As April 2020 opens, dazzling Venus at dusk is drawing ever closer to the magnificent Pleiades (Seven Sisters) in the constellation of Taurus. The brightest planet makes its closest approach to this famous open star cluster on the UK night of 3 April, when typical 10×50 binoculars and small telescopes will deliver memorable views around 9pm BST.
Currently setting over four hours after the Sun as seen from the heart of the UK and visible in the west-southwest at dusk, dazzling Venus is about to hit peak brightness in the constellation of Pisces. The planet attains magnitude -4.8 on Friday 17 February — some 21 times the luminosity of brightest star Sirius gracing the southeast horizon as darkness falls.
NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope to study the universe at infrared wavelengths that cannot be detected from ground-based observatories. SOFIA’s Science Cycle 5, which runs from February 2017 through January 2018, spans the entire field of astronomy from planetary science to extragalactic investigations.
When a full Moon makes its closest pass to Earth in its orbit it appears up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than average, making it a supermoon. This month’s full Moon on Monday 14 November is the closest Moon to Earth since 26 January 1948. The Moon won’t be this super again until 25 November 2034!
On Saturday 27 August at 22:32 UT (11:32pm BST), a spectacularly close conjunction occurs between Jupiter and Venus just 22 degrees west of the Sun in the constellation of Virgo, when the planetary pair are just 4 arcminutes, or one-fifteenth of a degree, apart. Here is our guide to the best locations and times to view this rare event.
In the bright evening twilight of 14, 15 and 16 July, observers in the British Isles and Western Europe can see the waxing gibbous Moon pass by Mars, first-magnitude star Antares in Scorpius, then Saturn. This series of conjunctions occurs very low in the southern sky for UK-based astronomers, while Australasian observers are ideally placed to view the spectacle almost overhead.
If the excitement of the Juno spacecraft’s arrival at Jupiter has prompted you to seek out the solar system’s largest planet, then the 5-day-old cresent Moon acts as a convenient celestial guide during the evening of Saturday, 9 July when it makes a close pass of the gas giant. Here’s our guide to where and when to see this beautiful celestial pairing.
In the latter part of June, Pluto is best seen low in the southern UK sky around 2am local time and reaches opposition on 7 July. The dwarf planet passes less than 1/20th of a degree south of naked-eye star pi (π) Sagittarii on 26—27 June in the deep twilight of the UK, but Southern Hemisphere observers will have the best views.
A new network of video surveillance cameras in New Zealand detected a surprise meteor shower on New Year’s Eve. The shower is called the Volantids, named after the constellation Volans, the flying fish, from which the meteoroids appear to stream towards us. The shower was not seen the year before and is not known from past radar observations. It could be an early warning that we should be looking for a potentially hazardous comet in that orbit.
A 125-year-old, 18-inch (46-cm) aperture Brashear refracting telescope with an illustrious history that has languished in storage for half a century has found a new Antipodean home. It marks the first step on the road to restoring the 7-ton, 8-metre-long instrument to its former glory, destined to become the centrepiece of a public outreach Astronomy Centre near the shore of Lake Tekapo in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island.