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Archive for the 'Observations' category

Mars opposition 2020

October 1 2020, Marcus Schenk

Astronomy Highlights in Autumn 2020

August 28 2020, Marcus Schenk

Mars at opposition, Moon-less Leonids and an interesting star occultation in the evening. Once again, there are plenty of reasons to look to the stars.

Don’t let anything pass you by in the next three months: In the ‘Astronomy Highlights in Autumn 2020’ infographic, you will find a quick overview of numerous important celestial events. In the accompanying text you will find further useful details.

We wish you many exciting hours of viewing.


06/09 Conjunction between the Moon and Mars

On the evening of the 5th, the Moon and Mars are in close alignment and both appear above the eastern horizon from 21:30 CEST. They draw ever closer throughout the night, until the early hours of 06/09 when they are less than one degree apart.

11/09 Neptune at opposition

Neptune is the solar system’s outermost planet. Many observers have only caught glimpses of it to date. But now it has reached its opposition and will spend the whole night in a favourable position in the sky. We can find it above the eastern horizon, between Aquarius and Pisces, during the evening. At mag 7.8, it can be found using any pair of binoculars, but 4.3-billion-kilometre-away Neptune’s planetary disc can only be seen through a telescope.

14/09 Conjunction between the Moon, Venus and M44

Are you an early riser? Excellent. Then you will be able to enjoy an encounter between the Moon, Venus and the open star cluster, M44. It can be seen by the naked eye in dark skies. All three celestial objects are in an almost straight line, with M44 at its centre. What makes this particularly attractive is that the Moon is waning and only 14% illuminated.

25/09 Conjunction between the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn

Throughout the summer, we have been able to observe Saturn and Jupiter in Sagittarius in the evenings. It was the highlight of every astronomical observation. Shortly after the start of autumn, on 25/09, an attractive view of them presents itself with the Moon.


03/10 Conjunction between the Moon and Mars

This month, the Moon has also noticed that Mars is the star of the month. After all, there are two conjunctions between them in October. Tonight they are separated by a distance of 4 degrees.

03/10 Conjunction between Venus and Regulus

Just before dawn, we see the spring constellation Leo appearing in the east. Venus and the main star, Regulus, are strikingly close together – the latter of which ranks as the 22nd brightest star in the night sky. It is fun to compare the large difference in magnitudes between the two celestial bodies at the same time.

08/10 Giacobinids

The Giacobinids or Draconids are a meteor shower which appears to stem from the constellation Draco. The maximum rates can be expected on 8 October. Unfortunately the expected number cannot be predicted as it can vary considerably.

The radiant is located near the star Beta Draconis. Draco is part of a circumpolar constellation which is why the radiant is at its optimal visible altitude in the evening.

14/10 Mars at opposition

Mars orbits the Sun once every 686 days, reaching opposition approximately once every two years. The last opposition, in 2018, gave us a perigee and a supersized Mars, but it was low above the horizon. This year, its disc diameter is only two arc seconds smaller but it is located considerably higher in the sky. This results in one of the best opportunities for observation in the coming years.

21/10 Orionids

The Orionids are a smaller meteor shower with around 20 meteors per hour. The radiant is located in the constellation of Orion, near the Betelgeuse star. Although you can observe the meteor shower all month, it peaks between October 20 and 21. The best time for observations is between 22:00 and 05:00.

21/10 The Moon occults Gamma Sgr

Lunar occultations are fascinating for every observer, especially when they start on the dark side of the Moon. The evening of 21 October provides an ideal example of this. The bright mag 2.8 star, Gamma Sgr, is occulted in the constellation Sagittarius at 20:35. With bright stars like this, the effect is amazing. It disappears behind the Moon as if it has been switched off and only reappears at 21:42 on the far side. In many places, the Moon may have already set by then.

22/10 Conjunction between the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn

Barely one month after the last conjunction, the Moon once again joins the planets Jupiter and Saturn. The best observation time is at dusk.

29/10 Conjunction between the Moon and Mars

This evening, the Moon and Mars are meeting and will be separated by a distance of 3 degrees.

31/10 Uranus at opposition

Uranus is one of the outermost gas giants. In telescopes, it appears as a tiny green disc with no recognisable details. However, it can still be identified as a planet. Look for Uranus using a star chart or, even easier, with your telescope’s GoTo system. The planet’s disc can then be identified at a magnification of 150-200x.


10/11 Mercury at greatest western elongation

Mercury is at its 19 degree greatest angular distance from the Sun. This results in it reaching its best morning visibility for the year. From the 10th, we can see Mercury rising above the eastern horizon at around 05:30. Emerging from the haze, it shines brightly below Venus.

11/11 The Moon occults v Virgo

You should get out of bed early on 11 November as,  from 06:40 in the morning, a rare and very visible star occultation is taking place. The Moon occults the bright, mag 4 star, v Virgo.

