2004 – 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.


Week of 5th December


  • The Moon is First Quarter on Thursday
  • Venus and the cresent Moon are close on Sunday
  • The Sun has a fast growing spot on the Earth side which could give rise to activity at the start of the week
  • There are no ISS evening passes but there are two really bright Iridium flares: On Sunday 4th at 18.00.55 50 deg. altitude in NE; Monday 5th at 17.50.05, 52 deg. NE
  • Orion is now high in the evening sky and M42, the Orion nebula, is easy to pick out as a fuzzy patch half way down the sword hanging from the left hand side of the belt
  • If the night is clear and cold expect to see a good number of shooting stars per hour, the Geminids start from 6th and peak on 14th, but there are several minor showers active over the next couple of weeks (the Delta Arietids with a radiant in Aries) for example


Week of 28th November


  • The Moon is New on Wednesday
  • Venus is growing brighter by the day and with no Moon this week will dominate the early evening sky
  • The Sun is quiet again
  • There are no visible evening ISS passes
  • There are only two really bright evening Iridium flares: On Sunday at 16.40.17 at 71 deg. ENE and Monday at 16.34.10, 71 deg. altitude, ENE


Week of 21st November


  • The Moon is Last Quarter on Wednesday
  • The Sun has an active spot which could lead to activity this week
  • 3 Planets are now visible, though Venus sets soon after dark and Saturn is not yet prominent till late evening
  • The very cold nights (when not foggy) give a superb view of the Milky Way across the sky. By 10pm Orion is rising, a sure sign of approaching Christmas
  • The ISS has passed for the moment and there are only two bright evening Iridium flares: next Saturday at 16.46.25 70 deg. altitude NNE and Sunday at 16.40.17 71 deg. altitude ENE


Week of 14th November


  • The Moon will be Full (Frosty Moon) on Wednesday. Look for the bright ray craters Tycho and Copernicus
  • Mars will be 3 degrees South of the Moon on Tuesday
  • Venus now dominates the early evening sky in the West (twice as bright as fading Mars) setting around 6.00pm. Saturn is back in the late evening rising around 10.30pm in the East.
  • The Leonids meteor shower peaks on Thursday afternoon. This year it is predicted to be weak (20 per hour) and will not be very visible due to the Full Moon. there are still some bright late Taurids being seen
  • The Sun has developed a large spot 822 which may lead to some activity
  • There are several ISS passes as follows: Sunday 13th 17.58.08 W to ESE, Monday 16.49.19 W to E and 18.24.42 W to SSW, Tuesday 17.15.50 WSW to SSE and 18.51.30 W to SW, Wednesday 17.42.22 W to SE, Thursday 18.09.10 W to SSE, Friday 16.59.55 W to SE, Saturday 17.26.45 W to S and Sunday 16.46.10 WSW to S
  • The start of the week is good for Iridium flares as follows: The best (100 times brighter than Mars)is on Sunday 17.56.57 at 53 deg. altitude NNE then Monday 17.50.49 54 deg. alt NNE; Tuesday 17.44.51 at 54 deg. NE and Wednesday 17.38.34 55 deg. NE


Week of 7th November


  • Mars is at Opposition on Monday and remains dominant in the night sky, in the 10 inch it is almost too bright and requires filters to pick out surface detail
  • The Moon is First Quarter on Wednesday
  • There is still a chance of some bright Taurids at the start of the week
  • There are daily passes of the ISS just after dark as follows: Sunday 18.12.21 WSW to ESE, Monday 18.36.22 W to W, Tuesday 17.25.18 WSW to E, Wednesday 17.49.14 W to E, Thursday 18.13.12 W to E, Friday 17.01.56 W to E Saturday 17.31.35 W to E and Sunday 17.58.08 W to ESE.
  • There are 2 bright Iridium Flares on Saturday at 18.03.04 51 deg. altitude NNE and Sunday early in the morning at 06.37.02 28 deg. altitude ENE


Week of 31st October


  • The Taurids appear to be producing some fireballs (meteors brighter than -4)and this may be a swarm year where larger debris is being encountered. Watch out from 3rd November till mid-next week
  • The Moon will be New on Wednesday. This will give good dark skies (weather permitting!) for meteor and Mars watching.
  • Mars is now at its closest and will not be as close for 13 years. Features including dust storms can be made out on the disc
  • The Taurids meteor shower (debris from comet Encke), which has a double radiant and a long peak over 3rd till 7th November should show moderate activity
  • The ISS is back as follows: 5/11 17.48.39 SW to ESE, 6/11 18.12.29 WSW to ESE and 17.01.48 SW to E, 8/11 17.25.34 WSW to E. There are also some bright evening Iridium flares: 30/10 at 19.14.24 28 deg. altitude NNE, 31/10 19.08.08 at 30 deg. NNE, 3/11 16.53.15 at 72 deg. NE, 4/11 16.47.07 at 74 deg. NE and 5/11 16.41.00 at 74 deg. NE
  • The Sun remains quiet


