northern Hemisphere observers at dusk, attaining a greatest elongation 18.2 degrees east of the Sun on Monday, 10 February 2020. For ten evenings starting 3 February, the innermost planet and its brightest sibling, Venus, maintain an almost constant angular separation low in the west-southwest 40 minutes after UK sunset.

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

See the waxing Moon meet the outermost planet on 10 October

6 October 2019 Ade Ashford

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.

Observing

Watch Comet Africano (C/2018 W2) pass closest to Earth in late September

23 September 2019 Ade Ashford

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.

Observing

See Mercury and Venus in the pre-dawn sky from the Southern Hemisphere

10 April 2019 Ade Ashford

Mercury attains a very favourable western elongation of almost 28 degrees from the Sun on 11 April, which means that the innermost planet is a morning object in the eastern sky before sunrise. Antipodean skywatchers are in the enviable position of being able to see Mercury and Venus close together for several mornings in a dark sky before the onset of astronomical twilight.

Observing

See Mars get very close to Neptune at dusk on 7 December

2 December 2018 Ade Ashford

Observers in the British Isles looking due south close to 6pm GMT on Friday, 7 December will find magnitude +0.1 planet Mars about 30 degress, or a span and a half of an outstretched hand at arm’s length, above the horizon. What you won’t see unless you have binoculars or a small telescope is that magnitude +7.9 outermost planet Neptune lies just one-tenth of a degree from the Red Planet.

Observing

Seeing double in the autumn sky

6 October 2018 Ade Ashford

Now that the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is upon us and the bright summer stars and planets are slipping away to the west, why not seek out some of the spectacular double stars of the autumn sky? We show you how to find some celestial gems suitable for small to medium telescopes in the constellations of Aquarius, Aries and Andromeda.

Observing

Star-hop your way to viewing planets Uranus and Neptune at their best

23 September 2018 Ade Ashford

Clear nights of early Northern Hemisphere autumn offer ideal opportunities to track down the two outermost planets of the solar system, Uranus and Neptune. What’s more, you don’t need a big telescope to find them. We show you how to locate these gas giants using binoculars. The Moon also passes close to Neptune on 20 October.