Owls may be scarce near your favourite viewing spot, but the Northern Hemisphere spring sky contains one celestial owl that you can track down in small telescopes – Messier 97 (NGC 3587). Commonly called the Owl Nebula, M97 is a planetary nebula discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1781 that is currently ideally placed for observation almost overhead at nightfall in the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear.
Possibly as large as The Shard in London, Apollo asteroid 2017 VR12 passes just 3¾ lunar distances from Earth at 7:53am GMT on 7 March. For a few nights, this magnitude +12 space rock is a viable target for small backyard telescopes as it gallops through Coma Berenices and Virgo, passing just 0.8 degrees from Spica on the UK night of 7–8 March.
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.
A peanut-shaped asteroid almost a mile long known as 2014 JO25 passes within 5 lunar distances of Earth on 19 April — the closest any known space rock of this size has approached our planet since September 2004. We show you how to find this fast-moving potentially hazardous asteroid in small telescopes during the UK night of 19-20 April.
The elegant simplicity of NGC 4111, seen here in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, hides a more violent history than you might think. NGC 4111 is a lenticular, or lens-shaped, galaxy, lying about 50 million light-years from us in the constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs).
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.
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the galaxy Messier 94, which lies in the small northern constellation of Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs), about 16 million light-years away. Within the bright ring or starburst ring around Messier 94, new stars are forming at a high rate and many young, bright stars are present within it.
Galactic arms, sunflowers and whirlpools are only a few examples of nature’s apparent preference for spirals. A beautiful example is Messier 63, nicknamed the Sunflower Galaxy, its winding arms shining bright due to the presence of recently formed, blue–white giant stars and clusters, readily seen in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image.