Week of 24th October


  • Wednesday sees the launch of ESA’s Venus Express, our first return to the Planet for some time. Expected arrival is in early Arpil 2006 after a 153 day flight.
  • The Moon will be Last Quarter on Tuesday, with Saturn 4 deg. to the South
  • The Sun is spotless and little activity is expected
  • There are no ISS passes and only 2 Iridium flares of any note: On Tuesday at 20.46.24, 14 deg. altitude in N and Friday at 20.26.59, 24 deg. alt NNE.
  • Mars will be at its closest next Sunday (though at Opposition on 7th November)
  • Our clocks revert to GMT(UT) ie 1 hour back at 1am next Sunday 30th


Week of 17th October


  • The Moon is full on Monday (Hunter or Blood Moon). It will be partially eclipsed as well but this is not visible from here. We are entering Major Lunar Standstill season (this was an important marker in the calendars of the ancient (especially coastal dwelling) astronomers) and in December the full Moon will reach its highest point above the local horizon here, 67 deg. Even now the Moon will appear very high in the night sky.
  • The Sun is quiet with as expected very few spots
  • Mars grows and brightens and is now rising around 8pm. By 9.30pm it is within reach of the 10 inch
  • There are no ISS evening passes this week and only one Iridium flare of note , on Monday at 19.28.21 at 47 deg. altitude in NNE
  • The Orionids meteor shower (debris from comet Halley) peaks at 9am on Friday morning. It is worth observing on Thursday and Friday nights, though the Moon will not be helpfull.


Week of 10th October


  • The Moon is First Quarter on Monday
  • There is a chance of increased meteor activity from 8th till 10th this year. These are the Draconids (for a long time a minor shower) but they have reached storm proportions in the past and may do this year. The radiant is in Draco (to the West of Polaris and NW of Plough). These meteors are associated with the short period comet Giacobini-Zinner whose orbit is severely perturbed by regular close encounters with Jupiter
  • The Sun is quiet with one small spot
  • Mars is rapidly reaching its full glory as seen in 2003 and will be the best for the next 15 years by the end of the month. It has come 56 million miles closer to us since July this year. Many features are becomming visible in the 10 inch.
  • There are no ISS evening passes his week, but this is a good week for Iridium flares; On Sunday (9th)at 20.17.46 33 deg. altitude in N, Monday at 20.11.33 35 deg. alt in N, Tuesday 20.05.21 37 deg. alt in N, Wednesday 19.59.11 39 deg. alt in NNE, the best is on Thursday at 19.52.59 41 deg. alt in NNE, Friday at 19.46.49 42 deg. alt in NNE and Saturday at 19.40.39 44 deg. alt in NNE.


Week of 3rd October


  • The Partial eclipse on Monday at the New Moon has first contact at hrs and last contact at hrs. The maximum 67% eclipse will occur around 10am. N.B. It is not safe to view the partially eclipsed Sun without professional filters or Solar Viewers.
  • The Sun itself has no spots at all at present
  • Mars continues to brighten as it rises earlier
  • There are no evening ISS passes this week but there are 3 really bright Iridium flares: On Monday at 18.49.00 , altitude 63 deg. in N, Tuesday at 20.49.13 at 23 deg. altitude in N and on Wednesday at 20.42.45 at 25 deg. altitude in N.


Week of 26th September


  • The Sun is now quiet and little activity is expected
  • The Moon continues to wane and will be New on Monday 3rd and in exact line with the Sun. The Solar Eclipse produced will not be total due to the Moon being further from the Earth in its orbit and hence it will only block the centre of the Sun’s disc, producing a ring of photosphere at maximum (annular eclipse) this effect will be visible from Spain and North East Africa. From here we will see a partial eclipse (starting at 8.50am local time) where 67% (around 9.45am) of the Sun’s disc will be covered, the eclipse will end at 11.20am. This is the greatest partial eclipse extent visible from here till 4th January 2011.
  • The lack of Moon this week will again prove beneficial in viewing the outer planets and getting a good view of the suraface details on Mars; the southern polar ice cap is not so evident as in 2003 as its shrinks into Summer, but clouds over the growing northern cap can be made out in the 10 inch.
  • There are no ISS passes this week and no bright evening Iridium flares


