Category Archives: This month’s stars

The skies over Kendal in October

We’re moving into the darker, colder and usually rather cloudy nights of the end of the year. As ever, this post is illustrated with a few sky charts showing midnight on the first, last and fifteenth day of the month. The dots represent brighter stars, green circles are star clusters, nebulae, galaxies and the like and the very brightest stars, the Moon and the planets are named when they appear. Sky charts provided using Stellarium.

Solar system

The Moon will be in the last quarter phase on the 1st, new on the 7th, first quarter on the 14th and full on the 23rd. On the 14th, the Moon will occult the star 50 Sagittarii at around 8:10pm for northern observers.

The middle of the month sees the start of the Orionid meteor shower, which will peak on the 21st. Peak rates are low and a full Moon will blot out all but the brightest. Orionids are fast and leave persistent trails. They are best seen before dawn.

Heavens above presently lists two comets above magnitude 12 and seven asteroids above magnitude 10 in the hours of darkness. The comets are: 103P Hartley at 5.6 – approaching visibility – in Cassiopeia and 10P Tempel 2 at 10.1 in Cetus. Details on the future movements and changing brightness of the comets can be found here. The asteroids are 6 Hebe at 7.8 in Cetus; 4 Vesta at 7.9 in Virgo; 8 Flora at 8.6 in Aquarius; 1 Ceres at 8.9 in Sagittarius; 7 Iris at 9.4 in Gemini; 39 Laetitia at 9.5 in Aquarius and 471 Papagena at 9.8 in Cetus – rather a busy constellation this month.

The Planets

Mars is usually lost in atmospheric haze now. It shines at +1.5, appearing in the south-west, only to set an hour after the Sun.

Venus is seen just below Mars as the Sun sets, shining much brighter, but also lower, requiring a very low horizon to the West to see it.

Mercury for the next day or two, Mercury is visible in the Eastern horizon shortly before the Sun rises, though it will appear dimmer than its +1.3 magnitude suggests due to the bright sky around it.

Saturn returns to the skies at the end of the month, making an appearance shortly before dawn with rings now angled such that they look more like rings. The planet will shine at a magnitude of 0.7.

Jupiter continues to shine brightly as ‘that star in the East’. It shines at a magnitude of -2.9 and is in an empty part of the sky. Its inclination is such that transits of satellites happen quite a bit. Times of some of these and appearances of the Great Red Spot are here.

Uranus lies a couple of degrees west of Jupiter, plus a little above, and shines at 5.7.

Neptune is also in the morning skies, on the border of Capricorn and Aquarius.

A few things outside the solar system

The constellations of Leo, Virgo and the Big Dipper are all home to galaxies, details here. This is not a good month to look at faint things as the all-night twilight obliterates detail and contrast.

The Usual Stuff

If you want to watch satellites flaring or passing in the sky (even sometimes during the day), then go to Heavens Above to get times and directions. If you need assistance in deciding where things are in the sky, why not install the free program Stellarium, which does all the work for you? Finally, to avoid the dreaded clouds, Met Check gives a quick forecast and the Met satellites or other satellites can be used to track breaks in the cloud. For an indication of auroral or solar activity, SpaceWeather.com is an invaluable resource. If the stars aren’t available, there’s always solar astronomy. Projections of the Sun onto white card can show sunspots, when properly focused. A good filter (not an eyepiece filter) or a dedicated solar telescope will show better details. Never observe the Sun without filters and never with an inadequate, inappropriate or old (and therefore possibly with holes in) filter.

Public events

For young astronomers (ages 9-16) Space Explorers is run in Kendal Museum on the third Saturday of most months from 2:30-4:00 pm. The next meeting is on Saturday the 23rd. The Society for Popular Astronomy also has a sky map for young astronomers here.

Plus why not pop along to the Eddington Society, which meets at Kendal Museum on the first Monday of each month, this month it is on the 4th, with member’s projects the subject of the meeting. There will also be a public observing event at The Brewery Arts Centre on the 15th from 6:30pm.

Don’t forget to check back here and on my twitter account for the latest astronomical events in this area.

The Skies Above Kendal in July

We’re well into Noctilucent Cloud territory – see one of my sightings here, some faqs here, a page on NLCs at Cumbrian Sky and one of my posts here, so keep your eyes on the North at twilight times for these night shining clouds (as well as aurora, which have been lighting up some skies for the past few days). As ever, this post is illustrated with a few sky charts showing midnight on the first, last and fifteenth day of the month. The dots represent brighter stars, green circles are star clusters, nebulae, galaxies and the like and the very brightest stars, the Moon and the planets are named when they appear. Sky charts provided using Stellarium.

Solar system

The Moon will be in the last quarter phase on the 4th, new on the 11th, first quarter on the 18th and full on the 26th. On the 8th, the Moon will pass by the Pleiades cluster.

The middle of the month sees the start of the Perseid meteor shower, which will peak in the middle of next month. On the 28th-30th, there may be a couple of Delta Aquarid meteors about, but these are best seen in the southern hemisphere, and the Moon will be spoiling things with its brightness.

Heavens above presently lists six comets above magnitude 12 and ten asteroids above magnitude 10 in the hours of darkness. The comets are: C/2009 R1 McNaught at 4.6 just above Gemini and making for the horizon; 10P Tempel 2 at 8.3 in Aquarius; C/2009 K5 McNaught at 11.6 in Camelopardalis; C/2010 A1 Hill at 11.6 in Leo; 43P Wolf-Harrington at 11.8 in Orion and 2P Encke at 11.9 in Taurus. Details on the future movements and changing brightness of the comets can be found here. The asteroids are 1 Ceres at 7.5 in Ophiuchus, this month passing in front of the Barnard 78 dark cloud, which helps when viewing it, it will also pass by a 6th magnitude star on the 6th, allowing motion to be seen over a few hours; 4 Vesta at 7.9 in Leo; 15 Eunomia at 9.2 in Sagittarius; 2 Pallas at 9.2 in Boötes; 6 Hebe at 9.3 in Aquarius; 29 Amphitrite at 9.6 in Sagittarius; 7 Iris at 9.7 in Taurus; 63 Ausonia at 9.8 in Sagittarius; 3 Juno at 9.9 in Gemini and 8 Flora at 10.0 in Aquarius.

