The Night Sky This Month

Constellations, planets, meteor showers etc. on show this month.


To see previous night sky notes, please click here


The night sky in February 2024


by Anne Holt


Sun and Moon


Sunrise.   1st:   07.54          29th:   06.58

Sunset.    1st:   16.50          29th:   17.45


Day Length.  1st:   8.55.46      29th:   10.47.35


Astronomical Darkness.  1st:   18.51 to 05.52     29th:  19.41 to 04.50


New Moon:  9th at 23.00. In Capricorn,  passes 4 degrees 14’ south of the centre of the Sun.

Full Moon:  24th at 12.30. In Leo,  angular diameter 29’ 25”.  Close to apogee, so will appear smaller than average.


Lunar Perigee:  10th at 18.52.   358087 km, in Aquarius, a/d 33’ 21”,  phase 2%

Lunar apogee:  25th at 14.58.   406314 km,  in Leo,  a/d 29’ 23”,  phase 97%


The most commonly used name for the February full Moon is the Snow Moon. It’s the Celtic Ice Moon, the Medieval English Storm Moon, the neo Pagan Quickening Moon, the Inuit Seal Pup Moon and the Chinese Budding Moon.

Many of the names attributed to indigenous American tribes refer to the cold weather, among those which don’t are the Hopi Moon of Purification and Renewal, the Anishinaabe Sucker Moon, the Pueblo Moon of the Cedar Dust Wind, the Tlingit Black Bear Moon, the Shawnee Crow Moon and the Mohawk Lateness Moon.

A couple of names seem to indicate that the weather wasn’t too bad at this time - the Algonquin Ice in the Rivers is Gone Moon and the Zumi No Snow in Trails Moon.

As the last full Moon before the March equinox it is also the lenten Moon.


Highlights


Very little deserving of the name this month. 

Astronomical darkness is reducing but we still have a fair amount,  11 hours at the start of February, a little over 9 by month end, still beginning at a reasonable time - 7.40pm.

Jupiter dominates the evening sky and Uranus is a good target for binoculars or a small scope. The rest of the planets are either very difficult to spot or totally unobservable.

We have no meteor showers but there are a few comets around, one of which may (or may not) reach naked eye brightness as its position deteriorates.

And even the weather is against us. The average for February is cloudy, or mostly cloudy, for 70% of the time. 


Constellations


Orion and Taurus are now above the horizon as the sky darkens but start to set at around 2am at the start of February and soon after midnight by the end of the month. Gemini and Auriga are still prominent, remaining above the horizon until the early hours. Leo, the signature constellation of Spring, is now high in the sky for most of the night and Bootes, with it's bright red star Arcturus is rising soon after 11, and around 9pm at month end. In the early part of the evening the Plough is low in the North East standing on its 'handle', and Cassiopeia high in the North West as darkness falls. By month end, the Summer Triangle will have risen soon after 3am - summer already? Someone better tell the weather. 


Conjunctions


There are several which are not observable, because the planets are either very low or below the horizon.


5th at 23.01:  Mercury is 1 degree 20’ north of Pluto.


5th from 23.06 to 03.02.  Antares, alpha Scorpii, is occulted by the Moon. Visible only from parts of SW Asia and the Middle East.


7th at 18.52: The 4% Moon is 5 degrees 25’ south of Venus. The planet is only 7 degrees at dawn.


8th at 06.31:  The 2% Moon passes 4 degrees 12’ south of Mars.


11th at 00.40:  The 3% Moon is 1 degree 48’ south of Saturn.


12th at 05.07: Lunar occultation of Neptune, visible from Australia.


There are 3 planets which are very close together for a week from mid February, but none are visible.

15th at 06.59:  Mars passes 1 degree 55’ north of Pluto

18th at 03.30:  Venus passes 2 degrees 42’ north of Pluto.

22nd at 15.31:  Venus passes 38’ north of Mars.


And a couple which can be seen - weather permitting.


15th at 08.16:  The 41% Moon is 3 degrees 09’ north of Jupiter. The planet is visible in the evening sky.  On 14th the separation at 18.00 is around 7 degrees, a couple more the following evening.


15th at 22.30:  The 42% Moon is 3 degrees NW of Uranus. The planet will be low in the SW at this time.



Planets


Mercury:  in Sagittarius, mag -0.3

Not visible in February.  On 1st it rises at 07.16 and is on the horizon at dawn.  It gets even lower during the month, on 5th when it goes into Capricorn it is 1 degree below as the sky brightens, on 21st, now in Aquarius, it appears only 6 degrees from the Sun. It is at superior solar conjunction on 28th, when it passes1 degree 37’ to the south.


Venus:  in Sagittarius, mag -4.0

Now very difficult to spot in the dawn sky.  On 1st it rises at 06.19 but only reaches 6 degrees in the SE before the sky brightens. It might be visible for a short time from a site with an unobstructed horizon. By 15th, when it goes into Capricorn, it is only 3 degrees at dawn and at the end of the month it only reaches 1 degree in the morning twilight.


Mars:  in Sagittarius, mag 1.3

Not visible this month.  It is a morning object but fails to clear the horizon before the sky brightens throughout February.


Jupiter:  in Aries, mag -2.4

Still shining brightly in the evening sky but now lost before midnight. On 1st it is 49 degrees in the south when it becomes visible around 17.15, remaining high enough for observing until an hour before it sets at 00.58. By mid month it is visible from dusk until 23.15 and on 29th , now 44 degrees in the SW at dusk, remains observable until 22.30.


Saturn:  in Aquarius, mag 1.0

Not visible.  On 1st it is only 10 degrees in the SW as the sky darkens, setting at 19.02. By mid month it is only 1 degree at dusk. It is at solar conjunction on 28th at 21.15, when it passes one degree 37’ south of the Sun.  On this day the separation from Mercury is only 11’ - neither visible, of course.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.7

The only other major planet observable this month, it still appears close to Jupiter - separation on 1st is almost 12 degrees down to a little under 8 and a half by the end of February.  On 1st it is 53 degrees in the south as the sky darkens, culminating at 18.28, about 10 minutes later, and difficult to observe after 23.36 when it is down to 21 degrees in the west. On 3rd it is at its highest point when it becomes visible at 18.20 and by mid month is below observable altitude by 22.48. On 29th it is 43 degrees in the SW at dusk, down to 21 by 21.45 and sets at 00.23. As always it should be visible in binoculars but only as a faint ‘star’. A small scope should show the small blue/green disc.


Neptune:  in Pisces, mag 7.9

Another one which is too low for observing in February.  On 1st it is just below observable altitude as the sky darkens.  By mid month it is 12 degrees at dusk and on 29th appears only 6 degrees from the Sun.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres:  in Sagittarius, mag 9.0

The only one which is accessible to the average amateur is not observable this month. It rises around 2 and a half hours before the Sun but is still too low as the sky brightens.


Pluto:  in Capricorn, Mag 15.1

Close to Mars and Venus mid month but none are observable. Because it is so distant it moves very slowly against the background stars and it will be a little over 45 years before it is high enough to be observable from the UK.


Haumea:  in Bootes, mag 17.4, and Makemake: in Coma Berenices, mag 17.1 are both morning objects, targets for very experienced astrophotographers.

Haumea culminates, 50 degrees in the south, at 06.03 on 1st and 04.13 on 29th.  Makemake gets a few degrees higher, about 75 minutes earlier.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.7

Out of reach of almost all amateurs. It is observable for a short time, after dusk, for most of February - until 20.30 on 1st, too low from 19.30 mid month, lost altogether from 23rd.


Asteroids


There are 4, all around mag 10, reaching opposition in Leo, this month.


10th:  192 Nausikaa, mag 10.6.  Reaches 55 degrees in the south at 00.24

17th:  372 Palma, mag 10.7.     48 degrees in the south at 00.19

17th:   63 Ansonia, mag 10.2.   50 degrees in the south at 00.23

27th:  249 Dembowska, mag 10.5,  54 degrees in the south at 00.36



Comets


62P/Tsuchinshan, in Virgo, predicted mag 9.6,   latest observed 9.0.

On 1st it reaches observable altitude in the east at around 23.39 and culminates, 47 degrees in the south, at 03.35. It is down to 37 degrees in the SW by dawn. It fades as it moves eastwards through Virgo, then veers westwards mid month.  On 15th it culminates at 03.06 and is 34 degrees when it is lost in the brightening sky. By 29th, estimated mag now 11.5, it is observable from 21.30, is highest at 02.06 and is down to 30 degrees by dawn.


12P/Pons-Brooks, in Cygnus, predicted mag 6.7, observed mag ( Jan 30th) 8.7

Circumpolar throughout February, visible in the morning and evening sky during the first half of the month. On 1st it is 34 degrees in the west at dusk, too low from 19.50, then reappears for about 40 minutes in the NE before dawn. It crosses into Lacerta on 3rd and by mid month is visible from dusk, when it is 31 degrees in the west, until 20.00, then in the north west for a few minutes before the sky brightens around 6am. The morning observation period continues to get shorter and from 19th it is only high enough for observing in the evening sky - for 75 minutes from dusk on this day. It is in Andromeda from 22nd and on 29th it is 28 degrees in the NW at dusk, remaining high enough for observing until 20.15.  Estimated mag is given as 4.8 but, because the latest observed at the start of the month is 2 magnitudes fainter than the predicted, it will probably still be well below naked eye visibility.


 144P/Kushida:  in Taurus, predicted magnitude varies considerably from 9.1 to 13.5, latest observed 10.0

An evening object.  On 1st it is 49 degrees in the SE at dusk, reaches 52 degrees at 19.29 and sinks too low for observing by 00.30. It is moving eastwards through Taurus and is very close to Aldebaran, the reddish hued eye of the bull, on 9th and 10th. By mid month it culminates at 19.14 and is too low for observing after 00.15. Its path now takes it close to the border with Orion. By 29th it becomes visible a few minutes after culminating and sinks to 21 degrees in the west soon after midnight.  It is predicted to have faded by about half a magnitude during the month.


C/2021 S3 PanSTARRS:  in Scorpio, mag 9.8, latest observed 10.3

Reaches perihelion on 14th at a distance of 1.32 AU, but it is too far south to be seen from the UK for most of February. It is moving northwards and might be observable in the pre dawn sky during the last few days of the month, around 05.40 on 26th, when it is in Ophiuchus. On 29th, now in Serpens Cauda, it is high enough for almost half an hour in the morning, reaching 24 degrees in the SE as the sky begins to brighten. Estimated mag given as 9.4.


Meteor Showers


February is a very poor month, the only shower is not very prolific and can only be seen from the southern hemisphere.


Alpha Centaurids:  active Jan 31 st to Feb 20th, peak 9th, 58 kps, ZHR 6


There is a daytime shower, the Capricornids/Sagittarids active Jan 31st to Feb 4th, rates given as medium.


The ANT radiant moves across S Leo during the month, ZHR 2 - 3.


Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from:

https://in-the-sky.org

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.


The night sky in January 2024


by Anne Holt


Sun & Moon


Sunrise,        1st:    08.24       31st:    07.56

Sunset,         1st:   15.59        31st:    16.48


Day Length.    1st:   7.34.50      31st:   8.52.10


Astronomical Darkness.  1st:   18.10 to 06.14       31st:   18.50 to 05.53


Earth is at perihelion on 3rd at 00.38 when the distance is 0.938 AU.  On this day the angular diameter of the Sun is 32’ 31”, not much bigger than the aphelion size of 31’ 27”.



New Moon:   11th at 11.58.  Passes 4 degrees 59’ south of the centre of the Sun.

Full Moon:    25th at 17.53.  In Cancer, angular diameter 29’ 47”


Lunar Apogee:    1st at 15.28,  404918 km,  in Leo,  ad 29’ 29”,  phase 68%

Lunar perigee:  13th at 10.35,  362263 km,  in Capricorn,  ad 32’ 58”,  phase 8%

Lunar Apogee:  29th at 08.14,  405780 km,  in Leo,  ad 29’ 25”,  phase 85%


The most common name for the January full Moon is the Wolf Moon, as they howl at this time.  It was said that it was because of hunger but it is now thought that they are marking their territory and locating other pack members so they can hunt together.

It is the Celtic Quiet Moon or Stay Home Moon, the Neo Pagan Ice Moon, the Anglo Saxon Moon after Yule, the Colonial American Snow Moon, the Chinese Holiday Moon and the Inuit Dwarf Seal Moon.

Most of the numerous Indigenous American names refer to the cold weather.  Some exceptions are the Hopi Joyful Moon or Moon of Life at its Best, the Janic Dark Moon, the Abenaki Greetings Maker Moon, the Taos Man Moon and the Anishinaabe Great Spirit Moon.


Highlights


We still have lots of astronomical darkness, a little over 12 hours on the first, an hour less by the end of the month.

Venus is still extremely bright in the morning sky but no longer visible in astro darkness.  By month end it will be very low when the sky brightens.  Jupiter dominates the evening sky, but Saturn is now low, by the end of the month it won’t be visible.  The two ice giants are also evening objects, observable from dusk, and there is the chance to see an asteroid through binoculars.

We have a comet, currently around mag 8.8, which is predicted to reach 1.3 in April - when it won’t be visible, and another which may or may not be observable in a small scope depending on which source of information proves to be correct.

The one major meteor shower has its peak in daylight and the Moon will interfere when the radiant is high in the early hours. 


Constellations


There isn't much change in the prominent constellations since December, just that everything rises, or sets, a couple of hours earlier. Orion is now well above the horizon by 8pm at the start of the month, with Sirius rising at this time. By month end, Sirius will rise at about 6pm. Auriga, Gemini and Cassiopeia are all high in the sky. The Summer Triangle is now setting earlier as the Winter Hexagon rises. Taurus and the Pleiades are still very prominent and the spring constellation of Leo is above the south eastern horizon by 9pm. 


Conjunctions


8th at 20.12:  The 6% Moon passes 5 degrees south of Venus.  At 7am on 8th the separation is around 8 degrees.


14th at 09.33:  The 15% Moon is 2 degrees 8’ south of Saturn.  Separation at 18.00 on 13th is a little under 10 degrees, on the evening of 14th it is around 6 degrees.


15th at 20.00:  The 30% Moon is 55’ south of Neptune.  There will be an occultation visible from St Helena and parts of the S Atlantic.


18th at 20.43:  The first quarter Moon passes 2 degrees 46’ north of Jupiter


19th at 20.00: The 73% Moon is 3 degrees north of Uranus.  The planet reaches 53 degrees in the south at 19.19.



Planets


Mercury:  in Ophiuchus, mag 0.3

Not easily visible this month.  On 1st it rises over 90 minutes before sunrise but only reaches 4 degrees by dawn.  On 5th, when it is at its highest point in the morning sky, and on 12th, when it is at greatest eastern elongation, it is 6 degrees at dawn and 10 degrees by sunrise. It is in Sagittarius from 10th, now at mag -0.3, By month end it rises only 40 minutes before the sun and fails to clear the horizon by dawn.


Venus:  in Scorpio, mag -4.1

Now coming to the end of its time as a spectacular morning object, though still unmissably bright. On 1st it rises at 05.13, should be easily visible by 06.30 in astro twilight, and reaches 15 degrees before the sky brightens, half an hour before sunrise. It goes into Ophiuchus on 5th, now 13 degrees in the SE at dawn, and Sagittarius on 20th when it is visible for only around 20 minutes. By 26th it is visible for only a couple of minutes, low in the SW around 07.35 but still very bright at mag -4.0.


Mars:  in Sagittarius, mag 1.4

A morning object, it starts the month separated from the Sun by 12 degrees.  By month end it rises 50 minutes before sunrise but is still on the horizon at dawn.


Jupiter:  in Aries, mag -2.6

A bright evening object, high in the SE as darkness falls. On 1st it reaches 48 degrees in the south at 19.35 and sinks to 7 degrees in the west by 01.50 and sets an hour later. By mid month it culminates at 18.44 and remains high until a few minutes before 1am. On 31st it is at its highest point about half an hour after it becomes visible and is too low a couple of minutes after midnight, now down to mag -2.4.


Saturn: in Aquarius, mag 0.9

Much fainter and lower in the sky than Jupiter, becoming visible about half an hour later. On 1st it is 23 degrees in the south a few minutes before 17.00 and sinks to 10 degrees in the SW by 19.15.  By mid month it is only visible for 75 minutes and on 29th it is down to 12 degrees at dusk, too low after a couple of minutes. By 31st it is 10 degrees as the sky darkens, so not easy to see.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.9

High in the sky in the early part of the night, located above the head of Cetus the whale, about mid way between Jupiter and the Pleiades.  On 1st it is 40 degrees in the SE as darkness falls around 17.30, reaches 53 degrees in the south at 20.31 and remains high enough for observing until 01.40.  By mid month it culminates at 19.35 and is down to 21 degrees in the west at 00.45. From 26th it sinks below observable altitude before midnight and the following day it resumes prograde motion. On 31st it is observable 18.15 to 23.40, highest at 18.32. Now that Jupiter is no longer retrograde, the separation between the 2 planets is decreasing slightly - around 14 degrees on 1st, a couple less by month end. 

As always, Uranus is only visible to the naked eye under exceptional circumstances but should be a reasonable binocular target in a dark sky - if you know exactly where to look. A smallish scope should show the small blue green disc.


Neptune:  in Pisces, mag 7.5

An early evening object situated below the circlet asterism in Pisces. Might be visible in larger binoculars but better seen in a medium sized scope.  On 1st it is 33 degrees in the south as the sky darkens, high enough for observing for a little over two and a half hours. By mid month this is down to 85 minutes. By the end of the month it is too low in the west as darkness falls.


Dwarf Planets 


Ceres:  in Ophiuchus, mag 8.3.

Not visible this month.


Pluto:  in Capricorn, mag 15.1

Reaches Solar conjunction on 20th, when it passes 2 degrees 47’ south of the Sun.


The rest are very faint, suitable targets for only the most experienced astrophotographers.


Haumea:  in Bootes, mag 17.4, and Makemake, in Coma Berenices, mag 17.1, are both morning objects with Makemake becoming observable a couple of hours earlier and getting higher by dawn. It reaches its highest point in darkness throughout January, Haumea does so in the last 10 days.


Eris: in Cetus, mag 18.7

An evening object, observable from dusk. On 1st it reaches 52 degrees in the south at 19.10 and at 18.15 mid month. In the last 10 days of January it culminates before becoming observable. On 31st it is observable from 18.15 to 20.30.


Asteroid 4 Vesta: in Taurus, mag 6.7.

Still relatively bright and well placed  following December’s opposition.

On 1st it culminates, 57 degrees in the south, at 23.07.  By 15th it is highest at 21.59, and by month end at 20.49, now down to mag 7.4.


354 Eleonora is at opposition on 20th.  In Canis Minor, mag 9.5 it culminates at 00.03, when it reaches 45 degrees in the south.


Comets

 

62P/Tsuchinshan:  in Leo, mag 8.3

Moving eastwards below the haunch of the lion during the first week. On 1st it is observable from around 00.10 until dawn, reaching 50 degrees at 04.57. It crosses into Virgo on 12th and on 15th becomes observable at midnight and culminates at 04.36.  By month end, now down to mag 9.3, it reaches observable altitude at 23.27, is at its highest at 03.58  and is down to 38 degrees in the west by dawn. 


12P/Pons-Brooks: in Cygnus, mag 8.3

Circumpolar, visible in the evening and morning sky, sinking too low between around 20.00 and 06.00.  It is moving eastwards and brightening during the month. By 31st it should be around mag 6.5.  It is predicted to reach mag 1.3 by April 21st, when it won’t be visible. However, it might be seen for about half an hour in the evening sky in late March, when it could be up to mag 2.2.


144P/Kushida, in Aries, estimates of magnitude vary considerably from 8.9 to 15.6, latest observed (late December) is 13.8. 

It may be observable in the evening sky, 2 degrees south of Uranus at the start of January.  It moves towards the Hyades during the month, an evening object, maybe observable from dusk until the early hours, reaching 50 degrees in the south at 20.25 on 1st.  It goes into Taurus on 14th, when it culminates at 19.56.  It is at perihelion on 24th at a distance of 1.44AU and on 31st is high enough for observing from dusk until 00.30, highest at 19.30.


Meteor Showers


One major shower and one which is somewhere between minor and non existent.


Quadrantids:  active Dec 28th to Jan 12th, peak 4th,  41 kps,  ZHR variable 60 - 200.

THe radiant, in Bootes, is circumpolar, highest after dawn.  Peak activity is predicted for 10.00 on 4th so the best time to look is before dawn on that day.  However, the first quarter Moon rises at 00.22 so there will be some interference. The shower does often include bright meteors, maybe even fireballs, which will still be visible. The Moon sets at 11.42 on 4th so the evening is unaffected but the radiant is very low.  The shower is named after the former constellation Quadrans Muralis (the wall quadrant) which was located at the end of the Plough’s handle.  It was omitted when the IAU decided on the official 88 constellations in 1922.The parent body is asteroid 2003 EH1, thought to be the remnant of a defunct comet.


Gamma Ursae Minorids: active (maybe) 15th to 25th, peak 19th, ZHR 3.

The radiant is circumpolar, highest after dawn. Peak activity given as 22.00 on 19th.  The gibbous Moon sets at 03.45 on the morning of 20th.


There may be some activity from the Antihelion Source (ANT).  These are meteors, not attributed to a specific stream, which have their radiant on the ecliptic, opposite the position of the Sun. It starts January in SE Gemini then moves across Cancer during the month.  ZHR 2 - 3.                          

 

Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from:

https://in-the-sky.org

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.


The night sky in December 2023


by Anne Holt


Sun and Moon


Sunrise   1st:     08.01        31st:      08.25

Sunset    1st:     16.54        31st:     15.58


Day Length     1st:  7.52.49      31st:  7.33.40


Shortest Day   22nd:  7.28.26


Earliest sunset     13th:   15.49

Latest sunrise      30th:   08.25


The solstice is on 22nd at 03.24 when the Sun reaches its lowest point in the sky and is overhead at local noon along the Tropic of Capricorn.  It is the first day of astronomical Winter.


AstronomIcal darkness   1st:  18.02 to 05.54       31st:  18.09 to 06.14

Maximum:  12hrs 9 minutes on 18th to 25th.  



New Moon:   12th at 23.33,  in Ophiuchus, passes 4 degrees 18’ south of the Sun

Full Moon:    27th at 00.33,  in Auriga, angular diameter 30’ 29”


Lunar Apogee:      4th at 18.42,    404347 km, in Leo, a/d 29’ 32”,  phase 49%

Lunar perigee:     16th at 18.52,   367899 km,  in Capricorn,  a/d 32’ 27”,  phase 22%



The most commonly used name for the December Full Moon is the Cold Moon, it’s the Celtic Cold or Singing Moon, the Medieval English Oak Moon, the neo Pagan Long Nights Moon, the Chinese Bitter Moon and the Inuit Dark Night Moon. The Colonial American name is given as the Christmas Moon.

Many indigenous American names refer to the cold, among those which don’t do so directly are the Anishinaabe Small Spirits Moon, the Hopi Respect Moon, the Assiniboine Center Moon’s Younger Brother, and the Shawnee Eccentric Moon. For the Dakota Sioux it is the Twelfth Moon - no idea what they call it in a year with 13 Full Moons.


Highlights


We have the longest night or, as non astronomers insist on calling it, the shortest day. There are around 12 hours of astronomical darkness starting soon after 6pm throughout December.

Venus and Jupiter are still unmissably bright in the morning and evening sky respectively and Saturn is now an early evening object. The two faint ice giants are also on view, with optical aid.

The brightest asteroid is also a good target as it reaches opposition  (no, not Ceres, which is now a dwarf planet).

The one major meteor shower peaks close to New Moon and there are several minor showers - including one where you might actually see something in the pre dawn sky.

And, of course, the year finishes with our annual Christmas Party - tickets for the raffle will be on sale soon.


Constellations


Orion, with the stars of his belt pointing down to the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, is now well above the horizon by midnight, and is a beautiful sight especially from a dark sky site. By month end these will be visible from 10pm - weather permitting. Taurus and the Pleiades precede him across the sky.

Gemini, including the 'twins' Castor and Pollux, and Auriga with the bright Capella are also very prominent. Aries and Pisces, while not particularly bright - or often not even visible in our light polluted skies - are both quite high this month.

Perseus, Andromeda and the Great Square of Pegasus are also well placed for most of the night. The Plough starts the night quite low in the Northern sky, with Cassiopeia high overhead. Because of the long winter nights, these last two will have changed places before dawn as they rotate around the celestial north pole.

Conjunctions


3rd at 16.54:  The 8% Moon is 3 degrees 38’ south of Venus.  The planet is visible from 04.45 to 07.32 when the separation is not much greater.


17th at 22.41:  The 34% Moon passes 2 degrees 28’ north of Saturn. The planet is visible from a few minutes before 14.00  until 20.02, when the separation is about the same.


!9th:  The first quarter Moon is 2 degrees 30’ from Neptune, visible in the same field of view of binoculars, with the planet to the right and slightly higher.  Neptune is observable from 17.25 to 20.58 culminating, 33 degrees in the south, at 17.58.


22nd at 14.24:  The 83% Moon passes 2 degrees 36’ north of Jupiter. The planet is visible from 16.19 to 02.30 culminating at 20.18, when the separation is about 4 degrees.


23rd at 15.00:  The 87% Moon is 3 degrees north of Uranus, separation a degree more when the planet reaches 58 degrees at 21.07.


Planets


Mercury:  in Sagittarius, mag -0.5

Not visible this month.  It starts December as an evening object, too low to be seen, even on 4th, when it is at greatest eastern elongation, 23 degrees from the Sun. Because of the very low angle of the ecliptic to the horizon at this time it is only 4 degrees at dusk. Its highest point in the evening sky on 12th isn’t much better. Separation from the Sun decreases over the next 10 days until it is at inferior solar conjunction on 22nd, when it passes 2 degrees 8 minutes to the north, now down to mag 5.6 as very little of the illuminated side is visible from Earth. It then becomes a morning object, It crosses into Ophiuchus on 25th and by 31st, now at mag 0.5,  rises one and a half hours before the Sun but only reaches 3 degrees in the east as the sky brightens.


Venus:  in Virgo, mag -4.2

Still shining brilliantly in the morning sky but for a decreasing length of time as the month goes on. On 1st it rises at 03.44 and should be visible an hour later, about 80 minutes before the onset of astro twilight, and reaching 25 degrees in the SE by dawn.  It moves into Libra on 11th, when it can be seen in astro darkness for 45 minutes and reaches 22 degrees by dawn. On 25th it becomes visible around 06.15, as astro darkness ends.  At the end of the month it is in Scorpio, visible from around 6.30 and is only 15 degrees when the sky brightens less than half an hour before sunrise.


Mars:  in Scorpio, Mag 1.4

Not visible this month as it still appears too close to the Sun - only 3 degrees on 1st. It is in Ophiuchus from 5th and Sagittarius on 31st when it rises 50 minutes before the Sun, separated by 12 degrees.


Jupiter:  in Aries, mag -2.8

Still very bright and well positioned, high in the sky for much of the night.  On 1st it is 14 degrees in the east as the sky darkens soon after 16.00,  reaches 49 degrees by 21.46 and is too low after 04.00. By mid month it is a little higher at dusk, culminates at 20.47 and remains high enough for observing until 03.00.  On 31st, when it ends retrograde motion, it is 33 degrees in the SE at dusk, highest at 19.42 and remaining visible until 02.00


Saturn:  in Aquarius, mag 0.9

An evening object, On 1st it is quite low in the east as the sky darkens a little before 17.00, reaches its highest point, 23 degrees in the south, at 17.41 and sinks below observable altitude by 21.00. Mid month it is 24 degrees at dusk, only a few minutes before it culminates and remains visible until around 20.00. By 31st it is 23 degrees in the south as the sky darkens and is high enough for observing until 19.15.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.6

Still well placed for most of the night, visible in binoculars to those who know where to look. It is moving in a retrograde direction almost midway between Jupiter and the Pleiades. On 1st it reaches observable altitude a few minutes before 17.30, is 53 degrees in the south at 22.37 and is down to 21 degrees in the west by 03.45.  By mid month it is a little higher as the sky darkens, culminates at 21.40 and remains high until 02.50.  On 31st it is 39 degrees in the SE at dusk, highest at 20.35 and is down to 21 degrees in the west by 01.45.

In theory it’s a naked eye object but in practice decent binoculars are needed. It should stand out from nearby stars of a similar brightness because of its blue green colour.


Neptune:  in Aquarius, mag 7.9

An early evening object, situated below Pisces’ circlet asterism. It may be visible in good binoculars under ideal conditions but it is much better viewed through a scope, a reasonable sized amateur one should show it as a small blue disc. On 1st it is 29 degrees in the SE when the sky darkens, reaches 33 degrees in the south at 19.09 and is down to 21 degrees in the east a few minutes after 22.00. It resumes prograde motion on 9th and moves into Pisces on 11th.  By mid month it is observable from around 17.30, culminates 50 minutes later and is too low after 21.15. From 26th it has reached its highest point before the sky darkens, on 31st it is 33 degrees in the south at dusk, remaining observable until 20.15.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres:  in Scorpio, mag 8.6

Not observable this month as it appears too close to the Sun. The separation increases during the month but on 31st it is still only 15 degrees in the east by dawn.


Pluto:  in Sagittarius, mag 15.3

Still much too low to be visible from our latitude.  It won’t reach observable altitude for almost 50 years.


Haumea:  in Bootes, mag 17.4

A morning object, its position improving during the month. On 1st it is observable for about an hour before the sky brightens, up to 3 and a half hours at month end, when it reaches 47 degrees before it is lost in the dawn sky.


Makemake:  in Coma Berenices, Mag 17.2

A little higher, and visible for a couple of hours longer, than Haumea.  By the end of December it is visible from 01.30 and reaches 54 degrees in the south by dawn.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.3

Very faint, out of reach of most amateurs. It is an evening object, observable from dusk throughout December.  On 1st it culminates at 21.09, when it reaches 35 degrees in the south, remaining above observable altitude until 00.30. After the first week it is lost by midnight. On 31st it is highest at 19.14, too low after 20.30.


Asteroids at opposition


4 Vesta:  in Orion, Mag 7.0

On 1st it is observable from 20.30, reaches 56 degrees in the south at 01.46 and is down to 27 degrees in the west by dawn. It is at opposition on 21st, now up to mag 6.4 - slightly brighter than Ceres at its best. It is observable from 18.45 to 05.30, culminating at 00.06. By 31st it is down to mag 6.7, highest at 23.12. At its best it should be visible in binoculars as it moves westwards through the northern part of Orion, between Gemini and Taurus.


Three fainter ones are also at opposition this month.


18th.  37 Fides:  in Auriga, mag 9.8

Observable 18.00 to 06.08, reaching 65 degrees in the south at 00.02.


22nd.  9 Metis:  in Taurus, mag 8.4

Observable 18.09 to 06.04, reaching 63 degrees at 00.07


28th. 5 Astrea:  in Aries, mag 9.4

Observable 19.08 to 05.06, reaching 52 degrees at 00.08.


Comets


103P/Hartley:  in Hydra.  Latest observed mag 10.0

Still not a lot of information about this as the magnitude, which affects the visibility, is said to be variable. It should still be observable during the early hours, culminating at 04.31 on 1st and 02.16 on 31st. It is moving southwards during the first half of December then veers south westwards for the rest of the month.


63P/Tsuchinshan: in Leo, estimated mag 11.1, latest observed 9.0

Moving eastwards through Leo crossing the head of the lion during the first week, then across the body and ending the month below the haunch.  On 1st it should be observable from a few minutes before midnight, highest point, 55 degrees, at 05.10 and 3 degrees lower by dawn. It is predicted to brighten during the month but probably won’t reach the 7.2 predicted in one magazine for 27th and 28th, when it crosses the Leo Triplet.  On 31st it will be observable when it reaches 21 degrees in the east around 01.10 until it is lost in the morning twilight, now 44 degrees in the SW.  On this day it culminates at 04.58. 


Meteor Showers


One prolific shower this month.


Geminids: active Dec 4th to 20th,  peak 14th (a Thursday!) 35 kps, ZHR number varies between 50 and 150, from Manchester could be as many as 100 but probably closer to the lower estimate. The radiant is circumpolar, highest at 02.00, the shower is said to have a broad peak centred on 19.00 on 14th, so rates should be good when the radiant is high.  It is rich in bright meteors, mainly without trails because the parent body is an asteroid, 3200 Phaeton, which is mainly composed of rock with no volatiles.  

The peak is only 2 days after New Moon so no interference.


There are also a few weak showers and a couple only visible from further south.


Andromedids:  There could be some activity on 2nd, centred on 19.00 when the Earth passes through a dust stream left by the now defunct comet 3D/Biela.  The shower used to be known as the Cassiopeids but has been re-named because of radiant drift.

They are slow moving, some sources say there could be high rates but no figures given. The 78% Moon rises at 20.32 so it might be worth having a look in the early evening. 


Monocerotids:  active Dec 5th (but could be late November) to 20th, peak 9th, 41 kps, ZHR 2 (from Manchester 1 - maybe!)

The radiant rises at 18.51, highest at 02.00.  Peak activity predicted for 17.00 on 9th while the radiant is still below the horizon. 


Sigma Hydrids:  active Dec 3rd to 20th, peak 9th (or maybe 12th), 58 kps, ZHR 7. The radiant rises at 21.00, highest at 03.00 so best seen around that time. This shower sometimes includes a few very bright meteors.

New Moon is on 12th, so no interference whichever day proves to be correct.


Coma Berenicids:  active Dec 5th to Feb 4th, peak Dec 16th, 64 kps,  ZHR 3 (Manchester 2 at best). The radiant rises at 22.21, highest after dawn. Peak activity predicted for 14.00 on 16th, so best seen before dawn and after dusk on that day. 


Ursids: active 17th to 26th, peak 23rd, 33 kps, ZHR 10 (Manchester up to 9). The radiant is circumpolar, highest at 09.00, peak activity predicted for 04.00 on 23rd, the 27% Moon sets at 04.32 so best seen between then and dawn.

There could also be some activity from a filament of the dust stream on 22nd, predicted ZHR 23, unfortunately around 14.30 in daylight.

Parent comet 8P/Tuttle.


Visible only from the Southern Hemisphere:


Phoenicids: active Nov 28th to Dec 5th, peak 2nd, 18 kps, ZHR variable.


Puppid Velids:  active Dec 1st to 15th, peak 7th, 40 kps, ZHR 10.


Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from:

https://in-the-sky.org

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.


The night sky in November 2023


by Anne Holt


Sunrise.   1st:   07.07           30th:    07.59

Sunset.    1st:   16.36           30th:   15.54


Day length.  1st:   9.29.36        30th:   7.55.07


Astronomical darkness.  1st:   18.35 to 05.10       30th:   18.02 to 05.53


New Moon:    13th at 09.28,  in Libra, passes 2 degrees 17’ south of the Sun

Full Moon:     27th at 09.16,  in Taurus,  angular diameter  31’ 23”


Lunar apogee:    6th at 21.48,  in Leo, a/d 29’ 31”, phase 31%

Lunar perigee:    21st at 21.01,  in Aquarius, a/d 32’ 17”, phase 71%


The most commonly used name for the November Full Moon is the Beaver Moon because this is when these animals build their dams.  It could also refer to native Americans setting traps at this time. 

It is the Celtic Dark Moon or Oak Moon, the Medieval English Snow Moon (did it snow earlier in medieval times?), and the neo Pagan Tree Moon. For Inuit people it was the Moon when white mist fills the igloo and for the Chinese, the White Moon. As the last full Moon before the winter solstice it is also the Celtic Mourning Moon and the Old English Moon before Yule. 

As always there are many names attributed to indigenous American people, though it is thought that many of these are relatively modern. Among them are the Hopi Fledgling Raptor Moon, the Arapaho Freezing River Moon, the Wishram Snowy Morning Mountains Moon and the Dakota Sioux Moon when horns are broken off.


Highlights

Venus is still very bright in the morning sky, visible in astro darkness throughout November.  It is occulted by the crescent Moon, in daylight, on the morning of 9th. Jupiter and Uranus both reach opposition, the brilliant Jupiter on the 3rd, the much fainter Uranus mid month, and Saturn is still around, now an evening object, lost by 9pm at the end of November.

We have a few, not very prolific, meteor showers but both Taurid streams are active for most of the month, making it the best time for seeing a few fireballs.

A couple of comets may (or may not) be bright enough to be seen through a small scope, maybe even binoculars, and we have plenty of astronomical darkness -  ten and a half hours at the start of the month, almost 12 hours by the end - and, now we’re back to GMT, beginning soon after 6pm.


Conjunctions

 

9th at 09.30.  The 11% Moon passes 1 degree north of Venus.  An occultation will be visible, in daylight, from the UK.  At 09.41 the planet will vanish behind the illuminated side of the Moon, reappearing from the unlit side at 10.43 (Manchester timings). If using a scope or binoculars to observe this, take great care.  It is recommended that you stand in shadow to avoid accidentally catching sight of the Sun.  


20th at 14.06.  The 57% Moon passes 2 degrees 43’ south of Saturn. Separation at 17.00, soon after the planet becomes visible, is not much greater.


22nd at 08.00.  Neptune is 1 degree 30’ north of the Moon. When the planet culminates at 19.45 on the 21st the separation is around 5 degrees.


25th at 11.14.  The almost full Moon passes 2 degrees 46’ north of Jupiter. Separation at 22.15 on 24th is 4 degrees, one degree closer as the planet sinks low in the west around 04.30.


26th at 09.00.  Uranus is 3 degrees north of the Moon.  When the planet culminates at 23.02, the separation is about one degree more.


Planets


Mercury:  in Libra, mag -0.8

Not visible this month. On 1st it appears only 7 degrees from the Sun.  It is at aphelion on 6th at a distance of 0.47 AU,  Because its orbit is highly elliptical this is significantly further than the perihelion distance of 0.31 AU. It moves into Scorpio on 10th, Ophiuchus on 15th and Sagittarius on 28th.  By 30th, now at mag -0.5, it is on the horizon at dusk, setting 70 minutes after the Sun.


Venus:  in Leo, mag -4.3

Unmissably bright in the morning sky, becoming visible about 90 minutes before the end of astro darkness throughout November. On 1st it rises at 02.33 and should be easily visible an hour later, reaching 30 degrees in the SE by dawn. It crosses into Virgo the following day and by mid month, now at mag -4.2, can be seen from around 4am. It is at perihelion on 28th at a distance of 0.72 AU. Because its orbit is almost circular there is very little difference, about 0.01AU, between this and the aphelion distance. By 30th it is visible from 04.40, now a few degrees lower at dawn.


Mars:  in Libra, mag 1.4

Not visible this month, on 1st it appears only 5 degrees from the Sun.  It is at solar conjunction on 18th, when it passes 6’ to the south and is at its furthest from Earth at a distance of 2.53AU. It then becomes a morning object, in Scorpio from 25th, but still only 3 degrees from the Sun on 30th.


Jupiter:  in Aries, mag -2.9

Now at its brightest and best, high in the sky for most of the night. On 1st it is at observable altitude from 17.43 to 06.22 reaching its highest point, 50 degrees, a few minutes after midnight. It is at opposition on 3rd, when it culminates at 23.50. On this day Europa and its shadow transit the planet soon after 1am.  In a small scope the shadows are much easier to see than the actual moons as the contrast with the planet’s surface is much greater. As always there are many transit events during the month, exact timings are available on many websites. By the end of November the planet is a little higher as the sky fades, culminates at 21.50 and sinks below 7 degrees soon after 4am.


Saturn:  in Aquarius, mag 0.7

An evening object.  On 1st it is low in the SE as the sky darkens, culminating at 19.37 when it is 23 degrees in the south. It remains visible until a few minutes before 23.00. It ends retrograde motion on 3rd and, from 9th, sets before midnight.  By mid month it is observable from dusk until 22.00, highest point at 18.42.  On 30th it culminates at 17.45, only an hour after it becomes visible in the darkening sky, and sinks too low for observing by 21.00.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.6

Now at its best for the year, still fairly close to Jupiter, separation on 3rd is around 11 degrees, 13.25 degrees by month end.  On 1st it is high enough for observing from 19.20,  reaches 54 degrees in the south at 00.44 and is down to 23 degrees in the west by dawn. From 12th it culminates before midnight and the following day is at opposition, observable from 18.39 to 05.00, highest point at 23.51. On 30th it is at observable altitude from 17.31 to 03.51 and culminates at 22.41.  If you have exceptional eyesight and are in a very dark sky area, this is the best time to try to see it without optical aid, almost midway between Jupiter and the Pleiades. For the vast majority of us binoculars or even a small scope will be needed.


Neptune:  in Pisces, mag 7.8

Should be visible in a small scope, maybe good binoculars given the aforementioned good eyesight and dark sky site. On 1st it is high enough for observing between 18.08 and 00.08, reaching 33 degrees in the south at 21.08.  From 3rd it sinks below 21 degrees before midnight and by mid month it culminates at 20.12, remaining observable for a further 3 hours. It crosses into Aquarius on 27th and on 30th is 28 degrees in the east as the sky darkens, highest at 19.25, sinking below 21 degrees by 22.24.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres:  in Libra, mag 8.7

Not observable this month. It is at solar conjunction on 21st, when it passes 2 degrees 59’ north of the Sun.


Pluto: in Sagittarius, mag 15.2

Too faint and too low in the early evening sky to be observable.


Haumea: in Bootes, mag 17.3, Makemake:  in Coma Berenices, mag 17.2.

Both are targets for only very experienced astrophotographers, Haumea for a short time before dawn towards the end of the month, Makemake in the morning sky throughout November.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.6

Well placed but well out of reach of the average amateur. High in the sky for most of the night, culminating at 35 degrees soon after 23.00 on 1st and at 21.17 on 30th.


Asteroids at opposition


1st:  21 Lutetia:  in Aries, mag 9.9. 

Observable 19.30 to 04.35, reaches 47 degrees in the south at 00.02.


5th:  18 Melpomene:  in Eridanus, mag 8.0

Observable 21.35 to 03.07, reaches 32 degrees at 00.16.


16th: 144 Vibilia:  in Taurus, mag 10.3.

Observable 18.58 to 04.45, reaches 51 degrees at 23.51.


Comets


C/2023 H2 (Lemmon):  in Bootes, mag 7.5

Circumpolar for the first week of the month.  On 1st it is observable from dusk, when it is 35 degrees in the NW, until dawn when it is at its highest, 36 degrees in the NE.  It is moving rapidly S eastwards, on 5th it is too low for observing for a large part of the night, 21.00 until 04.53 on that day, reappearing for a little under an hour before dawn.  On 6th it goes into Hercules and is too low from 21.06, then becomes visible again for less than 10 minutes in the dawn sky. From then it is too low to be seen in the morning, on 7th it is observable from dusk until 21.09. It is no longer circumpolar from 9th, when it can be seen from dusk until 21.00, now (possibly) at mag 6.5. It goes into Aquila on 12th and the following morning crosses the celestial equator on its journey south. On this day it is 35 degrees in the SW at dusk, too low by 20.00. It moves into Capricorn on 18th, when it is 25 degrees at dusk, high enough for observing for only an hour, and now starting to fade. The following day. it is below observable altitude when the sky darkens. It spends the last ten days of the month in Piscis Austrinus, below the horizon for UK observers.


103P/Hartley:  in Hydra, latest observed mag 10.5. 

Predicted mag not given for this as it is said to be variable. This means that only rising, culminating and setting times are available as observability altitude depends on brightness. It was thought that it will be at its brightest, maybe around mag 7.7, in early November but this now seems unlikely as it appears to have faded over the last few days. One site now gives probable mag throughout November as around 14.  On 1st it rises at 23.22 and reaches its highest point, 45 degrees, at 05.55, in astro twilight.  It is also moving S eastwards, starts the month about 6 degrees above the celestial equator, crossing it on 9th when it rises at 23.32 and culminates at 05.39.  From 14th it reaches its highest point in astro darkness and on 30th, it rises at 23.2 and  culminates at 04.35.



Meteor Showers


Southern Taurids: active Sept 30th to Nov 20th, peak Nov 5th, 27 kps, ZHR 5 -10 (far fewer from Manchester area).

Most sites give the peak of these as being in mid October but the IMO has now decided that this is a secondary, the main one being in November. The shower is best seen after midnight when the radiant is high.  However the 3rd quarter Moon rises at 22.51 on 5th and will interfere.


Northern Taurids:  active Oct 30th to Dec 10th, peak Nov 12th, 29 kps, ZHR 5.

This shower is said to produce near peak rates for around 10 days in early to mid November, but the peak time is given as midnight on 13th, radiant is highest at 01.00.  There is no moon interference. 


Both the Taurid streams produce bright, slow moving meteors ideal for imaging.  They are also rich in fireballs so, from Oct 20th to Nov 20th, when both are active is the prime time for these. The parent bodies, asteroid 2004 TG10 for the southern stream and comet 2P/Encke for the northern, are thought to be remnants of the same large comet which broke up more than 20,000 years ago.


Leonids:  active Nov 6th to 30th, peak 18th, 71 kps, ZHR 10-15.

The radiant rises at 22.11 and is highest at 06.00, which is also the time predicted for peak activity, so the shower is best seen in the pre dawn hours. These are fast moving meteors, often leaving trails.  Parent comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.  No Moon interference.


Alpha Monocerotids:  active Nov 15th to 25th, peak 22nd, 65 kp, ZHR variable, not much activity predicted for this year.

The radiant rises at 00.58, highest at 04.00, peak time 05.00 on 22nd,  so the best chance of seeing anything is around this time. The first quarter Moon sets at 00.58 on the morning of 22nd.

Parent comet C/1917 F1 (Mellish)


November Orionids:  active November 13th to Dec 6th, peak 28th, 44 kps, ZHR 3 (from Manchester 2 at best).

The radiant rises at 18.09, highest at 02.00, peak activity given as 20.00 on 28th, so best time to look is after midnight.   However the 98% Moon is above the horizon for most of the night.


Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from:

https://in-the-sky.org   

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.

The night sky in October 2023


by Anne Holt


Sunrise       1st:   07.03        31st:   07.06

Sunset        1st:   18.46        31st:   16.38


Day length   1st:  11.36.28    31st:   9.33.29


Astronomical darkness   1st:   20.43 to 05.14        31st:   18.37 to 05.08


We revert to GMT on the morning of 29th.  At 2am we go back to 1am, or maybe 2am lasts for one hour.  Any times after this are given in GMT.


New Moon:   14th at 18.56, passes 20’ north of the Sun.  

Full Moon:    28th at  21.21, in Aries, angular diameter 32’ 18”


Lunar apogee:   10th at 04.41.  405425 km,  in Leo,  a/d 29’ 27”,  phase 14%

Lunar perigee:   26th at 04.01.  359910 km,  in Aquarius, a/d 32’ 43”,  phase 93%


On 14th there is an annular solar eclipse, where the Moon does not appear large enough to completely cover the face of the Sun, leaving a ‘ring of fire’ visible.  It can be seen from a narrow band crossing southern N America, Central America and northern S America. Most of the Americas will see a partial annular eclipse.


On 28th there is a partial lunar eclipse, visible from the UK.  The umbral phase begins at 20.36, when the Moon is quite low in the east.  Maximum, only 6% when seen from Manchester, is at 21.15 and it ends at 21.53.


The most common name for the October full Moon is the Hunters’ Moon, in the northern hemisphere this was the time when animals were hunted and the meat preserved for eating during the winter months.  

It was the Medieval English Wine Moon, the neo Pagan Blood Moon (hunting again?), the Celtic Snow Moon and the Chinese Kindly Moon.  The Inuits call it the Tugluvik Moon, which translates as ‘when ice forms on the sandy shores of the ocean’. 

Among the more interesting Indigenous American names are the Dakota Sioux Moon When Quilting and Beading Are Done, the Mohawk Poverty Moon, the Hopi Month of Long Hair Moon, the Assiniboine Joins Both Sides Moon (?), the Kiowa Ten Colds Moon and the Shawnee Wilted Moon.


Highlights


We have plenty of astro darkness, eight and a half hours on the 1st, a couple of hours more at the end of the month - beginning before 7pm when the clocks have gone back to real time.

Venus and Jupiter are both very bright, Jupiter visible for most of the night but outshone by Venus in the morning sky. Saturn is still quite well placed in the evening but lost before midnight at the end of the month. 

There is a comet which should be observable in the morning sky, mag around 8.5, several meteor showers, a couple with high enough predicted rates that we might actually see something, and a partial lunar eclipse - unfortunately only 6% at maximum.

And our new season starts on 12th, 7 to 9pm in the Bowls pavilion, as always.

Constellations

The Summer Triangle, made up of Vega in Lyra, Deneb in Cygnus and Altair in Aquila, is losing its dominance in the night sky.  It is still visible during the first part of October high in the south west but by the end of the month all three constellations will have set by 4am. It's place in the southern sky is being taken by the Great Square of Pegasus, autumn's signature constellation.

The beautiful Pleiades star cluster (also known as the Seven Sisters) followed by the rest of Taurus, will be visible by 11pm in early October and by 8pm (now back to GMT) at month end.

By the end of October Orion will be easily visible by midnight, with Sirius just above the eastern horizon at this time.

Perseus and Andromeda are still high in the sky for most of the night, making it a good time to look for M31, the Andromeda galaxy.   If you are at a very dark sky site, it should be visible to the naked eye, especially when using averted vision.

Cassiopeia is now high in the sky for most of the night, so the Plough, on the opposite side of the North Celestial Pole, is low in the north.

Conjunctions


2nd at 04.10:  the 86% Moon passes 3 degrees 23’ north of Jupiter.  The planet culminates 51 degrees in the south, at 03.18.


2nd at 17.00:  the Moon passes 3 degrees north of Uranus. The planet is visible from 22.30 when separation is about 3 degrees, double that when it culminates at 04.06.


10th at 10.45:  the 11% Moon passes 6 degrees 29’ north of Venus. At 06.30 the separation is 7 degrees 30’. Alpha Leonis, Regulus, is directly between the two, closer to Venus.


24th at 08.55:  the 79% Moon is 2 degrees 46’ south of Saturn, separation when the planet becomes visible soon after 19.00 is around 5 degrees.


26th at 01.00:  the 93% Moon is 1 degree 30’ south of Neptune.


29th at 08.14: the just past full Moon passes 3 degrees 08’ north of Jupiter.  Separation at 01.30, when the planet is high in the sky is 4 degrees.


30th at 03.00: the Moon is 3 degrees north of Uranus.


Planets


Mercury:  in Leo, mag -1.0

Visible for a very short time, low in the east before dawn in the first few days of October. On 1st it is 9 degrees at 06.45.  It goes into Virgo on 2nd and on 3rd is only 8 degrees as the sky brightens. It continues to get lower and more difficult to see, by 14th separation from the Sun is only 4 degrees. It is at superior solar conjunction on 20th, when it passes 47’ to the north. It then becomes an evening object, still too low to be seen.  On 31st, now in Libra, it appears only 6 degrees from the Sun.


Venus:  in Leo, mag -4.5

A brilliant sight in the morning sky - weather permitting. On 1st it rises 4 hours before the Sun, easily visible by 4am, over an hour before the end of astro darkness. It reaches 31 degrees in the east by dawn.  On 17th it is at its highest point in the morning sky, 33 degrees at dawn, 36 degrees by sunrise, and a week later is at greatest western elongation, 46.4 degrees from the Sun, and visible until around 07.30. By month end it is marginally less bright at mag -4.3, rises at 02.31 and can be seen for 90 minutes in astro darkness then for another 90 before it is lost in the bright sky about 30 minutes before sunrise.


Mars: in Virgo, mag 1.7

Not visible this month, sets before the sky begins to darken.


Jupiter:  in Aries, mag -2.8

Given reasonably clear SW and SE horizons it will be visible at the same time as Venus in the pre dawn sky throughout October.  On 1st Jupiter rises at 19.51, reaches 7 degrees in the east an hour later, and is at its highest point, 51 degrees, at 03.18.  It is still reasonably high at dawn. By mid month it is at observable altitude by 20.00, culminates at 02.18 and is  21 degrees in the west when the sky brightens. On 31st it is high enough for observing from 17.50 to 06.07, a few minutes before dawn, culminating at 00.07. The four Galilean moons should be visible through good binoculars from a dark sky site.


Saturn:  in Aquarius, mag 0.6

An evening object, on 1st it rises at 17.49 and is 11 degrees in the west when the sky darkens about 90 minutes later. It reaches 23 degrees in the south at 22.42 and sinks below 10 degrees in the SW soon after 02.00.  By mid month it is a little higher at dusk, culminating at 21.45 and too low for observing by 01.00. By the end of the month, now on GMT, it sinks to 10 degrees in the SW an hour before midnight. 

The rings are still open enough to be seen through a small scope and Titan should also be visible. 


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.7

Still appearing fairly close to Jupiter though the separation increases during the month,  8.25 degrees on 1st, around 10.65 by 31st. On 1st it rises at 20.01, is observable in the east from 22.37 and culminates, 54 degrees in the south, at 03.50. It is down to 48 degrees in the SW by dawn. By 31st it is observable from soon after 19.30, culminates at 00.48 and is still observable, low in the west, at dawn.

Naked eye object?  I’ve never heard of anyone who has seen it without optical aid.  


Neptune:  in Pisces, mag 7.8

Still observable for a reasonable time following last month’s opposition.  On 1st it is high enough from 21.15 to 03.20, reaching 33 degrees in the south at 00.17.  From 5th it culminates before midnight and by mid month reaches 21 degrees at 21.15, culminates at 23.16 and is too low soon after 02.15.  On 31st it reaches observable altitude soon after 18.00, is at its highest at 21.12 and remains observable until around 00.15.

It is said that it is visible in decent binoculars but that requires excellent eyesight and a very dark sky, as well as knowledge of exactly where to look.  A small scope is a better bet, a slightly larger one should show the small blue disc.


Dwarf Planets


Only the faintest and most distant is positioned well enough for imaging this month.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.8, is at opposition on 18th, 35 degrees in the south at 01.11. Only the very best astrophotographers, using the very best equipment and the ‘spot the difference’ technique, have any chance.


Haumea, on 24th, and Makemake, on 4th, are both at solar conjunction this month,  Because of the high inclination of their orbits to the plane of the solar system, they pass 27 degrees north of the Sun.


Asteroids at opposition


29 Amphitrite, in Pisces, mag 8.8

Reaches opposition on 2nd at 05.46.  On the night of 1st/2nd it is high enough for observing from 21.00 to 04.59, culminating at 01.00 when it is 41 degrees in the south.


Comets


2P/Encke:  in Leo, mag 8.7

Might be observed for a few minutes before sunrise on 1st, low in the east before it is lost in the brightening sky.  For the rest of the month it fails to reach observable altitude before dawn.  It is in Virgo from 12th, and at its brightest, predicted mag 6.3, on 21st but appearing only 13 degrees from the Sun.  The following day it is at perihelion, at a distance of 0.34 AU.  By 31st it appears only 3 degrees from the Sun.


109P/Hartley:  in Auriga, mag around 8.8

In-the-sky doesn’t show predicted magnitude for this one, so can’t give the times when it will be observable. It is a peanut shaped object which rotates on 2 axes at the same time, giving it an odd tumbling motion.  This, along with its irregular composition, results in frequent brightness changes.

On 1st it rises at 21.14 and culminates a few minutes before sunrise.  It goes into Gemini on 3rd, moving south eastwards crossing the main body of the constellation between 5th and 11th.  It is predicted to reach peak brightness on 10th, probably around mag 8.3, and the following day is at perihelion at a distance of 1.06 AU.  It is in Cancer from 20th, when it rises at 23.47 and on 31st rises at 23.18 and culminates at 05.58 in nautical twilight.


Meteor Showers


Several minor, and a couple of not quite so minor, showers this month, and one with the usual peak time, maybe delayed 3 days, downgraded to a secondary peak.


October Camelopardalids: active 5th and 6th, peak 6th, 47 kps,  ZHR 5 (maybe 1 or 2 from Manchester)

The radiant, in Draco, is circumpolar, highest at 11am, peak activity predicted for 12 noon on 6th so the best chance of spotting one is before dawn or after dusk on that day.  The 3rd quarter Moon sets at 16.12 and rises again at 22.26.  Parent body is not known, thought to be either a long period or a Halley type comet.


Draconids:  active 6th to 10th, peak 9th,  20 kps, ZHR 10 (M/c not given)

The radiant is circumpolar, highest at 17.00, peak activity predicted for 08.00 on 9th so best seen after dusk on 8th or pre dawn on 9th.  The 25% Moon rises at 00.52 on 9th.  The shower has produced outbursts in the past, spectacular storms in 1933 and 1946 and enhanced rates in 2011, 2012 and 2018, but this year is predicted to be only average.   The parent comet is 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, hence the shower's alternative name, the Giacobinids. 


Delta Aquarids:  active 10th to 18th, peak 11th, 64 kps, ZHR 2 (M/c 1)

The circumpolar radiant is highest at 05.00, peak activity given as 23.00 on 11th. Parent body not known for sure, possibly comet C/1911 K1 (Kiess)


Epsilon Geminids: active 14th to 27th, peak 18th/19th, 70 kps,  ZHR 3 (2)

The radiant rises at 21.11 highest at 06.00, peak activity 01.00 on 19th, though it is said to be not well defined, there could be a ZHR of 3 for more than 1 day. The 15% Moon sets at 19.13 on 18th.

These meteors are often confused with Orionids.  They are active around the same time, have similar speeds and the radiants are fairly close together.

Again the parent body is not known, prime suspect is comet C/1987 B1 (Nishikawa-Takamizawa-Tago).


Orionids:  active 2nd Oct to 7th Nov,  peak Oct 22nd, 66 kps, ZHR 15 to 20 (from Manchester around 10).

The radiant rises at 21.52, highest at 05.50, peak activity given as 01.00, though the shower often has a few lesser peaks so there could be some activity on a couple of nights before and after.  On the night of 21st/22nd the Moon sets at 22.10. Parent comet is 1P/Halley.


Leonis Minorids:  active 19th to 27th, peak 25th, 62 kps, ZHR 2 (1)

Another one with a circumpolar radiant, this one highest at 10.00, peak activity 01.00 on 25th.  The Moon is only 2 days from full, setting at 02.47.

Parent body is probably comet C/1781 K1 (Zanotti).


And finally …


The Southern Taurids:  active Sept 23rd to Dec 8th, peak - see below, 27 kps, ZHR 5 (3)

The peak date for these has always been given as October 10th, most sites still say that however the IMO has now decided that the main peak is on November 5th, a week before that of the Southern Taurids, with a secondary peak in October, around 13th.

The radiant rises around 19.00, highest soon after 2am so best seen after midnight on 13th (or maybe on 10th).  These are slow moving, usually very bright meteors.  The dust stream includes a higher than average number of large particles so the shower often includes fireballs.  Parent comet is 2P/Encke, thought to be a fragment of a much larger body which broke up more than 20,000 years ago.  

The 10% Moon sets at 03.23 on the night of 10th/11th and it is new on the night of 13th/14th.


Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from:

https://in-the-sky.org   

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.



The night sky in September 2023


by Anne Holt


Sun and Moon


Sunrise.        1st:    06.17         30th:    07.08

Sunset.         1st:    19.59         30th:    18.48


Day length,   1st:  13.41.48      30th:  11.40.39


Astronomical darkness.  1st:    22.12  to  04.06           30th:   20.46  to  05.12


The September (Autumnal in the N Hemisphere) Equinox is on 23rd at 07.50.  This is the moment that the centre of the Sun crosses the celestial equator on its journey southwards in the sky.  Despite the name, which means equal night, this day is not exactly 12 hours, sunrise is at 06.56 sunset at 19.05, the exact day length is 12.10.03. There are 2 contributing factors to this discrepancy, on this day the centre of the Sun is above the horizon for exactly 12 hours, whereas sunrise and sunset times are when the top appears and disappears. A few more minutes are added because refraction of the Sun’s rays, when it is so low, mean that it is visible for a very short time before it rises and after it sets.

The closest day to 12 hours is 25th at 12.01.39.


New Moon:   15th at 02.41, passes 2 degrees 50’ north of the Sun.

Full Moon:    29th at 10.57,  in Pisces, angular diameter 33’ 02”


Lunar apogee:  12th at 16.42, 406288 km, in Leo, a/d 29’ 23”, phase 3%

Lunar perigee:  28th at 01.58, 359910 km, in Aquarius, a/d 33.11,  phase 98%


Is the September full Moon a Supermoon? 

Difficult to give an answer, as there is no standard definition, a Supermoon isn’t a recognised astronomical event, it was originally a term used only by astrologers.

There are several ‘definitions’ which vary considerably and are often quite vague: a full Moon close to perigee - how close?  Within a day or so, or the more precise, within 24 hours. This one is 33 hours after perigee, so doesn’t qualify on that count. Distance?  No consistency here, less than 358854 km, less than 360000 km, within 90% of its closest, or of its average perigee distance - take your pick.