Week of 19th September


  • Next Thursday 22nd is the Autumnal Equinox, the Sun rises due E and sets due W and after this rises progressivley further South
  • The Sun has now quietened down, though spot 798 still has a few days on the near side
  • The Moon will be last Quarter next Sunday
  • There are no ISS passes or bright Iridium flares this week
  • Mars is now rising around 9.30pm and is dominant in the eastern sky by 10pm


Week of 12th September


  • The Sun will remain highly active as spot 798 rotates to face the Earth. 9 large flares have now been detected since last Wednesday. The potential for disruptive magnetric storms and low-latitude auroras is very high, look out on the night of 14th and 15th if clear. A flare on 13th sent a Coronal Mass Ejection towards Earth. This has been the most active month since 1991 ! and we are nearly at Solar minimum
  • The Moon will be full next Sunday, this is the Harvest Moon
  • Mars continues to appear earlier and dominates the late evening eastern sky
  • The ISS has another week of passes: Monday 12th at 21.09.26 W to S; Tuesday 20.00.00 W to ESE and 21.35.42 W to SW; Wednesday 20.25.58 W to SE;Thursday 20.52.14 W to S; Friday 19.42.24 W to SE and Saturday 20.08.41 WSW to S
  • There is only only really bright Iridium flare on Wednesday at 20.42.40, 32 deg. altitude in N


Week of 5th September


  • The Sun is no longer quiet ! The massive spot 798 has returned at the Eastern limb and has already unleased 3 massive x-ray flares, the largest rated X17 (the 4th largest ever recorded) !. The next few days will see the possibility of strong magnetic storms. Communications could be effected and there is the possibility of face on Coronal Mass Ejections. Watch out for Auroras over the week-end.
  • The Moon will be 1st Quarter on Sunday
  • There will be a good gathering in the Western sky just after sunset on Wednesday when the Moon, Jupiter, Venus and the bright star Spica are all within a couple of degrees
  • This is the week for ISS passes with generally two evening sightings per night: Monday at 21.17.41 from W to E and 22.53.01 from W to E; Tuesday 20.08.32 WSW to E and 21.43.48 W to N;Wednesday 20.34.31 W to E, 22.09.51 W to W;Thursday 21.00.32 W to E, 22.35.52 W to E;Friday 21.26.29 W to SSE; Saturday 20.17.05 W to E, 21.52.25 W to WSW and Sunday 20.42.56 W to ESE and 22.18.33 W to W
  • There is only one bright Iridium flare on Wednesday at 21.39.22 15 deg. altitude in N


Week of 29th August


  • We are approaching a week of dark skies, the Moon is New next Saturday
  • Jupiter and Venus are close to each other in the West just as the Sun sets and Mars is bright orange rising late evening (11pm) in the East, just South of the Pleiades and Taurus, a signal that Autumn is approaching.
  • The Sun is quiet again after the activity of last week.
  • The ISS returns in the evening at the end of the week as follows: Thursday 21.08.19 from SSW to ESE; Friday 21.34.04 WSW to SE; Saturday 20.25.17 SW to E and 22.00.07 W to WSW and Sunday 20.50.58 WSW to E.
  • There are 3 bright evening Iridium passes, Sunday 28th at 23.56.26 altitude 10 deg. in W, Monday 23.33.59 12 deg. altitude in W and Tuesday 23.32.22, 11 deg. altitude in W



Apology: ISS times and Iridium times have been given in GMT, this was not clear and they will now be given consistently in Local time.


Week of 22nd August


  • The Moon will be last Quarter on Friday and the loss of Moonlight will allow better viewing of the outer planets at the end of the month
  • Mercury is at greatest elongation on Tuesday and Mars is just south of the Moon on Thursday
  • The Sun currently has a fast growing spot group 5 times the Earth in size and the days ahead will see some activity towards the Western limb
  • There are no evening ISS passes but there are 5 Iridium flares to look out for; Monday 22.47.03 at 22 deg. WSW, Tuesday 22.50.02 at 19 deg. WSW, Thursday 22.47.08 at 17 deg. WSW and 2 on Friday at 22.30.53 at 18 deg. WSW and 22.50.12 at 14 deg. W


