June 2021 – What’s Up!

Week of 28th June

  • Astronomical twilight does not end until 00:55 BST on 21st July
  • Watch the planets Venus (mag -3.9) and Mars (+1.8) appear ever closer to eachother through this week in our evening sky. Look to the western horizon to see the pair just after sunset
  • The waning gibbous Moon passes by both Saturn (mag +0.4) and Jupiter (-2.6) on Monday and Tuesday. Look southeast, just above the horizon around 00:00 BST to see the solar system objects
  • Mercury reaches greatest elongation west on Sunday, appearing with 21.6° separation from the Sun in the morning sky just before sunrise
  • The Moon is Last Quarter on Thursday
  • The Sun currently has one active region, AR 2835. The sunspot number is 16
  • There are no visible evening ISS passes this week

Week of 21st June

  • Astronomical twilight does not end until 00:55 BST on 21st July
  • The Summer Solstice occurs at 04:25 BST on Monday, when the Sun will be at its most Northerly point in the sky with a declination of +23.5°. It will have an altitude of 62° at 13:00 BST, its highest point in the sky of the year. Monday will be the longest day of the year for us in the Northern Hemisphere and Monday night the shortest night, with only 7 hours 21 minutes between sunset and sunrise. The rising and setting of the Sun are also at their most northerly point of the year, with sunrise on Monday happening at an azimuth of just 49°, compare this with sunrise on the Winter Solstice at an azimuth of 128°!
  • On Wednesday, Mars (mag +1.8) will be in conjunction with M44 the Beehive Cluster in Cancer. Look to the north-northwest horizon after sunset to find the planet and cluster. Venus (-3.9) will be just a few degrees further west
  • The Moon is Full on Thursday – the Strawberry Moon (nothing to do with its colour, but so named as it indicates the time of year to gather ripening fruit)
  • The Sun currently has one active region, AR 2833. The sunspot number is 15
  • There are no visible evening ISS passes this week

Week of 14th June

  • Astronomical twilight does not end until 00:55 BST on 21st July
  • The Milky Way is well placed for observation this week as it rises higher in our evening sky. Use a pair of binoculars to take in the wealth of stars and dusty regions along the visible disc of our galaxy. Try to find the ‘Coathanger’ asterism in Vulpecula by first locating the wonderful double star Albireo, the beak of Cygnus, and then move a few degrees southwest to spot the upside down coathanger pattern of stars
  • The gas giants Saturn and Jupiter are returning to our evening skies now, with Saturn rising at 23:57 BST at magnitude +0.5 and Jupiter following a little later at 00:42 BST, shining at mag -2.5
  • The Moon is First Quarter on Friday
  • The Sun currently has one active region, AR 2833, emerging around the oncoming mid-latitude northern hemisphere limb
  • There are no visible evening ISS passes this week

Week of 7th June

  • Astronomical twilight does not end until 00:55 BST on 21st July
  • There is a solar eclipse on Thursday, appearing as an annular eclipse to those in Canada and Greenland, while it will be a partial eclipse for us here in Marlborough. First contact is at 10:06 BST, with maximum eclipse at 11:11 BST, when about 21% of the Sun will be obscured by the Moon. Last contact is at 12:20 BST. Hopefully the weather will allow a live stream to be broadcast. Take great care if trying to observe the partial eclipse yourself
  • The Arietid meteor shower peaks on Thursday at around 15:00 BST. This is during daylight hours, so whilst meteors won’t be seen by eye, the radio meteor detector should see an increase in activity – watch the live stream to observe meteors in broad daylight!
  • The Moon is New on Thursday
  • The Sun currently has two active regions, AR 2827 and AR 2829. The sunspot number is 30. There has been a significant increase in solar activity so far this year, with only 29% of days being spotless. Compare this with 57% spotless days in 2020 and 77% spotless days in 2019
  • There are no visible evening ISS passes this week

May 2021 – What’s Up!

Week of 31st May

  • Astronomical twilight does not end until 00:55 BST on 21st July
  • This week’s challenge is to hunt down the array of Globular Clusters above the arc of the Milky Way. These include M3 (in Bootes), M13 (the Great Hercules Cluster) and M92 (in Hercules), M5 (in Serpens) and M10 and M14 (in Ophiuchus). Binoculars or a small telescope will suffice to spot these magnificent balls of stars
  • The Moon is Last Quarter on Wednesday
  • The Sun currently has two active regions, AR 2824 (off going) and AR 2827 (a new on coming region). The sunspot number is 26
  • There are no visible evening ISS passes this week

Week of 24th May

  • Astronomical twilight does not end until 00:55 BST on 21st July
  • Noctilucent cloud season starts around now, so keep an eye out near the northern horizon around 90 minutes after sunset to try and spot these beautiful, high level night shining, opalescent clouds
  • There is a total lunar eclipse on Wednesday. Unfortunately, it is not visible from the UK, but only visible from Oceania, the Americas and Eastern and Southeast Asia
  • The Moon is Full on Wednesday – the Flower Moon. As the Moon will be very close to perigee, this will make it a ‘supermoon’. It will be the largest and brightest full Moon of 2021
  • The Sun currently has one active region, AR 2824. The sunspot number is 19
  • The ISS makes the following visible evening passes this week:
    Monday: 21:58, W to E, max 89° and 23:35, W to S, max 49°
    Tuesday: 22:48, W to SE, max 53°
    Wednesday: 22:00, W to ESE, max 68° and 23:37, W to SSW, max 21°
    Thursday: 22:49, W to SSE, max 29°
    Friday: 22:02, W to SE, max 39°
    Saturday: 22:52, WSW to SSW, max 15°
    Sunday: 22:04, W to SSE, max 21°

Week of 17th May

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 00:02 BST at the beginning of the week, but by the end of the week, here at a latitude of 51° North, the Sun will no longer sink more than 18° below the horizon, meaning that astronomical twilight does not end. We will not experience astronomical darkness again until the 21st July
  • Mercury reaches greatest elongation east this week on Monday, placing it at its greatest separation from the Sun. Look for the planet low to the west-northwestern horizon just after sunset
  • The waxing Moon provides a good target this week, where plenty of surface detail can be observed, especially along the Terminator – the line separating night and day on the Moon
  • The Moon is First Quarter on Wednesday
  • The Sun currently has two active regions, AR 2822 and AR 2823. The sunspot number is 24
  • The ISS makes the following visible evening passes this week:
    Monday: 22:40, WSW to E, max 64°
    Tuesday: 21:56, SW to E, max 49° and 23:29, W to E, max 85°
    Wednesday: 22:41, W to E, max 89°
    Thursday: 21:54, WSW to E, max 78° and 23:31, W to E, max 89°
    Friday: 22:43, W to E, max 84°
    Saturday: 21:56, W to E, max 85° and 23:33, W to ESE, max 68°
    Sunday: 22:45, W to ESE, max 82°

