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Posts Tagged 'infographic'

Infographic: The Astronomy Highlights of Autumn 2019

September 2 2019, Marcus Schenk

 

In the next three months, from September to November, there are once again some great observing opportunities that we should not miss. A special event is fast approaching: the very rare transit of Mercury across the Sun. But there are also other smaller events to be seen.

The new astronomical infographic “Astronomy Highlights in Autumn 2019” offers you a quick graphical overview. This will keep you up to date and let you know what is happening in the sky.

September:

1 September: Alpha Aurigids

The Alpha Aurigids are a fast meteor shower moving at a speed of 65 km/s, which originated from the comet Kiess C/1911. At their peak on 1 September, around six meteors per hour are visible. The radiant, that is the place from which the meteors appear to originate, lies in the constellation Auriga below the star Capella.

6 September: The Moon meets Jupiter

At a distance of just under 5° the Moon is approaching Jupiter this evening. At dusk we see them as bright objects that are close to one another.

8 September: The Moon meets Saturn

While the Moon was seen near Jupiter two days ago, it is today visiting the ringed planet Saturn. Both celestial bodies approach one another at a distance of 1.5°.

9 September: The Moon’s Golden Handle

This evening we experience the Moon’s golden handle. A fairly rare event that can only be seen during a Moon phase of 83%. We can then discover a closed semicircle of golden light on the dark side of the Moon’s boundary between light and shadow. The reason for this: we are looking at Mare Imbrium and Sinus Iridum crater, which is surrounded by the Montes Jura range. While the crater is still lying in darkness, the Sun rises over the mountain peaks and we see the famous handle.

10 September: Neptune in opposition

Neptune is one of the outlying gas giants of our solar system. At a distance of 4.5 billion kilometres, it takes 165 years to orbit the Sun. Its light is en route for 4 hours and 10 minutes before it arrives at the Earth. During its opposition it is particularly easy to see in Aquarius. At 1am it reaches its highest point, around 36° above the horizon.

20 September: The Moon meets Aldebaran

The waning Moon, which is 72% illuminated, meets Aldebaran, the main star of Taurus, during the night of September 20. Aldebaran is a red giant, a star that has reached the last phase of its life. It shines 150 times brighter than the Sun and is so large that if it were to replace of the Sun it would reach as far as Mercury.

October

3 October: The Moon meets Jupiter

An especially pretty sight awaits us this evening: the Moon meets up with bright Jupiter. This impressive conjunction is worth observing, especially as dusk begins.

5 October: The Moon meets Saturn

In the early evening in Sagittarius, just above the horizon, today you can see a conjunction of Saturn and the Moon.

9 October: The October Draconids

Shooting stars appear to be falling from the constellation Draco on 9 October: this is the Draconids meteor shower. As they dart across the sky they are a fascinating spectacle, even for amateur astronomers. The radiant is located near the star Draconis. Draco is a circumpolar constellation, therefore the radiant lies at an optimal visible altitude in the evening sky.

12 October: Amphitrite in opposition

Amphitrite is a sea goddess in Greek mythology and is married to Poseidon. In the sky, however, Amphitrite is an asteroid of the main asteroid belt, which is now in opposition. It is 211 million kilometres away from Earth. It is currently in Pisces below the constellation Andromeda.

17 October: The Moon meets the Hyades

The Hyades open star cluster is very old at 600 million years and forms a V-shape with its brightest stars. The Moon visits the cluster tonight. By the way: the star Aldebaran does not belong to the Hyades.

20 October: Mercury’s greatest eastern elongation

Mercury is at its greatest elongation angle of 24°, but we still don’t see it in the evening sky.

21 October: Orionids

The Orionids are a smaller meteor shower with an activity of about 25 meteors per hour. The radiant is located in the constellation Orion near the star Betelgeuse. Although you can watch the shooting stars all month long, the peak is seen between 20 and 21 October.

23 October: The Moon meets Regulus

Today the slender crescent moon can be found at a distance of around 10 degrees from Regulus, the main star in Leo.

28 October: Uranus in opposition

Now there is another opportunity to take a look at distant Uranus: it can be seen all night during its opposition. With a brightness of 5.6 mag. you can see it with binoculars alone, but it is only recognisable as a planet using a telescope. You will find it in the constellation Aries. To find it draw a line from the bright star β Ari to the just 4.3 mag. dim star ξ1 Cet in the constellation Cetus. At the start of the last third of the line to ξ1 Cet, you will find the planet.

31 October: The Moon meets Jupiter

Tonight we see a slender and only 15% illuminated crescent Moon directly next to Jupiter.

November

2 November: The Moon meets Saturn and Jupiter

This evening we see a nice conjunction of the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter on the southwestern horizon.

6 November: Taurids

The Taurids are a two-part meteor shower with just 10 meteors per hour expected. What is much more interesting is that some bright fireballs may also be visible.

11 November: Mercury Transit

It only happens every 13 years: Mercury passes across the solar disc and we can follow this transit live through a telescope. It starts at 13:35 CET, the 2nd contact is at 13:37 CET, the middle at 16:19 CET, the 3rd contact 19:02 CET, finishing at 19:04 CET. Unfortunately we can only observe half of the transit because the Sun would have already disappeared under the horizon. Attention! Always use a suitable solar filter for your observation! Never observe the Sun without one! Observation without a special solar filter is dangerous and will lead to severe retinal damage. Let us advise you.

14 November: Asteroid Vesta in opposition

The asteroid Vesta belongs to the main asteroid belt and was one of the first bodies of its kind to be discovered. After Pallas, it is one of the largest asteroids with a diameter of 516 kilometres. On 14 November Vesta reaches a brightness of 6.5 mag. and so you can find and observe it with any telescope. It is currently in the constellation Cetus. You can find it relatively easily by extending a line from o Tau (in Taurus) about 2 degrees to the west. A star atlas is useful here.

17 November: Leonids

On 17 November the Leonids reach their peak. In addition to the Perseids, they are amongst the most famous meteor showers. There have been years when these meteors fell like raindrops from the sky. This usually happens every 33 years when the Earth collides with the Leonid cloud.

In normal years, the shower reaches a peak of no more than 20 meteors per hour. This year the rate of occurrence is a little lower, with 15 meteors per hour expected.

24 November: Jupiter meets Venus and the Moon meets Mars

In the last days of November there are two conjunctions: the Moon and Mars, and Jupiter and Venus.

In the early morning of the 24th we see a delicate crescent moon, Mars and, a little further below, Mercury. Then the following evening, in the very early twilight, there is a beautiful view of Jupiter and Venus.

28 November: Mercury’s greatest western elongation

Mercury reaches the best morning visibility of the year from 28 November at its greatest western elongation, now it has an angular separation from the Sun of 20 degrees. Through a telescope Mercury appears half-illuminated.

Infographic: 50th anniversary of the Moonlanding

July 19 2019, Marcus Schenk

moonlanding infographic

Infographic: The Astronomy Highlights of Summer 2019

June 3 2019, Marcus Schenk

Summer and warm temperatures: now all those who were hibernating in the winter can venture outside for a glimpse at the stars. But unfortunately it also gets darker later and then, as if turbocharged, light again just a few hours later. So you need to make good use of the hours of darkness, because when the summer Milky Way stretches across the sky there’s so much to discover.

The new astronomical infographic “Highlights in the Summer Sky” shows you at a glance what is happening in the sky in the months from June to August. Also included: a short description of the events.

June 5: The Moon meets Mars

Just two days after the new Moon, the slender crescent Moon stands seemingly fragile as dusk falls in the evening sky. Inconspicuous at around 2.5 degrees further to the right you will find the 1.7 magnitude bright Mars.

June 10: Jupiter in Opposition

You can now observe the largest planet in the solar system all night. Jupiter is in opposition this month, so this is the best time for observations. The gas giant reaches a magnitude of 2.6 and is 640 million kilometers away. As night falls the planet emerges above the horizon in the southeast, later it quickly becomes brighter and gets easier to see. At around 1:15 CEST it reaches the meridian and is particularly good to see.