The Planets

Mars is on the home stretch to the Sun now. It shines at +1.4, falling to +1.5 by the end, appearing in the south-west as the sun sets. Its angular size falls from 5.2 arcseconds to 4.8 arcseconds in the same period, making details impossible to spot. However, it will appear in a line with Saturn and Venus on the 15th and make a close grouping with those two in the dying days of the month.

Venus is now prominent in the evening skies just after sunset. Shining at magnitude -4.0, it is the brightest thing in the night sky after the Moon. It appears in the south-west once the Sun has gone down and has an angular diameter of 16 arcseconds, showing phases like the Moon, rising to almost 18.7 arcseconds by the end of the month. Due to the Earth’s inclination, it now appears lower down in the evenings despite getting further from the Sun.

Mercury will shine in the evenings for about half an hour after sunset from the middle of the month when its 80% illuminated 5.6 arcsecond disc shines at -0.5. By the end of the month, the size of the disc is 6.8 arcseconds, but it shines in a half Mercury phase, the brightness dropping to +0.1. Hard to spot, six degrees above the horizon.

Saturn will remain at an angular diameter of around 17 arcseconds and will shine at +1.1 over the course of the month. The angular size of the slender rings extending to ~38 arcseconds, the tilt increasing to 3 degrees, compared to 1.7 in May. The bright moon Titan shines at 7.8 and will be easily visible in small scopes and binoculars (unless it is in front of or behind the planet at the chosen viewing time).

Jupiter has returned as the King of the Planets as the others hide in sunset. It rises shortly after midnight at the start of the month, shining at -2.6, and appears at 23:30 by the end, shining at -2.7. The single band is visible already through telescopes like mine (5/6 inches), the red spot without its accompanying band is also easier to see and has intensified its actual colour too and the Galilean moons should be visible in even small telescopes.

Uranus lies a couple of degrees west of Jupiter and shines at 5.7.

Neptune is also in the morning skies, shining at 7.9 with a 2.3 arcsecond disc in the middle of Aquarius.

A few things outside the solar system

The constellations of Leo, Virgo and the Big Dipper are all home to galaxies, details here. This is not a good month to look at faint things as the all-night twilight obliterates detail and contrast.

The Usual Stuff

If you want to watch satellites flaring or passing in the sky (even sometimes during the day), then go to Heavens Above to get times and directions. If you need assistance in deciding where things are in the sky, why not install the free program Stellarium, which does all the work for you? Finally, to avoid the dreaded clouds, Met Check gives a quick forecast and the Met satellites or other satellites can be used to track breaks in the cloud. For an indication of auroral or solar activity, SpaceWeather.com is an invaluable resource. If the stars aren’t available, there’s always solar astronomy. Projections of the Sun onto white card can show sunspots, when properly focused. A good filter (not an eyepiece filter) or a dedicated solar telescope will show better details. Never observe the Sun without filters and never with an inadequate, inappropriate or old (and therefore possibly with holes in) filter.

Public events

For young astronomers (ages 9-16) Space Explorers is run in Kendal Museum on the third Saturday of most months from 2:30-4:00 pm. The next meeting is on Saturday the 17th, when we’ll look at more to do with the Sun, the spectrum and gravity. The Society for Popular Astronomy also has a sky map for young astronomers for May here.

Plus why not pop along to the Eddington Society, which meets at Kendal Museum on the first Monday of each month, this month it is on the 5th, with member’s projects the subject of the meeting. There will also be a public observing event in Abbot Hall park on the 16th from 10:00pm – as advertised in the Sky at Night Magazine.

Don’t forget to check back here and on my twitter account for the latest astronomical events in this area.

The skies above Kendal in June

We’re entering Noctilucent Cloud territory – see early sighting information here, some faqs here, a page on NLCs at Cumbrian Sky and one of my posts here. As ever, this post is illustrated with a few sky charts showing midnight on the first, last and fifteenth day of the month. The dots represent brighter stars, green circles are star clusters, nebulae, galaxies and the like and the very brightest stars, the Moon and the planets are named when they appear. Sky charts provided using Stellarium.

Solar system

The Moon will be in the last quarter phase on the 4th, new on the 12th, first quarter on the 19st and full on the 26th. On the 23rd, the dark side of the Moon will occult the 5.4th (just about naked eye visible) magnitude star V913 Scorpii at around 23:42. On the 29th, the 4.9th (naked eye, dim) magnitude star Rho Capricorni will appear from the dark side at 00:43 and on the 30th the 6.4th (invisible to the naked eye, visible in binoculars and small telescopes) magnitude star TYC 5784-01499-1 will appear from the dark at 01:50.

The June Lyrid meteor shower may or may not be active on the 16th. The June Bootids on the other hand could produce activity of ~20-50 overhead meteors per hour on the 23rd-24th, with further activity possible on other dates such as the 27th. There will be a bright Moon and all-night twilight to contend with. The AntiHelion source is a shower from the antisunward direction of a few meteors an hour, which is active at the moment.

Heavens above presently lists five comets above magnitude 12 and eleven asteroids above magnitude 10 in the hours of darkness. The comets are: C/2009 R1 McNaught at 7.8 in Andromeda and getting brighter; 10P Tempel 2 at 9.0 in Aquarius; 141P Machholz at 9.6 in Taurus; C/2009 K5 McNaught at 10.6 in Camelopardalis and 81P Wild 2 at 11.0 in Virgo. Details on the future movements and changing brightness of the comets can be found here. The asteroids are 1 Ceres at 7.5 in Sagittarius, appearing embedded in the Lagoon Nebula, M8, on the 2nd, 4 Vesta at 7.7 in Leo, 2 Pallas at 8.8 in Boötes, 15 Eunomia at 9.6 in Sagittarius, 12 Victoria at 9.6 in Libra, 7 Iris at 9.7 in Aries, 40 Harmonia at 9.8 in Scorpius, 6 Hebe at 9.8 in Aquarius, 3 Juno at 9.9 in Taurus, 129 Antigone at 10.0 in Ophiuchus and 532 Herculina at 10.0 in Coma Berenices. Pluto is also in Sagittarius, shining at magnitude 14.

The Planets

Mars is on the home stretch to the Sun now. It shines at +1.1, falling to +1.3 by the end. Its angular size falls from 6 arcseconds to 5.2 arcseconds in the same period, making details hard to spot. Its colour will still be vivid though as it starts the month close to the bright blue/white star Regulus.