Week of 10th May

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 23:34 BST at the beginning of the week and at 00:02 BST by the end of the week
  • On Thursday, the very thin, 1.8 days old, waxing Crescent Moon will be in conjunction with Mercury (mag +0.1), separated by about 2.5°. Look at around 14° altitude above the west-northwest horizon at about 21:00 BST, after sunset. You will also find Venus (-3.9) lower down, just above the horizon
  • On Sunday, Mercury will reach its highest point in the sky for this apparition, sitting at an altitude of 16° at 21:00 BST
  • The Moon is New on Tuesday
  • The Sun currently has one active region, AR 2822. The sunspot number is 17
  • The ISS makes the following visible evening passes this week:
    Friday: 21:51, SSE to ESE, max 13° and 23:25, SW to E, max 49°
    Saturday: 22:38, SW to E, max 36°
    Sunday: 21:51, SSW to E, max 26° and 23:27, WSW to E, max 78°

Week of 3rd May

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 23:07 BST at the beginning of the week and at 23:30 BST by the end of the week
  • The Eta-Aquariid meteor shower peaks on Thursday. Best prospects for observing inceased meteor numbers are in the early pre-dawn hours, when the Zenithal Hourly Rate is expected to be around 30-40. This meteor shower is created by debris deposited by comet 1P/Halley
  • Mercury appears low to the northwestern horizon shortly after sunset this week. On Tuesday, look at an altitude of about 9° and azimuth of 290° at around 21:15 BST, to find the planet shining at mag -0.8 just to the east of the Pleiades (+1.5). Take great care to avoid the glare of the Sun when looking for Mercury at sunset
  • At the start of the week the Waning Moon will appear in close proximity to Saturn (mag +0.7) and Jupiter (-2.2) in the southeastern pre-dawn sky
  • The Moon is Last Quarter on Monday
  • The Sun currently has one active region, AR 2818 and one emerging region on the oncoming limb that may develop into an active regtion. The sunspot number is 11
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

April 2021 What’s Up!

Week of 26th April

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 22:44 BST at the beginning of the week and at 23:04 BST by the end of the week
  • On Tuesday the Moon reaches perigee, the closest point to Earth along its orbit. It will be at a distance of about 357,000 km with an angular size of 33.42 arcminutes, compared to its average size of 31.07 arcminutes. Perigee coincides with the full Moon, making it a ‘super Moon’, the first of three this year
  • The Moon is Full on Tuesday – the Super Pink Moon. Named ‘Super’ as it is a super Moon and ‘Pink’ after the early seasonal arrival of a species of wildflower in northern Native American culture
  • The Sun currently has multiple active regions, AR 2816, 2818, 2819 and 2820. The sunspot number is 62. There is a significant increase in activity so far this year compared to 2020
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

Week of 19th April

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 22:24 BST at the beginning of the week and at 22:41 BST by the end of the week
  • The Lyrid meteor shower peaks on Thursday afternoon. Look out for increased meteor activity on both Wednesday and Thursday nights. The predicted Zenithal Hourly Rate is only 18, so don’t expect an intense display and viewing will be further hampered by the waxing Gibbous Moon. Hopefully the Radio Meteor Detector will pick up the increased activity. The Lyrid meteors are created by debris left behind by comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher)
  • The Moon is First Quarter on Tuesday
  • The Sun currently has two active regions, AR 2814 and AR 2816. The sunspot number is 28. Recent data on sunspot count and solar activity suggest that the new Solar Cycle 25 is intensifying more quickly than originally predicted and the peak could be in 2024 rather than 2025
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

Week of 12th April

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 22:05 BST at the beginning of the week and at 22:21 BST by the end of the week
  • On Saturday the 27% waxing Crescent Moon will appear close to Mars, with a separation of just under 4°. Look in the West after sunset to find the pair
  • The Moon is New on Monday
  • The Sun currently has no visible active regions. The spotless stretch is 4 days
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

Week of 5th April

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 21:48 BST at the beginning of the week and at 22:03 BST by the end of the week
  • For the early risers, look low to the southeastern horizon from around 05:30 BST for about an hour before sunrise to find the waning Crescent Moon. On Tuesday morning it will be in conjunction with Saturn (mag +0.8) and on Wednesday morning it will be in conjunction with Jupiter (-2.1)
  • The Moon is a waning Crescent all this week
  • The Sun has one emerging potential active region in the Northern Hemisphere. It has been increasingly active so far this year, with only 36 spotless days, that being 38%; compare this to 57% spotless days last year and 77% the year before
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

March 2021 What’s Up!

Week of 29th March

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 21:33 BST at the beginning of the week and at 21:46 BST by the end of the week
  • As the Moon wanes this week, the evenings give an opportunity for a spot of galaxy hunting. Use binoculars, or better a small telescope, to find Markarian’s Chain – a string of galaxies including M84 (mag +9.0) and M86 (+8.8) on the border of Virgo. Move up to Ursa Major to find Messier 51, The Whirlpool Galaxy (+7.9), about 3° below the end of the Plough’s handle. Two clusters worth seeking out are M3 (+6.2), a globular cluster in Canes Venatici and M44, The Beehive Cluster (+3.1), a wonderful open cluster in Cancer
  • The Moon is Last Quarter on Sunday
  • The Sun has one active region, AR 2812. The sunspot number is 11
  • The ISS makes the following evening passes this week:
    Monday: 20:24, W to ESE, max 86° and 22:01, W to WSW, max 29°
    Tuesday: 21:13, W to SSE, max 44°
    Wednesday: 20:26, W to ESE, max 58° and 22:03, W to SW, max 16°
    Thursday: 21:16, W to S, max 23°
    Friday: 20:28, W to SE, max 32°
    Saturday: 21:19, WSW to SSW, max 11°
    Sunday: 20:30, W to S, max 17°

