Observing

Seek out 3C 273, the brightest optical quasar, in the spring sky

7 March 2019 Ade Ashford

Plumb the hidden depths of spring’s deep-sky by seeking out 3C 273, the optically-brightest quasi-stellar object (QSO) in the constellation of Virgo. Quasars are the intensely luminous centres of very distant and active galaxies, powered by a supermassive black hole. And don’t worry that you need a huge ‘scope to see it – a 15-cm (6-inch) instrument and a clear, moonless night are all you need.

Observing

Venus dazzles at dawn, farthest west of the Sun on 6 January 2019

5 January 2019 Ade Ashford

Brilliant planet Venus attains its greatest elongation almost 47° west of the Sun at dawn in the UK on Sunday, 6 January. Find a location that offers you a view down to the southeast horizon around 7am GMT and you may catch a glimpse of Jupiter too. The planetary duo is currently 14 degrees apart, but drawing nearer for a close conjunction on 22 January.

Observing

Catch Venus near bright star Spica in the dawn sky

12 November 2018 Ade Ashford

Find a location that offers you an unobstructed view of the southeast about an hour before sunrise in the UK over the next week to see dazzling Venus close to the horizon. Look carefully at the planet around 6:30am GMT on 15 November and you’ll see it close to first-magnitude Spica, Virgo’s brightest star.

Observing

See bright near-Earth asteroid 2017 VR12 pass close to star Spica, 7–8 March

4 March 2018 Ade Ashford

Possibly as large as The Shard in London, Apollo asteroid 2017 VR12 passes just 3¾ lunar distances from Earth at 7:53am GMT on 7 March. For a few nights, this magnitude +12 space rock is a viable target for small backyard telescopes as it gallops through Coma Berenices and Virgo, passing just 0.8 degrees from Spica on the UK night of 7–8 March.

Observing

See the Moon and planets gather at dawn

3 January 2018 Ade Ashford

It currently pays to be an early riser if you wish to view the planets, for it’s all happening at dawn in the skies of Western Europe. Find innermost planet Mercury, see a near miss of Mars and Jupiter on 7 January, then a fabulous binocular conjunction of the waning crescent Moon, the Red planet and Jupiter on 11 January!

Observing

First quarter Moon meets Jupiter and Spica in the evening sky

30 June 2017 Ade Ashford

Observer’s in the UK and Western Europe should look low to the southwest an hour after sunset on Friday, 30 June to glimpse the almost first quarter Moon a low-power binocular field of view to the right of Jupiter in bright twilight. The following night finds the waxing gibbous Moon forming a near isosceles triangle with the planet and first-magnitude star Spica in Virgo.

Observing

Don’t miss Jupiter’s moons and Great Red Spot during May

19 May 2017 Ade Ashford

Despite more than seven weeks having passed since opposition, the Solar System’s largest planet Jupiter is still big and bright in the UK evening sky of May, highest in the south around 10pm BST. Find out about the phenomena of Jupiter and its moons that you can see from the British Isles for the remainder of the month, starting with a transit of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot on 19 May.

Observing

Get ready to view planet Jupiter at its best

4 April 2017 Ade Ashford

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.

Observing

See the Moon and largest planet Jupiter get close on 14 March

12 March 2017 Ade Ashford

Jupiter is now less than a month from opposition (7 April), so it’s very much open season for the Solar System’s largest planet. If you’re unsure where to find it, the rising 17-day-old waning gibbous Moon passes just two degrees from Jupiter on the UK evening of 14 March. Virgo’s brightest star, first-magnitude Spica, makes it a great binocular triumvirate.