June 18: Mercury Half Phase

Mercury reaches dichotomy, that is, a phase in which it is half-lit. Like the Moon or Venus, Mercury displays different phases.

June 18: Mercury meets Mars

A very beautiful event takes place shortly after the middle of the month: a close encounter between Mercury and Mars. Our innermost planet passes Mars at a distance of just half a lunar diameter, 13 arc minutes. This event takes place just above the western horizon at around 21:30 CEST. To observe these two it’s best to use binoculars.

June 19: The Moon meets Saturn

This configuration takes place in the second half of the night and can be followed until sunrise. Our Moon and the ringed planet approach each other with a minimal separation of about 2°50′.

June 24: Mercury’s greatest eastern elongation

Mercury gradually leaves the evening sky but it can still be seen, and can initially be found with the naked eye. From the second half of the month it becomes more difficult to find since it is so faint, and you’ll need the help of binoculars. It reaches its greatest angular distance of 25° from the Sun on 24 June. It reveals an almost half-lit sliver to us with a size of 8 arcseconds..  You can find Mercury with a good pair of binoculars from around 22:00 CEST.

July 2: Chile Total Solar Eclipse

In South America the Sun will grow dark. The eclipse’s shadow comes from the direction of the Pacific Ocean and stretches across Chile with a totality duration of 2:30 minutes. Later, the shadow moves onwards over Argentina. The Sun will be relatively low during this eclipse which will enable beautiful shots of the eclipsed sun against the landscape.

July 5: Noctilucent Clouds

Now in June you will be able to see them: noctilucent clouds. When the summer Sun is between 6° and 16° below the horizon it sometimes illuminates extremely thin clouds of ice crystals that are at an altitude of about 80 kilometres. These clouds are indeed so high that they are in the mesosphere part of our atmosphere. For us it is long since nightfall, but these clouds catch a little sunlight and we see bluish white clouds illuminated, which are invisible by daylight.

July 9: Saturn in Opposition

At present we have the problem that, due to the Sun’s ecliptic, many planets are far to the south and so are not high enough in the sky to be visible. Because of this we inevitably face a struggle with air turbulence. Despite this, Saturn still is worth observing, even if it only climbs to a height of 18°. On July 9 it reaches its opposition and shines brightly in the sky with a magnitude of 0.1. It is competing with the brightest stars but we can recognise it by its yellowish colouring and a faint glow that differs from the flickering of the stars. Because of this you can find it straight away and you can easily capture it with a small telescope. Its rings appear tilted at 24° and we are looking from the north at the ring system in which we can easily recognise the Cassini Division.

July 14: Pluto in Opposition

Pluto is a hard-to-see dwarf planet that used to be classified as a planet, and can barely be distinguished from a star – at least if you don’t have a map at hand. Even so, it’s worth taking a look at this outpost of the solar system with a larger telescope. GoTo coordinates: RA: 19h33m40s, DEC: -22° 07′.

July 16: Partial Lunar Eclipse

In January we had to view this in the cold, but not today. We can observe this partial lunar eclipse in warm temperatures and at a reasonable time. It gets interesting for us at 22:01 CEST, at which point the Moon enters the umbra of the Earth. Over the course of the evening it will become up to 66% obscured before the umbra moves away again and eventually disappears at 1:00 CEST.

July 20: Moon Landing 50th Anniversary

50 years ago today the whole world looked towards the Moon: to three astronauts, pioneers of humanity, who dared to set out on the greatest adventure. Apollo 11 flew to the Moon and Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on a foreign celestial body. Let us celebrate this event, remember it, and look again today towards the Moon, perhaps even to the Sea of Tranquility, the landing site of this daring mission.

July 29: The Delta Aquariids

A small meteor shower in Aquarius which we can best observe after midnight. The Earth passes through trails of small dust particles which burn up when entering the atmosphere and become streaks of light. We can expect to see 20-25 meteors per hour provided we find a dark place for our observation.

August 9: The Moon meets Jupiter

Similar to in July, the Moon and Jupiter meet again today. When it gets dark they stand dominant and bright in the sky above the southern horizon.

August 10: Mercury’s greatest western elongation

Now Mercury reaches its greatest angular distance of 19° from the Sun. Whilst before it was an object of the evening skies, for around 10 days from today we can discover it in the morning sky. On August 10 Mercury rises at 4:30 CEST, it then disappears into the haze, then it rises higher and we have a good chance of seeing it in the sky around 4:50 CEST.

August 12: The Moon meets Saturn

We have almost full Moon, so the sky is brightly lit, but Saturn shines clearly visibly and just 5° from the Moon. If our gaze wanders a little more to the right and a few degrees higher, we will also find Jupiter.

August 12: The Perseids

Every year we look forward to the most beautiful shooting stars of the year: the Perseids. In the morning of August 12 the meteor shower reaches its peak. Up to 100 shooting stars per hour rain down, thundering through our atmosphere at incredible speeds of around 216,000 km/h. The peak will be reached between 22:00 CEST and 4:00 CEST. Unfortunately this year the almost full, and far too bright, Moon will disrupt the display so that we are likely to only be able to observe the very brightest shooting stars. It’s best to find a spot away from the direct glare of the Moon. We have the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle to thank for this meteor shower, which lost part of its mass on its orbit around the Sun. Whenever the Earth crosses the orbit of the original comet in August, the Perseids shoot across our corner of the sky.

August 23: Occultation of the Hyades by the Moon

Unfortunately, it’s not until the early hours that we can observe an interesting occultation of the star 61 Tau by the Moon. Such occultations of the Hyades star cluster are particularly interesting because it contains many bright stars and we can sometimes even see multiple occultations. Around 4:40 CEST the Moon approaches from its illuminated side and snuffs out the 3.7 magnitude bright star. The star remains hidden behind the Moon for a little more than an hour. At 6:00 CEST, as if out of nowhere, it suddenly reappears. Important: point your telescope at the Moon a few minutes beforehand to ensure you don’t get the timing wrong.

August 27: Occultation of Delta Geminorum (Wasat) by the Moon

The Moon has migrated to the next constellation in recent days and is about to enter its new Moon phase. Before sunrise, it occults a really bright star: this time the double star 55 Gem in the constellation Gemini. The Moon, at this stage just a thin sickle-shape in the sky, approaches from its illuminated side. At 5:50 CEST the time has come: the star disappears behind the Moon and reappears nearly an hour later at 6:40 CEST. But by then the Sun has long since risen, the sky is bright and so the reappearance is difficult to observe with a telescope.

Infographic: Astronomy Highlights Spring 2019

February 28 2019, Joshua Taboga

As the temperatures grow warmer, many stargazers are ready to head outside regularly again. In the spring, the sky shows us a completely different face. But what is there to see? What is worth looking for?

Your sky calendar for the next three months: The new astronomy infographic, “Highlights of the Spring Sky,” shows you what will be happening in the sky from March through May 2019, at a glance.

 

March

March 3: The Planet Chain – the Moon, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter at Dawn

A good reason to get up early: this morning, we can see the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Venus lined up like beads on a necklace. Starting at around 6 am, the Moon will peek up over the horizon and join the show. The constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius are the first heralds of summer, but it will be a long time before they are visible in the evening sky.

March 11: The Moon Meets Mars

To the naked eye or with binoculars, the Moon and Mars offer a pretty sight. They are close together, only 5 degrees apart. The Moon is just 5 days old today and shaped like a crescent.

March 16: The Golden Handle

A fascinating occurrence: the “Golden Handle” on the Moon. Like a handle made of light, it breaks through the Moonlit night just past the terminator. We can see Mare Imbrium near the Sinus Iridum crater and the tall Montes Jura range. This is where the Sun rises in the twilight zone. But while the crater is still in the dark, the Sun bathes the circular mountaintops of Montes Jura in sunlight. A golden ring in the darkness.