Week of 15th August


  • The Moon will be full on Friday. This is known as the Red Moon (given the effect of Summer sultry haze, if weather permits !) In some cultures it is also known as the Sturgeon Moon being the time of year when they are best caught.
  • The Sun is relatively quiet at present with only one sunspot group, but magnetic activity is still likely towards the end of the week
  • There are no visible ISS passes (at least at a reasonable hour)
  • 4 bright Iridium flares may be seen: On Wednesday at 22.59.04, 28 deg. altitude in WSW; Thursday at 22.46.45, 29 deg. altitude WSW; Friday 20.20.35, 25 deg. altitude in N; Saturday 22.50.02, 25 deg. altitude WSW


Week of 8th August


  • The Space Shuttle Discovery is due to land on Tuesday morning after weather called off the Monday landing ‘windows’
  • The Perseid meteor shower peaks at 7.30pm on Friday. All through the week it is worth watching for the build up to 60 or 100 per hour, once the sky is dark enough.
  • The Moon will be First Quarter on Saturday
  • Neptune is at opposition on Monday and thus well placed for viewing later this month
  • The Sun has more potentially active groups which could unleash magnetic storms over the next few days
  • There are 4 bright evening Iridium flares to watch whilst waiting for Perseids: On Tuesday at 22.21.44, 17 deg. altitude looking W; Wednesday at 22.24.56, 15 deg. in W; Thursday 22.28.10, 13 deg. in W and Friday at 22.31.27, 11 deg. in WNW.


Week of 1st August


  • The Discovery shuttle crew are expected to be given the ‘all-clear’ to land next week-end having assessed the damage on take-off , though the mission has been extended by one day
  • The Moon will be New next Friday
  • The Sun has an active spot 792 and magnetic storms are expected during the week
  • There are no ISS passes but 4 bright evening Iridium flares. On Tuesday at 22.27.12, 28 deg. altitude looking W, on Wednesday at 23.43.32 at 46 deg. altitude SW, on Thursday at 22.24.16 25 deg. altitude in W and on Saturday at 22.21.24 22 deg. in W


Week of 25th July


  • The postponed first launch of the Shuttle following the Columbia accident (two and a half years ago) is now scheduled for Tuesday at 3.39 BST.
  • Thursday will be the last Quarter Moon
  • The Sun was totally quiet at the week-end with no sunspots at all, a sure sign of approaching Solar minimum (and the week of the Solar weather summer school course !) There is now one spot 791 which may grow. However on the far side there are two active regions which have alreday caused large Coronal Mass Ejections and may cause severe activity when they rotate into view, this could happen by Friday and give magnetic storms at the week-end
  • There are no ISS passes this week. 1 bright evening Iridium flare occurs on Tuesday at 20.42.50, at 21 deg. altitude in NNW.


Week of 18th July


  • Wednesday is the 36th anniversary of the fisrt (Apollo 11) Moon landing
  • The Moon will be full on Thursday (The Thunder Moon in Moon Lore)
  • For those awake early, look east before sunrise and Mars is now very prominent and red. In a small telescope the southern polar ice cap should be visible
  • There are 3 bright evening Iridium flares at the start of the week on 18th at 22.04.28 at 23 deg. altitude in W, on 19th at 23.15.17, 43 deg. in SW and on 20th at 22.01.41, 20 deg. in NNW


Week of 11th July


  • The Moon will be 1st Quarter on Thursday
  • At the start of the week the Moon, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will all be close just after sunset
  • The Sun has a number of active groups again which could lead to flares
  • The ISS makes a couple more passes before another absense from our skies: On Monday at 21.40.36 W to SE and Wednesday 20.59.33 W to SE
  • There are 3 bright Iridium flares in the mid to late evening: On Monday at 22.19.07 33 deg. altitude in W, Thursday at 22.10.08, 29 deg. altitude in W and Friday at 23.30.27 at 48 deg. in SW


Week of 4th July


  • Monday 4th at 0650 BST the Deep Impact mission will send a 360 kg disc of copper into the nucleus of short period comet Tempel 1. The impact will hopefully lead to an increased knowledge of the composition and of the early Solar System. It will also demonstrate our ability to impact an approaching comet, though the change in this comet’s path will be negligable. The event will not be visible from the UK. Incidently the impactor, which will be vaporised carries a CD inscribed with the names of 14 GCSE Astronomers from the College (Class of 2004)
  • On Saturday the College will have access to the Dome as part of Prize Day. The Dome will be open from 10am till 5pm with an exhibition of past GCSE Moon Maps and if clear the Sun will be viewed in H alpha
  • The Moon is New on Wednesday
  • The Sun having been blank is now covered in fast developing spots, again unusual perhaps for the approaching Solar minimum
  • The ISS is back with 10 good passes this week: 3/7 21.16.17 WSW to E and 22.51.29 W to E. 4/7 21.42.24 WSW to E. 5/7 22.08.38 W to E. 6/7 22.34.51 W to ESE. 7/7 21.25.43 W to E. 8/7 21.51.54 W to ESE. 9/7 22.18.05 W to SE. 10/7 21.08.53 W to ESE. 11/7 21.35.02 W to SE
  • There are two bright eveing Iridium flares on 4/7 at 22.42.58 41 deg. altitude WSW and 8/7 at 22.27.57, 37 deg. altitude WSW