12/11 Conjunction between Jupiter and Pluto

Jupiter and Pluto are passing each other and reach a proximity of up to 40 arc seconds on 12 November. Normally, it is difficult to readily find the former planet and current dwarf planet. This is because it is faint and undistinguishable from a star. However, Jupiter provides us with a good reference point for spotting Pluto without using GoTo mounts.

13/11 Conjunction between the Moon, Mercury and Venus

Daybreak presents a configuration to make every skywatcher’s eyes light up. Venus, Mercury and the almost-translucent crescent Moon can be found towards the east, in the constellation Virgo. The perfect chance for an atmospheric picture of the night sky.

16/11 Leonids

The Leonids reach their peak between 16 and 17 November. Along with the Perseids, they are one of the most famous meteor showers. There have been years in which these meteors have fallen like raindrops from the sky. This generally takes place every 33 years when the Earth runs into the Leonid cloud. In normal years, the shower does not exceed 20 meteors per hour at its peak. This year, the slender crescent Moon sets early on and we can enjoy meteors all night long without interruption.

19/11 Conjunction between the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn

The constellation Sagittarius finally disappears from the early evening sky, however today we can spot the five-day-old Moon and the planets Jupiter and Saturn in a neat group just above the horizon.

25/11 Conjunction between the Moon and Mars

The Moon and Mars today meet each other at a distance of around 6 degrees.

Images of C/2020 F3 NEOWISE: How our colleagues have been viewing the comet [Photo gallery]

July 20 2020, Marcus Schenk

Here at, we have a conspicuous cluster of amateur astronomers and people who have spent years gazing at the sky in awe. You can probably picture the scene – during the lunch break, comets were the topic of discussion, accompanied by tomato soup and tortellini. We had hoped for an amazing, bright comet in spring but all of the most recent visitors failed to meet expectations. We were, therefore, even more excited when comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) was discovered in March.

Initially visible in the southern sky, it has gradually climbed into the northern hemisphere. At the start of July, it was still close to the horizon and could only be seen in the early hours of the morning. It can now be admired in the late evening and in the morning from 3am as a bright, elongated fist above the northern horizon. It is so bright that it can even be seen with the naked eye from within cities.

Some are even comparing it to Hyakutake, which swept rapidly across the sky in 1996 with a long tail. And it is a fact that we have not had comets this exciting since Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp.

In the following image gallery, some of our colleagues present their photographs of the comet, all of which were taken in the last few days:

Komet Neowise Michele Russo

Photographer: Michele Russo


Komet Neowise von Uli Zehndbauer

Photographer: Uli Zehndbauer, Sony RX-100 Mk I, 10s ISO 800 single frame without tracking. 10/07/2020 03:15, Location: Kalvarienberg, Karlskron/Pobenhausen


Photographer: Frank Gasparini, single-shot exposure 400 ASA, 4 sec, 70mm with Pentax K3


Photographer: Marcus Schenk, shot using Sony Alpha 7s full format, 70mm, f/5.6, 3.1 seconds, 03:41.


Photographer: Michal Baczek, telescope: SW 120/600 on Meade LX85 mount. Nikon D3200 camera, time 1x30s


Photographer: Carlos Malagon, Omegon ED80 with reducer, Canon 350D camera, stacked 30×20 seconds.


Photographer: Joao Martins, Sony A7 III camera, Sigma 50mm, f/5,0, 15 seconds, Pateira de Fermentelos – Portugal


If you want to view the comet yourself, you can find a star chart in our blog entry: C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) A new comet in the spotlight?

Have fun observing!

PS: Are you still looking for binoculars to observe the comet? We have some binoculars recommendations.

C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE): A new comet in the spotlight?

July 10 2020, Marcus Schenk

A star on the celestial stage? Or quietly disappearing through the stage door? Another promising comet is currently travelling through the solar system. But what kind of performance can we expect from C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)? Predictions are creating suspense …


Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)

It all kicked off in spring with the Y4 ATLAS comet: There were already rumours that it could be the Great Comet of 2020 as it was following a similar trajectory to the Great Comet of 1844. This reached a magnitude of -1 back in its day. In reality, comet Y4 ATLAS put on a good show until it suddenly disintegrated. Now its debris is continuing to travel through the solar system but the great experience failed to materialise. We were also able to see comet C/2017 C2 (Panstarrs) periodically but this also failed to meet expectations.

The wonderful new appearance of a bright comet – C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)

But the Universe is always full of surprises: The new comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) was discovered as a faint magnitude +17 firefly on 27 March by the NEOWISE Space Telescope. The comet talent scouts amongst the scientists are now predicting it will have a bright future. Whispered rumours say it could reach a magnitude of +0.6. What? No. Yes! But keep your voice down.

Where is the comet now and when can I observe it?

Pay attention, the most important information is coming up.
Comet NEOWISE is currently located in the southern sky but it is slowly moving into the northern sky and is climbing higher each day. From 15 July, you will be able to marvel at it in the evening sky (from 22:30) at 15 degrees above the north-western horizon. Unfortunately, its position close to the Sun means that you cannot see it all night long. In the following days it will traverse the Lynx constellation (which is rather faint) on its way to the Great Bear’s front paw. You only have a small window of time after twilight – but it’s worth it.

Telescope, binoculars or the naked eye?

If the experts are right, NEOWISE will reach a magnitude of +0.6 on 5 July during its perihelion. But it is also supposed to glow with an impressive magnitude +2 on 15 July . This would mean it was a comet for your telescope, any binoculars you can envision – and even for the naked eye.

Of course, its journey does not end mid-July: over the course of the month it wanders further along the Great Bear’s paw and reaches the amazing Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair) on 1 August. During this time, it leaves its magnitude behind, dimming to magnitude +3 by 20/07 and to magnitude 5.5 by 1 August. But even then it will be an attractive object. Partly because it will then be somewhat darker and the comet could gain more than 10 degrees of additional altitude.

Will we be able to finally break out of the vicious circle of faint comets? We will see. Have fun observing.

You can download a PDF of the star chart here: C:2020 F3 NEOWISE star chart.

Astronomy highlights in summer 2020

May 27 2020, Marcus Schenk

Bright comets, fantastic meteors in August and multiple planets at opposition mean that the night sky in summer 2020 is full of astronomical treats.

As early as June, there will be two interesting comets to be seen, namely C/2020 F8 SWAN and C/2017 T2 PanSTARRS. The former is gradually moving from the southern night sky to the northern sky and the latter is maintaining its altitude as a circumpolar object. T2 PanSTARRS is great for telescope viewing – and you can even find it in a great position, right next to a well-known star. More on this later.

We wish you many exciting hours of viewing.


1 June SWAN comet

Spring 2020 was rich in comets, one of the most attractive and brightest of these being the comet C/2020 F8 SWAN. It remained in the southern sky in spring, climbed above the horizon at the end of May and can now be found in the northern sky.

4 June Mercury at greatest eastern elongation

Mercury reaches its greatest eastern elongation which, in this configuration, is 23 degrees. It can be seen in the evening sky just above the north-western horizon. When viewed through a telescope, you can see the planet almost half-illuminated.

5 June Penumbral lunar eclipse

This evening, as much as around 50% of the Moon plunges into the Earth’s penumbral shadow. The resulting penumbral eclipse is interesting astronomically but not spectacular visually, as the Moon is only obscured minimally.

We are unable to track the beginning at 19:45 CEST (17:45 UT) because the Moon is still below the horizon. At 21:24 CEST, at the time of its maximum eclipse, it is visible just above the south-eastern horizon. From now on, we can track its further progression until the Moon leaves the penumbral shadow at 23:04 CEST.

5 June PanStarrs comet

Another interesting comet which certainly warrants a quality photo is C/2017 T2 PanSTARRS. It was discovered on 01/10/2017 and has since been travelling around the Sun on a parabolic trajectory.

It is currently at magnitude 8 and is also visible with small telescopes and large binoculars. On 5 June, it will be visible at a distance of 1 degree from the bright star Dubhe (Alpha Ursae Majoris) in the Plough. It will therefore be very easy to find using any telescope and a wide-angle eyepiece or using a large telescope.

9 June Conjunction between Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon

There is rarely a more beautiful sight than this. At the start of the second half of the night, the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn are rising together over the south-eastern horizon. There are only 3 and 4 degrees between both planets and our satellite and together they make an attractive trio. To the right of this we find the constellation Sagittarius with its summer deep sky objects and, to the left, Capricorn.

13 June Conjunction between the Moon and Mars

From around 3:00 CEST (1:00 UT) we experience a conjunction between Mars and the Moon at an altitude of only 10 degrees above the horizon. A stunning sight, but who is this mysterious visitor? Almost invisible, Neptune joins them and can be found no more than 1.5 degrees above Mars with the help of binoculars.

19 June The Moon occults Venus

It is a rare event when the Moon slips in front of Venus today and occults it. However, this event is taking place during the day. But does this mean that you cannot somehow observe it? You can, but this event is more for experienced observers. At 9:55 CEST the Moon, with its narrow crescent shape, slips in front of Venus. Caution: The Sun is around 20 degrees to the east! Never look directly at the Sun with your eyes or using an optical instrument.

27 June June Bootids

The June Bootids meteor shower originates from the constellation Bootes. The number of falling meteors is small but variable. There have been years in which no meteors have been seen, however rates of 100 per hour have been seen on occasion. Because these meteors cause excitement, it is worth taking a closer look.


5 July Conjunction between Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon

Once night has fallen, the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn rise, drawing everyone’s gaze towards them at magnitudes of -2.7 and 0.1. Tonight the fully-illuminated Moon joins them, as the Moon was full only yesterday.