March 27: The Moon Meets Jupiter

Tonight, the Moon does not rise until after midnight. But it isn’t alone. It is accompanied by Jupiter, and they will travel together across the sky for the rest of the night. Jupiter will remain just below the Moon, about 50 arcseconds away.

 

 

April

April 5: Asteroid Iris in Opposition

Iris is one of the largest asteroids in the asteroid belt. This chunk of space rock has a diameter of 200 kilometers. On April 5 it will be in opposition to the Sun, reaching a brightness of 9.4 mag.

April 9: Asteroid Pallas in Opposition

The asteroid Pallas comes into opposition this month, reaching a brightness of 7.9 mag. Theoretically, it can be spotted with a pair of binoculars, and definitely with a telescope. But it appears as just another tiny dot among the stars. Between April 10 and 12, Pallas will pass by the 2.6-mag η Boötis – a great orientation point, because both objects appear in the same ocular field of view.

April 9: A Meeting of the Moon, Mars and Aldebaran

This evening the narrow crescent of the Moon will appear in the Taurus constellation, along with Mars and the constellation’s bright main star, Aldebaran.

April 11: Mercury’s Largest Western Elongation

Mercury orbits the Sun so quickly and so closely that we cannot always see it. But right now, Mercury has a large angle distance from the Sun at 27°. Still, it will be almost impossible to make out around daybreak.

April 12: Virginids

The Virginids are a meteor shower that come from the Virgo constellation. They show relatively little activity, with at most 5 shooting stars per hour. The best time to observe them is around midnight.

April 22: Lyrids

The Lyrids are a meteor shower that will produce just 10 to 20 meteors an hour at their peak on April 22. The best time to observe them is between 10 pm and 4 am; before midnight, we can enjoy the view without the disruptive Moon. The radiant, in other words the place where the shower begins, is located in the Lyra constellation.

April 25: The Moon Meets Saturn

Tonight, the Moon will pay another visit to the ringed planet. We can see this beautiful sight in the early morning hours, starting at around 3 am. Above it and to the right is the planet Jupiter, glowing with a brightness of -2.4 mag. The chain made up of these planets and the Moon offers a good opportunity to take beautiful atmospheric pictures.

 

May

May 6: Occultation of 61 Tau (For Experts)

The Moon’s path will lead through the Taurus constellation and the Hyades cluster, creating various interesting occultations with bright stars. This evening, the stars 61 Tau and 68 Tau will be hidden by the wafer-thin crescent Moon. One problem: the occultations will take place in the day sky or in the very early twilight sky, just above the horizon. At 7:18 pm CEST, the star 61 Tau (still in the day sky) will disappear on the unilluminated side of the Moon and reappear on the other side just under an hour later. Caution: at the time of the occultation, the Sun will still be in the sky. Do not stare at the Sun! Because it will still be daytime, the occultation cannot be seen from everywhere.
The next occultation, which can be observed from more southern regions, will be better: at 8:47 pm CET, the Moon will cover the star 68 Tau, and at 9:30 pm CET it will reappear on the other side.

May 8: The Moon Meets Mars

On the evenings of May 7 and 8, the Moon and Mars will come together. The Moon’s crescent will only be 8.8% illuminated, giving it a delicate look against the colorful evening sky. On the 7th the Red Planet will shine just 5 degrees above the Moon, and on the evening of the 8th the Moon will have overtaken Mars, moving from Taurus to the Gemini constellation.

May 18: Blue Moon

A “Blue Moon” has become defined as the point when we have a full Moon twice in one month.  However, the older definition of “Blue Moon” refers to the third full Moon out of four in one season and is called a Seasonal Blue Moon. Occurring about every 2.5 years, the name has nothing to do with the color of the Moon, which is the same for every full Moon.

May 20: The Moon Meets Jupiter

At 10:30 CEST, the Moon and Jupiter will cross the horizon and travel together through the second half of the night, until Sunrise. For most of the night, they will be the brightest objects in the sky. Venus only begins to shine in the East starting in the early morning.

A PDF of this infographic can be found HERE.

 

Infographic: Astronomy highlights in Winter 2018/2019

December 4 2018, Marcus Schenk

The new 3-month night sky calendar at a glance. The astronomical infographic ’Highlights of the Winter Sky 2018/2019’ shows you what will be happening in the night sky. Descriptions of the individual events are below:

05.12. The Moon near Mercury
Early in the morning, the Moon can be observed near Mercury. They are separated by about only 7 degrees – making them suitable for observing with a pair of wide-angle binoculars.

07.12. Mars near Neptune
A fantastic spectacle – a very close encounter between Mars and Neptune. Only about 4 arcminutes away from Neptune, Mars passes north of Neptune from around 18:00. You will need a pair of binoculars or, even better, a telescope to observe them.

13./14.12. Geminids
If the night sky is clear in the evening, then it is best to observe facing south, as the ‘Geminids’ meteor shower will seem to come from the constellation of the ‘twins’ – more precisely, from a point two degrees above the star Pollux. Between 21:00 and 6:00 is the best time to observe. With around 120 meteors per hour, the Geminids is one of the most intense showers. However, the full Moon will diminish the view this year. Even so, you really shouldn’t miss this event.

15.12. Moon near Mars
The 42% illuminated and waxing moon can be observed near Mars today, separated by a distance of about 5 degrees.

16.12. Comet 46P/Wirtanen
The December Comet – finally, we have a bright comet again, which can be observed with binoculars and small telescopes. Comet 46P/Wirtanen reaches its closest proximity to the Earth on the 16th and can be observed near the Pleiades (M45) open star cluster at only 3 degrees away. A beautiful ‘constellation‘ through binoculars. Wirtanen is a rare comet, which could attain a strong brightness and hence become an impressive object for beginners. If everything progresses well, it could reach a brightness of up to magnitude 4 by the end of the year and so even become visible to the naked eye. Without the disturbing presence of the Moon, the comet can be found easily in the evening sky after Christmas.

28.12. Hebe in opposition
The asteroid 6 HEBE comes into opposition on December 28, attaining a brightness of about magnitude 8.5. It can best be seen around midnight in the constellation of Monoceros or in the constellation of Orion. You will need a mid-size telescope to observe it. Its current position can be found at any time, by using the Stellarium planetarium program for example.

01.01. Planet chain Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury
Just in time for New Year’s Eve, the New Year welcomes us with a pretty chain of planets. In the morning sky just before sunrise, you can see, from the top right to the bottom left to the horizon: the Moon, a bright Venus, Jupiter and even a shy Mercury close to the horizon. Tip: A great opportunity to take a beautiful photo.

04.01. Quardrantids
The next meteor shower is here – the Quadrantids. This shower comes from the constellation of Bootes, with the number of meteors observed across the sky potentially reaching a maximum of 120 per hour. Observing in the early morning will give you the best chance of successful observing.

05.01. Comet Wirtanen circumpolar
The Christmas Comet will also delight us in the new year – while the comet was only seen in the evening or in the morning sky before, it has now become circumpolar, wandering through the constellation of the Ursus Major. You can now observe it over the entire night.

06.01. Venus at greatest western elongation
The best view of Venus is now here. The ‘morning star’ shines brightly (magnitude -4.5). At 47 degrees angular separation, it is at greatest western elongation and can be seen half illuminated. The planet will first peep over the horizon at about 4:30 CET, and can be observed for about three hours before disappearing in the sunlight.

12.01. Moon near Mars
From dusk on, you can observe the Moon in the south with Mars above it. They are separated by about 7 degrees.

15.01. μ Cet occulted by the Moon (evening)
The Moon will occult the 4.1 mag star μ Cet in the very early evening. The Moon approaches the star with its dark side and finally occults it at 17:44 CET. An occultation from the Moon’s dark side is always fascinating to observe – it appears as though the star has suddenly been ‘switched off’. It will take almost an hour for the star to then reappear on the illuminated side of the Moon.

21.01. Total lunar eclipse
Everyone probably still remembers the Total Lunar Eclipse in 2018, when the Moon offered us a summer spectacle at a still-comfortable time of night. This time around the show is on the 21st of January, at a rather unfavourable time with temperatures that are too cold to be considered ‘T-shirt weather’.