Venus is now prominent in the evening skies just after sunset. Shining at magnitude -3.9, it is the brightest thing in the night sky after the Moon. It appears in the south-west once the Sun has gone down and has an angular diameter of 13 arcseconds, showing phases like the Moon, rising to almost 15.4 arcseconds by the end of the month. It gets higher and higher above the horizon at sunset with each day of the month. On the 20th, Venus passes through the Beehive Cluster.

Mercury is visible shining in the morning light at magnitude 0 rising to -1 in the first week of June (before being swallowed up by the Sun). It won’t reach any great height in the sky, only about five degrees, you’ll need a clear horizon to the East to see it.

Saturn will remain at an angular diameter of around 18 arcseconds over the course of the month. It presently shines at +1.0, fading to +1.1 by the end of the month. The angular size of the slender rings extending to ~40 arcseconds. Those rings have finally reached their minimum tilt and so will be getting thicker during the month. The bright moon Titan shines at 7.8 and will be easily visible in small scopes and binoculars (unless it is in front of or behind the planet at the chosen viewing time).

Jupiter rises at around 2:30 BST at the start of the month, shining at -2.3, but appears at 01:00 by the end, shining at -2.5. Not much detail visible, but the Galilean moons should be visible in even small telescopes. The planet is close to Uranus during the 6th-10th and increases in diameter from ~39 arcseconds to ~41.

Uranus is also a morning object, shining at 5.7 in Pisces, with an angular size of 3.7 arcseconds. During the 6th-10th, it will be joined closely by Jupiter.

Neptune is also in the morning skies, shining at 7.9 with a 2.3 arcsecond disc in the middle of Aquarius.

A few things outside the solar system

Leo holds the southern spot at sunset, with Cancer to the west of it. In Cancer, not far from Mars, is the Beehive Cluster of stars, good to observe on a dark night. The constellations of Leo, Virgo and the Big Dipper are all home to galaxies, details here. This is probably the worst month of the year to look as the all-night twilight obliterates faint fuzzies.

The Usual Stuff

If you want to watch satellites flaring or passing in the sky (even sometimes during the day), then go to Heavens Above to get times and directions. If you need assistance in deciding where things are in the sky, why not install the free program Stellarium, which does all the work for you? Finally, to avoid the dreaded clouds, Met Check gives a quick forecast and the Met satellites or other satellites can be used to track breaks in the cloud. For an indication of auroral or solar activity, SpaceWeather.com is an invaluable resource. If the stars aren’t available, there’s always solar astronomy. Projections of the Sun onto white card can show sunspots, when properly focused. A good filter (not an eyepiece filter) or a dedicated solar telescope will show better details. Never observe the Sun without filters and never with an inadequate, inappropriate or old (and therefore possibly with holes in) filter.

Public events

For young astronomers (ages 9-16) Space Explorers is run in Kendal Museum on the third Saturday of most months from 2:30-4:00 pm. The Society for Popular Astronomy also has a sky map for young astronomers for May here.

Plus why not pop along to the Eddington Society, which meets at Kendal Museum on the first Monday of each month, this month it is on the 7th, with a talk on Astronomy before Copernicus. There will also be a public observing event in Abbot Hall park on the 19th from 8:30pm.

Don’t forget to check back here and on my twitter account for the latest astronomical events in this area.

The skies above Kendal in April

As the days get longer and the clouds get thicker, we enter the Global Astronomy Month, making it as good a time to get some observing in as can be. As ever, this post is illustrated with a few sky charts showing midnight on the first, last and fifteenth day of the month. The dots represent brighter stars, green circles are star clusters, nebulae, galaxies and the like and the very brightest stars, the Moon and the planets are named when they appear. Sky charts provided using Stellarium.

Solar system

The Moon will be in the last quarter phase on the 6th, new on the 14th, first quarter on the 21st and full on the 28th. On the 15th, it will be just above Mercury, very, very low in the West just after sun set.

The Lyrid meteor shower will be active on the night of the 22nd. It is not particularly active, with perhaps 15 meteors an hour expected. Best time to observe will be about 1-2am, and the first quarter Moon should’ve set by then, giving a relatively dark night.

Heavens above presently lists five comets above magnitude 12 and six asteroids above magnitude 10 in the hours of darkness. The comets are C/2009 O2 Catalina at 9.3 in the constellation of Perseus, 81P Wild 2 at 9.4 between Virgo and Libra, C/2009 K5 McNaught at 9.9 at the foot of Cygnus, C/2007 Q3 Siding Spring at 11.3 in Draco and 10P Tempel 2 at 11.8 in Sagittarius. The asteroids are 4 Vesta at 6.9 in Leo, 1 Ceres at 8.4 in Sagittarius, 2 Pallas at 8.6 in Serpens, 532 Herculina at 9.0 in Ursa Major, 9 Metis at 9.7 in Virgo and 3 Junoat 9.8 in Taurus, appearing just after sun set.

The Planets

Mars remains the big thing in the sky this month. It is high in the south at sunset and shines at magnitude +0.2, falling to +0.7 by the end. Its angular size falls from 9 arcseconds to 7 arcseconds in the same period, making details hard to spot. On the 16th/18th, Mars will lie close to the Beehive Cluster and the Moon will pop by on the 21st.

Venus is now prominent in the evening skies just after sunset. Shining at magnitude -3.9, it is the brightest thing in the night sky after the Moon. It appears in the south-west once the Sun has gone down and has an angular diameter of 11 arcseconds, showing phases like the Moon.

Mercury will be pairing up with Venus for a short period. The two shine close to each other after sunset (Mercury considerably dimmer and smaller than Venus, but still showing phases at higher magnification). The two planets will shine closest on the 4th. Mercury will continue to rise until the 8th when it will turn back and head for the Sun. On the 15th it will encounter a thin crescent Moon and by the 21st it will have vanished into the Sun set.

Saturn is just past opposition, meaning it now rises in the south-east as the Sun sets. It presently shines at +0.6, varying to +0.8 by the end of the month. The angular size remains around 19 acrseconds, with the slender rings extending to 43 arcseconds. Those rings will get thinner and thinner until the end of June, when they’ll open up again. The bright moon Titan shines at 7.8 and will be easily visible in small scopes and binoculars (unless it is in front of or behind the planet at the chosen viewing time).

Jupiter has now popped out from behind the Sun and rises in the East fifty minutes before it at the start of the month, rising to two hours by the end. It shines at -2, but due to its low altitude at sun rise, it will be almost impossible to get any detail out of it. But its appearance does mean the chance to view all five naked eye planets over the course of a single night will be available until Mercury vanishes during the latter half of the month.

