Tag Archive: astronomy

I’m aware that I haven’t been doing any astronomy posts lately – either because I don’t have anything to write about or because I can’t be bothered.

More likely the latter.

But I did a quick search and found a blog that gives monthly forecasts on sky events: Sky-Watching.

Events for April 2012 are at

Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Saturn can all be seen in the evening sky (from western to eastern horizon respectively). There is also a reasonably good meteor shower this month: the Lyrids. If you get a clear sky on the night of Saturday 21, take half an hour to look up. It’s a good opportunity to see a ‘shooting star’ if you’ve never seen one before!

Actually… I have been taking the odd photo of the sky. If you missed the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter last month… well, so did I thanks to cloud. But here’s a photo of what the planets looked like a few weeks before. Jupiter (top left) gradually moved down and to the right as the evenings progressed, while Venus kind of did a U-turn, and they met in the middle.

Jupiter, Venus and the Moon, 24 Feb 2012

Jupiter, Venus and the Moon, 24 Feb 2012

Currently Jupiter is quite low in the western sky in the evening, but Venus is still high and dry.


ALERT: Solar Eclipse January 4th

This Tuesday the UK will wake to the best solar eclipse since 1999.

A large part of the sun’s face will be covered by the moon as it rises over southern Britain. London will see maximum eclipse around the time of sunrise.

But by sun-up over my patch, Northern Ireland, only a small portion will be covered. I’m crying my eyes out, inside.

And please, don’t stare at it, you’ll wreck your eyes. Google a live internet feed or watch the news – or project the sun’s image using a pinhole in a cardboard box. For the best view, project it using binoculars or use a specially designed solar telescope but for heaven’s sake DON’T look at the sun through binoculars or you’ll really mess up your eyes!

Other than that, enjoy it. Oh, and pray it’s not cloudy.

UPDATE 2.1.11: Well, the forecast for Belfast is Grey Cloud. Woo, hoo.

UPDATE 4.1.11: Yes, it was cloudy here. But check out Stargazing Live on BBC2 at 8pm tonight to see some pics.


And by the way,


I’m famous!! (Well, sort of…)

Yes, ladies and gents, I got a mention on the website!
And yes, it IS a nerdy website!!!
Look for “(40) Harmonia” near the bottom.
By the way, if anyone reads this could they leave a comment saying they have? I need to guage interest.
UPDATE 6.1.11: It’s no longer at that address, and I’m “famous” 🙂 anyway now I’m on WordPress. But I do still need to guage interest.



Yes, it’s 2009, the International Year of Astronomy!

And here’s the What’sUp roundup for this month…
3  Peak of the Quadrantids meteor shower – get up about six this morning and the radiant (where the meteors appear to come from) is roughly overhead. Lie back in a chair and you’re bound to catch some. On the morning of Jan 2, the activity was at 10 meteors per hour, so this morning will be better – the shower peaks at 1 o’clock but that’s daylight.
4  Mercury is at elongation and you might be able to see it low in the south-western evening sky near brighter Jupiter.
7  The Gibbous Moon passes in front of the Pleiades. Look at the Moon through binoculars as it gets dark and you’ll see a cluster of stars near or behind it. That’s the Pleiades. Watch the dark left limb of the moon as the evening goes on and you should be able to see a few stars disappear. The occultation is over by about 18:40. MAIL ME for more details.
15 Saturn is 7° North of the Moon – look moonward in the morning.
23 Venus is just over 1° North of Uranus this evening. Uranus is quite easy to see with binoculars – here’s a sky map: http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/astronomy/nightsky/Jan21st.jpg. This is the one of the best opportunities to see the green planet – why not give it a go!
30 The Crescent Moon is 4° above Venus in the evening sky. Conjunctions of Venus and the Moon are really nice so give this one a go!
Comets and asteroids
This month, only the asteroids Ceres and Vesta are in binocular range. Here are links to their paths against the stars but the charts are upside down because it’s New Zealand! The charts are explained on the site.
Vesta: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/MinorP/09Vesta.htm (the chart we want wasn’t working last time I checked)
Comet Lulin is now within binocular range (magnitude +7.5) but low in the morning sky. By mid-month it is better placed and by the end of the month it could be magnitude 6 and small telescopes may be able to see that it is in fact fuzzy. It could reach magnitude +4 at some point – visible to the naked eye. For small telescopes there’s Christensen (2008 X4) at mag. +9.5 – see http://www.ast.cam.ac.uk/~jds/ for more details.
If you have a pair of binoculars, go out some clear night and look up. You’ll be amazed at what you can see. That’s what makes astronomy so rewarding, and why this year the Universe is yours to discover!
Keep an eye to the sky!