Entry into the penumbra: 3:36 CET

Entry into the umbra: 4:33 CET

Beginning of totality: 5:40 CET

End of totality: 6:43 CET

Exits umbra: 7:50 CET

Exits penumbra: 8:48 CET

22.01. Venus near Jupiter
Jupiter and Venus can be observed together before sunrise. We can observe both planets shining in the southeast at a separation of only about 2 degrees. Venus is at magnitude -4.3, with Jupiter significantly weaker at magnitude -1.9. They provide a beautiful sight through binoculars, where you can admire them both in the same field of view.

31.01. Moon near Jupiter and Venus
On January 22nd the Moon joins the two planets, inserting itself in the middle between Venus and Jupiter.

02.02. Moon near Saturn (occulting in Germany and Austria)
The Moon is a waning ‘sickle’ and only 6% illuminated, so it is not visible until early in the morning. At 6.30 CET both astronomical bodies can be seen close to the horizon. The Moon can be seen to actually occult Saturn in both Germany and Austria – the ringed planet disappears behind the illuminated crescent moon at 6:37 CET, reappearing an hour later at the dark, north-eastern edge.

10.02. Moon near Mars
You can observe the crescent Moon and Mars together this evening in the same field of view in binoculars having a field of view of at least 7 degrees.

13.02. Mars near Uranus
Tonight, Mars will be less than 1.5 degrees away from the distant gas giant Uranus. The difference in brightness is significant – the red planet shines brightly at magnitude 1, whereas Uranus is only at a dim magnitude 5.8. Both objects can be observed using binoculars or a telescope. But it is definitely worthwhile – you can even see them together in the same field of view in a low magnification, wide-angle eyepiece.

27.02. Mercury at greatest eastern elongation (and half-full)
Because Mercury orbits so fast and so close to the Sun we cannot always observe it. But now Mercury is once again at a greater angular distance – of 18°- from the Sun. It’s not a huge separation, but it allows us to observe it for sufficient time during its half-full phase. Mercury can now be seen in the evening sky shortly after sunset. Be sure to wait until the sun has completely set before observing through any optics. You will then find Mercury just above the western horizon.

PDF here.

Infographic: Astronomy Highlights in Autumn 2018

August 31 2018, Marcus Schenk

Autumn brings cooler weather after the baking summer and we can look forward to long, starry nights once more. The night sky has some highlights for us, which we should definitely observe, even in the months of September, October and November.

Our new astronomical infographic ‘Astronomy highlights in autumn 2018’ provides a quick graphical overview – which will keep you up-to-date and in the know about what’s happening in the night sky.

The following text provides details about the various astronomical events we can look forward to.

 

September

01.09 Aurigids

The Aurigids is a fast meteor shower, with speeds of around 65 km/s. It originates from comet C/1911 Kiess. Around six meteors per hour are visible at shower’s maximum on September 1. The radiant, the region of sky where the meteors appear to come from, lies in the constellation of Auriga below the star Capella.

07.09. Neptune at opposition

The distant planet Neptune is once again at opposition to the Sun on the September 7. Make use of this opportunity to observe it. Neptune is a gas giant and is the outermost planet in the solar system. The light from Neptune, which is 4.5 billion kilometres away from the Earth, needs 4 hours and 10 minutes to reach us. You can find Neptune using binoculars – about halfway between the stars φ (phi) Aqr and λ (lambda) Aqr in the constellation of Aquarius. It appears as a greenish disc when observed in a telescope at 200-250 magnification.

08.09. Moon near Mercury

In the morning we experience a golden rising of Moon and Mercury. Just one day before the new Moon, the crescent moon is looking rather insubstantial. Below this we find Regulus and Mercury just above the horizon – about a hand width apart.

10.09. 21P/Giacorbini-Zinner

Comet 21P/Giacorbini-Zinner is at its closest approach to the Sun and also at its greatest brightness. With a predicted magnitude of 6.5, it has become an object for observing in any binoculars. Just one day after the new Moon is a great opportunity to observe this comet.

At the beginning of the month, it moved from the direction of Capella through the constellation of Auriga and on the 10th of September it was halfway between the Auriga stars Alnath and θ (Theta) Aur.

17.09 Moon near Saturn

Already by dusk we can observe Saturn above the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius. The planet has become a familiar object, staying in the night sky throughout the summer. This evening it is joined by the Moon.

19.09. Moon near Mars

The Moon and the planet Mars are near one another this evening between Capricorn and Sagittarius.

21.09. The fiery splendour of Venus

Some people might think that the bright light on the horizon is an aircraft’s lights whereas, in fact, it is Venus. It is now a bright -4.9 mag object in the night sky. But the pleasure is short-lived – shortly after 8 pm it will disappear once again below the horizon.

21.09. Y cap occulted by the Moon

A star occultation can make an attractive visual observation – especially when a star visible in the telescope suddenly disappears as if by magic. The Moon will occult the star Y Cap with its dark edge at 9:40 pm on the 21st.

27.09. The star 73 Cet occulted by the Moon

Star ξ (Xi) cet in Cetus will be occulted tonight by the bright edge of the Moon. The star will disappear behind the Moon at 22:15 and reappear from its dark edge at 11:17 pm.

 

October

09.10. Draconids meteor shower

The Draconids is a meteor shower that seems to originate from the constellation of Draco. The maximum is expected on the 9th. Unfortunately, there is no prediction of the number of meteors we can expect. This can be very variable from year-to-year.

The radiant is located near the stars of the constellation Draco. The ‘dragon’ belongs to a circumpolar constellation, meaning the radiant is at an optimally visible elevation in the evening sky.

10.10. Moon near Jupiter

Just above the western horizon we can see a fragile crescent moon which is only 3% illuminated. On its left, we can see Jupiter. The planet will soon end its period of visibility and disappear from the night sky.

14.10. Moon near Saturn

The constellation of Sagittarius in October is already nearing the horizon, meaning summer is long gone and autumn has long since arrived. But at dusk we can catch a last taste of summer – Saturn and the Moon meet and go down together in the southwest in the evening sky.

18.10 Moon near Mars

A close meeting of the Moon and Mars takes place in the evening on 18.10. They are only about 3 degrees away from one another and pass the meridian at about 20:40.

17.10. ‘Small’ Moon

The Moon orbits the Earth in an ellipse – so it is sometimes closer and sometimes further away. Today, the Moon will reach apogee – that is, its distance 401,000 kilometres from Earth. This makes it appear smaller than when it is nearer the earth.

21.10. Orionids meteor shower

The Orionids is a smaller meteor shower with around 20 meteors per hour. The radiant is located in the constellation of Orion near the star Betelgeuse. Although you can watch the meteors throughout the month, the maximum is between October 20 and 21. An advantage this year is that this will fall just after the new Moon, so we can enjoy a particularly dark night. The best observing time will be between 10pm and 5am.

24.10. Uranus at opposition

Uranus is one of the remotest gas giants, only appearing as a tiny featureless greenish disc in a telescope. But it can still be identified as a planet. Locate Uranus by using a star map or, even easier, by using the Go-To system on your telescope. Then you can observe the planetary disc at around 150-200X magnification.

Although the bluish planet shines at a brightness of mag 5.6, it will be difficult to locate due to the phase of the Moon. It is worth waiting a few days and observing Neptune without the Moon making things difficult.

31.10. ‘Large’ Moon

If the Moon only had a very small apparent diameter in the sky on the 17th of October, it will now be the other way round this evening. Its elliptical orbit has now brought it to its nearest approach to the Earth. At only 367,000 kilometres away, it is now about 34,000 kilometres closer to us and has a much larger diameter of 32″.

 

November

06.11. Moon near Venus and Spica

If it is a clear night it is really worth getting up a bit earlier to enjoy a golden morning with an attractive coming together of the Moon, Venus and Spica. The Moon shows as a very thin crescent, only 2.4% illuminated. The next day brings a new Moon and the entire night is then perfect for deep sky observing.

