Observing

Don’t miss Mercury in the eastern sky at dawn during August 2019

8 August 2019 Ade Ashford

Mercury attains a greatest elongation 19 degrees west of the Sun late on 9 August 2019, hence the innermost planet is a morning object. This means that early risers in the British Isles with clear skies have several opportunities to view Mercury between the first and third weeks of this month.

Observing

See the Moon buzz the Beehive Cluster on 10-11 May

6 May 2019 Ade Ashford

UK skywatchers with a view low to the west between midnight and moonset on Saturday, 11 May 2019 can see the 6-day-old waxing crescent Moon close to Messier 44, otherwise known as Praesepe, or the Beehive Cluster. Later, observers on North America’s Eastern Seaboard can see the Moon pass in front of this glorious open cluster just before local midnight on 10 May.

Observing

See Comet Iwamoto’s dash through Leo, Cancer and Gemini before full Moon

10 February 2019 Ade Ashford

Grab your binoculars to catch a glimpse of speedy Comet C/2018 Y1 Iwamoto over the coming week before the glare from a full Moon on 19 February drowns it out. Potentially attaining magnitude +6, the comet passes closest to Earth on 12 February when it can be found traversing Leo at a rate of 7.2 degrees/day. Don’t miss C/2018 Y1’s close enounter with galaxy NGC 2903 on 13 February – by eye, camera, or live online.

Observing

A viewing guide to the totally eclipsed supermoon of 21 January

17 January 2019 Ade Ashford

While you may not relish the prospect of waking up in the small hours most Monday mornings, observers in the British Isles and Western Europe will want to set their alarms no later than 5am GMT on 21 January to see this month’s showstopper celestial event — a total lunar eclipse of an unusually close ‘supermoon’. The total lunar eclipse is also visible in its entirety (weather permitting) from the Americas.

Observing

See innermost planet Mercury’s favourable dawn show

22 August 2018 Ade Ashford

Mercury attains its maximum westerly elongation from the Sun on 26 August, meaning that the innermost planet is currently well placed for observation from the UK and Western Europe in the eastern sky around 40 minutes before sunrise. In addition to those in the evening sky, you might just see all five bright naked-eye planets this month!

Observing

See bright near-Earth asteroid 2002 AJ129 dash through Virgo and Leo, 5–7 February

3 February 2018 Ade Ashford

Possibly a kilometre or more in size, Apollo asteroid 2002 AJ129 passes just 10.9 lunar distances from Earth at 21:30 UT (9:30pm GMT) on 4 February — its closest approach for 114 years. For a few nights around this date the magnitude +12.6 body is well placed for observers as it gallops through the constellations of Virgo and Leo into Cancer at a rate of up to 40 degrees/day. We show you where and when to look for it.

Observing

See dwarf planet Ceres at opposition on 31 January

26 January 2018 Ade Ashford

While antipodean observers are enjoying views of the totally eclipsed Blue Moon in Cancer the Crab on the night of 31 January/1 February, Northern Hemisphere observers should look out for magnitude +6.9 1 Ceres at opposition in the northern fringes of the same constellation. The dwarf planet puts on a good show in the dark of the Moon during February.

Observing

See January’s totally eclipsed Blue Moon

14 January 2018 Ade Ashford

On 31 January we experience the second full Moon of the month, which by one definition makes it a Blue Moon. However, for observers in north-western North America, Oceania, East Asia or central and eastern Russia, this full Moon will have a decidedly reddish hue since it will be immersed in the Earth’s shadow during a total lunar eclipse.

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 planet Venus dazzle at greatest brilliancy in the pre-dawn sky

17 September 2015 Ade Ashford

Early risers wishing to see Venus as a dazzling ‘morning star’ need only glance low to the east in the pre-dawn sky. The planet reaches greatest brilliancy on Sunday, 20 September when, for a couple of mornings, it can be seen outshining brightest nighttime star Sirius in the southeast by a factor of seventeen times. Can you see your shadow cast by Venus?