A few things outside the solar system

The Orion Nebula is an evening sight at sunset, when it and the Pleiades have reached good altitudes.

The Usual Stuff

If you want to watch satellites flaring or passing in the sky (even sometimes during the day), then go to Heavens Above to get times and directions. If you need assistance in deciding where things are in the sky, why not install the free program Stellarium, which does all the work for you? Finally, to avoid the dreaded clouds, Met Check gives a quick forecast and the Met satellites or other satellites can be used to track breaks in the cloud.

Public events

Stuart Atkinson and the Eddington Society will be hosting a beginner’s night on the 12th, with an array of astronomers sitting on a panel to answer your questions. This will be at 7pm in Kendal Museum.

The Eddington Society will also be out in force at Abbott Hall Park on the 21st for a public Sky Watch featuring the Moon, Saturn and Mars, starting at 8pm.

For young astronomers (ages 9-16) Space Explorers is run in Kendal Museum on the third Saturday of each month from 2:30-4:00 pm. The next edition is on the 24th when we will be talking about Venus. The Society for Popular Astronomy also has a sky map for young astronomers for April here.

Events up and down the country are available from the Global Astronomy Month website. It is also Yuri’s night on the 10th, when people party to celebrate the anniversary (actually on the 12th) of Gagarin’s first human flight into space. Plus why not pop along to the Eddington Society, which meets at Kendal Museum on the first Monday of each month (except April due to the bank holiday and beginner’s night)?

Don’t forget to check back here and on my twitter account for the latest astronomical events in this area.

The Skies Above Kendal in October

As the nights get longer and the clouds get thicker, we enter the final month of official UK International Year of Astronomy, 2009,  activities, making it as good a time to get some observing in as can be. As ever, this post is illustrated with a few sky charts showing midnight on the first, last and fifteenth day of the month. The dots represent brighter stars, green circles are star clusters, nebulae, galaxies and the like and the very brightest stars, the Moon and the planets are named when they appear. Sky charts provided using Stellarium.

The midnight sky at the start of October

Solar system

The Moon will be grazing the Pleiades on the evening of the 7th and occulting the 5.5 magnitude star 36 T-Tauri on the morning of the 8th at around 6:10am. The star HIP 048734, magnitude 5.93, will be occulted on the 18th, but not for Cumbrian viewers as the line of sight is just below Morecambe Bay, at 4:28am.

The Draconid meteor shower will be active from the 6th-10th of the month, peaking on the 8/9. This is not expected to be a particularly active shower and the Gibbous Moon will affect visibility. Look towards Hercules for the radiant. The Orionid meteor shower, with a radiant in Orion, is expected to be much better, peaking on the 21st of the month. The hourly rate is expected to be around 30 meteors, one every couple of minutes.

The Planets

Jupiter remains the brightest thing in the twilight skies. Shining at a slightly reduced magnitude of -2.5, the giant planet rises to an altitude of 23 degrees at the moment. This rather low altitude means it is more difficult than otherwise to observe details, but nevertheless a small telescope will reveal the major features. Even in binoculars, the four Galilean moons can be seen. On the 10th of October at 9:44pm BST, Io will eclipse Europa. On the 16th at 10:10pm BST, Europa will be eclipsed again, this time by Ganymede. On the 26th, Jupiter will lie close to the Moon. Best times for seeing the Great Red Spot are: 2nd, 9:38pm BST; 4th, 11:17pm; 5th, 7:08pm; 7th, 8:47pm; 9th, 10:25pm; 12th, 7:55pm; 14th, 9:34pm.

Saturn has reappeared in the morning skies and by the end of the month will be rising three hours before the Sun, shining at magnitude 1.1 (dimmer than usual due to the lack of good reflection from the rings, which are still close to edge on). A small telescope should reveal its largest moon Titan appearing from behind Saturn at around 7am on the 14th. Around the 10th, Saturn, Mercury and Venus line up in the sky. On the 16th, although they have moved apart, they will be joined by the waning crescent Moon.

Uranus, at magnitude 5.9, rises at a good time to get a good altitude by midnight. As is it past opposition, it will head closer and closer to sunset, lying just below the constellation of Pisces. Never quite a naked eye object in Kendal’s skies, it is best to check on the planet’s exact position before making an attempt to see it. It is a relatively bright object in even smaller telescopes or binoculars. A new Moon on the 18th gives a good chance to see it in darker than usual skies.

Neptune is magnitude 7.9 and can be found somewhere closer to Jupiter than Uranus.

Mercury reaches its best opportunity to be viewed of the year on the 6th of October. Rising in morning skies a good fifteen degrees at greatest elongation, as well as participating in a line up with Saturn and Venus, the elusive inner planet will be in our field of view for the first half of the month. Like Venus and the Moon, Mercury undergoes phases and will be shining at just over a half Mercury on the 6th.

Venu, the third participant in the line-up, will be vanishing into the morning skies by the end of the month.

Mars is getting more and more prominent, rising before midnight by the middle of the month. Its angular size starts the month at 6.8 and rising, making features visible to larger telescopes. Mars will be closest to the Moon on the 12th.

The sky in mid October

A few things outside the solar system

The Andromeda Galaxy, M31 is an easy target below Cassiopeia, showing good detail in even small instruments (even a blur with the naked eye). The Orion Nebula is a morning sight, rising after Andromeda and the Pleiades have reached good altitudes.

The Ring Nebula, M57 lies in the constellation of Lyra, between the stars gamma and beta Lyra. Lyra is also notable for the bright star Vega. The constellation lies to the west at sunset at the beginning of the month.

The Milky Way is a vast arch just to the East of Lyra, stretching across the sky. If you’re lucky enough to have a dark clear night, then it may be visible in the very darkest hours, looking rather like a broken thin cloud. This is our view towards the centre of our galaxy.

Lying along the Milky Way to the south is Cygnus the swan. Two nice sights can be seen topping and tailing the swan. The star representing its head, Albireo, is a well contrasting double star, with a bright yellow star besides a dimmer blue-green one. At the tail end, up and to the left of the tail star Deneb are a couple of clusters visible in binoculars – the North American Nebula and the Penguin Nebula, both named for what they appear to look like.

The Usual Stuff

If you want to watch satellites flaring or passing in the sky (even sometimes during the day), then go to Heavens Above to get times and directions. If you need assistance in deciding where things are in the sky, why not install the free program Stellarium, which does all the work for you? Finally, to avoid the dreaded clouds, Met Check gives a quick forecast and the Met satellites or other satellites can be used to track breaks in the cloud.