11.11. Moon near Saturn

Because it gets dark so early at this time of the year, we can still catch a glimpse of Saturn and the Moon. They are close together at a distance of just one lunar diameter.

16.11. Moon near Mars

The small separation, about half a hand’s width, of the Moon and Mars can be admired on the evening of 16 November. Mars reaches the meridian at 18:45 CET before the Moon reaches it a little later.

17.11 Juno at opposition

Juno is a large asteroid in the asteroid belt with a diameter of 257 kilometers. It is now back at opposition to the Sun and appears as a quite bright 7.6 magnitude object. This makes it great even for observers who otherwise do not usually bother observing minor planets. Despite its brightness, Juno only shows as a point, making it indistinguishable from a star. A star map and coordinates for locating it are therefore useful – for example from recent magazines or from the Minor Planet Center.

17.11. Leonids meteor shower

The Leonids reach their maximum on the 17th of November. They are the most familiar known meteor shower after the Perseids. There have been years when their meteors fell in great numbers. This usually happens every 33 years when the earth collides with the Leonid cloud.

In normal years, the maximum currently reaches no more than 20 meteors per hour. The rate will be slightly lower this year, at about 15 meteors per hour. The bright Moon in the sky will detract from the shower this year. But if you’re looking for a good place to watch after midnight, then the Moon is only 12 degrees above the horizon and will no longer influence observing.

21.11. Comet 46P/Wirtanen

The short-period comet 46P/Wirtanen – with an orbital period of only 5.4 years – is currently the most promising candidate for naked eye observing. This comet, discovered in 1948, is currently moving towards the Sun, and will reach perihelion on December 12th, 2018. It will reach its very near minimum distance to the Earth – only 11.6 million kilometres – just a few days later.

We will get a foretaste of this comet already by November – it could achieve a brightness of magnitude 6 to 7 and so be easy to observe using binoculars. It describes a relatively small arc the night sky, staying very close to the horizon. We can find it to the right of the ‘river’ of Eridanus and below Cetus from about 20:00 CET.

23.11. Moon near Aldebaran

The full Moon can be observed near Aldebaran, the main star of the constellation Taurus, on the evening of the 23rd. It is a red giant, a 150 times brighter than the Sun. The name Aldebaran comes from the Arabic and means ‘leading star’ because it appears to precede the Pleiades.

30.11. Venus in all its splendour

Venus reaches its maximum brightness at magnitude -4.7. The brightness depends on the combination of its distance from the Earth and its current phase, and is now reaching its most favourable position. Venus can currently be admired as the ‘morning star’ and rises above the horizon after 4 AM. It reaches about 20 degrees above the horizon by 6:30 CET.

Enjoy your observing! We wish you clear skies!

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Infographic: Astronomical highlights for Summer 2018

June 18 2018, Marcus Schenk

Summer and warm temperatures: Those who aren’t keen on winter are now getting out and about again to look up at the stars. But, unfortunately, it also gets dark later – and just a few hours pass, in the blink of an eye, and it gets light again. So, you should make the most of the dark hours. For, when the summer Milky Way draws across the sky, there is a great deal of things to discover.

The astronomical infographic, “Highlights in the Summer sky”, shows you at a glance what is going on in the sky between the months of June and August. Including: A short description of the events.

June
3 June, The Moon meets Mars
The Moon is already getting ready to put on a big show next month: an opposition at an extremely short distance. But we can already see Mars well. During the second half of the night, the Moon and Mars rise up over the south-eastern horizon.

16 June, The Moon meets Venus
A pretty pair in the evening twilight: the Moon and Venus. They can be seen close to each other at around 10 PM, above the western horizon. The waxing crescent Moon is only 5.8% illuminated and sweeps delicately in front of a yellowish-blue twilight sky.

19 June, Vesta in opposition
Vesta is one of the largest asteroids in the solar system and will enter its opposition on 19 June. Vesta has a brightness level of up to 5.3 mag. and can be viewed with the naked eye in a very dark sky. This opposition is particularly good, because Vesta is only rarely as bright as this. Where can this minor planet be seen? At the moment, it’s in Sagittarius, about 5° away from the star, μ Sgr (the star above the teapot in Sagittarius). During the month, it will start heading towards Ophiuchus.

23 June, Moon: Golden handle
The golden handle on the Moon can now be seen. Like a handle made out of light, it breaks the lunar night just on the other side of the Terminator. While the Sinus Iridum crater is still hidden in darkness, the Sun illuminates the ringed summit of the Montes Jura. It is visible between 4:30 and 8 PM GMT.

27 June, Small full Moon
The Moon goes around the Earth in an ellipse, not a perfect circle. This means: In the course of a month, it reaches a particularly close and a particular far position. At a distance of 403,000 kilometres, the Moon now appears smaller than usual, and has a visible diameter of 29° in the sky.

27 June, Saturn in opposition
The gas giant, Saturn, is now in opposition to the Sun again. In astronomy, this is cause for joy, because Saturn is now exactly opposite the Sun. Saturn, Earth and the Sun are geometrically in a straight line. For us observers, this means: The ringed planet can be seen all night. When night falls, it rises in the east and goes back down at daybreak.

28 June, The Moon meets Saturn
The Moon likes to occasionally pay a visit to our planets. On 28 June, it will be visiting Saturn again. Such encounters always make an enticing spectacle. And a beautiful occasion for an atmospheric photo with a camera and lens on a tripod. Saturn is currently at the top of Sagittarius and can be observed all night. On this night, the Moon will be approaching the ringed plant at about 1.9° and will go past it again the following day. One night later, they will have moved back to 9° from each other again.

July

10 July, The Moon meets Alpha Tauri
In the early hours of the morning, around 4 AM, the narrow waning crescent Moon and Alpha Tauri meet. To the north of London, the Moon covers the 3.6-mag bright star, Hyadum I.

12 July, Pluto in opposition
Pluto is a dwarf planet that is difficult to see and is barely distinguishable from a star. At least, if you don’t have a precise map at hand. Despite that, it’s worth taking a look with a larger telescope at this outpost of the solar system. Coordinates for the GoTo control: Rect: 19h25m20s, Dec: -21°49′

16 July, The Moon meets Venus
A brightly glowing Venus and a waning crescent Moon: At the moment, at dusk, you can observe this pretty sight.

21 July, The Moon meets Jupiter
When Venus goes down in the West, Jupiter dominates as the brightest planet in the night sky. At the moment, the Moon, illuminated at 70%, is keeping it company.

27 July, Mars in opposition
This is a superlative event: Since 2003, we have been looking forward to the most exciting Mars opposition. At only 57 million kilometres away, Mars rarely comes this close to Earth. Now, there’s an opportunity for successful observation with Mars at full size and with quite a few details. And this is all thanks to an imposing diameter of 24 arc seconds. Not until 2035, will the red planet offer us such a highlight again.

27 July, Total lunar eclipse
On the same day as the Mars opposition, a total lunar eclipse will take place. Another special event. Because: Recently, lunar eclipses have been very rare. At dusk, look for a place with a very good view of the horizon, because we won’t get the start of the lunar eclipse. As soon as you see the Moon over the horizon, the partial phase will already be well advanced, and just after at 9:30 PM CET, the total eclipse will start. The middle of the eclipse will be reached at 10:22 PM CET, and the end will be reached at 11:14 PM CET. Then, on the left edge of the Moon, we’ll see a crescent made of light coming up. Tip: We can also see Mars below the Moon.

31 July, Mars comes closest to Earth
The opposition of Mars is only a few days ago, but today Mars is coming particularly close to Earth. At a distance of only 57.6 million kilometres. That is almost as close as in 2003, when Mars moved to just 55 million kilometres away. From an astronomical point of view, there’s no difference.