8 July Venus at greatest magnitude

Venus is currently located in the constellation Taurus or in the Hyades star cluster. Although it is only 30% illuminated, it is shining at magnitudre -4.4, the brightest magnitude achieved so far this year.

12 July Conjunction between Mars and the Moon

With 2.5 degrees between them, there is a conjunction between Mars and the Moon today. Both are in the constellation Cetus on the border of Pisces and rise after midnight. At sunrise they are 30 degrees above the horizon, they do not reach the meridian as the Sun will have already long risen by then.

12 Conjunction between Venus and Aldebaran

It is a special occurrence when a bright planet passes by a bright star. Events like these are very eye-catching and appealing to observe. On 12 July, Venus passes by the bright star Aldebaran at a distance of only 0.5 degrees. It is to be the closest encounter of any planet with Aldebaran in this century.

14 July Jupiter at opposition

Jupiter rises in the south-east as early as twilight and can be seen as a very bright object. Today it is at opposition to the Sun and can be admired throughout the entire night. A mere 619 million kilometres separate it from Earth and the light requires a little more than half an hour to reach us. Its visible diameter is 47 arc seconds and it crosses the meridian, and therefore achieves its best visibility, at 1:25 CEST (23:25 UT).

16 July Pluto at opposition

The former planet and current dwarf planet is at opposition and is shining at a magnitude of 14.2. Finding it with a telescope which only works with one accurate star chart is a challenge. Pluto is located between Saturn and Jupiter on these days, from which it is only 2 degrees to the west (on the left of the central Telrad ring).

17 July Conjunction between Venus and the Moon

A delightful sight in the morning sky in the form of today’s conjunction between Venus and the very narrow and almost 26-day-old crescent Moon in the constellation Taurus, close to the star Aldebaran.

21 July Saturn at opposition

July is the month of oppositions and today’s offering is Saturn. At magnitude 0.1, it will be shining much more faintly than its prominent colleague, Jupiter. However, Saturn is able to make up for this with its attractive rings, which we are able to see fully exposed in our view.

22 July Mercury at greatest western elongation

Whilst Mercury was at its greatest eastern elongation in June, it is now at its greatest western elongation. This means that it has now become an object in the morning sky, as it now rises before the Sun. From 4:30 CEST (2:30 UT), you should be able to see it at around 3 degrees above the horizon. At this time, the Sun is 8 degrees below the horizon.

28 July Delta Aquariids

The last event this month is the Delta Aquariids. These are shooting stars which appear to come from region containing the constellation Aquarius, at a maximum frequency of 25 per hour. The period after midnight, when the Moon has already gone down, is best suited for their observation.


1 August Conjunction between Jupiter and the Moon

Today there is a conjunction between the 12-day-old and almost full Moon and Jupiter.

9 August Conjunction between the Moon and Mars

This morning the Moon is approaching the planet Mars until it is around 2.75 degrees away. While Mars is in Pisces, the Moon crosses the border from Cetus to Pisces in the morning.

12 August Perseids

The absolute highlight of every August is the Perseids meteor shower. We are able to see up to 100 meteors per hour tonight. Admittedly, this is only because the Moon is not interfering. This year, we are able to view them during the first half of the night without it interfering. At 0:30 CEST (22:30 UT) the Moon rises above the horizon, the sky gets brighter and the faint Perseids are drowned out by Moonlight.

13 August Venus at greatest western elongation

Venus is the morning star and is currently at its greatest western elongation at a distance of 45 degrees between it and the Sun. When you view Venus through the telescope, it appears half-illuminated.

13 August Conjunction between the Moon and the Hyades

The Moon is in the constellation Taurus, close to the Hyades star cluster.

15 August Conjunction between Venus and the Moon

Anyone looking up at the sky in the early hours of the morning can see Venus close to the narrow crescent Moon. Both are in the constellation Gemini.

28 Conjunction between Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon

This evening there is a conjunction between the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation Sagittarius. The trio is on the left, close to the well-known Teapot asterism. If deep-sky observation is not possible today, how about a tour of the lunar craters, culminating in a glimpse of both rulers of the solar system?

C/2019 Y4 ATLAS: A bright comet for the naked eye?

March 27 2020, Marcus Schenk

A yawning emptiness. No visitors.

For years, there has not been much going on in the vast expanses of the solar systems, just the planets continued their orbits around the sun.

However, the time for waiting has now passed.

We are being visited by a bright comet which could become a real highlight in April and May – maybe even for the naked eye.

It has the wonderful name of C/2019 Y4 ATLAS. Even now, it can be clearly seen with the telescope. During these times of corona, where we have to stay at home and go without social contact, this makes a welcome change. Keep your telescope at the ready because this could be really exciting!

Komet Y4 ATLAS

The C/2019 Y4 ATLAS comet, with its green coma, near the M81 and M82 galaxies on the 19th/20th March 2020. Photographed using a Canon 600Da – Canon EF 200mm f2.8 L – @f3.5 (step-down-ring as a front aperture), 76 x 2min -> 2h32min – ISO800, Vixen GP-DX – MGEN II. Editing and processing in DeepSkyStacker and Photoshop. Image author: Johannes Hildebrandt

The major comet of 2020?