Week of 22nd March

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 20:18 UT at the beginning of the week and at 21:31 BST by the end of the week
  • British Summer Time starts on Sunday when the clocks ‘spring forwards’ one hour at 01:00 UT to become 02:00 BST
  • A new nova has been observed in Cassiopeia and it has brightened rapidly from mag +9.6 to +7.5, so can be seen in binoculars. It is located about 5° east of the star Caph (Beta Cassiopeiae), the easternmost star of the familiar W asterism in Cassiopeia. Follow a line from Shedar (Alpha Cass.) to Caph and extend it the same distance again out towards the open cluster M52 and you should be able to locate the nova. Follow its progress over the coming weeks as it dims
  • The Moon is Full on Sunday
  • The Sun has one active region, AR 2810. The sunspot number is 12
  • The ISS makes the following evening passes this week:
    Monday: 20:05, WSW to E, max 73° and 21:42, W, max 13°
    Tuesday: 19:18, WSW to E, max 58° and 20:55, W, max 45°
    Wednesday: 20:07, W to E, max 87° and 21:44, W, max 14°
    Thursday: 19:20, WSW to E, max 86° and 20:57, W, max 48°
    Friday: 20:09, W to E, max 86° and 21:46, W, max 14°
    Saturday: 19:22, W to E, max 84° and 20:59, W to WSW, max 43°
    Sunday: 21:11, W to ESE, max 74° and 22:48, W, max 12°

Week of 15th March

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 20:04 UT at the beginning of the week and at 20:16 UT by the end of the week
  • On Friday evening, the waxing crescent Moon will be in conjunction with Mars, separated by just over 2°. The pair will make a fine sight between the Hyades and Pleiades clusters
  • The Vernal or Spring Equinox is on Saturday. At about 09:22 UT the Sun will cross the ecliptic, heading North, it will have a declination of 00° and a Right Ascension of 00h. We will enjoy almost exactly 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night; the Sun will rise from a point on the horizon due East and set at a point due West. The position of the Sun at the Vernal Equinox is also known as the First Point of Aries; however, these days the Sun is in the constellation of Pisces at this time, due to the precession of the Earth’s axis. The Vernal Equinox marks the first day of spring
  • The Moon is First Quarter on Sunday
  • The Sun has one active region, AR 2808. The sunspot number is 12
  • The ISS makes the following evening passes this week:
    Thursday: 20:02, SSW to S, max 18°
    Friday: 19:15, S to ESE, max 16° and 20:51, WSW to SW, max 19°
    Saturday: 20:03, SW to SSE, max 44°
    Sunday: 19:16, SW to E, max 32° and 20:53, WSW to WSW, max 35°

Week of 8th March

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 19:51 UT at the beginning of the week and at 20:02 UT by the end of the week
  • This is the week to attempt the Messier Marathon. It is possible to observe all 110 objects of the famous late 18th Century catalogue compiled by Charles Messier in one night at this time of year. It is best attempted around the New Moon. Stamina is required as the session starts immediately after sunset and continues through till dawn. If you do have a go, can you beat the 96 Messier objects spotted from the MCBO last year? Good luck!
  • The Moon is New on Saturday
  • The Sun has two active regions, AR 2806 and AR 2807. The sunspot number is 23
  • There are no visible evening ISS passes this week

Week of 1st March

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 19:39 UT at the beginning of the week and at 19:49 UT by the end of the week
  • Watch as Mars (mag +1.0) passes between the Pleiades and the Hyades this week. On Thursday it will be closest to the Pleiades, separated by only about 2.5°
  • For the early risers on Friday morning, at around 06:30 UT Jupiter (-2.0) and Mercury (+0.2) will rise together in the southeast. They will be separated by just 19 arc minutes
  • Mercury reaches greatest elongation west on Saturday
  • The Moon is Last Quarter on Saturday
  • After a busy week on the surface of the Sun, there is just one active region (AR 2804) making its way around the off-going limb. The sunspot number is 14
  • There are no visible evening ISS passes this week

 

February 2021 What’s Up!

Week of 22nd February

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 19:26 UT at the beginning of the week and at 19:37 UT by the end of the week
  • Following the initial success of all three Martian missions, study Mars yourself this week as the planet remains well placed in our evening sky. It is in the southwest at an altitude of around 50°, shining at mag +0.8 and it sets at around 01:00 UT. Track its progress towards the Pleiades over the coming week
  • The Moon is Full on Saturday – The Snow Moon
  • The Sun currently has one active region, AR 2803. The sunspot number is 12
  • There are no visible evening ISS passes this week

Week of 15th February

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 19:15 UT at the beginning of the week and at 19:25 UT by the end of the week
  • On Thursday evening, NASA’s Perseverance rover is due to touch down in the Jezero Crater on Mars soon after 19.15 UT. Go to the NASA website to watch a live stream of the event
  • Also on Thursday, the waxing crescent Moon (mag -9.2) will be in conjunction with Mars (+0.8), appearing less than 5° apart in the sky
  • The Moon is First Quarter on Friday
  • The Sun currently has no sunspots. The spotless stretch is 10 days
  • There are no visible evening ISS passes this week

Week of 8th February

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 19:03 UT at the beginning of the week and at 19:13 UT by the end of the week
  • This week is Star Count, an initiative run by CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) to measure the levels of light pollution across the country. The public is asked to count the number of stars visible within the four corner stars of Orion and submit their finding along with location to the survey. Why not get involved and make your own Star Count observation? Check the CPRE Website for full details
  • Destination Mars – three separate missions to Mars will arrive at the red planet during February. The first two, UAE’s Hope probe and China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter, should arrive this week. The third, NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, is scheduled to arrive later this month on the 18th
  • The Moon is New on Thursday
  • The Sun currently has no sunspots. The spotless stretch is 3 days
  • There are no visible evening ISS passes this week

Week of 1st February

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:52 UT at the beginning of the week and at 19:02 UT by the end of the week
  • Mars is perhaps the highlight of this week’s night sky. Find the ‘Red Planet’ in the southwest through the evening, shining at mag +0.5. Look about 6° further west along the ecliptic to spot Uranus (mag +5.8)
  • With a waning Moon, this is the perfect time to hunt down some of the fainter objects, e.g. M1, the Crab Nebula, in Taurus (mag +8.4) or perhaps even M76, the Little Dumbbell Nebula, in Perseus, though that is a serious challenge as at only 3 arcminutes in apparent size and mag +10, it is one the faintest objects in Messier’s list
  • The Moon is Last Quarter on Thursday
  • The Sun currently has no sunspots. The spotless stretch is 3 days
  • The ISS makes visible evening passes this week as follows:Monday: 17:51, W to ESE, max 78° & 19:28, W to SW, max 26°
    Tuesday: 18:41, W to SSE, max 36°
    Wednesday: 17:53, W to SE, max 48° & 19:31, WSW to SSW, max 13°
    Thursday: 18:43, W to S, max 19°
    Friday: 17:56, W to SSE, max 26°
    Sunday: 17:59, WSW to SSW, max 13°

January 2021 What’s Up!