Week of 27th June


  • The Moon is at last Quarter on Tuesday.
  • The Planets Mercury and Venus are within 0.1 degrees on 27th with Saturn just below them. Look WNW between 10pm and 10.45pm.
  • The Sun now has two rapidly growing spots and there is a chance of Auroral activity on Saturday night
  • The ISS returns this week with good passes on Friday at 21.57.26 SW to E, Saturday 22.22.46 WSW to E and Sunday 21.13.07 SW to E.
  • There is one really bright Iridium flare scheduled for Thursday at 22.57.59, altitude 45 deg. WSW.


Week of 20th June


  • Tuesday 21st is the Summer Solstice, the longest day in the year when the Sun rises at its furthest North on the Eastern horizon and sets at its furthest North on the Western horizon
  • 22nd is the Full Moon (Honey Moon) and this will be the lowest Moon path on the sky since 1987 reaching barely 10 degrees above the horizon. This gives a chance to see the optical illusion of its abnormal size as it rises just before 10pm
  • There are no bright evening ISS passes and only one bright evening Iridium flare on 20th at 20.56.32, 54 deg. altitude in NE
  • The Sun is relatively quiet again
  • Observing is now hampered by twilight and it is only properly dark for a couple of hours in the middle of the night
  • The planets Mercury, Venus and Saturn are coming up to a close conjunction in the twilight low WNW sky, by the end of the week-end they will be all within one degree of each other and should be visible shortly after sunset (10.15pm)


Week of 13th June


  • The Moon wil be at first Quarter on Tuesday and will make a fine pairing close to Jupiter on Wednesday
  • There are no evening ISS passes his week. There are 2 bright Iridium flares on 14th at 21.23.26 at 46 deg. altitude NE and on 16th at 23.55.19, 55 deg. altitude in SSW
  • Sunspots 775 and 776 have grown and could give rise to magnetic storms. 776 is visible by unaided eye at around 5 times the size of the Earth, though do not look directly at the Sun to see it !


Week of 6th June


  • A New Moon on Monday means that we will have a dark week for Comet Tempel 1 viewing, perhaps on Monday or Tuesday when the forecast is clear and colder
  • Jupiter and the comet are close together so will make for good targets, Venus is now evident in the North West as the Sun sets and will be close to the crescent Moon on Friday
  • No ISS passes and only one evening Iridium flare on Thursday at 21.44.10, 38 deg. altitude in NE. The is a chance however to see a flare in daylight on Tuesday at 20.12.08, 67 deg. altitude in NE
  • The Sun has three groups of spots, one of these is growing rapidly and may give rise to magnetic storms


Week of 30th May


  • The Moon is now waning and giving dark skies for the rest of the week
  • Jupiter is now beginning to set in the west after midnight. Venus will get ever more noticeable in the early evening western sky.
  • Comet Temple 1 (the target for Deep Impact on 4th July) is hard to discern at 11th magnitude, but is sufficiently close to Jupiter to find in the 10inch.
  • The are no ISS passes this week and only one bright evening Iridium flare on 1st June at 22.13.19, 24 deg. altitude in NNE
  • The Sun now has an active growing sunspot no.767 which unleased a CME which is due to hit the Earth in the next couple of days and might trigger aurorae.


Week of 23rd May


  • 44 years ago on Wednesday President J.F. Kennedy announced his goal of landing on the Moon (it took just 8 years for this to happen). It looks as though within the next ten years we will be back.
  • The Moon will be full tomorrow, Monday. In Moon-lore this is the Flower Moon.
  • Venus is now discernable in the twilight of the setting Sun and will get progressively more prominent.
  • The Sun is almost spotless at present and certainly more as expected towards Solar minimum than last week-end’s activity would suggest.
  • No ISS passes this week and only two bright evening Iridium flares on 26th at 21.06.10, 50 deg. altitude in NE and on 28th at 22.27.30, 17 deg. altitude NNE.


