Observing

Get ready for Comet ATLAS (C/2019 Y4) in the northern spring sky!

2 April 2020 Ade Ashford

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.

Observing

Planet Venus photobombs the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) 1–5 April

29 March 2020 Ade Ashford

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.

Observing

Star Epsilon (ε) Tauri plays hide and seek with the crescent Moon on 29 March

19 March 2020 Ade Ashford

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.

Observing

Watch the Moon hide naked-eye star Zeta (ζ) Tauri on 19 October

11 October 2019 Ade Ashford

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.

Observing

See the Moon hide a trio of Hyades stars at dawn on 24 August

20 August 2019 Ade Ashford

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.

Observing

See the Red Planet’s encounter with the Seven Sisters at dusk

26 March 2019 Ade Ashford

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.

Observing

Don’t miss the Geminid meteor shower 13–14 December 2018

13 December 2018 Ade Ashford

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.

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.