Week of 25th January

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:42 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:51 UT by the end of the week
  • On Wednesday, Mercury (mag -0.1) reaches its highest point in the evening sky at 13° altitude. It will be visible in the southwest after sunset (16:48 UT) until it sets at 18:30 UT. Take care if using binoculars
  • The Moon is Full on Thursday
  • The Sun currently has three visible active regions (AR 2797, AR 2798 & AR 2799). The sunspot number is 34
  • The ISS makes visible evening passes this week as follows:

    Monday: 18:32, WSW to E, max 82° & 20:09, W, max 12°
    Tuesday: 17:45, WSW to E, max 68° & 19:22, W, max 38°
    Wednesday: 18:34, W to E, max 84° & 20:11, W, max 12°
    Thursday: 17:47, W to E, max 88° & 19:24, W, max 40°
    Friday: 18:36, W to E, max 89° & 20:13, W, max 12°
    Saturday: 17:49, W to E, max 85° & 19:26, W to WSW, max 38°
    Sunday: 18:38, W to SE, max 63° & 20:16, W, max 11°

Week of 18th January

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:32 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:40 UT by the end of the week
  • Mars and Uranus appear close together this week, easily fitting in to the field of view of a pair of 10×50 binoculars. On Wednesday they will be at their closest, with a separation of just 1° 37 minutes and on Thursday they will be joined by the waxing Gibbous Moon, just a few degrees away.
  • Mercury reaches greatest elongation east on Sunday and will be visible sinking from about 10° above the southwestern horizon for the hour after sunset. Take care if using binoculars
  • The Moon is First Quarter on Wednesday
  • The Sun has one small active region (AR 2796) currently visible. The sunspot number is 15
  • The ISS makes visible evening passes this week as follows:

    Tuesday: 18:29, S to SSE, max 14°
    Wednesday: 19:16, SW to SSW, max 21°
    Thursday: 18:29, SSW to E, max 29°
    Friday: 17:41, SSW to SE, max 21° & 19:17, WSW to WSW, max 33°
    Saturday: 18:29, SW to ESE, max 52° & 20:06, W to W, max 12°
    Sunday: 17:42, SW to E, max 39° & 19:18, W to W, max 39°

Week of 11th January

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:23 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:31 UT by the end of the week
  • On Thursday, look to the southwest just after sunset to see the very young, 3% waxing crescent Moon almost in line with Mercury (mag. -0.9), Jupiter (-1.9) and Saturn (0.6). You will need to be quick as Saturn sets at 17:08 UT, just 42 minutes after sunset. Take care when looking towards the setting Sun, especially if using binoculars
  • The Moon is New on Wednesday
  • The Sun has no visible active regions now. The spotless stretch is 7 days
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

Week of 4th January

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:15 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:22 UT by the end of the week
  • Following the Great Conjunction, Mercury approaches the two Gas Giants in the evening sky on Saturday. The three planets will form a triangle covering only about 3° in the southwestern sky. Look at around 16:20 UT, about half an hour after sunset, to see Mercury (mag -0.9) only about 5° above the horizon, with Saturn (0.6) 1.5° away at about 7° altitude and Jupiter (-1.9) another 2° away about 8° above the horizon
  • The Moon is Last Quarter on Wednesday
  • The Sun currently has two active regions, AR 2794 & AR 2795, both very close to the off going limb – the sunspot number is 22
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

December 2020 What’s Up!

Week of 28th December

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:09 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:14 UT by the end of the week
  • The Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks on Sunday, with a maximum ZHR (zenithal hourly rate) of 120 meteors. The radiant is in the old constellation of Quadrans Muralis, hence the name; however, Quadrans Muralis is no longer recognised, so the radiant appears in the modern day constellation of Bootes. The parent body responsible for the shower has been identified as asteroid 2003 EH1
  • The Earth passes through perihelion at 13:50 UT on Saturday, when it will be at its closest point to the Sun on its annual elliptical orbit. It will be 0.98 AU from the Sun or 147 million km. This is in contrast to its distance of 152 million km when at aphelion. Consequently, the Sun will appear about 3% larger, though it will be extremely difficult to notice this difference!
  • The Moon is Full on Wednesday
  • The Sun currently has two active regions, AR 2794 & AR 2795 – the sunspot number is 31
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

Week of 21st December

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:05 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:08 UT by the end of the week
  • The Great Conjunction is on Monday, when Jupiter (-2.0) and Saturn (+0.6), will be separated by just 6 arcminutes. This is the closest that they have appeared since 1623. Due to their orbital mechanics, Jupiter ‘undertakes’ Saturn roughly every 20 years, so conjunctions are not particularly rare. However, the inclination of the planets’ orbits with respect to the Earth means that they are not often this close together. Combine this with the angular distance of the planets from the Sun, meaning that some conjunctions are too close to the Sun to be observed and you will see that this is a rare event. The next Great Conjunction will be in 2080, so if there is a clear sky, take the opportunity to enjoy this rare view of the two gas giants in the same field of view of your binoculars or telescope. You can also look in the days before and after the 21st as the two planets pass eachother
  • Monday is also the Winter Solstice, marking the lowest point the Sun appears in the sky at a declination of -23.5°. It is the shortest day of the year and the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Christmas borrows its date from this pagan festival. Nowadays Christmas is a few days after the Winter Solstice due to the Leap Year only being introduced in the 16th Century. Before the introduction of the extra leap days, the calendar and the astronomical event slowly drifted apart over the years
  • The Ursid Meteor shower peaks on Tuesday. It is not a particularly active shower, with a peak rate of around 10 meteors per hour. The shower’s radiant is in Ursa Minor and the meteors are caused by the Earth passing through the stream of debris created by comet 8P/Tuttle
  • The Moon is First Quarter on Monday
  • After a recent active period, the Sun is now quiet with no active regions – the current stretch is 1 day
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

