See Comet 252P/LINEAR in a moonless sky

28 April 2016 Ade Ashford

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.


See the Moon join Mars and Saturn in the morning sky

23 April 2016 Ade Ashford

With just a month to go until the 2016 opposition of Mars, the Red Planet is now visible very low in the southeast before midnight for observers in the heart of the UK. Mars and ringed planet Saturn are presently separated by just over 7 degrees — a low power, wide-angle binocular field of view. The waning gibbous Moon passes by on the mornings of 25—26 April.


See comet 252P emerge in the UK predawn sky

27 March 2016 Ade Ashford

When 252P/LINEAR passed just 14 lunar distances from Earth on 21 March, the comet was galloping across the far southern sky at a rate of almost ten degrees per day. Now rapidly heading north, 252P finally appears in the predawn UK sky. While moonlight will interfere with current observations, the comet is much brighter than predicted.


See the Moon, Mars and Saturn triple conjunction of 1 March

29 February 2016 Ade Ashford

In the pre-dawn twilight of Tuesday, 1 March, the 21-day-old waning gibbous Moon acts as a convenient celestial guide to planets Saturn and Mars. For observers in the centre of the British Isles, the best time to see this triple conjunction is shortly before 6am GMT, when the trio are highest in the sky to the south.


See Venus and Saturn get close on the morning of 9 January

7 January 2016 Ade Ashford

On the morning of Saturday, 9 January — just two days after their photogenic conjunction with an old crescent Moon — planets Venus and Saturn reach the denouement of their pre-dawn show with a spectacular close conjunction. To observe this spectacle you need an unobstructed view low to the southeast around 7am GMT (central British Isles).


See the Moon’s close brush with Venus and Saturn in the morning sky

4 January 2016 Ade Ashford

On the morning of Thursday, 7 January, observers in the UK with a clear sky and an unobstructed view low to the southeast at 7am GMT (central British Isles) can see a close conjunction between the old crescent Moon, Venus and Saturn — all three encompassed by the field of view of a typical binocular.


See Saturn’s close brush with the Moon on 28 June

27 June 2015 Ade Ashford

Some five weeks after opposition, Saturn attains a maximum altitude of just 18 degrees in the south around 10:30pm as seen from the centre of the UK. If you need help finding the ringed planet, the Moon passes conveniently close by on the night of 28 June.

Picture This

Hubble revisits tangled galaxy NGC 6240

25 May 2015 Astronomy Now

Not all galaxies are neatly shaped, as this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of NGC 6240 clearly demonstrates. Hubble previously released an image of this galaxy in 2008, but the knotted region was only revealed in these new observations from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys.