Observing

Catch close Comet 46P/Wirtanen near the Pleiades on 16 December

12 December 2018 Ade Ashford

Bright Comet 46P/Wirtanen skims past Earth just 30 lunar distances away on 16 December when it could become a diffuse magnitude +3 object almost a degree wide located between the Pleiades and Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus. Grab your binoculars and find a dark sky location well away from streetlights to enjoy this Christmas comet before the glow from a waxing Moon gets too bright from 17 December.

Observing

See bright Comet 21P’s close brush with conspicuous Capella

27 August 2018 Ade Ashford

If you’ve never seen a comet, there’s currently a bright example visible in the late evening about to make a close approach to the 6th brightest star in the night sky on the UK night of 2–3 September. We show you how to find Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner around the time it passes within a degree of prominent star Capella.

Observing

Don’t miss 2018’s favourable Perseid meteor shower, 12–13 August

3 August 2018 Ade Ashford

From the UK evening of Sunday, 12 August into the early hours of the following morning it’s the maximum of the annual Perseid meteor shower. This year, a new Moon setting in twilight makes prospects for watching this natural firework display particularly good. So, find somewhere away from the streetlights, settle into a garden lounger facing northeast and enjoy the show!

Observing

See asteroid 2018 CB’s close encounter on 9 February

8 February 2018 Ade Ashford

As darkness falls over Western Europe on the evening of 9 February, near-Earth asteroid 2018 CB lies almost overhead as seen from the UK. We show you how and when to find this 30-metre-wide space rock as it speeds through the constellations of Perseus and Triangulum, passing just one-fifth of the Moon’s distance away at 22:27 UT (10:27pm GMT).

Observing

See asteroid Phaethon, source of the Geminids, in a close brush with Earth

4 December 2017 Ade Ashford

As shooting-star devotees prepare for the naked-eye spectacle of the Geminid meteor shower in mid-December, owners of small telescopes can also witness the close passage of the meteors’ parent body — a curious “rock comet” known as 3200 Phaethon, galloping through the constellations of Auriga, Perseus, Andromeda, Pisces and Pegasus at a rate of up to 15 degrees/day.

Observing

Find the Andromeda Galaxy in the late summer sky

2 September 2016 Ade Ashford

One of best deep-sky objects of the approaching season is the Andromeda Galaxy, or Messier 31, that is now accessible low in the east-northeast by 10pm local time in the UK and Western Europe. Here’s our comprehensive guide to locating this iconic Local Group galaxy.

Observing

Get ready for the Perseid meteor shower peak of 11-12 August

8 August 2016 Ade Ashford

With a waxing gibbous Moon setting at 1am BST for the UK on the night of 12-13 August, observers will have dark skies for what could be a Perseid meteor shower to remember. Some theorists believe that Jupiter’s gravitational influence has deflected more particles from parent comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle into Earth’s path for a spectacular show.

Observing

Catch a glimpse of planet Mercury at its best in the evening twilight

13 April 2016 Ade Ashford

Have you ever seen Mercury with the naked eye? If not, now is the time to check the elusive innermost planet off your list. Mercury reaches greatest easterly elongation from the Sun on Monday, 18 April, the highlight of a very favourable dusk apparition in the west-northwest for observers in Western Europe and the British Isles.

News

Did the ancient Egyptians record the period of eclipsing binary Algol?

18 December 2015 Astronomy Now

A scholarly investigation of the Cairo Calendar papyrus (1244–1163 B.C.) has led researchers at the University of Helsinki to conclude that the ancient Egyptians were aware that the variable star Algol (beta Persei) had a 2.85-day period. Given that the star’s current period is 2.8673 days, this supports the theory that mass transfer between the stars of this eclipsing binary has caused a long-term increase of its orbital period.

Observing

Perseid meteors set to light up 12-13 August skies

7 August 2015 Astronomy Now

From the evening of Wednesday, 12 August into the early hours of the following morning, it is the maximum of the annual Perseid meteor shower. This year, a new Moon makes prospects for watching this natural firework display particularly good. So, find somewhere away from the streetlights, settle into a garden lounger facing northeast, and enjoy the show!