Week of 14th December

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:02 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:04 UT by the end of the week
  • Watch Jupiter (-2.0) and Saturn (0.6) in the southwestern evening sky just after sunset as they approach eachother through this week, culminating in The Great Conjunction on Monday 21st December. They start the week 47 arcminutes apart and by Sunday, will have just 9 arcminutes of separation. If there is a clear sky, take the opportunity to enjoy this rare view of the two gas giants in the same field of view of your binoculars or telescope
  • There is a total solar eclipse on Monday. Don’t get too excited though, it will not be visible from Marlborough! Observers in Chile and Argentina will witness this spectacular solar system syzygy between 13:34 and 18:53 UT, with totality expected to last for 2 minutes and 10 seconds at the point of greatest eclipse. Check on line for a live feed of the eclipse
  • The Moon is New on Monday
  • The Sun currently has two active regions: AR 2790 and AR 2792, with a combined sunspot number of 24
  • There are no visible ISS passes this week

Week of 7th December

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:02 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:02 UT by the end of the week
  • The Geminid meteor shower peaks on Sunday night. As the Earth passes through debris deposited in space by asteroid 3200 Phaethon, we can enjoy one of the finest cosmic fireworks shows of the year! The Geminids can produce up to 110-120 meteors per hour at its peak, which occurs this year at about 01:00 UT on Monday 14th. The Moon is New on the 14th, so observing conditions will be perfectly dark. All that is needed is no cloud. Even that is not a problem this year as the new Blackett Observatory Radio Meteor Detection System is now live and will be listening out for meteor ‘pings’, whatever the weather
  • The Moon is Last Quarter on Tuesday
  • The Sun currently has three active regions: AR 2785, AR 2786 and AR 2790, with a combined sunspot number of 42
  • The ISS makes multiple evening passes as follows:
    Monday: 18:07, W to S, max 18Â
    Tuesday: 17:19, W to SSE, max 25Â
    Wednesday: 16:31, W to SE, max 34Â
    Thursday: 17:22, WSW to SSW, max 12Â
    Friday: 16:33, W to S, max 18Â

November 2020 What’s Up!

Week of 30th November

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:03 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:02 UT by the end of the week
  • Mars continues to be the highlight of our evening sky, shining at mag -1.1. Binoculars or a small telescope are sufficient to show dark patches on the planet’s surface
  • The Moon is Full on Monday – the Cold Moon. Having passed through apogee last Friday, this full Moon will be a ‘micromoon’, appearing slightly smaller and dimmer than usual
  • The Sun is very active right now, moreso than it has been for many months. It has four active regions: AR 2783, AR 2785, AR 2786 and AR 2787, with a combined sunspot number of 67. Look on the GONG/NSO website for impressive H Alpha images: Click here for GONG
  • The ISS makes multiple evening passes as follows:
    Monday: 17:12, W to E, max 87° & 18:49, W, max 31°
    Tuesday: 18:02, W to ESE, max 87°
    Wednesday: 17:14, W to E, max 86° & 18:51, W to WSW, max 30°
    Thursday: 18:03, W to SE, max 61°
    Friday: 17:16, W to ESE, max 76° & 18:53, W to SW, max 23°
    Saturday: 18:05, W to SSE, max 34°
    Sunday: 17:17, W to SE, max 46° and 18:55, WSW to SSW, max 12°

Week of 23rd November

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:07 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:04 UT by the end of the week
  • On Wednesday night the Moon (-11) and Mars (-1.3) traverse the sky together at only 5° separation
  • The Moon is Waxing Gibbous and will be Full early next week. It reaches apogee on Friday, when it will be at its most distant orbital point from Earth at about 403,000 km away. It will appear slightly smaller in the sky than usual, subtending only 29.4 arcminutes across the sky, compared to its average size of 31.1 arcmin
  • The Sun has two active regions, AR 2783 and AR 2784, with a combined sunspot number of 23. This continues the sustained increase in solar activity as Solar Cycle 25 intensifies
  • The ISS makes multiple evening passes as follows:
    Monday: 17:55, SSW to SE, max 31° & 19:31, WSW, max 12°
    Tuesday: 17:08, SSW to E, max 22° & 18:44, WSW, max 36°
    Wednesday: 17:56, SSW to ESE, max 56° & 19:33, W, max 12°
    Thursday: 17:09, SW to E, max 42° & 18:46, W, max 37°
    Friday: 17:58, WSW to SE, max 84° & 19:35, W, max 11°
    Saturday: 17:11, WSW to E, max 71° & 18:47, W, max 34°
    Sunday: 18:00, W to ENE, max 84° and 19:37, W, max 10°

Week of 16th November

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:13 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:08 UT by the end of the week
  • The Leonid meteor shower peaks on Tuesday night. The radiant is in the head of Leo. The shower produces a maxiumum of around 15 meteors per hour and is created by the Earth moving through debris left behind by Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865, five years after the Cooke 10-inch was made
  • Mars continues to dominate the evening sky, shining at mag -1.5 and culminating at 21:07 UT
  • The Moon will be First Quarter on Sunday. It will make a close approach to Jupiter (-2.1) and Saturn (0.6) as it sets on Thursday evening
  • The Sun has one departing active region, AR 2781
  • The ISS returns to our evening skies this week with passes as follows:
    Friday: 18:41, SSW to S, max 13°
    Saturday: 17:55, S to SE, max 16°
    Sunday: 17:09, SSE to ESE, max 11° and 18:43, SW to SSW, max 26°

Week of 9th November

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:21 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:14 UT by the end of the week
  • Mercury (-0.6) reaches greatest elongation west on Tuesday and will be at its highest point in the morning sky, reaching an altitude of 15°. It is separated from the Sun by about 19°, take care if trying to observe Mercury. Venus is nearby shining at -4.0. Early risers will be treated to a fine view when the waning crescent Moon joins the scene on Thursday morning, making a beautiful trio of solar system objects
  • The Moon will be New on Sunday
  • The Sun has two active regions AR 2780 and AR 2781, with a combined sunspot number of 37. AR 2781 is the largest active region of the new solar cycle and is facing Earth, which could pose a geoeffective risk if it produces significant eruptions
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

Week of 2nd November

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:31 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:22 UT by the end of the week
  • The planets continue to make an impressive line of observing targets across the night sky, from west to east: Jupiter (-2.1), Saturn (0.6), Neptune (7.8), Mars (-2.0), Uranus (5.7) and for the early risers, Venus (-4.0) and Mercury (0.1)
  • Whilst not the most productive of meteor showers with only around 5 to 10 meteors per hour, the Taurids can be impressive. The shower peaks on Wednesday night. The Taurids are unusual in that they are generated by two separate streams of material, the first left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10 and the second deposited by Comet 2P Enke
  • The Moon will be Last Quarter on Sunday
  • The Sun has two departing active regions AR 2778 and AR 2779, with a combined sunspot number of 26
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

October 2020 What’s Up!