Public events

Stuart Atkinson and the Eddington Society will be hosting a Jupiter Watch at Abbot Hall Park on Friday the 16th, from 7pm onwards. This is part of his contribution to the International Year of Astronomy, 2009. On Saturday the 10th from Midday-3pm, there will also be The Great Kendal Solar System Scale Model at Kendal Castle.

From the evening of the 26th of October, Newbury Astronomical Society will be running a world-wide twitter #Moonwatch. Follow @NewburyAS for further information. It is also the UK Autumn Jupiter watch and Moonwatch weeks on the 10th-23rd and the 24th of October – 1st of November, respectively.

Events up and down the country are available from the IYA2009 events page. Plus why not pop along to the Eddington Society, which meets at Kendal Museum on the first Monday of the month? The meeting in October will be a bring your own telescope night, with contributions from the audience. In addition, the Eddington Society and Kendal Museum exhibition Our Amazing Universe runs until January.

Don’t forget to check back here and on my twitter account for the latest astronomical events in this area.

The sky at the end of October

The Skies over Kendal in August

Yes, the monthly round-up is back!

The nights are starting to roll in once more, though the clouds seem to have a greater effect than the apparent motion of the Sun through the sky… During the darkest hours, the Milky Way is visible overhead, and we still have planets during the night and at dawn. As ever, this post is illustrated with a few sky charts showing midnight on the first, last and fifteenth day of the month. The dots represent brighter stars, green circles are star clusters, nebulae, galaxies and the like and the very brightest stars, the Moon and the planets are named when they appear. Sky charts provided using Stellarium.

Early August Midnight

Solar system

Noctilucent clouds have been putting on a very good show this season, which comes to an end around the end of this month, normally. But keep your eyes on the skies for these strange night shining clouds during August.

There will be no particularly bright occultations of stars by the Moon this month (save for one earlier in the month).

Asteroid Psyche will be at opposition, reaching the giddy heights of magnitude 9.3 on the 5th.

One highlight of the month will be the Perseid meteor shower, offering peak rates of 80-100 an hour on the evening of the 12th of August. An enhanced comet trail from Swift-Tuttle should add to the peak times, so expect a fair few meteors on the 11th, 13th, 14th and 15th as well, with the Moon progressively darker on each night, allowing fainter meteors to be seen. The ‘radiant’, where the meteor tails appear to point towards, lies between Perseus (hence the name of the storm) and Cassiopeia. The best bet for meteor sightings is 50 degrees away from the radiant.

The Planets

Jupiter is the king of the planets in the sky at the moment. Bright, easy to spot and risen at a useful time. Closest approach to the Moon this month is tonight. By mid August, Jupiter is 23 degrees above the horizon and shining at -2.9, reaching opposition on the 14th, at which point it will appear due south at midnight. As a result, Jupiter is as high at the end of the month at midnight as at the beginning, but further to the west.

Saturn hangs on by the skin of its teeth at the beginning of the month. Down to a magnitude of 1, the ringed planet appears further and further into the setting Sun in the evening, vanishing entirely by the middle of the month. Just before, on the 10th, the rings vanish entirely from our point of view. Only their shadow to be seen.

Uranus, at magnitude 5.9, rises between the time Jupiter does and the time Venus does. As the month goes on, it will get to a good altitude in the constellation of Pisces. Never quite a naked eye object in Kendal’s skies, it is best to check on the planet’s exact position before making an attempt to see it. It is a relatively bright object in even smaller telescopes or binoculars.

Neptune is magnitude 7.9 and can be found somewhere close to Jupiter. A low magnification should get the two planets in one place. Neptune is outshone by Jupiter, the four Galilean Moons and nearby stars at this time. Neptune reaches opposition on the 17th, appearing due south at midnight.

Mercury is rather difficult to spot (as ever). It is shining above magnitude 0 at the start of the month and dims to just below it at the end. It also hides in the sunlit dusk, moving in and around Saturn’s position. On the 16th it lies 3 degrees south of Saturn, on the 22nd it makes a line with Saturn and the crescent Moon. On the 24th, it is low in the sky but at greatest elongation (distance from the Sun).

Venus shines bright at magnitude -4 during the month in the early morning. During this time, Venus is on approach to the Sun, with its phase slowly waxing and apparent diameter falling. In the middle of the month, Venus will be 36 degrees west of the Sun and at an altitude of 27 degrees. On the 18th it will be close to the Moon.

Mars has returned to obvious naked eye visibility and is steadily increasing in magnitude and making its way west, having emerged from sunrise. The red planet is starting to glow above a magnitude of 1 and has grown in diameter such that bigger telescopes can start to see details. Mars will rise at midnight by the middle of the month, pass by the Moon on the 16th and move into Gemini in late August. On the 29th, Mars will pass by the open cluster M35.

Mid August Midnight

A few things outside the solar system

The pinwheel and whirlpool galaxies as well as the owl nebula are all available to see this month in and around the Big Dipper, which soon rises overhead after sunset.

The Ring Nebula, M57 lies in the constellation of Lyra, between the stars gamma and beta Lyra. Lyra is also notable for the bright star Vega. The constellation lies to the west at sunset at the beginning of the month.

The Milky Way is a vast arch just to the East of Lyra, stretching across the sky. If you’re lucky enough to have a dark clear night, then it may be visible in the very darkest hours, looking rather like a broken thin cloud. This is our view towards the centre of our galaxy.

Lying along the Milky Way to the south is Cygnus the swan. Two nice sights can be seen topping and tailing the swan. The star representing its head, Albireo, is a well contrasting double star, with a bright yellow star besides a dimmer blue-green one. At the tail end, up and to the left of the tail star Deneb are a couple of clusters visible in binoculars – the North American Nebula and the Penguin Nebula, both named for what they appear to look like.

The Usual Stuff

If you want to watch satellites flaring or passing in the sky (even sometimes during the day), then go to Heavens Above to get times and directions. If you need assistance in deciding where things are in the sky, why not install the free program Stellarium, which does all the work for you? Finally, to avoid the dreaded clouds, Met Check gives a quick forecast and the Met satellites or other satellites can be used to track breaks in the cloud.

Public events

Stuart Atkinson and the Eddington Society will be hosting a Sun Watch at Abbot Hall Park on Saturday the 22nd, from 2pm onwards (fingers crossed for the first sighting of that thing this month… – the Sun, not Stuart!). This is part of his contribution to the International Year of Astronomy, 2009.