Week of 16th May


  • The Moon will be first Quarter on Tuesday
  • The Sun unleashed a CME over the week-end and this hit Earth yesterday during the day, producing a severe geomagnetic storm. Despite Solar minimum approaching there still seems to be plenty going on.
  • After a week of superb ISS passes, there are only 2 more for a while. 16th 21.59.37 low in WSW to SW, 17th 20.50.03 W to SSE.
  • One bright Iridium flare on 17th 21.41.48 at 35 deg. altitude NE.


Week of 9th May


  • Saturday 14th sees the 32nd anniversary of the launch of the first major space station Skylab.
  • This week the Moon is new and waxing to First Quarter on 16th and so the dark skies will be ideal for viewing the last few Eta Aquarid meteors or the ISS which passes each evening.
  • ISS passes are as follows: 9th at 20.24.51 WSW to E and 22.00.14 W to E. 10th at 20.51.40 W to E and 22.27.02 W to SW. 11th at 21.18.28 W to ESE, 12th at 21.45.14 W to SE, 13th 20.31.36 W to ESE and 14th 21.03.20 W to SE.
  • 2 bright Iridium Flares this week occur on 10th at 22.05.01 at 24 deg. altitude in NNE and on 13th at 21.56.29, 29 deg. altitude in NE.
  • Jupiter will be viewed well this week. Venus is now back as an evening planet low down in the west after sunset and close to the New Moon.


Week of 2nd May


  • For anyone near to Oxford, there is a Public Lecture (The Halley Lecture) on ‘Massive Black Holes’ given by Prof. Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute in the Sir Martin Wood theatre of Clarendon Laboratory, Parks Road at 5pm on Tuesday.
  • This is a week of ISS passes as follows: 4th at 21.21 SW to ESE, 5th 21.51 WSW to E, 6th 20.40 SW to E also 22.15 W to ENE, 7th 21.06 WSW to E, 8th 21.33 W to E and 9/5 20.25 WSW to E. The will be one bright evening Iridium flare on 3rd at 21.03.52 altitude 47 deg. NE.
  • The Moon is waning and will be Dark next Sunday.
  • The Sun has a huge mature spot 756 (5 times Earth size) visible by unaided eye (don’t try to look though!)
  • The end of the week will be a good time for Jupiter watching


Week of 25th April


  • Bright evening Iridium flares may be seen on 25th at 19.58.37, altitude 67 deg. E and 21.33.34, 35 deg altitude NE, 29th at 21.18.45, 41 deg. altitude NE.
  • The Moon is now waning to first Quarter next Sunday
  • The Sun is spotless at present and little activity is expected
  • Jupiter will be getting better as the Moonlight fades and Neptune and Uranus are evening objects again though near the Moon this week.


Week of 18th April


  • Two bright iridium flares may be visible on 19th at 21.50.55, 25 deg altitude NE and on 22nd at 21.47.17, 29 deg altitude NE
  • The ISS is passing early in the morning this week
  • The Sun remains quiet
  • The Moon will be full on 24th this is the Pink Moon in Moon lore
  • The Lyrids meteor shower peaks on 22nd at 6.30am. The radient is high in the sky and typically 10 per hour may be seen. It is worth looking out from the beginning of the week


Week of 11th April


  • Two bright evening Iridium flares are potentially visible on 15th at 20.40.43, 51 deg, altitude ENE and on 17th at 21.53.27, 20 deg altitude NE
  • Having been active earlier in the week, the Sun is now quiet
  • The Moon is waxing to first Quarter on Saturday
  • Saturn will be close to the Moon on Friday and Jupiter continues to dominate the night sky with bright orange Arcturus further north in the eastern sky


Week of 4th April


  • No I.S.S. passes this week and only 2 bright evening Iridium flares on 4th at 21.19.26, 34 deg, altitude ENE and Thursday 21.10.36, 39 deg. ENE.
  • The Sun is not active and is showing very few spots. Solar minimum is due to occur next year 2006.
  • The Moon is waning and will be new next week-end.
  • Jupiter now dominates the night sky rising early evening in the East and is at its closest to Earth during the year. It is 3 times brighter than Sirius and its surface features are easily visible in a small telescope.


Week of 28th March


  • There is only one bright Iridium flare this week on Friday 1st April at 21.28.14 hrs, 29 deg. altitude ENE.
  • The Moon is waning to last Quarter by Saturday.
  • The Sun remains quiet.
  • Jupiter will be at Opposition on 3rd April. Io transits Jupiter and Europa appears from Occultation mid-evening on Monday 28th.