Noctilucent clouds
You can’t see them now: noctilucent clouds or night clouds. If, in the summer, the Sun is between 6° and 16° below the horizon, it sometimes lights up extremely thin single-crystal clouds about 80 kilometres high. In fact, these clouds are so high that they are in the mesosphere of our atmosphere. For us, it’s been night for a long time, but these clouds catch a little Sunlight and we see bluish-white clouds lighting up that are invisible during the day.

August

3 August, The Moon meets Uranus
Uranus is a gas giant, and yet it appears tiny in a telescope. That’s hardly surprising, since it is one of the two most distant planets in our solar system. You can’t see any details in a telescope. It is, however, fascinating to see the planetary disk – at a magnification of between 150 and 200. On 3 August, the Moon will be passing quite near to Uranus.

August: Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner
This comet was observed the first time in 1900 by Giacobini, and then rediscovered by Zinner in 2013. Using the data, we determined that this comet had an orbit lasting 6.5 years, meaning it’s a comet with a short orbit. In 2018, it will be clearly visible in the northern night sky, as early as June and July. In August, however, 21P/Giacobini-Zinner will be found just before its closest point to the Sun, and will achieve an interesting level of brightness, estimated 7.8 mag. In August, it will wander northwards past Cassiopeia, through the giraffe in the direction of Auriga.

12/13 August, Perseids
Every year, we look forward to the most beautiful shooting stars of the year: the Perseids. During the morning of 12 August, the meteor shower reaches its pinnacle. There are up to 100 shooting starts per hour, that fly through out atmosphere at an unbelievable speed of approx. 216,000 km/hr. The peak is reached between 10 PM CET and 4 AM CET
Last year, the Moon once again spoiled the meteor shower, but this year it’s going to be totally different. One day after the new Moon, nothing will ruin your observation session. You can look forward to fantastic conditions. We can thank the comet, 109P/Swift-Tuttle, for this meteor shower which lost part of its mass on its path around the Sun. Whenever Earth crosses the path of the original comet in August, the Perseids shoot through our sky.

14/15 August, The Moon meets half Venus
During dusk, we will experience one of the most beautiful conjunctions of Venus and the Moon. The new crescent Moon will be bright over the western horizon, and about 4° below will be Venus. On 15 August, our neighbouring planet will reach its half phase: dichotomy. The disk will appear at a size of 24″.

17 August, Venus’ largest easterly elongation
At an angle of 46° to the Sun, Venus will normally reach good visibility in the evening sky. As it’s low down in the sky at the moment, however, and its path is leading southwards, it sets just after the Sun. It wanders far below the equator from Virgo into the constellation of Libra.

23 August, The Moon meets Mars
During this night, the Moon is at a distance of only 6° from the red planet.

26 August, Mercury’s largest westerly elongation
Mercury will reach its largest westerly distance from the Sun today. It is, however, in its orbit close to the Sun. This is why its morning visibility is quite poor. From about 5 AM CET, you can spot it on the eastern horizon.

 

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Infographic: Astronomy Highlights in Spring 2018

March 5 2018, Marcus Schenk

Many observers are tempted outside again when temperatures start getting milder. The night sky shows us a completely different aspect in Spring. But what is there to observe? What is there worth looking at?

Here is the astronomical calendar for the next three months – The new astronomical ‘Highlights in the Spring Night Sky’ infographic shows you at a glance what is happening in the night sky during the months of March, April and May.

 

March

03.05. Venus near Mercury

Venus greets us as the Evening Star again this month. We find it at dusk, deep on the western horizon. But another planet can also be seen in the first days of March – Mercury. This nimble planet keeps Venus company and is an opportunity for us to marvel at the two innermost planets.

11:03 Moon near Saturn

Most observers like to use the evening hours for observing the night sky. But anyone who does not get up early this month will miss a special show – The three planets Saturn, Mars and Jupiter all shining in the early morning sky. The Moon nears the gloriously ringed planet on the 11th of March, getting to only about 1.5°away. Observers will have a fantastic sight thanks to the waning crescent Moon.

11.03 Moon at apogee

The moon does not orbit the Earth in an exactly circular orbit, but rather in an ellipse. This means that in the course of a month it can reach a particularly close or an especially distant position. At 403,000 kilometres away, the Moon is smaller today than usual, with an apparent diameter in the night sky of about 29″.

15.03 Mercury at greatest western elongation

Mercury is the fastest orbiting planet in our solar system. But we do not often get an opportunity to observe it well as it always stays close to the Sun. On the 15th it will be at 18.4°away – its greatest angular distance to the Earth. It can be observed at a comfortable height above the horizon between 18:45 and 19:30.

18.03 A meeting of the Moon, Mercury and Venus

Mercury and Venus are now striking objects in the evening sky. And, on March 18th, an extremely delicate and only 1.6% illuminated crescent Moon joins them. An optimal opportunity for taking an atmospheric photograph at dusk.

26.03 Moon near the Earth

While the Moon was at apogee on March 11, it now reaches perigee – its nearest distance to Earth. And, at a distance of 366,000 kilometres, it also appears a bit larger.

29.03. Venus near Uranus

Both Venus and Uranus in the field of view? Few have probably seen this before. But today it is really possible. Then the two planets are only 42 arcminutes apart. Near enough together to observe both of them together in a 2″ wide-angle eyepiece.

 

 

April

02.04. Mars near to Saturn

Mars is the ‘star‘ of 2018. It is slowly preparing for its big show – its opposition in June. By now it is as bright as the brightest stars in the sky. We can find it on the left above the ‘teapot’ in the constellation of Sagittarius. The Red Planet meets with Saturn at the beginning of the month – on April 2 they are about 1° away from each other.

03.04 Moon near Jupiter

Jupiter competes with Venus with a brightness of -2.39 magnitude. Jupiter is one of the most striking objects in the sky even if it does not quite match Venus. The Moon is only at 5° away from it today.

16:04 Mars near Albaldah

It’s always nice to see two bright astronomical objects close to each other. Such alignments in the night sky are noticeable because they are particularly unusual. On April 16, Mars and the star Albaldah make such an alignment.

This star is occasionally occulted by a planet due to its location very close to the ecliptic – this will next occur on 17 February 2035 at 16:32 CET, when Venus will occult Albaldah. But this will not be visible from Central Europe as Venus is below the horizon by then.

24.04 Moon near Regulus

The Moon passes close to the star Regulus today. We can observe this tonight as the Moon approaches and then recedes from Leo’s brightest star. Regulus and the Moon are separated by 42 arcminutes at 21:00. At 23:00, they approach within 14 arcminutes, but an hour later the separation has increased again to 27 arcminutes.

22.04 Lyrids meteor shower

The Lyrids are a meteor shower, which reaches maximum at only 10 to 20 meteors per hour on the 21st of April. But the optimal observing time is between 22:00 and 4:00 in the morning, when they can be observed undisturbed by the Moon. The shower’s radiant lies in the constellation of Lyra.

29.04. Mercury – greatest western elongation

Mercury orbits fast, whizzing around the Sun in just 88 days. At the beginning of the month it was at greatest western elongation to the Sun, which gave us a good evening visibility. At the end of the month it will reach its greatest eastern elongation. In such cases, Mercury can be seen in the morning sky. Due to the shallow inclination to the ecliptic, Mercury remains near the Sun and is not visible at dawn.

 

 

May

02.05. Venus near Aldebaran

Two bright objects shine at dusk close to the western horizon – Venus and Aldebaran. The red giant is 150 times brighter than the sun. At a distance of 67 light-years however it only reaches an apparent brightness of 0.85 magnitude as seen from the Earth. Even so, it is one of the brightest stars in the night sky. It makes a beautiful sight together with Venus.

05./06.05. Eta Aquarids meteor shower

We see again a meteor shower in the second half of the night. The Eta Aquarids appear to originate from the constellation of Aquarius and describe long, bright trails in the night sky. However, the Eta Aquarids do not ‘wake up’ until around 3 o’clock, which puts them only just above the horizon in Central Europe. There is still the chance of catching some bright meteors even so. The average rate is between 20 and 60 meteors per hour.