Kendal Museum and the Eddington Society will be opening an exhibition of astronomy pictures and display’s on Kendal’s astrophysical son Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington as part of the Royal Society’s Local Heroes scheme. This exhibition, called Our Amazing Universe opens on Thursday the 20th and runs until January, at which point a junior astronomical society will be inaugurated.

From the evening of the 11th of August through to the early hours of the 13th of August, Newbury Astronomical Society will be running a world-wide twitter #MeteorWatch. Follow @NewburyAS for further information, the successor to the twitter Moonwatch where pictures, questions, answers, observations and information were shared between twitter users during a virtual star party.

Events up and down the country are available from the IYA2009 events page. Plus why not pop along to the Eddington Society, which meets at Kendal Museum on the first Monday of the month? The meeting in September will be a beginner’s night, with contributions from the audience. We will have radio, visual, photographic and video observations of meteors along with other targets that rise unclouded in that time frame.

Don’t forget to check back here and on my twitter account for the latest astronomical events in this area.

End of August midnight

The skies over Kendal in June

The nights are rapidly shortening now until the 21st, after which they lengthen once more. During the darkest hours, the Milky Way is visible overhead, and we still have planets at Dusk and Dawn. As with last month, this post is illustrated with a few sky charts showing midnight on the first, last and fifteenth day of the month. The dots represent brighter stars, green circles are star clusters, nebulae, galaxies and the like and the very brightest stars, the Moon and the planets are named when they appear. Sky charts provided using Stellarium.

The sky on June 1st at midnight

The sky on June 1st at midnight

Solar System

Noctilucant clouds have begun making appearances over northern Europe. Look to the North after sunset to see these high clouds still illuminated by the Sun.

The Moon will be closest to Saturn on the 1st of June, close to Jupiter predawn on the 12th and close to Venus and Mars also predawn on the 19th. The Moon will be occulting several bright stars this month. These include: 172 B Sagittarii (magnitude 5.6) on the 10th at around 2:20 am; Lambda Piscium (4.5) on the 16th at around 2:47 am and 69 Virginis (4.8) on the 20th at 21:37.

Two possible meteor showers this month are the June Lyrids and the June Bootes on the 16th and 27th of June, respectively. The Lyrids appear past midnight, whereas the Bootes peak before dawn. It isn’t known if there will be significant activity this year.

Ceres will be half a degree from Theta Leonis on the 19th. Juno will be half a degree above the Moon on the 16th.

The Planets

Mars is still rather dim at magnitude 1.2, but rises to higher and higher altitudes by sunrise as the month goes on, ending about 23 degrees above the horizon on the final day of June. On the 19th just before dawn, Mars will be just above Venus and a short distance below a thin waning crescent Moon.

Venus will be rising with Mars at much the same time, but will be a lot brighter at magnitude -4.2. Venus remains at a similar magnitude throughout the year as when it is farther from us, it is closer to a full Venus, whereas now, when it is close to us, it shows a crescent Venus. Venus will be 14 degrees above the horizon at Sunrise and will increase its sunrise altitude through the month.

Mercury has joined Venus and Mars in the predawn sky, reaching its greatest altitude above the rising Sun on the 13th. It will still be very low in the sky and pretty faint at magnitude 0.6 – made even fainter by the brightening of the sky at dawn.

Jupiter is improving in visibility over this month. It rises at 2am at the start of the month and 1am by the end, reaching an altitude of 24 degrees at this time. It is a good very bright star to the naked eye, increasing in magnitude from -2.5 to -2.7 during the month.

Saturn is heading into the twilight this month, still appearing just below the constellation of Leo as the Sun sets. It is an obvious bright dot below Leo by the naked eye, a yellow disc of magnitude 1 with a slender line through it through a telescope. This slender line, once the great rings of Saturn, will continue to thin and thin as Saturn approaches the point in its orbit where the rings will be edge on to the Earth. The rings, the moon Titan and some bands should be visible through even a small telescope – though a fast one like mine does wash out the bands. On June 10th, the five brightest satellites of Saturn will be lined up to the East of the planet.

Neptune rides on the coat-tails of Jupiter this month, remaining close to the star mu capricornis. On the morning of June 4th, the two planets will be separated by a mere half a degree. At a magnitude of 7.9 it won’t be visible to the naked eye (it never is) but it should be visible through binoculars or a telescope.

Uranus is in the south-western corner of Pisces and moves into darker skies this month, rising up to twenty degrees above the horizon in the southeast at the end of twilight. At magnitude 5.9, this planet is invisible to the naked eye, just, but visible in binoculars or a small telescope as it moves into the darker regions.

A few things outside the solar system

The pinwheel and whirlpool galaxies as well as the owl nebula are all available to see this month in and around the Big Dipper, which soon rises overhead after sunset.

The Ring Nebula, M57 lies in the constellation of Lyra, between the stars gamma and beta Lyra. Lyra is also notable for the bright star Vega. The constellation is pretty much overhead at sunset at the beginning of the month.

The Milky Way is a vast arch just to the East of Lyra, stretching across the sky. If you’re lucky enough to have a dark clear night, then it may be visible in the very darkest hours, looking rather like a broken thin cloud. This is our view towards the centre of our galaxy.

Lying along the Milky Way to the south is Cygnus the swan. Two nice sights can be seen topping and tailing the swan. The star representing its head, Albireo, is a well contrasting double star, with a bright yellow star besides a dimmer blue-green one. At the tail end, up and to the left of the tail star Deneb are a couple of clusters visible in binoculars – the North American Nebula and the Penguin Nebula, both named for what they appear to look like.

The sky in mid-June

The sky in mid-June

The Usual Stuff

If you want to watch satellites flaring or passing in the sky (even sometimes during the day), then go to Heavens Above to get times and directions. If you need assistance in deciding where things are in the sky, why not install the free program Stellarium, which does all the work for you? Finally, to avoid the dreaded clouds, Met Check gives a quick forecast and the Met satellites or other satellites can be used to track breaks in the cloud. For those ISS trackers amongst you, the International Space Station presently hovers above Kendal at around 5am.

Public events

Stuart Atkinson will be giving a lecture on “Visions of Mars” at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal on Friday the 26th of June at 7:30pm-8:30pm. Tickets cost £3 for over 16s, £1.50 for under 16s.

