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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.

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.


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.


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.



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.




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.




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


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!


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%.


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.


With the following code, you can embed our inforgraphic in your blog:

Available as JPG and PDF.

Enjoy stargazing and clear skies!

Infographic: The Star of Bethlehem

December 22 2016, Marcus Schenk

The story of the three kings travelling to Bethlehem is known by much of the western world. However, a number of cosmic phenomena could provide explanation to how a star could have shone so brightly to lead the three kings to the fertile crescent two millennia ago.

For more info on how this particular event may have occurred, have a look at our info-graphic below. The embed code for the info-graphic is also available.


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