Week of 26th October

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 18:42 UT at the beginning of the week and at 18:33 UT by the end of the week
  • Mars continues its journey westwards across our night sky, shining brightly at mag -2.3. Use binoculars or a telescope to observe surface features on the Red Planet. On Thursday it will be in conjunction with the Moon, separated by only 8°
  • Uranus reaches opposition on Saturday. It will be 18.79 AU from Earth, about 2.8 billion km away. At mag +5.7 and 3.8 arcsec, it is best observed through a telescope. Due to the proximity of the Full Moon on Saturday, it will be easier to spot the planet a day or two before or after opposition
  • The Moon will be Full on Saturday, the Hunter’s Moon. This is the second Full Moon of the month, making it known as a Blue Moon, though it won’t appear tinged blue! This use of the term ‘Blue Moon’ is a twentieth century custom that started in 1946. Historically the term was used to name a fourth Full Moon of a season, where normally only three Full Moons appear per season and have traditional names
  • The Sun currently has one active region AR 2776, which contains 11 sunspots
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

Week of 19th October

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 19:56 BST at the beginning of the week and at 18:44 GMT by the end of the week
  • British Summer Time ends on Sunday, when the clocks go back one hour at 02:00 BST to become 01:00 GMT
  • Mars continues to be the highlight of our evening sky, shining brightly at mag -2.5. It rises at 18:00 BST and reaches its highest elevation of 43° around midnight
  • Jupiter (-2.2) and Saturn (0.5) are still visible, but have set by about 22:30 BST
  • The Orionid meteor shower peaks on Wednesday. It can produce around 15 to 20 meteors an hour. The parent body that creates this meteor shower has been identified as comet 1P/Halley
  • The Moon will be First Quarter on Friday. On Thursday and Friday evenings it will make a close approach to Jupiter and Saturn
  • The Sun currently has one active region AR 2776, which contains around 15 sunspots
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

Week of 12th October

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 20:10 BST at the beginning of the week and at 19:58 BST by the end of the week
  • At 00:18 BST on Wednesday, Mars will be at opposition, situated directly opposite the Sun. This is the best time this decade to observe Mars as it will be at its largest and brightest in our night sky. It will be about 0.42 AU away, shining at a magnitude of -2.6 and its disc will measure 22.3 arcseconds in diameter. It is at its highest point in the sky at around 01:00 BST, when it will be at an altitude of about 43°. Get out there and observe Mars, ideally through binoculars or a telescope; can you see any dark surface feature details?
  • The Moon will be New on Friday
  • The Sun currently has two sunspots, active regions AR 2774 and AR 2775. Their polarity and high southerly latitude identify them as members of the new Solar Cycle 25
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

Week of 5th October

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 20:26 BST at the beginning of the week and at 20:12 BST by the end of the week
  • Mars reaches perigee on Tuesday, when it will be at the closest point to Earth in its orbit, around 62 million km. This makes Mars appear largest and brightest in our sky, at magnitude -2.6 with an apparent size of 22.6 arc seconds. It is moving ever closer to opposition, which occurs on 14th October
  • The Moon will be Last Quarter on Saturday
  • The Sun currently has no visible sunspots. This spotless stretch is 8 days
  • There are no visible ISS evening passes this week

September 2020 What’s Up!

Week of 28th September

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 20:42 BST at the beginning of the week and at 20:28 BST by the end of the week
  • The planets continue to impress in our evening sky. Mars (-2.5) is climbing ever higher, rising at around 19:30 BST this week. Jupiter (-2.4) and Saturn (0.5) are in the West, setting at around midnight
  • The Moon will be Full on Thursday 1st October – the Harvest Moon. Occuring so early in the month allows a second Full Moon to fall in October, the 31st will see a ‘Blue’ Moon
  • The Sun currently has no visible sunspots. Active Region 2773 lasted for three days during last week, but has now settled down
  • The ISS makes multiple evening passes this week as follows:
    Monday: 20:48, W to S, max 73°
    Tuesday: 20:01, W to ESE, max 85° & 21:38, W, max 19°
    Wednesday: 19:14, W to E, max 87° & 20:51, W to SSW, max 43°
    Thursday: 20:03, W to SE, max 57° & 21:41, W to WSW, max 12°
    Friday: 19:16, W to ESE, max 72° & 20:53, W to SSW, max 23°
    Saturday: 20:06, W to SSE, max 32°
    Sunday: 19:18, W to SE, max 43° & 20:57, WSW to SSW, max 11°

Week of 21st September

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 21:00 BST at the beginning of the week and at 20:45 BST by the end of the week
  • The September Equinox is on Tuesday and marks the start of autumn for the Northern Hemisphere. The Sun will cross the celestial equator at 14:15 BST on the 22nd and continue its journey appearing ever lower in the sky as we head towards winter. Day and night will be equal at 12 hours each and the Sun will rise due East and set due West, one of only two days in the year when this occurs. The nights are becoming longer, which is only a good thing for astronomers!
  • Mars is a beautiful evening object, shining at mag -2.3 with a distinct orange-red colour
  • Jupiter and Saturn continue to impress and will be joined by the Waxing Gibbous Moon on Friday
  • The Moon will be First Quarter on Thursday
  • The Sun is currently blank with no visible sunspots – this spotless stretch is now at 30 days
  • The ISS makes multiple evening passes this week as follows:
    Monday: 19:52, SW to E, max 32° & 21:28, WSW to WSW, max 46°
    Tuesday: 20:41, WSW to E, max 73° & 22:18, W, max 14°
    Wednesday: 19:54, WSW to E, max 58° & 21:30, W, max 43°
    Thursday: 20:43, W to E, max 87° & 22:20, W, max 12°
    Friday: 19:56, WSW to E, max 85° & 21:32, W, max 36°
    Saturday: 20:45, W to E, max 86°
    Sunday: 19:58, W to E, max 84° & 21:34, W, max 28°