Hawaii is home to the Asteroid Terrestrial impact Last Alert System, abbreviated to ATLAS. It scans the sky for near-earth objects, which could be of danger to the earth, and is designed to predict a possible impact. However, on the 28th December 2019, the robot-supported system discovered this comet on its way through our solar system. The astronomers observed that it is following a very similar orbit to that of the Great Comet of 1844 which, at that time, achieved a brightness of -1 mag. There has even been speculation that Y4 ATLAS might possibly be a fragment of the then tail-star and could achieve a similar brightness – this fact alone makes following the path of this comet exciting.

Can we expect to see something similar from the C/2019 Y4 ATLAS?

Strong increase in brightness until May

What is certain is that its brightness is rapidly increasing. At the time of its discovery in December, it was still unreachable at 19 mag. In the interim, however, it has been able to increase its brightness to about eight magnitudes. Overall, this is an increase of 25,000 times! However, it will get really interesting from now until the end of May, because it is continuously getting brighter – in fact, it has already exceeded the original expectations in this respect.

It is now entering our region from the outer planets. On the 24th May, it will race past the earth at a distance of 117 million kilometres away and, on the 31st May, it will reach its closest point to the sun – and this despite being within Mercury’s orbit. According to the forecasts, it may reach a brightness of 2 mag – this would not just make it visible with all types of binoculars, but also with the naked eye!

Really good for us, as inhabitants of the northern hemisphere, is the fact that the comet is almost ideally positioned.

We have already observed it…

During the last few days, some members of our team have already been able to observe the comet. I, too, used last weekend for observation. I was able to identify it immediately using my 12“ Taurus Dobson telescope  The diffuse spot stood out clearly from the surrounding stars. The coma appeared uniformly round with a brighter core area. At the edge of a small-town sky, and after observation with my SWA 32mm eyepiece I used a Nagler 11mm with an approx. 140-times magnification. The comet thereby gained even more contrast and stood out even better from the background of the sky. A fantastic experience! However, the comet could also be seen with the 20+40×100 Nightstar large binoculars.

Zeichnung von Komet C/2019 Y4 ATLAS

An image of the C/2019 Y4 ATLAS on the 22nd March 2020 which reflects the visual impression of the 12″ Dobson telescope. Marcus Schenk.

Where can you find the C/2019 Y4 ATLAS comet?

Not at the bottom of the horizon, but high up and circumpolar. This is a dream position for an observer! Our vagabond is currently travelling through the Great Bear which is luckily now high in the sky in spring – this means that you have a good opportunity to observe it using your telescope. If you are planning to acquire a telescope first, then now would be a good time.

In the months of April and May, the comet will be moving through the giraffe constellation and heading for Perseus. It will become significantly brighter but, with time, it will lose altitude. At this time, a rather dark place and a few clouds on the horizon become even more important. In these times of corona and strict curfews, I was happy to be able to observe the comet from my garden at its still high altitude.

But, how can one find the comet now?

You can find an up-to-date search map on, for example.

Or, there is an up-to-date map for the respective day at Theskylive.

Would you like to get an even better view of the comet? The Lumicon Comet Filter can help you to see both the coma and a possible gas-tail contrast-enhanced.

Will we be able to see the comet with the naked eye? Well, despite all the calculations and predictions, this is written in the stars. Let us hope for the best! In the meantime, why not enjoy the comet with your telescope or binoculars. After all, who knows how many years we will have to wait again for such a bright comet?

If you are looking for a telescope, accessories or binoculars, we are here for you (despite the intensified corona crisis in Bavaria) and can be reached by phone and email. Furthermore, our courageous colleagues from the shipping department are holding the fort and will immediately despatch your orders.

Infographic: Spring 2020 astrohighlights

March 4 2020, Marcus Schenk

Once again there is plenty going on in the sky this spring. There the gas giants shake hands, a planet meets a star cluster, star occultations take place, and you may even spot a comet with binoculars.

We hope you enjoy the latest astronomical infographic, “Astronomy Highlights Spring 2020”. You will find explanatory descriptions of the events in the following text.


8 March: Venus near Uranus

Bright Venus, faint Uranus: these two planets meet one another today at dusk, as Venus hurries past the gas giant at a separation of around 2°. You can identify them easily using binoculars.

18 March: The Moon near Mars and Jupiter

If you get up early this morning you will be rewarded with a very special sight. Above the south-eastern horizon the waning Moon can be identified in an attractive grouping along with Jupiter and Mars. A little further east Saturn joins in too.

20 March: Jupiter near Mars

Once again Mars pays a visit to the big planets. This morning it meets Jupiter, approaching it at a separation of 40 arcseconds. In the coming days it passes by Jupiter and heads towards Saturn.

