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 the young crescent Moon meet Venus at dusk on 18 April

18 April 2018 Ade Ashford

Observers in Western Europe should try to locate Venus low in the western sky an hour after sunset. The 3-day-old slim crescent Moon acts as a convenient guide, located some 12½ degrees (or half the span of an outstretched hand at arm’s length) to the upper left of the brightest planet on 18 April. Prominent star Aldebaran lies in the same low-power binocular field of view as the Moon too.

News

Kepler space telescope discovers variability in the Seven Sisters

29 August 2017 Astronomy Now

The Seven Sisters, as they were known to the ancient Greeks, are now known to modern astronomers as the Pleiades star cluster – a set of stars which are visible to the naked eye and have been studied for thousands of years by cultures all over the world. A new algorithm to analyse data from NASA’s Kepler telescope has revealed insights about the behaviour of the stars.

Observing

See Mercury at its best in the evening sky

26 March 2017 Ade Ashford

Mercury attains a greatest easterly elongation of 19 degrees from the Sun on 1 April. This solar separation combined with a favourable inclination of the ecliptic to the western horizon an hour after sunset, means that the period 25 March to around 8 April offers the year’s best evening showing of the innermost planet for Northern Hemisphere observers.

Observing

The Moon meets Aldebaran and the Hyades in the evening sky of 15 November

15 November 2016 Ade Ashford

As dusk fades to dark on the evening of Tuesday 15 November, observers in the British Isles and Western Europe can see the rising 16-day-old Moon less than 2 degrees away from Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus. While an occultation of the star occurs around 17h UT for observers in Japan, central Asia and the Middle East, skywatchers in the UK will have to settle for a near miss.

News

Pirouetting Pleiads provide clues to stellar structure and evolution

13 August 2016 Astronomy Now

Like cosmic ballet dancers, the stars of the Pleiades cluster are spinning, but all at different speeds. By watching these stellar dancers, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has helped amass the most complete catalogue of rotation periods for stars in a cluster. This information can provide insight into where and how planets form around these stars, and how such stars evolve.

News

Astronomical software accurately dates 2,500-year-old lyric poem

15 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Physicists and astronomers from the University of Texas at Arlington have used advanced software to accurately date lyric poet Sappho’s “Midnight Poem,” which describes the Pleiades star cluster in the constellation of Taurus having set at around midnight, when supposedly observed by her from the Greek island of Lesbos more than 2,500 years ago.

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.

Observing

Mercury’s best early evening twilight show for 2015

1 May 2015 Ade Ashford

The first ten days of May offer observers in the British Isles their best opportunity to see Mercury in the early evening twilight during 2015. So, if you’ve never seen the innermost planet, let dazzling Venus be your convenient guide to this elusive little world.

Observing

Venus meets the Moon in the Eye of the Bull

21 April 2015 Ade Ashford

Tuesday, April 21st provides a daylight occultation of bright star Aldebaran in Taurus for observers in the extreme north of Scotland, while the whole of the British Isles sees a close conjunction with the added bonus of dazzling Venus nearby at dusk.