Week of 14th September

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 21:19 BST at the beginning of the week and at 21:03 BST by the end of the week
  • Mars is appearing ever higher in our evening sky. It is shining a fabulous orange-red colour and is currently at magnitude -2.1; this will brighten to -2.6 when at opposition in October
  • There is only a month or two left to observe Jupiter and Saturn. They are both in our western sky now and have set by about 01:00 BST
  • The Moon will be New on Thursday
  • The Sun is currently blank with no visible sunspots – this spotless stretch is now at 23 days; the deep solar minimum continues
  • The ISS returns to our evening skies with passes this week as follows:
    Thursday: 21:25, SW to SSW, max 14°
    Friday: 20:38, SSW to SSE, max 23°
    Saturday: 19:51, S to ESE, max 16° and 21:26, WSW to SW, max 33°
    Sunday: 20:39, SW to ESE, max 43° and 22:15, W, max 14°

Week of 7th September

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 21:38 BST at the beginning of the week and at 21:22 BST by the end of the week
  • Jupter (-2.5) and Saturn (+0.3) continue their journey westwards across our evening sky and make fabulous observing targets
  • On Tuesday, Venus reaches its highest point in the morning sky when it will be at about 35° altitude at sunrise, shining brightly at mag -4.2
  • Neptune reaches opposition on Friday and will be well placed at about 24° altitude in the southeast at 22:30 BST. Being only around mag +8, binoculars or a telescope will be required to observe the outermost planet in the solar system
  • Mars, shining at mag -2 in the East, is becoming an increasingly evident player on the stage of our evening sky as it moves towards opposition in October
  • The Moon will be Last Quarter on Thursday
  • The Sun is currently blank with no visible sunspots – this spotless stretch is now at 16 days
  • There are no evening ISS passes this week

August 2020 What’s Up

Week of 31st August

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 21:59 BST at the beginning of the week and at 21:41 BST by the end of the week
  • The planets offer the best observing targets this week with Jupiter at mag -2.5 transiting at around 21:30 BST, Saturn at mag +0.3, transiting at around 22:00 BST and Mars at mag -1.9 that transits at around 04:00 BST
  • The Moon will be Full (Harvest Moon) on Wednesday
  • The Sun is currently blank with no visible sunspots – this spotless stretch is now at 9 days
  • There are no evening ISS passes this week

Week of 24th August

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 22:20 BST at the beginning of the week and at 22:02 BST by the end of the week
  • Jupiter (-2.6) and Saturn (+0.3) continue to dominate the night sky in the South. They transit at around 22:00 and 22:35 BST respectively, so are well placed for observation in the evening sky
  • Mars is the rising centrepiece as it moves towards opposition in mid October. It will be at perigee in early October, making this apparition particularly favourable for observation. Mars is currently shining at mag -1.7 and brightening. It rises at around 22:00 BST and transits at 04:30 BST
  • The Moon will be First Quarter on Tuesday
  • The Sun is currently blank with no visible sunspots
  • There are no evening ISS passes this week

Week of 17th August

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 22:43 BST at the beginning of the week and at 22:24 BST by the end of the week
  • Seven Planet Challenge: It will be possible to see seven of the eight solar system planets this week. Start with Jupiter (-2.6) and Saturn (+0.2) in the southern evening sky. Next is Neptune (+7.8), which will be in the southeast around midnight. Mars (-1.5) will be at about 24° altitude in the East at 01:00 BST. Uranus (+5.8) is approx 16° further East. Venus (-4.3) rises at 02:08 BST. Finally, look to your feet for the seventh planet! Unfortunately, the full set is not possible as Mercury is hiding in the glare of the Sun
  • The Moon will be New on Wednesday
  • The Sun is currently blank with no visible sunspots
  • There are no evening ISS passes this week

Week of 10th August

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 23:07 BST at the beginning of the week and at 22:46 BST by the end of the week
  • The Perseid meteor shower peaks on Wednesday afternoon. Watch out on both Tuesday night (11th) and Wednesday night (12th) for this wonderful annual display of shooting stars as the Earth crashes through debris left behind by comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The Last Quarter Moon makes for good observing conditions and the shower can generate over 100 meteors per hour. Unfortunately, the current weather forecast is for thunderstorms, so grab your chance between clouds to spot a few Perseids
  • Jupiter and Saturn continue to shine brightly in our southern evening sky. On Tuesday, the shadow of the Gallilean moon Callisto will transit Jupiter’s disc, starting at 19:43 BST and moving off the disc at 23:55 BST
  • Venus reaches Greatest Elongation West on Wednesday, visible in the eastern morning sky at an altitude of about 32° just before sunrise, shining at mag -4.3, making it the third brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon
  • The Moon will be Last Quarter on Tuesday
  • The Sun has one active region, AR 2770, which belongs to the new Solar Cycle 25
  • There are no visible evening ISS passes this week

Week of 3rd August

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 23:29 BST at the beginning of the week and at 23:06 BST by the end of the week
  • The Perseid meteor shower (Tears of St Lawrence) peaks in the afternoon of Wednesday 12th August. Usually one of the best showeres in the year, this year is favourable with a waning Moon and 80+ meteors an hour are predicted at peak. There is usually a good build up to the peak, so it is worth looking out for early shooting stars later this week and next week-end. Government guidlines and weather permitting a small gathering at the Dome may be permitted on 12th. Watch the website for updates.
  • Jupiter and Saturn continue to shine brightly in our southern evening sky. On Monday to the West of the Full Moon.
  • The Moon will be at Full (Sturgeon or Barley Moon) on Monday
  • The Sun has two active regions, AR 2767 and a fast growing spot 2769 on the NE limb, both belonging to the new Solar Cycle 25
  • There are no visible evening ISS passes this week.

July 2020 What’s Up!