24 March: Venus at greatest eastern elongation

Half-illuminated, now Venus presents itself as an interesting object to observe. It gleams with a brightness of magnitude -4.3 and appears as a lovely evening star for almost the entire first half of the night, before finally disappearing below the horizon shortly before 23:00 CET.

29 March: The Moon occults Epsilon Tauri

Slowly winter bids farewell to the night sky. But the constellations Orion and Taurus are still visible in the western sky. This evening you can be witness to an interesting occultation of a star by the Moon. At around 21:30 CET the Moon draws near to the magnitude 3.5 star Epsilon Tauri in the Hyades cluster and at 21:35 CET occults it from its dark side.


2 April: Juno in opposition

Juno is a large asteroid in the main asteroid belt, with a diameter of 257 kilometres. On 2 April it reaches opposition to the Sun and shines with a brightness of magnitude 9.5.

3 April: Venus near the Pleiades

An unusual encounter: on 3 April we can see how Venus meets the Pleiades in the night sky. It’s a really rare sight, and all the more beautiful if we observe these objects through a telescope or capture the memory in a photograph.

15 April: The Moon near Jupiter, Saturn and Mars

At the moment the trio made up of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars is visible every morning before sunrise in the southeastern sky. Even if you don’t normally get up this early, try it once. For example this morning. Because today the Moon joins in and (together with the planets) offers a fascinating sight.

26 April: The Moon near Venus

The Moon is just three days old and yet lights up the evening sky as a slender, fine crescent. Today it meets Venus, the bright evening star.

28 April: Venus at greatest brightness

A fiery brilliance in the sky. When we take a look at the sky we can see the glistening bright Venus. Many people mistake it for an aircraft with its lights, or even a UFO. But you know it’s Venus which is reflecting more than 75% of the sunlight and so shines so brightly in the sky.


3 May: The Moon occults Nu Virginis

The Moon approaches from its dark side and heads towards the star Nu in the constellation Virgo. At 23:48 CET the star disappears behind the Moon and reappears a good 40 minutes later behind the bright side. Before observing check your local occultation times since this can vary slightly according to location.

12 May: The Moon near Jupiter and Saturn

In the last hours of the night, the solar system’s dream team appears over the horizon: bright Jupiter, an even brighter Moon and the somewhat weaker Saturn.

15 May: The Moon near Mars

Shortly before dawn breaks, you can find the Red Planet and the Moon. They approach one another between the constellations Aquarius and Aries at a separation of 3°. Above and to the right at an angular distance of a good 30° you can see the two gas giants Jupiter and Saturn.

15 May: Comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS)

This comet could be a highlight in May. If the forecasts are correct, comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) could reach a brightness of magnitude 8 and so be easily visible with binoculars. In May it will linger in the circumpolar constellations. In the course of the month it will move from the constellation Camelopardalis (directly next to Ursa Minor), towards Ursa Major. On 23 May it stops close to the galaxies M81 and M82.

22 May: Venus near Mercury

Venus shines like a beacon in the sky. If you didn’t know you could easily mistake it for an aircraft’s lights. This evening Venus meets its direct neighbour, Mercury.

24 May: The Moon near Venus and Mercury

At the end of May everything revolves around Venus and Mercury since both planets are especially well visible at the moment. Today they share the limelight with the slender and only 4% illuminated crescent of the twodayold Moon.

26 May: Mercury visible in the evening

Mercury is so close to the Sun, nimble and very shy. At least this is the impression you can get when you try to observe it. It usually keeps itself close to the horizon. However now it is possible to discover it since it reaches an altitude of around 10° at dusk. It’s best to be on the lookout with binoculars a short time after sunset.

Good conditions for observing Venus

January 20 2020, Jan Ströher

In the coming weeks Venus, our “sister planet”, will become a good object for observing. The planet is a bright, easily detectable object in the morning or evening sky, but it is usually located very close to the horizon with corresponding atmospheric disturbance and rather short observing times. This will improve from around the end of January, when Venus will become progressively brighter and visible for longer in the evening sky. Then the planet will be found easily with the naked eye immediately after sunset and can be observed for almost four hours.

Even good binoculars, such as the Omegon Nightstar are suitable for observing. In telescopes with an aperture from around 90mm, Venus can already be identified as a small disc. Just like the Moon, the planet exhibits different phases, although details of the surface remain hidden owing to its very dense atmosphere. The cloud structures can be distinguished very well with telescopes from 130mm aperture. The use of a suitable filter (violet, dark blue, blue) is recommended to improve the contrast.

Credit: EXAME/JAXA/Divulgao, Brazil

Venus is the second innermost planet in our solar system and is a similar size to Earth. Its atmosphere consists of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, sulphur dioxide and various noble gases. This composition, combined with its proximity to the Sun, makes our neighbouring planet a hostile and mysterious world. As it orbits the Sun, Venus rotates backwards, that is in exactly the opposite direction to our Earth. Therefore on Venus the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east. After the Moon, the planet is the brightest object, but, just like Mercury it is only visible in the morning or evening sky – hence it is also given the designation “morning-” or “evening star”.

