BBC Stargazing Live January 2016

posted 24 Dec 2015, 08:25 by Pete Collins   [ updated 7 Jan 2016, 01:58 ]

Stargazing Live returns to BBC TV 12-14 January 2016. We will be holding linked events aimed at beginners to astronomy on 21 and 28 January.

21 January - A talk on finding your way around the night sky followed by going outside to look through our scopes, or if it's cloudy another talk TBC

28 January - A talk on choosing a telescope followed by going outside to look through our scopes, or if it's cloudy another talk TBC

Both evenings 7-9pm at the Bowls Pavilion, refreshments available.

BBC Stargazing Live 2015

posted 13 Feb 2015, 06:23 by Pete Collins   [ updated 28 Mar 2015, 06:53 ]

Stargazing Live will be on TV 18-20 March 2015. We will be holding 2 events in partnership with SGL.

On the morning of 20 March there will be an eclipse of the Sun, when 89% of the Sun's disc as seen from Manchester will be obscured, something like this -

We will be holding a public event in front of the Orangery at Heaton Hall on 20 March from 8.30am to 11am to view the eclipse. We will have a solar telescope, specially adapted binoculars and eclipse glasses so you can look at the sun safely. If the weather is bad we will have indoor displays and will show the BBC's live broadcast of the eclipse. Free to attend. Hot drinks available. See our News page for eclipse day photos

On Thursday 26 March 7-9pm we will be at our normal venue, the bowls pavilion, for a session aimed at those who are new to astronomy or want to learn more. If the sky is clear we will have telescopes outside for you to look through - Venus, Jupiter and the Orion Nebula are some of the objects you will be able to see. If it's cloudy we will be having talks on finding your away around the night sky, what you would have been able to see if it had been clear (!), satellites of the solar system and a Q&A session. Free to attend. Refreshments available. Full disabled access.

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy

posted 18 Dec 2014, 15:35 by Pete Collins   [ updated 18 Dec 2014, 15:36 ]

Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy's 5th comet discovery, this comet has just become naked-eye visible from a dark site (but not yet visible from the UK) and is brightening as it moves further north. The best time to see it will be from about 7 January for 2 weeks or so, as it moves up past Orion and through Taurus. More information here -

Comet C/2014 E2 Jacques

posted 22 Aug 2014, 11:49 by Pete Collins   [ updated 22 Aug 2014, 12:26 ]

Not quite naked eye but worth a look with binoculars or a scope, close to Cassiopeia for the next few days before passing Cepheus and into Cygnus next to Deneb in early September.

More info here -

and here -

New supernova in M82

posted 22 Jan 2014, 12:25 by Pete Collins

A supernova was discovered yesterday in the Cigar Galaxy, M82 in Ursa Major. Mag 11.4 at the moment so should be visible in 4" scopes or bigger, but may get brighter. This is well up in the sky as soon as it gets dark and will be up there (behind the clouds!!!) all night.

Thanks to Rick for the heads up.  More info and a finder chart here -

RIP John Dobson

posted 17 Jan 2014, 03:57 by Pete Collins   [ updated 17 Jan 2014, 04:02 ]

RIP John Dobson, monk, chemist, inventor of the cheap & cheerful Dobsonian mount for telescopes and pioneer of sidewalk astronomy, who died in California on Wednesday at the grand old age of 98. I made an 8 inch scope to one of his designs 30 years ago, not sure where it is now.

Stargazing Live evening 9/1/14

posted 10 Jan 2014, 06:52 by Pete Collins

We had a good attendance for our first meeting promoted as a Stargazing Live event - about 60 people, which is 30 more than usual. It was particularly nice to see so many children coming along with their parents, about 17 children in all. Many of them got their first views of the Moon and Jupiter through a telescope. Many thanks to all the regular members who brought their scopes along.

Quadrantid meteor shower

posted 1 Jan 2014, 13:07 by Pete Collins

Don't forget that the evening of Friday 3 January is the maximum of the Quadrantid meteor shower. The actual peak is 19.30, but as usual with meteor showers more meteors will probably be seen from late evening onwards.  Past years have seen maximum rates of about 100 meteors per hour from dark sky sites.

Comet Lovejoy

posted 15 Dec 2013, 15:37 by Pete Collins   [ updated 15 Dec 2013, 15:39 ]

For anyone disappointed that Comet Ison failed to make it around the Sun, you could have a go at tracking down Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy. In theory at around magnitude 5 it should be visible with the naked eye, but you need darker skies than we get in Manchester for that. However, it is easily visible in 10x50 binoculars as a fuzzy patch with the hint of a tail.

From now until the end of the month it will be heading under the keystone of Hercules towards the horizon just north of east. The best time to see it is around 6-6.30am after it has risen to a reasonable height but before the sky gets too bright. The keystone of Hercules is about two thirds of the way from the bright star Arcturus (found by following the curve of the Plough's handle) to Vega, the bright star near the north east horizon. 

See a finder chart here

Photos of the comet taken this morning are on our flickr page

Geminid meteor shower / ISS passes

posted 13 Dec 2013, 07:52 by Pete Collins

The maximum of the meteor shower is early Saturday morning 14 Dec and at the moment the forecast is for some clear spells so it may be worth a look from late evening onwards, although with bright moonlight you will only see the brightest meteors. The Geminids along with the Perseids in August is our best and most reliable annual meteor shower.

It's also worth noting that International Space Station passes are at favourable early evening times over at least the next week. To see a table of dates and times for the passes go to (also on links page). If you haven't used heavens-above before, to get accurate predictions you need to set your location. This is easy enough to do from a database of places. Then click on 'ISS' under 'Satellites'.

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