Events up and down the country are available from the IYA2009 events page. Plus why not pop along to the Eddington Society, which meets at Kendal Museum on the first Monday of the month? This Monday is a member’s project night, with contributions from the audience.

Don’t forget to check back here and on my twitter account for the latest astronomical events in this area.

End of June sky

End of June sky

The skies over Kendal in May

The summer skies are slowly starting to roll in. They are much maligned for being the least filled so far as interesting things go, but as they’re shorter this could be a good thing. Here is a glimpse at the May skies. A new feature, just to add a bit of colour, sees some star charts added to this blog. The first one shows midnight tonight (the first day of May) the second shows midnight on the 15th of the month and the third shows midnight on the last day of the month. The dots represent brighter stars, green circles are star clusters, nebulae, galaxies and the like and the very brightest stars, the Moon and the planets are named when they appear. Sky charts provided using Stellarium.

Midnight on the first of May

Midnight on the first of May

Solar System

The Moon will be close to Saturn on the 4th and 5th of May, close to Jupiter predawn on the 17th and close to Venus (and therefore nearby Mars) also predawn (around 4:35 am) on the 21st.

The Planets

Mars is still rather dim and rises only a short while before sunrise. This will improve during the month, but not by very much. Helpfully, it is positioned just below Venus, which acts as a marker for those wanting to find it. Another month or so will see Mars becoming more easily visible.

Venus will be rising with Mars at much the same time, but will be a lot brighter at magnitude 4.4. Venus remains at a similar magnitude throughout the year as when it is further from us, it is closer to a full Venus, whereas now, when it is close to us, it shows a crescent Venus.

Jupiter is improving in visibility over this month. It rises at 3am at the beginning of the month and 1am by the month’s end. Its magnitude is also increasing from -2.3 to -2.5 during this time. The best time to see it still remains predawn, when it will be highest.

Saturn remains well placed for observation, presently appearing just below the constellation of Leo, rising in the evenning. It is an obvious bright dot below Leo by the naked eye, a yellow disc with a slender line through it through a telescope. This slender line, once the great rings of Saturn, will continue to thin and thin as Saturn approaches the point in its orbit where the rings will be edge on to the Earth. The rings, the moon Titan and some bands should be visible through even a small telescope – though a fast one like mine does wash out the bands.

Mercury has passed greatest elongation and now will be approaching the position of the Sun. It vanishes behind the Sun on May the 18th, but looking in the western sky at sunset should show the planet close to the Pleiades at the very beginning of the month.

A few things outside the solar system

In the lower part of the constellation of Gemini lies a Cepheid variable star, which alters its luminosity from 3.6 to 4.2 magnitudes, over ten or so days. To the lower right of Gemini is the Eskimo nebula. Gemini is visible just after sunset in the west, close to Orion.

The constellation of Leo provides not only a colourful sickle of different stars, but also (between its body and the planet Saturn) two galaxies of magnitude 8.9 and 9.3, M66 and M65, respectively. Further to the West, a magnitude 9.2 and 9.7 pair of galaxies – M96 and M95. A final galaxy can be found by following the sickle to wear the point should be and using the two stars along the point, head down to find the magnitude 8.9 galaxy NGC 2903.

The pinwheel and whirlpool galaxies as well as the owl nebula are all available to see this month in and around the Big Dipper, which soon rises overhead after sunset.

Mid May at Midnight

Mid May at Midnight

The Usual Stuff

If you want to watch satellites flaring or passing in the sky (even sometimes during the day), then go to Heavens Above to get times and directions. If you need assistance in deciding where things are in the sky, why not install the free program Stellarium, which does all the work for you? Finally, to avoid the dreaded clouds, Met Check gives a quick forecast and the Met satellites or other satellites can be used to track breaks in the cloud. For those ISS trackers amongst you, the International Space Station presently hovers above Kendal at around 5am.

Public events

There are no public events that I know of, but why not pop along to the Eddington Society, which meets at Kendal Museum on the first Monday of the month? This month, we’ll be meeting on the second Monday to allow members to enjoy the bank holiday unimpeded.

UPDATE (x2): Stuart Atkinson will be giving a lecture on “A Tour of the Universe” at the Friends Meeting house on Stramongate on Friday the 22nd of May at 6:30pm.

Final moments of May at Midnight

Final moments of May at Midnight

The skies over Kendal this month…

More Clouds (this seems to be a monthly thing).

Ok, if the clouds should happen to depart for a while (and here’s Kendal’s Met check to see if and when they might), here’s a brief roundup of what might be visible in the skies this month, including the stuff I was gazing at last night just as the clouds rolled in:

Solar System

The Lyrid meteor storm will occur on the 22/23rd of April, sending out roughly 15 meteors an hour from the constellation Lyra. Lyrids are linked to the Comet Thatcher and are pretty reliable in that a steady flow of around the same number of meteors happens every year. The best time will be between 1-2am on the morning of the 23rd, looking towards the East. A slender crescent Moon means little natural light pollution will interfere with the storm this year.

The Moon will be occulting the Pleiades this month at 21:31UT on the 26th of April.

The Planets

Jupiter remains poorly placed for observing, rising shortly before dawn. Mars is similarly stricken through the month. Venus, although brighter in the Dawn sky, will also be rising shortly before the Sun during the month. Within the past few days, Venus passed between the Earth and the Sun (leading some to take pictures of Venus in its new phases during the daytime) and so has transferred from dusk to dawn.

Saturn remains well placed for observation, presently appearing just below the constellation of Leo, rising in the evenning. It is an obvious bright dot below Leo by the naked eye, a yellow disc with a slender line through it through a telescope. This slender line, once the great rings of Saturn, will continue to thin and thin as Saturn approaches the point in its orbit where the rings will be edge on to the Earth. The rings, the moon Titan and some bands should be visible through even a small telescope – though a fast one like mine does wash out the bands.

Mercury reaches greatest elongation on the 26th of April. This puts it at its furthest distance from the Sun, making it available for viewing. On that day, it should be visible for a couple of hours after the Sun has set, and for the few days either side of that date, it will still be visible for an hour or so.

A few things outside the solar system

In the lower part of the constellation of Gemini lies a Cepheid variable star, which alters its luminosity from 3.6 to 4.2 magnitudes, over ten or so days. To the lower right of Gemini is the Eskimo nebula.

