Comet C/2019 Y4 was discovered by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) on 28 December last year and brightened 6000-fold in just two months to attain magnitude +7.5 on 1 April. Alas, the comet’s nucleus has now fragmented, dashing hopes for a conspicuous naked-eye spectacle in the constellation of Perseus. Here’s our telescopic observing guide.
As April 2020 opens, dazzling Venus at dusk is drawing ever closer to the magnificent Pleiades (Seven Sisters) in the constellation of Taurus. The brightest planet makes its closest approach to this famous open star cluster on the UK night of 3 April, when typical 10×50 binoculars and small telescopes will deliver memorable views around 9pm BST.
On Sunday, 29 March around civil dusk, observers throughout the British Isles with suitably steadied binoculars and small telescopes can watch naked-eye star Epsilon (ε) Tauri disappear behind the darkened hemisphere of the almost 5-day-old waxing crescent Moon, reappearing again slightly more than an hour later. Here’s our where and when guide to viewing it.
When a nearby astronomical body passes between the observer and a more distant object, see say that an occultation is taking place. Since the Moon is our nearest celestial neighbour, it regularly passes in front of planets and stars. Observers in the British Isles can see naked-eye star Zeta (ζ) Tauri glide behind the Moon on Saturday, 19 October 2019.
Have you ever seen the Moon hide a star? If you’re an early riser in the UK with a small telescope on Saturday, 24 August 2019 then you can potentially witness the disappearance and reappearance of three naked-eye stars in the Hyades open star cluster of Taurus between 3:40am BST and shortly after sunrise.
On 31 March at 4am BST, Mars passes just 3.1 degrees south of the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters open star cluster in the constellation of Taurus. The Red Planet sets before midnight as seen from the UK, so you should look to the west as darkness falls. Mars and the Pleiades lie within the same field of view of typical 10×50 binoculars from 28 March through 1 April 2019.
As dusk fades to dark on Thursday, 17 January, observers in the British Isles and Western Europe can see the rising 10-day-old Moon less than 1 degree away from first-magnitude star Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus. Grab your binoculars to enjoy the sight of the gibbous Moon amid the Hyades open star cluster too.
The December Geminid meteor shower is generally regarded as the richest and most reliable of the major annual shooting star displays. This year the predicted peak occurs close to 12h UT on 14 December, though high rates of activity should be encountered between 8pm GMT on Thursday, 13 December and 5pm GMT the following evening.
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.
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.