General notes / astro events

Well, it’s the holidays at last. A time to relax, a time to do your own thing.
Or at least, it would be, were it not for a chemistry homework… and of course F1 In Schools.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m in a team of six from Inst competing in this competition. I can’t be bothered to explain it so here’s the website: www.f1inschools.co.uk. That’s why there’s such a buzz about Birmingham on the network lately – we got through to the National Finals.
On the astronomy side of things, there’s some cool stuff happening over the next few weeks:
27 Dec   Venus passes 1.5° south of Neptune. Because Neptune is so faint, this conjunction won’t be so spectacular, but if you’re interested, mail me for more details.
29 Dec   The Moon, Jupiter and Mercury form a triangle in the evening sky. Here’s the scene at sunset: Sunset 29.12.2008 1605h.wmf The red lines are altitude/azimuth lines – there is a fist-width between each of the horizontal (altitude) lines.
31 Dec   Mercury and Jupiter pair up now, separated by 1.25°, while the Moon goes on to meet Venus at a distance of 2.7°: Sunset 31.12.2008 1607h.wmf
03 Jan    The Quadrantids meteor shower peaks at midday. It’s a sharp peak (largest amount of meteors for a short time) but if you get up early before it starts to get light you’re bound to see something. Last year there were 82 meteors per hour but it can be up to 200 per hour. The shower is active from 01 Jan to 06 Jan.
Keep an eye on the BAA comets section http://www.ast.cam.ac.uk/~jds/ – there’s a few comets getting brighter and may be worth watching.
The Moon passes in front of the Pleiades several times in 2009 – more on that later.
Lastly, did you know astronomers have taken photos of SEVEN planets outside our Solar System? Google it.
Remember, if you have any questions, mail me.

Venus, Jupiter and the Moon

   Well, I saw Venus appear from behind the Moon this evening, while Jupiter looked on, a thumbwidth above. (Another conjunction was happening, actually, between Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Io. They appeared as one bright speck to the left of the planet.) 
   The moon is moving away now but Jupiter and Venus are still a beautiful pair. I will be sharing photos of this – they’re beautiful! I observed from the Quad, then Tesco Ballygomartin, with my telescope, the binoculars and my dad’s camera.
The next big thing on the agenda is two triple conjunctions at the end of the month. Jupiter, Mercury and the Moon will twinkle together low in the evening sky, while Venus goes on to meet with the faintest planet, Neptune; then the Moon catches up. More details to follow – watch this space!
Last night I saw my first comet! C/2006 W3 Christensen is currently the third brightest in the sky; which says a lot about the brightness of comets in general – I needed my telescope to see it! It just looked like a star but if I had observed it tonight, I would have seen it had moved quite a distance.
I am also thinking of allowing the whole web access to my space – could I have feedback on this? Also, can I hide my ‘friends’ from the public eye?
Keep an eye to the sky and an eye to the blog,

Venus and Jupiter

A sight worth seeing!
The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, are coming close together and pass each other (a conjunction)at the end of the month. Look south and a little to the west after sunset (4 o’clock) and, quite low in the sky, you’ll see a bright star (Venus) and a fainter one (Jupiter). As it gets dark, the two will start to dazzle – but you’ll need a pretty clear horizon to follow them.
With a pair of good binoculars the pair will look even prettier.
You should see Jupiter’s disc (it won’t be a star-like point) and its four main moons: Ganymede, Europa, Io and Callisto.
Venus will look a bit smaller – but brighter. See if you can make out its moon-like phase – the planet will look like a bulging half-moon (gibbous phase)
The conjunction comes to a climax on Monday, December 1st. The crescent moon will PASS IN FRONT OF Venus (an occultation) from 3.38 pm to 5.09 pm.
The occultation starts in daylight but if you can find the moon, then with binoculars you should be able to see Venus just to the left, and follow it as the moon passes in front.
This leaves Jupiter on its own above the moon until, from 5.08 pm (watch carefully!) Venus will gradually reappear on the moon’s right side.
Venus and Jupiter will separate day by day after that. Jupiter will get lower and lower in the sky before it disappears around the other side of the Sun, but Venus will get higher and higher in the evening sky, reaching its highest in January.
This is definitely an event well worth your while looking out for!
It would also be well worth my while giving you a quick lesson in altitude.
  • Distances in the sky are measured in DEGREES (°).
  • From the horizon to right overhead (the zenith) is 90°.
Some distances:
  • Your fist at arm’s length is about 10° across.
  • Your opened hand from thumb to pinkie is about 20°.
  • Your index finger is about 12° long, the sections are 6°, 2° and 1° from knuckle to tip

Any further queries to myself, or search the Internet for more reliable (!) info.


If anybody’s wondering if there’s any comets about this weather, the answer is: yes, there always is, but they are usually faint.
And the comets about this weather are faint, but if you have a telescope you can see them if you know where to look.
I have listed here the brightest ones (the magnitude (brightness) scale is: smaller number = brighter).
Comet                        Magnitude (equipment)  Trend             Visible NI? When?
  • Lulin (2007 N3)         7.5 (good binoculars)   brightening      Too close to Sun
  • McNaught (2008 A1)      8.5 (telescope)         fading            yes, evening
  • Christensen (2006 W3)   10 (telescope)          brightening       yes, all night
  • 6P/d’Arrest             10  (telescope)         fading            no
  • Broughton (2006 OF2)    10.5 (telescope)        steady            yes, all night
  • LINEAR (2007 G1)        11.5 (telescope)        steady            Too close to Sun
  • Boattini (2008 J1)      12  (telescope)         fading            yes, all night
  • 144P/Kushida            12.5 (telescope)        brightening      yes, best in evening

Source: http://www.ast.cam.ac.uk/~jds/ (Britist Astronomical Association, Comet section) Visit this website for more info.