From mid-January, Venus dominates our evening sky immediately after sunset on the southwestern horizon. Between then and the end of March it changes its position from about 25° to 46° and reaches a brightness of -4.7mag by the end of April. During this period it moves towards the western horizon and passes through the constellations Aquarius, Pisces and Aries. In April it reaches Taurus and can even be found close to the Pleiades (M45) at the beginning of April.

From January to May it’s best to track Venus using a star chart.

Credit: Planetarium Bochum

Have fun observing Venus in 2020!

Infographic: Winter Astronomy Highlights 2019/2020

November 29 2019, Marcus Schenk

The winter is getting really cold again, but there is no better time than this for really good, early evening, chances to observe the stars. And what will lure you outside better than the Hunter of the Skies, the Seven Sisters or the Eye of the Bull?

The sky calendar with the interesting events for the next three months: the astronomical infographic “Winter Astronomy Highlights 2019/20” shows you when a glance at the sky will be worthwhile.

We wish you lots of fun with your observing!


1st of December: Planet alignment

At dusk there is a lovely meeting of the planets Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. They are accompanied by the waxing Moon.

11th of December: Saturn meets Venus

The planets Venus and Saturn meet today at dusk, above the northwest horizon. Look out for the difference in brightness between the two as they race past one another, less than 2 degrees apart.

11th of December: The Moon meets Aldebaran

Already in the early evening we can see Aldebaran, the Eye of the Bull, as it appears above the horizon. However today it reveals itself with the almost fully-illuminated Moon. A great evening for observing planets and double stars.

13th of December: The Geminids

If the sky is clear in the evening, it’s best to take a look to the south. Because the Geminids shooting stars appear to originate from the constellation Gemini. To be more precise: from a point two degrees above the star Pollux. The best time for observing is between 21:00 CET and 6:00 CET. At 120 meteors per hour, the Geminids are among the most reliable shooting stars. However this year the full Moon will disrupt the view. Nevertheless, you should not miss this event.

23rd of December: The Moon meets Mars

Early risers take note: one day before Christmas it’s worth getting up early and taking a look at the sky. At dawn a delicate crescent Moon shines, just 10% illuminated, and meets up with Mars, the god of war.

23rd of December: The Ursids

The Ursids are a meteor shower that you can keep your eye on all night. This is because they originate from Ursa Minor, from which these meteors get their name. However these beacons speed across the sky more slowly than the Perseids – at around 35 kilometers per second.

29th of December: Moon meets Venus

As soon as it gets dark we can see them shining above the horizon: the Moon and Venus. Even if this is not the most astronomically interesting event, under a clear twilight sky this sight is probably one of the most beautiful. This evening the Moon can be seen as a wafer-thin crescent and Venus shines in all its splendour.


4th of January: The Quadrantids

The Quadrantids are a meteor shower originating from the constellation Böotes. The New Year almost begins with an astronomical fireworks display, which brings us about 120 meteors per hour. In the evening the half-lit Moon is still high in the sky: wait until it disappears under the horizon before you start observing – then it will be dark. Böotes is one of the spring and summer constellations and so now, in winter, it – and therefore also the radiant – does not rise until after midnight. Then observing can become very interesting. Oh and yes, wrap up warmly, because patience is required when observing meteors.

5th of January: The Moon’s Golden Handle

A fascinating event: the Moon’s Golden Handle. Like a handle of light, it breaks the Moon’s darkness just beyond the terminator. We look at Mare Imbrium in the region of Sinus Iridum crater and the high Montes Jura mountain range. The Sun rises here at the boundary between light and shadow. While the crater is still in darkness, the Sun bathes the circular-shaped peaks of Montes Jura in light. A golden ring in the dark.

18th of January: Mars meets Antares

Antares is a red supergiant in the constellation Scorpius. It shines with an intense red light and resides at the very bottom of the class M spectral type. If it stood in the place of the Sun, Antares would reach beyond the orbit of Mars. But today Mars and Antares meet only visually for us in the sky. Compare the red colours of these two celestial bodies.

27th of January: Venus meets Neptune

One very close, the other very distant: our neighbouring planet Venus meets up with the outpost of our solar system. With just the naked eye, however, we can admire only Venus. But less than a degree north we meet Neptune, which reveals itself in a telescope as a small blue disc.

28th of January: The Moon meets Venus

Another chance to see this beautiful sight: Venus and the narrow, 12% illuminated, crescent Moon. Until around 20:00 CET we can easily follow the two brightest bodies in the sky, before Venus disappears below the horizon, often in haze, a good 40 minutes later.