There isn't even any agreement on the actual distance of the September full Moon, I found several different figures, ranging from 359024 km to 367325 km.  The distances at the lower end of this range are probably measured from the surface of the Earth, the higher ones from the centre.

So:  is this full Moon a Supermoon?  Some say yes, some say no. I give up! 


The September full Moon is inarguably the Harvest Moon, being only 5 days after the equinox.

It is also the Corn Moon or Barley Moon.

Other names are the Celtic Singing Moon or Wine Moon (could there be a connection there?), the Chinese Chrysanthemum Moon and the Inuit Harpoon Moon.  

Many of the Indigenous American names also refer to the Harvest, one exception being the Haida Ice Moon. However they are in Alaska where it is, no doubt, much colder. 

Among the non crop related names are the Tunica Little Sister of the Hot Moon, the Comanche Paperman Moon, the Omaha Moon when Deer Paw the Earth and the Tlingit Big Moon. For the Wishram it is Her Acorns Moon (why only hers?) and for the Passamaquoddy the Autumn Moon.


Highlights


We have increasing amounts of astronomical darkness, almost 6 hours on 1st, up to 8 and a half on 30th, when it begins before 9pm. The equinox is in late September, so the nights will soon be longer than the days. 

It’s a good time for planets, especially for those who like to do their observing just before dawn. Towards the end of the month Mercury has its best morning showing of the year, reaching 11 degrees before it is lost in the morning twilight, but is outshone by the brilliant Venus which is observable in astro darkness by late September.  Jupiter is becoming visible earlier, around 9pm in late September, and Saturn is still around for most of the night.

There’s not much in the way of meteor showers but we could possibly have a fireball or two in the second half of the month. 

The big news is the newly discovered comet which is expected to brighten considerably over the next couple of weeks, unfortunately as it moves towards the Sun and gets lower in the morning sky.  Will it be lost to the dawn before it reaches naked eye brightness?

And:  don’t forget our Open Day in the classroom, behind the Stables Cafe, on Sunday 24th.


Constellations


The Milky Way is still prominent overhead, albeit not in these parts! Find a dark sky site though, and it's spectacular.

The Summer Triangle is high in the southern sky for much of the night in early September.  By month end Aquila is setting in the west at about 2am, with Lyra and Cygnus following just before dawn.

However, on the opposite side of the sky, the Pleiades are climbing above the horizon in the east by 10.30pm at the start of September, and as darkness falls at month end. Capella, in Auriga, and the V shaped Hyades cluster at the head of Taurus the Bull are not far behind.

If you stay up until about 4am (or get up very early) you might see Orion making a welcome return to the night sky.  By the end of September, it should be above the horizon by 2am.

The ecliptic is now slightly higher across the Eastern sky, passing through Capricorn, Aquarius and Aries - though none of these are particularly bright or memorable.

Pegasus, Perseus and Andromeda are still well placed, rising in the east to north east from mid evening, as is the bright W asterism of Cassiopeia higher in the north east.


Conjunctions


1st at 09.21:  the just past full Moon passes about one and a half degrees south of Neptune.  On the night of 31st/1st, the planet is observable from 23.15 to 04.45.  Separation when it culminates at 02.15 is around 5 degrees, a couple of degrees closer when it is lost in the dawn sky around 04.30. An occultation will be visible from S Georgia and parts of Antarctica.


4th at 20.47:  the 66% Moon passes 3 degrees 18’ north of Jupiter.  Closest, 3 degrees 04’, at 18.37.  Jupiter is visible from 22.40, separation at that time is around 4 degrees.


5th at 09.00:  the gibbous Moon is 3 degrees north of Uranus.  The planet is visible until 04.50, separation at that time is about one degree more.


27th at 02.29:  the 94% Moon passes 2 degrees 38’ south of Saturn. The planet is visible from dusk until 02.30.  Separation at 23.00, when it is at its highest point, is about 4 degrees.


28th at 17.00:  the 94% Moon passes 1 degree 25’ south of Neptune, which is observable from 21.26 when it reaches 21 degrees in the SE. Separation at this time is around 3 degrees, a degree more when it culminates at 21.26.

An occultation will be visible from the southern tip of New Zealand.


Planets


Mercury:  in Leo, mag 2.9

Not visible at the start of September, on 1st it appears only 12 degrees from the Sun.  It moves closer over the next few days and is at inferior solar conjunction on 6th, when it passes 3 degrees 45’ to the south.  It moves into Sextans on 7th then back into Leo on 13th, still too low to be seen in the morning sky. On 21st, now at mag -0.3, it reaches 10 degrees in the east at 06.13, visible for a few minutes before the sky gets too bright.  The following day it is at greatest western elongation, separated from the Sun by almost 18 degrees and visible for 10 minutes before dawn. On 23rd it reaches its highest point in the morning sky, 11 degrees in the east at dawn, 15 degrees by sunrise. On this day it is also at perihelion, at a distance of 0.31 AU.  On 30th, now at mag -1.0, it should become visible around 6.30, and is 10 degrees at dawn, 15 minutes later. This is its best morning apparition of the year but it is still very low - needs a flat clear horizon as well as a clear sky. 


Venus:  in Cancer, mag -, a little before 6am. 4.4

Shining brightly in the morning sky. On 1st it should be easily visible for around half an hour, reaching 12 degrees in the east by dawn, a little before 6am. It is at its brightest on 18th, when it rises at 03.17, high enough to be seen by 04.15, half an hour before the start of astro twilight, and getting to 26 degrees before daybreak. On 30th it rises at 03.03, is high enough to be very easily seen at 4am, over an hour before astro darkness ends, and climbs to 31 degrees in the SE  before it is lost in the daylight. 

It is said that, when it is at its best, seen in astro darkness, the planet is bright enough to cast a shadow.  However this isn’t easy to see, you would have to be in an area with a totally dark sky and away from any other light source.


Mars:  in Virgo, mag 1.8

Not visible in September.  It sets not long after the Sun and is below the horizon at dusk.


Jupiter:  in Aries, mag -2.6

Second only to Venus in brightness, now visible earlier in the night.  On 1st it rises at 21.55 and is high enough to be seen about an hour later, when it reaches 7 degrees in the east.  It culminates, 51 degrees in the south, at 05.21 and is lost in the brightening sky about an hour later.  It begins apparent retrograde (east to west) motion on 4th, when it is at its highest point at 05.00. On 15th it rises at 20.56, is visible an hour later and culminates at 04.25, a few minutes before the end of astro darkness. By 30th it is visible from a few minutes before 21.00, is highest at 04.25, an hour before astro twilight begins, and is down to 34 degrees in the SW by dawn, almost 2 hours later.


Saturn:  in Aquarius, mag 0.4

Still visible for most of the night, much lower and fainter than Jupiter.  On 1st it reaches10 degrees in the east by 21.22, culminates, 24 degrees in the south, at 00.52 and is down to 10 degrees in the SW by 04.22.  From 13th it is at its highest point before midnight, 23.57 on this day. By 30th, a  little fainter at mag 0.6, it is 11 degrees in the SE as the sky darkens, culminates at 22.46 and is too low for observing shortly after 2am.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.7

On 1st it reaches 21 degrees in the east at 00.37 and is observable until dawn, when it is 52 degrees in the SE. On 11th it is at observable altitude a few minutes before midnight and is a couple of degrees higher by dawn. On the morning of 7th it is only 7.5 degrees to the left of Jupiter and on 12th it culminates at 05.07, as it is lost in the dawn sky.  On 30th it rises at 20.09, is observable from 22.41, highest at 03.54 and is down to 48 degrees in the SW by dawn.

It is, in theory at least, a naked eye object but with so much light pollution binoculars or a small scope are usually necessary.  A larger scope should show it as a very small blue/green disc. 


Neptune:  in Pisces, mag 7.8

Now at its best for the year, but still quite low. On 1st it reaches observable altitude, 21 degrees, at 23.12, it culminates, 33 degrees in the south, at 02.18 and is down to 26 degrees in the SW when the sky begins to brighten around 04.45. From 8th it sinks below 21 degrees before dawn. In mid September it is observable from 22.15 to 04.25, highest point at 01.21. It is at opposition on 20th, when it culminates at 01.01 and, on 20th, reaches 21 degrees in the SE at 21.18, culminates at 00.21 and sinks to 21 degrees in the SW a few minutes before 04.20.

It may be visible in good binoculars as a faint star like object, a reasonable sized scope is needed to see the blue disc.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres: in Virgo,mag 8.9

Not visible, too low as the sky darkens.


Pluto:  in Sagittarius, mag 15.1.

Too faint and too low.


Haumea: in Bootes, mag 17.4

High enough for observing for a few minutes as darkness falls in early September. By mid month it is too low in the evening sky.


Makemake:  in Coma Berenices, mag 17.2

Too low at dusk for observing or imaging.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.7

The cause of Pluto’s demotion, aptly named after the goddess of discord, is very faint, a target for only the very best astrophotographers, using the ‘spot the difference’ technique. High enough from 01.00 until dawn on 1st,  a couple of hours earlier at the end of the month. 


Asteroids at Opposition


12th:  51 Nemansa, in Pisces, mag 10.8.  Culminates 01.04, at 34 degrees.

19th:  97 Klotho, in Cetus, mag 10.5   Culminates 01.14, at 29 degrees

21st: 88 Thisbe, in Pisces, mag 10.3.  Culminates 00.47, 43 degrees

21st: 55 Pandora, in Pisces, mag 10.6.  Culminates 01.08. 33 degrees


Comets


A newly discovered comet is predicted to reach naked eye visibility in September - when it appears too close to the Sun to be observed. Not much else at the moment but there are  a few, currently very faint, which may be bright enough for binocular observation in early 2024.


C/2023 P1 (Nishimura), in Cancer

This was only discovered in mid August - by an astronomer, not a deep sky survey, which is quite unusual now. It will be visible, low in the pre dawn sky, in the first half of September. It is predicted to reach naked eye brightness  - the bad news is that it gets lower as it brightens. 

On 1st it rises at 02.36, can’t find any info about what time it should be high enough to be visible, astro darkness ends at 04.03 so probably best to look around then. Current mag (August 29th) given as 7.2, with a tail about 20’ (arcminutes, not feet!) long.  It crosses Leo’s sickle asterism from 7th to 9th then down to the rump from 11th to 16th, predicted mag on 7th is 4.6.  On 11th it is close to Venus and the crescent Moon, now brighter but very low, rising at 04.26, a few minutes into astro twilight.  It is at perigee on 12th, at a distance of 0.85 AU.   By 14th it could be as bright as mag 2.2, maybe as high as 1.8 on 17th, when it rises at 06.48, 3 minutes after the Sun so isn’t visible.   It is at perihelion on 18th, when it will be at 0.22 AU - closer than Mercury. 


