Observers in Western Europe with a clear sky around local midnight cannot fail to notice the conspicuous ‘star’ that is Jupiter low in the south. But look a span-and-a-half of an outstretched hand at arm’s length to Jupiter’s left and you’ll find another giant of the solar system – Saturn. The ringed planet is closest to Earth for 2019 on 9 July, so here is our quick observing guide.
Have you ever seen a dwarf planet? Of the five within our solar system recognised by the International Astronomical Union – Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris – only Ceres can be considered bright and easy to locate. It reaches opposition in the constellation of Scorpius on 29 May at magnitude +7, an easy binocular object if you follow our guide.
Friday, 27 July sees the second total lunar eclipse of 2018, which also happens to be the longest of the 21st century. Observers in Antarctica, Australasia, Russia, Asia, Africa, Scandanavia, Europe, Central and Eastern South America will see the event. The Moon rises at mid-eclipse as seen from the British Isles, some 6 degrees north of Mars at opposition.
While excitement among planetary observers is growing for the best views of Mars for 15 years (Martian dust storms permitting) in late July, there’s still one prior planetary treat: the opposition of Saturn on 27 June, which coincides with a close lunar conjunction. We show you what to look for in and around the Saturnian system.
At the end of July 2018, Mars makes its closest approach to Earth since the memorable opposition of 2003. This summer sees the Red Planet big and bright, low in the south around 1am BST, but now’s the time to train your eye to detect prominent Martian surface features – dust storms permitting! We present our interactive Mars Mapper to help plan your observations.
With the opposition of Jupiter occurring on 9 May, now is the time to ensure that your telescope is clean and collimated (aligned) to deliver the sharpest images of the solar system’s largest planet at its best. We tell you when and how to view Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and a wealth of Galilean moon phenomena throughout May 2018.
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.
Skywatchers in the UK looking to the south-southeast shortly before midnight on Friday 9 June can see the rising full Moon just 2½ degrees above Saturn, the pair fitting comfortably in the same field of view of binoculars and telescopes magnifying less than 20×. Saturn is closest to the Earth for this year on 15 June, so here is our quick observing guide to the ringed planet at its best.
Jupiter, the Solar System’s largest planet, reaches opposition on the evening of 7 April and lies closest to Earth for 2017 the following night. Don’t miss the 14-day-old Moon passing close by on the night of 10 April too. Here’s our comprehensive guide to what to see on Jupiter and phenomena of its bright moons for the month ahead.