Hot on the heels of terrestrial fireworks ushering in the New Year, it’s time for some celestial pyrotechnics from the Quadrantid meteor shower – the year’s first major display of shooting stars – on 4 January. With an old waning crescent Moon not rising until nautical dawn in the UK, dark skies could see up to 80 meteors per hour around 2am GMT.
Five hundred-metre-wide asteroid 2017 CS passes just 1.9 million miles, or 7.9 lunar distances, from Earth on the afternoon of Monday 29 May 2017. For a few nights around this date, Northern Hemisphere observers with 6-inch and larger ‘scopes can see the asteroid gallop through the constellations of Canes Venatici, Boötes and Hercules at up to 14 degrees/day.
Comet 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdušáková passes just 0.08318 astronomical units (7.73 million miles, or ~32 lunar distances) from Earth on the morning of 11 February. Early risers can catch the magnitude +7 comet speeding through the constellations of Hercules, Corona Borealis (CrB) and Boötes at up to 9 degrees/day.
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.
Astronomers have uncovered evidence for a vast collection of young galaxies 12 billion light years away. The newly discovered “proto-cluster” of galaxies, observed when the universe was only 1.7 billion years old (12 percent of its present age), is one of the most massive structures known at that distance.
On the afternoon of 21 March, Comet 252P/LINEAR brushed by Earth just 14 lunar distances away. The comet’s separation from Earth now exceeds 20 million miles, but it’s still a suitable target for binoculars and small telescopes — if you know exactly where to look. Here’s our UK observing guide for 252P/LINEAR in the constellation Ophiuchus between midnight and moonrise over the coming week.
Pale Red Dot is an international search for an Earth-like exoplanet around the closest star to us, Proxima Centauri. It will be one of the few outreach campaigns allowing the general public to witness the scientific process of data acquisition in modern observatories via blog posts and social media updates. The Pale Red Dot campaign will run from January to April 2016.
Having brushed by bright star Arcturus on 1 January, Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) continues its trek through the constellations of the far north. Now a circumpolar object for the British Isles, in the early hours of 17 January it lies between famous double star Mizar (ζ Ursae Majoris) and the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101), virtually overhead in the UK.
The first major annual meteor shower is the Quadrantids that is active from 1 to 6 January. While it is a display that can rival the August Perseids or the December Geminids at its best, most of the peak activity occurs within a six-hour window centred on a short, sharp maximum that is predicted to fall on the UK morning of Monday, 4 January 2016.
Discovered on 31 October 2013 by the Catalina Sky Survey, C/2013 US10 is an Oort Cloud comet making its first foray into the inner solar system. Currently dashing northward through the constellation Boötes, Comet Catalina passes within ½ degree of Arcturus, the brightest star of the northern sky, on the morning of 1 January 2016.