Week of 21st March


  • The I.S.S will make its last passes for a while this week, though they will be low in the sky apart from 21/3 7.36pm W to SSW and 23/3 6.55pm W to SSW.
  • There will be 3 bright Iridium flares 23/3 18.20.57 at 59 deg. N, 24/3 21.38.41 at 15 deg. NE 26/3 and 21.36.08 at 18 deg. NE
  • The Moon is waxing to full on Friday (‘Worm’ moon) and being the first full Moon after the Vernal Equinox (20/3) heralds Easter day next Sunday.
  • The Sun is still quiet though there is still prominence activity on the Eastern limb.
  • Jupiter is now a beutiful object in the mid-evening in the East and accessible in the 10 inch. Saturn is now firmly in the Western hemisphere during the evening.


Week of 14th March


  • Monday is the 126th anniversary of Einstein’s birth. 2005 is officially Einstein year to celebrate 100 years since the publication of his Special Theory of Relativity.
  • The I.S.S will be passing almost overhead each evening this week. (Data from heavensabove) The main passes are as follows. 13/3 7.05pm WSW to E, 14/3 7.33pm W to E, 15/3 8.01pm W to ENE, 16/3 6.53pm W to E, 17/3 7.21pm W to E, 18/3 7.48pm W to SE, 19/3 7.08pm W to ESE, hopefully the weather will allow viewing of one of these !
  • There are 3 bright Iridium flares: 13/3 19.13.11 alt 44 deg N, 14/3 19.39.23 alt 56 deg ESE and 19/3 19.18.14 alt 61 deg SE.
  • Mercury will be easy to see this week just after sunset, bright and low in West (probably orange due to the atmosphere). Saturn is almost overhead mid evening and Jupiter is now obvious and bright from about 8.30pm in East.
  • The Sun remains quiet
  • The Moon is waxing to first Quarter on Thursday.


Week of 7th March


  • This week in 1934 Yuri Gagarin was born.
  • The I.S.S. will be making passes this week. The following are bright evening events. Friday at 19.45.33 from WSW up to 56 deg altitude to SE (3 minutes) and Saturday 19.06.11 WSW to 62 deg to E (5 minutes). There are two bright Iridium flares on Wednesday 20.00.31 51 deg altitude direction 111 deg ESE and Thursday morning in daylight 08.52.50 at 78 deg direction 126 deg SE.
  • The Sun is still quiet.
  • The Moon is now waning and will be New on Thursday
  • Saturn is now high in the evening sky so well viewed (out of the atmopheric effects and light pollution at lower altitudes) this week with no Moon. Jupiter is now rising in the East around 9.30pm and is nearly an evening object in the 10 inch again.
  • Mercury is easily visible at sunset low in the West, near the crescent Moon on 11th


Week of 28th February


  • This week in 1966 Venera 3(USSR) was the first probe to reach Venus and in 1972 Pioneer 10 was launched to Jupiter
  • Having seen my first Iridium flare last week, I think they are worth looking out for if the sky is clear. The following are bright flares for this week (all data from heavens-above.com)on 28th at 16.13.38, 83 deg altitude and bearing 184 deg (S) on 2nd at 18.06.12, 64 deg bearing 12 deg (NNE) on 3rd at 18.00.05, 66 deg bearing 14 deg (NNE) and on 4th at 19.59.52, 27 deg bearing 8 deg (N). These are angles as from Marlborough. The flares are caused as various rotating Iridium communications satellites catch the Sun light in their orbits and due to their flat door shaped reflecting surfaces they can shine as bright as the Moon, typical flares last for 1 or 2 seconds.
  • The long filament on the Sun’s surface is now visible as a prominence above the western limb but the Sun remains relatively inactive.
  • The Moon is waning to last Quarter on Thursday.


Week of 21st February


  • This week in 1962 John Glenn became the first American Astronaut to orbit the Earth.
  • There will be an Iridium Flare visible in daylight from Marlborough at 14.33.11 on Thursday 24th. Look SSW (192 deg.) and at 52 deg. altitude
  • The Sun has only mature spots and is quiet. However an enormous loop of gas is suspended above the Sun’s surface facing us and appears as a dark filament, it is equivalent to the Earth-Moon distance in length.
  • The Moon will be full on Thursday (Snow Moon), its name may well be appropriate this week if the forecasts are correct.
  • Saturn is rather washed out by the Moonlight this week and Jupiter is still a middle of the night target.