06.05. Moon near Mars

Another highlight in the early morning sky is a close encounter between the Moon and Mars. The two are separated by just 3° this evening. The 69% illuminated Moon first appears over the southeast horizon at about 1:30. The planet Saturn can already be seen by then to the right and above. The red planet follows the Moon about half an hour later, at 2:00. They can be observed almost exactly in the south until sunrise. A beautiful sight – The constellation of Sagittarius framed by three celestial bodies in the solar system.

09.05 Jupiter at opposition

When evening comes, the largest of all planets peeks over the horizon. Jupiter is today at opposition to the Sun. That means the Earth is exactly between Jupiter and the Sun. The gas giant can now be seen all night, reaching its maximum brightness and appearing particularly large – an optimal chance to admire it with binoculars or a telescope. Jupiter reaches its highest altitude shortly after 1:00 AM and crosses the meridian. The already low-lying planet is best observed now.

17.05. Moon near Venus

A delicate crescent moon and a radiant Venus at dusk – you can observe this beautiful event on 17 May. Today, the Moon moves past the Earth’s sister at only 5° away.

25.05. ‘Golden Handle’ on the Moon

Astronomy in the early evening! The ‘Golden Handle’ can be seen on the Moon tonight. Appearing like a ‘handle of light’, it ‘breaks out’ of the dark part of the Moon just beyond the terminator. The Sun is already illuminating the peaks of the Montes Jura surrounding the Sinus Iridum crater when this is still in the dark – visible between 16:30 and 20 o’clock.

27.05. Moon near Jupiter

The Moon is near to Jupiter this evening. It approaches to within just over 2.5° at 21:30. It is a meeting of two beacons – the Moon and Jupiter are now the brightest objects in the sky.

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Infographic: Astro-highlights in Winter 2017/18

December 7 2017, Marcus Schenk

The new cosmic calendar for the next three months at a glance!  Our astronomy infographic shows you all you need to keep an eye out for in the coming months.  Check out the text below for more details of each event!

 

 

08 Dec – Moon occults Regulus

At the beginning of December the waning Moon will occult the star Regulus in the constellation Leo.  It is a special event, since Regulus belongs to the brightest stars in the night sky at 1.3 mag.  A pair of binoculars or a small telescope will suffice, to witness it all.  However, you will need a good view of the north-eastern horizon.  Best case scenario would be finding a nice open area or a hill, from which to observe.  It is only important that no houses or forest obstruct your view.

13 Dec –  A Lunar Meeting with Mars

The narrow sickle of the waning Moon will show itself shortly before dawn, meeting up with Mars at about 6 degrees.  Yet there is more to see: with the star Spica, the two celestial bodies will create a triangle.  Closer to the horizon, you will also be able to see Jupiter.  It will appear, as if all four form an arrow pointing towards the horizon.

14 Dec – Geminids

If the night sky is clear, look to the south to see the Geminid meteor shower, originating from the constellation Gemini.  More precisely, the point of origination will be roughly two degrees above the star Pollux.  Between 9 PM and 6 AM is the best time for viewing the Geminids, with roughly 120 meteors per hour . making it one of the most active meteor showers.  Unfortunately, the full Moon will create some competition as it rises, but the event should nevertheless not be missed!

21 Dec – Winter Solstice

Every year on the 21st of 22nd of December, we get to experience the shortest day and longest night of the year.  This year on the 21st, Winter officially begins and the Sun will set early.  The night will last about 12 hours – a dream for every hobby astronomer, who wants to observe for long periods.

31 Dec – The Lunar Occultation of Aldebaran

In the night of the 30th to the 31st, the Moon will occult the star Aldebaran, which is the most prominent star of the Taurus and belongs to the brightest stars in our night sky.  Such an occultation of a bright star is quite an experience.  Almost completely full, the Moon will approach Aldebaran on its dark and interesting side.  The star will disappear sometime around 2 AM and reappear around 30 minutes later on the opposite side.

01 Jan – Mercury at Its Greatest Western Elongation

Mercury orbits so fast and so close to the Sun, that we cannot see it all the time.  Yet, today the planet will be at a distance of 22 degrees from the Sun.  During dawn, Mercury will appear around 6:30 AM in the south-eastern sky.  As the sky brightens, however, you will quickly lose sight of the planet.  Luckily, Mercury is quite bright, so you will be able to see it at even 7:30 AM.  In case it is overcast or you are sleeping off ringing in the New Year, you will still be able to see Mercury until the 10th of January.

03 Jan – Quadrantids

The next meteor show is already upon us: the Quadrantids.  This meteor show will originate from the constellation Boötes and will rain down a maximum of 120 meteors per hour.  You will have the best seats for the show if you happen to be out from the 2nd to the 3rd of January.

07 Jan – Mars Meets Jupiter

On the morning of the 7th, Mars and Jupitar will have tea and crumpets.  In the middle of the constellation Libra, both planets will be illuminated at a distance of 12 arc-minutes from one another, which is about a third of the Moon’s diameter.  You will be able to use your telescope to view both planets in one go!

11 Jan –  The Meeting of the Moon, Mars and Jupiter

A few days later in the same region, Mars and Jupiter will create some more space.  Yet, on this particular morning, the Moon plays a role.  The thin sickle will shine about 3 degrees above the two planets.  Even if you have to dress warm to see it, the sight will melt any ice in the vicinity.

13 Jan – Mercury Meets Saturn

Mercury will give us one more chance, before exiting the stage.  Yet, this morning, the fastest planet will be visible with the gas giant Saturn.  Shortly before sunrise, the two will appear just above the horizon in the south east.

31 Jan – Ceres in Opposition

Ceres is one of the most well known dwarf planets of the solar system with a diameter of 963 kilometers.  It orbits, with the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, the Sun every 5 years.  On the 31st January, Ceres will come into opposition to the Sun and you can observe it at its greatest brightness.  With a bright 6.9 size class, it will move from the head of Leo between the constellations Lynx and Cancer.  You can use a telescope or a large set of binoculars to find dwarf planet.  More exact details can be found here:

01 Feb – The Moon Meets Regulus and Mars meets Acrab

If you like to observe during the morning hours, then there is something for you on the 1st of February.  At about 4 AM, the pinzers of Skorpio will rise in the south east.  Yet, there is more: Mars.  The red planet will push past the star Acrab at a distance of around 18″.

Moreover, the following evening, the Moon will be about 7 arc-minutes away from Regulus, the most prominent star of the constellation Leo.  The time for the meeting is quite good: around 7 PM, European Central Time, the Moon will be closest.

08 Feb – The Moon Occults γ Lib

This occultation may not be observed by so many star gazers, since it will take place in dawn, when most are still laying in a warm bed.  That makes the occultation of the star γ Lib by the Moon, within the constellation Libra, quite a seldom seen event.  The Moon will be illuminated at around 45% and be edging ever closer to the star with its bright side.  Around 4:20 AM, the star will disappear behind the Moon and reappear at around 5:30 AM on the un-illuminated side of the Moon.

11 Feb – A Lunar Meeting with Saturn

The Moon seems to enjoy visiting our planets.  On the 11th of February, our satellite will meet with Saturn.  Such meetings are always an amazing sight and a great opportunity for a great photo with a standing camera and lens.  The Moon will be visible about 3.5 degrees higher in the sky, and as a result easier to spot.  Around 5 AM, Saturn will peer over the horizon.  It is not really the best time for the ringed planet however, as it will only appear in the second half of the night for next few months.  As early Summer sets upon us, the planet will appear at more comfortable times.  In June, it will even stand in opposition.

21 Feb – The Moon Occults μ Cet

An occultation at dusk: around 6:20 PM, the Moon will occult the star μ Cet in the constellation Cetus.  After a good hour, at around 7:15, the star will reappear on the other side.  This time the Moon will approach the star with its un-illuminated side.  During observation, you will notice the star disappear so suddenly, as if someone just pinched its flame like that of a candle.