The constellation of Leo provides not only a colourful sickle of different stars, but also (between its body and the planet Saturn) two galaxies of magnitude 8.9 and 9.3, M66 and M65, respectively. Further to the West, a magnitude 9.2 and 9.7 pair of galaxies – M96 and M95. A final galaxy can be found by following the sickle to wear the point should be and using the two stars along the point, head down to find the magnitude 8.9 galaxy NGC 2903.

The pinwheel and whirlpool galaxies as well as the owl nebula are all available to see this month in and around the Big Dipper, which soon rises overhead after sunset.

The Usual Stuff

If you want to watch satellites flaring or passing in the sky (even sometimes during the day), then go to Heavens Above to get times and directions. If you need assistance in deciding where things are in the sky, why not install the free program Stellarium, which does all the work for you? Finally, to avoid the dreaded clouds, Met Check gives a quick forecast and the Met satellites or other satellites can be used to track breaks in the cloud, if you are truly determine to catch that comet (or even the moon at this rate)…

Public events

As part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, the Eddington Society will be laying to rest the memory of the Venus and Saturn watches with a public observing eventMoon Watch, on Friday the 3rd from 7:30pm at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal. This is round the corner from my place, so I may even be sticking my telescope in the mud with the rest of them. Either way, I’ll be there.

The Spring MoonWatch has begun (which is why our event above is being held), lasting until the 5th of April. This is one of a couple of weeks when the Moon is in a favourable position for detail to be seen on the surface. Too close to new Moon and there’s nothing lit up, too close to the full Moon and there’s no shadow to bring out detail. As part of the International Year of Astronomy and the telescopes for schools initiative, the Society for Popular Astronomy has organised these country-wide watches to give everyone the chance to see… well… probably clouds. The date of the Eddington Society MoonWatch also coincides with the 100 Hours of Astronomy event, wherebye public observing will be carried out all over the planet during these hundred hours – from top observatories to guy on the pavement with a telescope. Go to the website to view “Around the world in 80 telescopes” and the 24 hour live observatories on the 3-4th of April. There may be cloud above us but somewhere in the world has to have a clear sky.

Don’t they?

The Skies over Kendal this month…

Clouds.

Ok, if the clouds should happen to depart for a while (and here’s Kendal’s Met check to see if and when they might), here’s a brief roundup of what might be visible in the skies this month:

Solar System

The Comet Lulin remains high in the sky pleasing astronomers outside of our little cloud nursery. Although it will rise higher and earlier in the sky this month, the comet will also fade in brightness fast, going from nearly visible to the naked eye in excellent conditions at the moment to something around sixteen times dimmer, visible only through a good telescope. Observing in the early part of the month will give the best chance of seeing this visitor in a small telescope or binoculars, to find it, use a finder chart such as this one at Cumbrian Sky.

The Antihelion Source is a rather impressive name for a source of meteors. It should provide a couple of meteors every now and again from the radiant, which is moving into Virgo by the end of the month (the bit of the sky in the south at midnight, hence antihelion, or antisunward). Those that have managed to see the comet recently (including myself) have been reporting these meteors, and they’re nice and bright.

The asteroid Ceres (largest of the belt asteroids) passes through Leo minor this month. Ceres was at opposition in February (closest approach to the Earth) and so is fading in brightness now. It appears as an out of place star in binoculars at the beginning of the month, but fades to a more difficult to see object later in the month.

The Planets

Mercury hides behind the Sun this month, making a difficult to observe planet impossible to observe. Jupiter is similarly badly placed, but starts to appear low in the southern horizon at dawn. On the 17th of March, all the four Galilean moons of Jupiter line on to the west of the planet during the morning. On the 27th, at around 05:42:57 (at a rough guess), the moon Callisto occults the moon Ganymede, giving a good idea of how fast these things move. Uranus can be written off altogether this month, Mars and Neptune both appear in the very early morning at the end of the month, close to the horizon at sunrise.

Saturn, at least, continues to shine on in the sky, just beneath Leo. Its rings are almost edge on during this month, making them difficult to see (though as of last week, they still make an impressive bar of light). The moons of Saturn will be seen moving in front and behind the planet during this month, with transits of shadows of moons particularly visible in good telescopes. On the 8th of March, Saturn will be at Opposition, making it especially bright – though not enough to cut through thick clouds…

Venus takes advantage of being one of the few things happening outside of Leo. Shining bright in the evening sky, the overall size of the disc of Venus grows during this month, but the phase of Venus grows closer and closer to a ‘new Venus’, with only a very thin crescent by the end of the month as the planet moves between us and the Sun on the 27th and then out again during the morning hours at the very end of the month.

A few things outside the solar system

Algol, also known as the Demon Star, is visible in the constellation of Perseus. The brightness of the star changes so that it grows three times brighter and then dims again in just under three days. This is due to Algol actually being two stars, one of which passes in front of the other, dimming the system down. The eclipses last around ten hours, with the middle five hours containing the most noticeable changes in brightness. Minima of these eclipses, most favourable for our viewing, will occur at: 0:42hours on the 1st; 21:30 on the 3rd; 5:36 on the 18th; 2:24 on the 21st and 23:12 on the 23rd.

Lambda Tauri is another eclipsing binary star, this time in Taurus, but with a less pronounced dip in brightness and spread over a longer period of time (just under four days). The eclipses last about 14 hours. Favourable minima this month include: 23:30 on the 2nd; 22:24 on the 6th and 21:30 on the 10th.

The Usual Stuff

If you want to watch satellites flaring or passing in the sky (even sometimes during the day), then go to Heavens Above to get times and directions. If you need assistance in deciding where things are in the sky, why not install the free program Stellarium, which does all the work for you? Finally, to avoid the dreaded clouds, Met Check gives a quick forecast and the Met satellites or other satellites can be used to track breaks in the cloud, if you are truly determine to catch that comet (or even the moon at this rate)…

Public events

As part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, the Eddington Society will be laying to rest the memory of the Venus watch with a public observing eventSaturn Watch, close to the time of Opposition on Friday the 6th from 9pm at Bowling Fell. This is round the corner from my place, so I may even be sticking my telescope in the mud with the rest of them. Either way, I’ll be there.

On the 28th, the Spring MoonWatch begins, lasting until the 5th of April. This is one of a couple of weeks when the Moon is in a favourable position for detail to be seen on the surface. Too close to new Moon and there’s nothing lit up, too close to the full Moon and there’s no shadow to bring out detail. As part of the International Year of Astronomy and the telescopes for schools initiative, the Society for Popular Astronomy has organised these country-wide watches to give everyone the chance to see… well… probably clouds.

We can but try…