Week of 14th February


  • This week marks two historic birthdays, Copernicus in 1473 and Galileo in 1564. Valentine’s Day in 2001 marked the first pictures being sent back from the surface of an Asteroid (Eros)
  • The Sun is relatively quiet at present and spot 720 has all but disappeared.
  • The Moon in waxing to 1st Quarter on Wednesday and is presently showing clear Earth-shine on the dark hemisphere.
  • Comet Machholz is now barely discernable by eye, but is still ok in Binos. It is now high in the North-Western sky half way between Cassiopeia and the Pole Star, being close to the pole it is harder to follow with the Earth’s rotation.
  • For those with telescopes Saturn is very close (just to the left) to the Eskimo Planetary nebula and look out (by unaided eye) for the pretty Beehive Open Cluster (M44) about 15 degrees below Saturn in Cancer.


Week of 7th Febrauary


  • This week in 1999 the NASA probe Stardust was launched. It successfully collected samples from within 250km of the nucleus of Comet P/Wild 2 at the end of 2003. The samples will be returned to Earth on January 15th 2006. The hope is that there may be signs of biological molecules.
  • Recently discovered 320m wide Asteroid 2004 MN4 will pass the Earth in 2029 on April 13th at a distance of only 30,000km and will be as bright as a 3rd magnitude star..something to look forward to !
  • Sunspot 720 is looming on the Sun’s eastern limb and may bring a significant rise in Solar activity over the next few days.
  • The Moon will be New on Tuesday.
  • All week will be good for Comet Machholz in Binos, if we get a clear night !.


Week of 31st January


  • This week two years ago Space Shuttle Columbia broke up on reentry killing all 7 on board. In 1974 the probe Mariner 10 took the first close up images of Venus
  • The Moon is now waning and will be new by the start of next week.
  • The Sun is presently quiet but spot 720 may well return by the middle of the next week
  • Comet Machholz though now at the limit of naked eye visability is still clear in Binos and with the lack of Moon this week and given its high altitude (next to the W of Cassiopeia) it is not badly affected by scattered light


Week of 24th January


  • This week marks the 19th anniversary of 2 major astronomical events. In 1986 Voyager 2 became the first space probe to pass by Uranus and later that week the Challenger Space Shuttle blew up on take off killing all 7 crew.
  • The Moon will be full on Monday night (Wolf Moon)
  • The vast sunspot 720 has gone round the western limb and the Sun is now quiet, but the spot may still be in existense when the Sun has made another half rotation


Week of 17th January


  • The Moon is waxing throughout the week and will be full on 25th.
  • Saturn is well placed for viewing at present and showing plenty of detail in the 10 inch.
  • Comet Machholz continues to head higher in the sky towards H and Chi Perseii (Double Open Cluster)and is fading in brightness.
  • The Sun has released 2 Coronal Mass Ejections over the week-end and spot 720 is now bigger than Jupiter. High magnetic activity is expected with chances of Aurorae at the start of the week.


Week of 10th January


  • On Thursday the NASA Deep Impact mission is launched. This is the first mission to aim to impact a comet’s nucleus (Temple 1) to reveal what it is made of and to release material which will shed light on the early Solar Sustem. On Friday the ESA Huygens probe will descend into the atmosphere of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn and hopefully reveal one of the greatest mysteries of the Solar System, the moon’s composition.
  • Monday 10th is a New Moon which will wax to first quarter by the end of the week. If the forecast is correct there could be some clear dark skies during the week (Tuesday and Wednesday)
  • Comet Machholz is now past the Pleiades and heading up towards Perseus. It will remain a naked-eye object till next week.
  • Saturn will be at opposition on Thursday and thus well placed for observation.
  • The Sun has suddenly grown a very large sunspot (visble to the unaided eye, but don’t look directly at the Sun !) This could give rise to increased Solar activity.


Week of 3rd January


  • Monday 3rd the Quadrantids meteor shower peaks at 12.20 pm. There should be meteors visible on Monday and Tuesday nights. The radiant is between the Pole star and the tail of the Plough (The constellation Quadrans Muralis is now no longer recognised)
  • Comet Machholz is now brightening to its maximum by the end of the week and will be only 2 degrees from the Pleiades Open cluster on Friday 7th. It is now distinctly green in colour (due to Carbon and CN in its coma) Its straight ion tail is now visible in the telescope and the dust tail, but this is very faint. If the night is clear, the comet and its ion tail are easy now by unaided eye.
  • Saturn will be only 7 degrees from Pollux on 6th.
  • The Sun has now quietened down and its disc is almost blank.