23 Feb – The Moon Occults Aldebaran

A highlight on this day is the lunar occultation of Aldebaran.  As in last December, you should not miss this event, because such occultations are quite seldom and this will be the last occultation of Aldebaran for years to come.

The Moon will inch towards the star with its un-illuminated side.  For many, it is quite a surprise when the star suddenly disappears, despite it being expected.  At around 5:50 PM, Aldebaran will disappear and at 6:50 PM reappear.  For amateurs, it will be interesting to following the occultation to the minute.  With a Touptek Camera and software from SharpCap 2.7 will both be helpful in such a scenario.

Enjoy stargazing and clear skies from the team at Astroshop.

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Infographic: Highlights in the Spring Night Sky from March to May

March 2 2017, Marcus Schenk

As the temperatures outside become milder, many stargazers make their way outside.  In the Spring, the night sky shows us a very different side of itself.  What is there to observe?  What is worth the time and effort?

Our astronomy highlights infographic for Spring 2017 can show you at a glance, what to keep an eye out for during the next three months, from March to May.

EN - u2g-infographic-astrohighlights-spring

March

1 March – The Moon’s Meeting with Mars, Uranus and Venus 

During dusk, the crescent Moon will rise, illuminated at 12% and waxing.  Three days prior was the new Moon and the crescent offers a vivid glimpse of the Mare Crisium.  Still there is more to be seen here in a trio of planets – Mars, Uranus and Venus.

4 March – Moon Occults the Hyaden Cluster

Occultations of celestial objects by the Moon are always interesting and are all the more fascinating when the Moon is not fully illuminated, thereby occulting the object with its non-illuminated side.  On the 4th of March the Moon will travel across the open star cluster of the Hyades and thereby obscuring the 3.6 mag bright star 54 Tau. For European observers, the star will disappear behind the non-illuminated side of the Moon just before 9 PM GMT and reappear at the other side just before 11 PM GMT.

10 March – A Lunar Meeting with Regulus

In the evening of the 10th of March, the almost full Moon will rise in the East, as the sky darkens.  Just above it, the constellation Leo and its brightest star Regulus.  At the beginning of the evening, the two will be about 1.6° apart.  However, shortly before midnight our satellite will move within 1° of Regulus.  From here, you will be able to observe how the Moon slowly travels across the night sky.

14 March – A Lunar Meeting with Jupiter and Spica

Quite a sight indeed: on the 14th of March, we will see the Moon in close proximity to Jupiter and Spica, the brightest star of Virgo.

19 March – Venus and Mercury

The only good chance to view Mercury during the evening this year, the smallest planet will be visible from now until the 10th of April!  As of the 19th of March, we will be able to discover the Sun’s closest planet extremely close to the western horizon.  Need help finding it? Just search out Venus and approximately a hand’s width away, you will find Mercury.

26 March – Extremely Thin Venus Crescent (for the Professionals)

Venus reveals itself in her perfect form, subtle and crescent-shaped, the planet will appear just above the horizon, and only 1% illuminated.  The most fascinating part is that this event will take place during the day.  Warning: the Sun will appear very close to Venus, so avoid looking directly into the Sun.  This type of observation is best left to the experienced astronomer.

29 March – Mercury at Dusk

Mercury will be approaching its easterly elongation, occurring on the 1st of April, meaning the planet will descent in the dusk following the Sun and will appear as a half-illuminated disk.  Mercury will now set later, than on the 19th of February, and be an easy object to identify in the night sky.  The sight along with a crescent Moon at 3.6% illumination will provide a great opportunity to capture the essence and atmosphere of the evening!

April

1 April – Minor Planet Vesta

In January, the minor planet Vest stood at opposition and was visible throughout the night.  The class 7.6 planet will be easily visible in the constellation Gemini, almost half way between 69 Gem and 77 Gem.

7 April – Jupiter in Opposition

On the 6th of April, the gas giant Jupiter will be in opposition to the Sun.  Rising just at dusk, the planet will be visible throughout the night.  Photo tip: Photograph Jupiter this year, as the gas giant will be roughly 30° above the horizon, just below the celestial equator, and will not reach a higher position for the next few years.

10 – 11 April – A Lunar Meeting with Jupiter

The almost full Moon will approach Jupiter, at 1.1°, during the night of the 10th and 11th of April.

14 April – Comet 41P/Tuttle

The comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak will approach the Earth, and be easy to view through a telescope.  During this year’s pass, a respectable increase in brightness is predicted.  According to the Minor Planet Center, the comet will increase to a 6.7 mag bright object from the beginning to the middle of April.  Moreover, it will appear high in the sky as a circumpolar object and travel from mid-April through the constellation Draco, until it reaches Hercules by month’s end.  The Moon provides a helping hand by being in its darker phase.

21 April – Lyrid Meteor Shower

The Lyrid meteor shower will peak on the 21st with 10 to 20 meteors per hour.  While the optimal observation time is between 10 PM and 4 AM, the Moon will cause little disturbance.  The radiant, so the origination of the shower, lies within the constellation Lyra.

28 April – The Moon Occults Aldebaran

For European observers, a thin Moon cicle will occult the star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus at 8 PM.  On the 28th, the occultation will occur during sundown.  Approximately 50 minutes later, around 9 PM, Aldebaran will appear on the other side of the Moon.

30 April – Venus in Full Splendor

The morning star Venus will shine bright in the sky once again.  With a brilliance of -4.8 mag, our second planet will appear just before sunrise.  The Venusian cicle will then be illuminated at 26%.

Mai

6 May – Golden Handle on the Moon

A golden handle on the Moon?  You can find it as a matter of fact.  A ring of light will appear on the dark area of the Moon’s surface.  It always appears, when the waxing Moon is illuminated at 83% (around 4 PM Central European Time, 10 EST in the USA).  Within the Mare Imbrium, the plain Sinus Iridum will connect.  This plain is encircled by Montes Jura range.  While the valley between remains in darkness, the rising Sun will illuminate the peaks of the mountain range, the spectacle of the “golden handle”.  Another way to put it: Alpenglow on the Moon!

7 May – A(nother) Lunar Meeting with Jupiter

During the night of the 7th into the 8th of May, the Moon will once again approach Jupiter, reaching a separation of only 1°.

11 – 12 May – Shadow Games on Jupiter

Tonight, we will be sitting in the premium seats.  Before us on stage: Jupiter and its moons.  In a short on the night of the 1tth to the 12th, we will witness the moons Europa and Io leave their shadows on the gas giant.

First, Europa will travel across the planet’s disk around midnight (central European time).  At around 1:40 AM, the moon’s shadow will transit across the planet.  Then at 3:13 AM, Io will dance in front of Jupiter.  Its shadow will then follow shortly before 4 AM (CET).  We will then see two shadows on the planet, one on each side of the gas giant.

Ensure that you have a good view of the horizon during this event, since Jupiter will be sitting just above the horizon around 4 AM.

12 May – The Great Red Spot on Jupiter

This evening, the great red spot of Jupiter will be easily observable.  Around 9:40 PM, the spot will appear from behind the planet and wander over a four-hour period over the planet’s disk.

14 May – A Lunar Meeting with Saturn

Four days after the full Moon, a lunar meeting with Saturn will take place, with a separation of 1.6°.

20 May – Western Lunar Libration

For astrophotographers, this can be a very interesting project – capturing the libration of the Moon.  The Moon will find itself in its western libration.  A strong eastern libration will take place on the 31st of May, during which you see more of the Moon.  Capturing it in a photograph will surely be a fine experience.

22 May – A Lunar Meeting with Venus

Shortly before sunrise, we will witness a beautiful constellation of Venus and the Moon at a separation of 6°.  The Moon will show itself as a cicle, illuminated at 19%, with a new Moon three days later.

25 May – Moon in Close Proximity to Earth

The new Moon will be at a distance of 358,000 km (222,500 miles) to Earth, making it the closest distance of the year.

31 May – A Lunar Meeting with Regulus

Today, the Moon will be at 1.5° of separation from the star Regulus.

 

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Enjoy stargazing and clear skies!

15.10.2019
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