2003 – What’s Up

Week of 27th December


  • Monday 27th the Moon is at apogee (furthest from Earth in its orbit) thus the full Moon of Boxing day was the smallest in 2004(though it is bright as the Earth approaches perihelion). The Moon will wane during the week and by next week the comet should be more visible. All 5 ‘ancient’ planets are visible just before sunrise (5.30 till 6.30am)Mercury nearest the horizonvery close to bright Venus with fainter Mars just higher dont mistake the bright red star Antares about the same altitude as Venus. Jupiter is bright high in the South-Eastern sky and Saturn bright with Gemini in the West.


Week of 20th December


  • Tuesday 21st is the Winter Solstice at 12.42pm.
  • The great Winter sky of Gemini (+ Saturn)Procyon, Sirius, Orion, Hyades and Pleiades is now prominent in the mid evening sky in SE.
  • The Moon will be full next Sunday and its scattered light is obscuring the fainter objects.
  • The Ursids metoer shower peaks on Wednesday at 5.05am, with the Radiant in Ursa Minor (near Polaris)this shower rarely gives many meteors per hour.
  • Comet Machholz is climbing higher in the sky and speeding up as it approaches the Sun. Though now brighter and visible by unaided eye, the Moon will make it hard to see till the New Year, when it will be heading into Taurus and towards the Pleiades.


Week of 13th December


  • Saturn is now clear of the horizon haze by mid-evening and is a fine sight in a small telescope. If we get a clear night the 10inch will certainly target it.
  • The Moon is now waxing and will be at first Quarter in time for the Tour of the Winter Sky at the end of the week.
  • The Sun is a little more active again but aurorae are only likely at high latitudes (just in case your holidays are taking you North!)
  • The Geminids meteor shower is due to peak on Monday at 8.45pm and given the lack of Moon could be good, except for the poor forecast.
  • There is now a Comet visible to the unaided eye and good in the telescope. This is Comet Machholz and it will be getting brighter over Christmas. It is easy to find at about 4 o’clock from the bottom right foot of Orion (Rigel) (see Solar Weather link for details)


Week of 6th December


  • The morning sky just before dawn is the time to see planets at the moment. On Tuesday Jupiter and its moons will be right next to the Moon (in fact from eastern USA Jupiter will be eclipsed). On Friday Mars will be just above the Moon and Venus just above Mars. Saturn continues to improve as an evening object.
  • The Moon is waning and will be New again next Sunday.
  • Solar activity has calmed and no storms are currently predicted.
  • Next Saturday there is a chance to see a daylight Iridium flare (associated with one of the Iridium satellites) It will occur just after 8.27am, 49 degrees above the ENE horizon (bearing 73 degrees)
  • Look out for early Geminid meteors as the end of the week approaches.


Week of 29th November


  • Venus and Jupiter continue to separate in the early morning sky and Saturn to become ever more prominent in the Eastern evening sky. Mars will also be visible next to Venus by the end of the week, but much fainter.
  • The Moon is now waning and will be at Last Quarter by next Sunday.
  • Solar activity is expected to rise again and there is a chance of magnetic storms by mid-week


Week of 22nd November


  • Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are all visible in the early morning sky, with Jupiter and especially Venus being visible for some time after sunrise. Saturn is now a prominent bright orange light low in the late Eastern evening sky from about 9pm.
  • The Moon is now waxing and will be full on Friday


Week of 15th November


  • Venus and Jupiter are obvious bright objects in the early morning sky. Saturn has returned to the night sky, rising in the east after sunset directly below Gemini (Castor and Pollux), although not at a high enough altitude for the 10″ until 11pm.
  • The Moon is growing to 1st quarter by the end of the week.
  • Leonids Meteor shower is due to peak on Friday evening but keep watching during the week!
  • Solar activity has declined, but the large Sun spot which caused last weeks Aurorae is likely to return next week.