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 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 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

See Venus and Jupiter get close at dawn on 13 November

10 November 2017 Ade Ashford

At the beginning of civil twilight on Monday, 13 November, observers in Western Europe and the British Isles should seek out a viewing location offering an unobstructed view very low to the southeast horizon to see brightest planet Venus and largest planet Jupiter separated by little more than half the width of a full Moon.

Observing

See the old crescent Moon meet Venus at dawn on 18 October

17 October 2017 Ade Ashford

Observers in the British Isles and Western Europe should look low to the east about an hour before sunrise on Wednesday, 18 October to see the slim crescent of a very old Moon close to the brightest planet, Venus. Mars is also nearby for the keen-eyed among you, but don’t leave it too late or the growing twilight will drown out the Red Planet.

News

Gravitational waves from a binary black hole merger observed by LIGO and Virgo

27 September 2017 Astronomy Now

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo collaboration report the first joint detection of gravitational waves with both the LIGO and Virgo detectors. This is the fourth announced detection of a binary black hole system and the first significant gravitational-wave signal recorded by the Virgo detector, and highlights the scientific potential of a three-detector network of gravitational-wave detectors.

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.