4th of February: The Moon’s Golden Handle

As on the 5th of January, today we can once again observe the Moon’s Golden Handle. This is caused by the illuminated peaks of Montes Jura mountain range on the dark side of the terminator.

10th of February: Mercury’s greatest eastern elongation

Mercury is nimble and only rarely visible. But right now our shy friend reveals himself in the evening sky. It is positioned at its greatest angular distance from the Sun and is barely visible in the growing twilight. For this you need a very good view of the horizon, cloud-free and clear weather, and binoculars with which you can discover Mercury.

27th of February: The Moon meets Venus

The second beautiful sighting of the crescent Moon and Venus at dusk. Meanwhile we can follow the splendour of the bright and shining Venus in the sky for some time – as it only disappears under the horizon at around 22:00 CET.

Mercury transit 2019: these products will turn the transit into an experience

October 11 2019, Marcus Schenk

We only see a Mercury transit every 3.5 to 13 years. On 11 November 2019 this rare event will take place once more. An inferior conjunction occurs as Mercury crosses in front of the Sun and we can observe this in broad daylight. Don’t miss the astronomical highlight of the year! But what do you need to observe it? With the following products you will be well prepared for a successful sighting.

Warning: never look directly at the Sun without a suitable filter. A solar filter is always required for observing.

Solar filter film  

The Baader AstroSolar solar filter film is available in various sizes, it is effective and very good value. Use the film to make your own solar filter which you can then attach to the front of your telescope.


The AstroSolar solar filter in 210 x 297mm format


Mounted solar filter

Is do-it-yourself not really your thing? Then a ready-mounted filter is the perfect solution for you. The Omegon filters for smaller telescopes or the Baader ASTF filters are good value and are available for many sizes of telescopes. You simply choose the diameter that suits your telescope and attach the filter to the front of your telescope. Before long you will be safely looking at the Sun and discovering sunspots – and of course Mercury.

Tip: to be certain which filter will fit your telescope, measure the outer diameter of your tube before making your selection.


Omegon solar filter mounted on a photoscope

Solar filter for binoculars and cameras

You can also follow the Mercury transit with binoculars. Just by attaching two normal solar filters? This works particularly well with the AstroSolar binocular filter.  They are laterally cut in such a way that they don’t make contact even with objective lenses that are very close together. This is also an advantage for DSLR cameras: the flattened filter edges makes it possible to attach a camera flush to a telescope or a mounting plate.


ASBF filter for binoculars and cameras

Herschel wedge

Even more contrast is on offer from the professional for solar observing: a Herschel wedge. Combined with a ND3.0 filter it can be connected to a refracting telescope. The advantage: you see the Sun in front of a black background, and the granulation and sunspots appear in unimagined levels of detail.


A Herschel wedge offers a beautiful picture of the Sun with a refractor

H-alpha telescope

You will experience a bit of the action when  observing the Sun in H-alpha light. In a very narrow, deep-red band with a wavelength of 656nm you can observe a very active Sun. Prominences flare millions of kilometers into space and are changing rapidly. Even when you see no sunspots on the Sun, there is almost always something to see.


H-alpha solar telescope from Coronado

Mercury transit T-Shirt

For huge fans of astronomy: show your passion for astronomy with the new Mercury transit T-shirt. It shows the progress of the transit with all the important information and timings. So anyone can look to see when Mercury will appear in front of the Sun, or how long we still need to wait until the next transit.


Omegon Mercury transit T-shirt

Smartphone adapter

Photographing the Sun swiftly and simply: with a smartphone adapter you can quickly take beautiful pictures of the Mercury transit. It works really well with small telescopes. Simply attach the Omegon smartphone adapter to your eyepiece, and soon you will be capturing these astronomical moments for ever.


Omegon Easypic universal smartphone adapter

Omegon 70/400 Backpack with solar filter

If you are looking for a small travel solar telescope, then the Omegon Backpack 70/400 AZ is perfect. The set includes a finder scope, mirror star-diagonal, eyepieces and of course the appropriate solar filter. You get all of this together in a practical rucksack.


Omegon AC-70-400 Backpack solar telescope

The Sun on your neck

When observing the Sun for hours on end you need to take precautions against sunburn. A normal hat only protects the scalp. But when you are bending forward and observing through an eyepiece then your neck is exposed to the Sun. Lunt offers appropriate protection against this: a sun hat with neck protection.


Sun hat with neck protection

Finding the Sun made easy

Sometimes its hard to believe how hard it can be to find the Sun with a telescope without spending a lot of time searching for it. Finding it is much easier with the Geoptik 1.25’’ solar finder.

Simply attach the sun finder to your focuser and right away you can centre the Sun over your mount’s axes. The Euro EMC solar finder offers an alternative way of finding the Sun. It consists of a pinhole and a small screen onto which a small image of the sun is projected. Simply attach the finder to your tube using the Velcro straps included.

Geoptik Sonnensucher

Geoptik solar finder

Equipped with these you’ll be well prepared for the Mercury transit.

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