Observing

See the Leonid meteor shower peak on 18 November

17 November 2018 Ade Ashford

The Leonid shower is well known for fast meteors, the brightest of which can leave persistent trains that appear to hang in the air for several seconds. This year’s maximum is predicted for 1am GMT on Sunday, 18 November. With a 9-day-old waxing gibbous Moon setting around the time of the shower’s peak in the UK, prospects are good.

Observing

See innermost planet Mercury’s favourable dawn show

22 August 2018 Ade Ashford

Mercury attains its maximum westerly elongation from the Sun on 26 August, meaning that the innermost planet is currently well placed for observation from the UK and Western Europe in the eastern sky around 40 minutes before sunrise. In addition to those in the evening sky, you might just see all five bright naked-eye planets this month!

Observing

See bright near-Earth asteroid 2002 AJ129 dash through Virgo and Leo, 5–7 February

3 February 2018 Ade Ashford

Possibly a kilometre or more in size, Apollo asteroid 2002 AJ129 passes just 10.9 lunar distances from Earth at 21:30 UT (9:30pm GMT) on 4 February — its closest approach for 114 years. For a few nights around this date the magnitude +12.6 body is well placed for observers as it gallops through the constellations of Virgo and Leo into Cancer at a rate of up to 40 degrees/day. We show you where and when to look for it.

Observing

See dwarf planet Ceres at opposition on 31 January

26 January 2018 Ade Ashford

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.

Observing

Don’t miss the Leonid meteor shower on 17 November

16 November 2017 Ade Ashford

The maximum of the annual Leonid meteor shower, predicted to occur around nightfall on Friday, 17 November for observers in Western Europe and the UK, favourably coincides with a new Moon this year. However, observers in the British Isles may have to wait until around midnight to see about ten of the famously swift, bright Leonids per hour.

Observing

See Mercury meet Regulus and Mars near Venus an hour before sunrise

6 September 2017 Ade Ashford

Observers in the UK and Western Europe should find an observing location offering an unobscured eastern horizon an hour before sunrise on Sunday, 10¬†September to see innermost planet Mercury just 0.6 degrees from Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. Conspicuous planet Venus is your convenient celestial guide to finding Regulus, Mercury and Mars.

Observing

Mercury’s prominent evening show under southern skies

13 July 2017 Ade Ashford

Mercury is generally something of a challenge to observe, but the run-up to a particularly favourable easterly elongation occurring on 30 July provides ample opportunities for locating the innermost planet in the evening sky — particularly from the Southern Hemisphere, where a prominent celestial marker in the form of a 2-day-old Moon passes close by on 25  July.

Observing

Leonid meteor shower maximum blighted by the Moon

16 November 2016 Ade Ashford

The maximum of the annual Leonid meteor shower, when up to around 15 shooting stars per hour might be expected in a dark sky, is predicted to occur in the small hours of Thursday 17 November for observers in Western Europe and the UK. However, the famously swift, bright Leonids — some with persistent trails — will have to contend with a Moon just three days after full.

Observing

See Mercury at its best in the east at dawn

25 September 2016 Ade Ashford

Mercury is currently putting on a fine show in the east before dawn. Find a UK location with an unobstructed view due east an hour before sunrise to see the innermost planet some 6 degrees above the horizon from about 25 September—5 October. The very old crescent Moon lies just 2 degrees from Mercury at dawn on Thursday, 29 September.