Week of 27th July

  • Astronomical twilight ends at 00:08 BST at the beginning of the week and at 23:37 BST by the end of the week
  • Goodbye Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3)! The comet passed perigee on the 23rd and is now travelling away from both the Earth and Sun. It is fading and has dropped to about mag +3. This, along with the waxing Moon, will make it increasingly difficult to spot. This comet is not due to return to our skies for about 6,800 years. For a last look, find the comet after sunset in the northwest below the Plough
  • The Southern Delta Aquariid meteor shower peaks on Wednesday night. However, with only about 25 meteors per hour at its peak, which will reduce to around just 9 visible per hour due to the bright Moon, this is unlikely to be a particularly spectacular shower. The radiant is in Aquarius and the parent body responsible for the shower is thought to be comet P/2008 Y12 (SOHO)
  • Jupiter (-2.7) and Saturn (+0.1) continue to shine brightly in our southern evening sky. The pair are joined by a 97% waxing Moon on Saturday, when Jupiter will lie just 2° above the Moon
  • Mercury reaches its highest point in the morning sky on Monday. At sunrise, 05:24 BST, it will be at an altitude of 12° in the East. Take great care to avoid the Sun if trying to observe this event
  • The Moon will be at First Quarter on Monday
  • The Sun has one active region, AR 2767, in a high southerly latitude belonging to new Solar Cycle 25
  • The ISS makes visible evening passes this week as follows:
    Monday – 21:42, W to ESE, max 73° & 23:19, W to SSW, max 23°
    Tuesday – 22:31, W to SSE, max 32°
    Wednesday – 21:43, W to SE, max 44° & 23:21, WSW to SW, max 11°
    Thursday – 22:32, W to S, max 17°
    Friday – 21:44, W to SSE, max 24°
    Sunday – 21:46, WSW to SSW, max 12°

Week of 20th July

  • This week sees the return of astronomical darkness. On Monday night, starting at 00:51 BST, we will enjoy 54 minutes of ‘proper’ darkness. By Sunday, astronomical twilight will end at 00:14 BST, with astronomical darkness lasting for two hours
  • Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) continues to put on a fabulous display, though it is now starting to dim as it travels away from the Sun. It is best viewed in the evening sky, at 23:00 BST it is at an altitude of about 20° above the northwestern horizon. At the start of the week it is sitting around 15° below the Plough, by the front paw of the Great Bear, by the end of the week it will have moved West to sit behind the Bear’s back paw. Whilst it is still visible with the naked eye, the best views are gained with binoculars
  • Jupiter and Saturn make excellent evening targets in the southeastern sky this week. They are low to the horizon at an altitude of about 12°. Jupiter is mag -2.7 and Saturn is mag +0.1. Saturn reaches opposition on Monday, meaning it lies opposite the Sun from Earth and is best placed for the largest and brightest views. Look out for the transit of Jupiter’s moon Callisto on Saturday night, it moves across the gas giant’s disk from 22:55 BST until 03:00 BST on Sunday morning
  • Mercury is at Greatest Elongation West on Wednesday and will be visible at about 05:00 BST, just before sunrise, in the northeast at an altitude of about 9° shining at around mag +0.5. Venus is also a morning object, rising at around 02:30 BST and shining as the bright ‘morning star’ at mag -4.4
  • The Moon is New on Monday
  • The Sun has no active regions, with the current spotless stretch at 8 days
  • The ISS makes visible evening passes as follows:
    Monday – 22:27, W to E, max 87°
    Tuesday – 23:16, W to E, max 87°
    Wednesday – 22:28, W to E, max 84°
    Thursday – 23:17, W to ESE, max 72°
    Friday – 22:29, W to ESE, max 85°
    Saturday – 23:17, W to SSE, max 44°
    Sunday – 22:29, W to SE, max 58°

Week of 13th July

  • Astronomical twilight does not end until 21st July
  • Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) is the finest comet to appear in our skies for many years. It is now circumpolar and is visible from sunset to sunrise. However, it is very low to the northern horizon, so you need to choose your observing location accordingly. Through the week it increasingly becomes an evening object. It is at 10° altitude and 338° azimuth at 23:00 BST on Monday evening, moving to 8° alt, 10° az by 02:00 BST that night. By Friday, it is at 16° alt, 330° az, at 23:00 BST and 9° alt, 359° az, at 02:00 BST on Saturday morning. This is a must see object, let’s hope for clear skies!
  • The planets make an impressive line up across the southern sky this week. Jupiter (mag -2.8) reaches opposition on Tuesday, it is also at perigee, making this the best time to observe Jupiter at its largest and brightest in our sky. It is visible along with Saturn (mag 0.1) at an altitude of around 14° above the southeastern horizon throughout the evening. For the night owls and early risers, Mars appears above the eastern horizon after midnight, followed by Venus, which rises in the northeast at about 02:45 BST. The waning crescent Moon rises within 3° of Venus on Friday morning and will make an impressive sight
  • The Moon is waning and starts the week at Last Quarter on Monday
  • The Sun currently has no active regions
  • The ISS is visible in our skies again with evening passes as follows:
    Monday – 23:13, SSW to E, max 25°
    Tuesday – 22:26, S to E, max 18°
    Wednesday – 23:13, 23:13, SW to E, max 47°
    Thursday – 22:26, SW to E, max 34°
    Friday – 23:14, WSW to E, max 76°
    Saturday – 22:26, WSW to E, max 61°
    Sunday – 23:15, W to E, max 86°

Week of 6th July

  • Astronomical twilight does not end until 21st July
  • The Gas Giants, Jupiter and Saturn, are visible in the southeastern evening sky, with Jupiter rising at 21:41 BST and Saturn following close behind at 22:00 BST. Jupiter appears at about mag -3, while Saturn is some 16 times dimmer at mag 0. Watch as the Full Moon forms a right angle triangle with the two planets on Sunday night into Monday morning. Jupiter and Saturn both reach opposition later this month
  • Mars is starting to appear in our night sky, rising at around 00:30 BST. The best views will be later in the year as it reaches opposition in October
  • Venus continues to grace our morning skies, rising at around 03:00 BST and shining at mag -4.5 towards the northeast in the Hyades
  • The Moon is Waning Gibbous all week
  • The Sun has one small active region near its equator. The low latitude and magnetic polarity identify it as a member of the old Cycle 24, which still has a bit of life in it yet
  • There are no ISS evening passes visible this week