Catch Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) this month
Astronomy Now
by Mark Armstrong
1w ago
Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) could reach faint naked-eye visibility towards the end of January. Here’s the path of the comet this month as it rockets northwards to become visible all night by the last week of January. Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) is of special interest this January as at the time of writing (mid-November) it appears well on-course to be an easy binocular object and perhaps a marginal naked-eye comet. Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) is at perihelion on 12 January at a distance from the Sun of 1.112 AU, when, as a circumpolar object, it should reach around magnitude +7 to +6. By the end of January and beginn ..read more
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The red planet’s very well placed
Astronomy Now
by Mark Armstrong
1w ago
Mars is the best placed planet this month. A gibbous Moon comes a-calling on the evening of 30 January, when it lies between Mars and the Pleiades open cluster (M45), with the Hyades open cluster and bright Aldebaran lying just to the south. All AN graphics by Greg Smye-Rumsby. Mars, still relatively fresh from last month’s brilliant opposition, remains the main planetary interest. The red planet is an unmistakable sight as it rides relatively high in Taurus; it can be seen high in the east as night-fall. Although it fades from magnitude –1.2 to –0.3 and shrinks in apparent diameter from 14.5 ..read more
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See all the planets in January
Astronomy Now
by Mark Armstrong
1w ago
Venus and Saturn lie close together in the early evening sky from 21 to 24 January. This is the view soon after sunset on 23 January, when the addition of a young crescent Moon adds a picturesque quality to the south-western sky. AN graphics by Greg Smye-Rumsby. The new year gets off to a great start with all the planets visible in the night sky at some point during January. The planets can all be spotted in the evening sky (Mercury is a tough proposition though), with the red planet Mars being the most accessible, though it’s outshone by dazzling and increasingly-prominent Venus and a fading ..read more
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Rein in the iconic Horsehead Nebula
Astronomy Now
by Mark Armstrong
1M ago
The Horsehead Nebula lies at the centre of this familiar and wonderful vista in Orion. It’s silhouetted again the red emission nebulosity of IC 434, with Alnitak (zeta [ζ] Ori) just left of centre, with the Flame Nebula below it. Image: Miguel Claro.The Horsehead Nebula is one of a handful of select deep-sky objects that down the decades have acquired legendary, almost mystic status within the deep-sky community. It is arguably the most famous example of a dark nebula (catalogued as Barnard 33), which are cold, dense clouds of obscuring gas and dust that blot out the light from stars and other ..read more
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Observe NGC 2403; an M33 lookalike
Astronomy Now
by Mark Armstrong
1M ago
NGC 2403 is a fine galaxy to observe through a moderate-aperture telescope. Images show a likeness to mighty Messier 33, the Triangulum Galaxy. Image: Martin Pugh. NGC 2403 (Caldwell 7) is a large, bright galaxy that serves up good views for small telescopes but it’s position in the rather obscure northern constellation of Camelopardalis has stunted its popularity. It’s a very photogenic object, with deep amateur images revealing a strong likeness to Messier 33, the magnificent Local Group spiral, albeit on a less-grander scale. A small telescope can track it down, while a monster light-bucket ..read more
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Geminid meteors burst out!
Astronomy Now
by Mark Armstrong
1M ago
The radiant of the Geminid meteor shower lies in Gemini, close to the bright star Castor (alpha Geminorum). AN graphic by Greg Smye-Rumsby. Watch out tonight (13th/14th) and tomorrow night (14th/15th) for the welcome return of the Geminid meteor shower, now widely regarded as the best and most reliable of the annual meteor showers. Given a clear and transparent sky at a site free from major light pollution you could be treated to a great show of a few dozen shooting stars an hour, despite major glow from a waning gibbous Moon (at last quarter is on 16 December). The Geminids come to a broad pe ..read more
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Home in on the Hyades
Astronomy Now
by Mark Armstrong
1M ago
The Hyades open star cluster in Taurus is the close cluster to us and is easy to see with the naked eye from late-autumn and throughout winter. Image: Greg Parker. The outline of the Hyades open star cluster in Taurus is one of the best naked-eye landmarks in the winter sky. It’s brightest stars form into a ‘V’- or wedge-shaped-asterism, or star pattern that’s an easy spot around 25 degrees to the upper-right (north-west) of Orion’s famous ‘Belt’.  First-magnitude Aldebaran, a K-class giant star that exudes a noticeably orange-red hue, dominates the asterism though it lies too close to us ..read more
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Uranus occulted by the Moon
Astronomy Now
by Mark Armstrong
1M ago
Uranus is occulted by the Moon across the UK on the early-evening of 5 December. A pretty rare observational event visible across the whole of the UK, a planet occulted by the Moon, occurs on the early-evening of 5 December when the Moon moves over Uranus, the ice-giant seventh planet. This will be Uranus’ second occultation event visible from the UK this year, following September’s episode. Uranus, shining at magnitude +5.7, is currently well-placed in the evening sky among the stars of Aries (1.5° south-south-east of magnitude +5.3 pi Arietis), having been at its opposition best just last mo ..read more
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Majestic Messier 45: take a peak at the Pleiades!
Astronomy Now
by Mark Armstrong
2M ago
The Pleiades (Messier 45) yields wonderful images as well as providing patient visual observers with so much to see. Image: Terry Hancock. The Pleiades open cluster, or Messier 45, in Taurus is as good as it gets for night-sky eye candy. There are only a handful of deep-sky objects that come close to its fame and sheer majesty. For newbie and experienced observers alike, its impact is not limited in any way: it is easily visible to the naked-eye in most skies and looks superb through a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, while owners of larger telescopes can explore in detail the wispy bl ..read more
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Observe Messier 34, Perseus’ commanding open cluster
Astronomy Now
by Mark Armstrong
2M ago
Messier 34 in Perseus is a great open cluster to observe through all sizes of binoculars and small telescopes. Image: Greg Parker. Messier 34 (NGC 1039) in Perseus is a gem of an open cluster that offers something for all observers. It’s big and bright enough to be spied with the naked eye by eagle-eyed observers under a very dark sky. More realistically for UK observers, it’s a grand binocular target, with even a small pair of binoculars revealing its brightest members, and splendid views are easy to enjoy through large binoculars and small telescopes, such vistas being confirmed by the beaut ..read more
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