C/2020 V2 (ZTF):  in Cetus, mag 9.7

Heading south quite quickly, only high enough for observing or imaging in the first few days of September, and then only for a short time. On 1st it reaches 21 degrees at 03.30, three higher by dawn, an hour later.  On 3rd, when it is predicted to be at its brightest - still around mag 9.7 - it is observable from a few minutes before 4 am until dawn, 50 minutes later.  It is too low from 5th, failing to reach observable altitude by the time the sky brightens.


2P/Encke: in Auriga, mag 11.2

Currently very faint but expected to brighten quite quickly, again moving southwards.

On 1st it is high enough for observing/imaging soon after 2 am and reaches 44 degrees in the east as dawn breaks around 04.45. It is in Gemini from 5th and by mid month, now at mag 10.1, it reaches observable altitude by 03.13 and is at 39 degrees when it is lost in the morning twilight. It goes into Cancer on 16th and Leo on 25th.  By 30th it is only observable for around 10 minutes but should be brighter, at mag 8.8. It is predicted to reach mag 6.3 by late October, when it will appear only 9 degrees from the Sun, so won’t be visible.


There are a few to watch out for, very faint at the moment but which should be observable when at their brightest in early 2024


144P/Kushida:  in Aries, mag 12.5

Currently observable from midnight until dawn. By month end it should have brightened to mag 10.9 and be high enough from soon after 20.00. It is predicted to reach mag 7.3 by January, when it will be in Aries and visible from dusk until the early hours.


62P/Tsuchinshan:  in Taurus, mag 18.6

Currently a morning object, quite high by dawn but too faint for imaging by amateurs. It is predicted to reach mag 8.1 in early January, when it will be in Leo then Virgo, observable soon after midnight and getting to 42 degrees by dawn.


C/2021/S3 (PanSTARRS):  in Pyxis, mag 11.8

Currently too low to be seen by northern hemisphere observers.  Could reach mag 6.6 by mid February.  In late February it should be visible for a very short time before dawn in Ophiuchus, then Serpens Cauda.



Meteor Showers


Aurigids:  active August 28th to September 5th, peak on 1st, 66 kps, ZHR 6 (Manchester 5 at best, probably no more than 1 or 2). The radiant is circumpolar, highest at 9am.  Peak activity is at 16.00 on 1st so the best chance of seeing anything is pre dawn and after dusk on that day. The Moon is only 2 days past full, setting at 07.54 and rising again at 20.45, less than an hour after sunset.

Parent comet C/1911 Kiess.


September Epsilon Perseids:  active 5th to 21st, peak on the night of 9th/10th, 64 kps, ZHR 5 (Manchester max 4, probably fewer). This shower showed higher rates in 2005 and 2013 but there has been no enhancement since. The radiant is circumpolar, highest after dawn, peak time given as 01.00 on the morning of 10th. The 18% Moon rises at 00.39.

The parent body is thought to be an, as yet undiscovered, long period comet with a retrograde orbit and a period of about 1000 years.


Daytime Sextantids:  active Sept 9th to Oct 9th, peak on the night of 27th/28th, 33 kps, visual ZHR 5  (from Manchester no more than 1, as the radiant is very low). Peak time is given as 01.00 on 28th but the radiant doesn’t rise until 04.45 so the best chance of seeing one is between then and dawn. The Moon is only one day from full and sets at 05.17, in astro twilight. Most activity from this shower is in daylight, observable only using radio or radar equipment, rates for this are given as medium.

The shower is part of the Phaeton-Geminid complex.  It has a different parent asteroid, 2005 UD, from the Geminids but both are thought to originate from the break up of the same larger body.


The Southern Taurids are active from Sept 10th, only shows low rates and the peak isn’t until mid October, but worth keeping a look out as the shower often includes very bright fireballs.


The ANT is not active in September but the month is said to be the peak time for sporadic activity - meteors which could appear to come from anywhere in the sky.

Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from:

https://in-the-sky.org   

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.



The night sky in August 2023


by Anne Holt


Sun and Moon


Sunrise          1st:  05.24         31st:  06.15

Sunset           1st:  21.05         31st:  20.06


Astronomical Darkness     1st:  00.40  to  01.50        31st:  22.15  to  04.03


Day Length                        1st:  15.41.15                   31st:  13.45.54


Full Moon:  1st at 19.31, angular diameter 33’ 24”,  in Capricorn.

This is only 11 hrs 21 minutes before perigee, the third closest of the year, so is a Supermoon.


New Moon:  16th at 10.39, passes 4 degrees 31’ north of the Sun.

Only 2 hrs 15 minutes before apogee, the furthest of the year, so the thin crescent before and after will appear smaller than average.


Full Moon:  31st at 02.35, angular diameter 33’ 25”, in Aquarius.

9 hrs 41 minutes after perigee, the second closest of the year.  The closest, in January, was near to New Moon so this full Moon is the largest Supermoon of 2023.


Lunar Perigee: 2nd at 06.52, distance 357309 km, a/d 33’ 25”, in Capricorn, phase 98%.


Lunar Apogee:  16th at 12.54, distance 406634 km, phase 0%l


Lunar Perigee:  30th at 16.54, distance 357181 km, a/d 33’ 26”, in Aquarius, phase 99%.   


The full Moon on 31st may, or may not, be a Blue Moon, depending on which definition is used. It was originally said to be the third full Moon in a season which has 4. This is the third full Moon of Summer but also the last, so it doesn't qualify.  However, the March 1946 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine contained an article which incorrectly defined it as the second full Moon in a calendar month.  This definition is now much more widely used than the original one and makes the late August one a Blue Moon.


The most commonly used name for the August full Moon is the Sturgeon Moon because, at this time, the fish were plentiful and easy to catch. 

It’s the Colonial American Dog Days Moon, this is said to be the time when Sirius, the Dog Star, is first visible in the east just before sunrise - though here that doesn’t happen until early September.

It was the Celtic Dispute Moon, the Medieval English Barley or Wort Moon (presumably this was the time they brewed their beer), and the neo Pagan Lightning or LIghtening Moon - don’t know which is correct and which is a spelling mistake.  The Inuit people call it the Swan Flying Moon and it is the Chinese Harvest Moon. 

Among the many indigenous American names are the Hopi Joyful Moon, the Algonquin Moon when Indian corn is edible, the Haida Moon of cedar bark for hats and baskets and the Abenaki Cutter Moon.

The Passamaquoddy tribe called it the Feather Shedding Moon, while the Arapho were more specific with their Moon when geese shed their feathers.  And some referred to the season - the Comanche Summer Moon and the Kalapuya End of Summer Moon.  The Potawatomi called it the Moon of the Middle, middle of the year, middle of Summer?  It doesn’t specify.


Highlights

We are now starting to get more astro darkness, only 70 minutes on 1st but almost 6 hours by the end of the month, when it begins at the reasonable hour of 22.15.

We’ve lost Mars, and Mercury is so low that it’s unlikely to be seen but Jupiter’s position is improving .  By the end of August it is visible well before midnight and culminates in darkness.

Saturn reaches opposition near the end of the month.  It’s quite low in the sky and the rings are no longer wide open but is still a good target for imaging.

And, at the end of the month, Venus makes a return to the morning sky, shining brightly low in the east before dawn.

We have 2 full Moons, both Supermoons by any definition.  The second is, of course, a Blue Moon - if you use the incorrect definition of that. It is also the closest and largest full Moon of the year.

And, the really good news is that the peak of the Perseid meteor shower won’t be marred by bright moonlight.

Let’s hope that it isn’t ruined by clouds.


Constellations

When it finally gets dark enough, the Milky Way is now at its best.  From a dark sky site it can be seen stretching right across the sky and down to the southern horizon, passing almost overhead around midnight.

The Milky Way passes through the Summer Triangle, which is now high in the sky, with Deneb and Vega particularly prominent.  Alberio, a beautiful yellow and blue double star at the head of Cygnus the swan, is very well placed for telescopic observation.

The Plough and its host constellation Ursa Major are now very low in the Northern sky which means that the W asterism of Cassiopeia is riding high in the south east and very easy to spot.

Pegasus and Andromeda are now well above the horizon for most of the night and Perseus, followed by Auriga, are rising soon after midnight.

Conjunctions


3rd at 11.25: The 92% Moon passes 2 degrees 28’ south of Saturn. On the morning of 3rd, the separation is around 8 degrees when the planet culminates at 03.02.


8th at 10.44:  The 45% Moon passes 2 degrees 52’ south of Jupiter.  Jupiter is visible from a little after midnight until 5am.  Separation at 4am is a little under 5 degrees.


9th at 02.00.  The 33% Moon is 3 degrees north of Uranus.  The planet will be high enough for observing about 15 minutes later.


30th at 19.07:  The almost full Moon is 2 degrees 29’ south of Saturn. The planet should be visible about 45 minutes later, when the separation is not much more.  By the time it culminates at 01.00 it is about 3 degrees.


Planets


Mercury:  in Leo, mag 0.0

Very difficult to spot this month. On 1st it is on the horizon as the sky darkens, setting at 21.25. By 9th, when it is at greatest eastern elongation, 27.4 degrees from the Sun, it is even lower, below the horizon at dusk. The following day it is at aphelion, at a distance of 0.47 AU. It has the most elliptical orbit of the major planets, perihelion distance is only 0.31 AU.

By month end, now down to mag 2.9, the apparent separation from the Sun is only 12 degrees.


Venus:  in Leo, mag -4.2

Not visible in early August,  on 1st it sets a few minutes before the Sun. It is at aphelion on 8th, at a distance of 0.73 AU - not much different to the perihelion distance as its orbit is almost circular. On 13th, when it crosses into Cancer, it is at inferior solar conjunction, passing 7 degrees south of the Sun. It is too low to be seen in the morning sky for the next couple of weeks but, on 28th, may be glimpsed for a few minutes around 05.40, when it reaches 8 degrees in the east as the sky brightens. By 31st it is visible for almost half an hour, getting to 12 degrees in the east before being lost to the dawn.  It is now at mag -.4.4.


Mars:  in Leo, mag 1.8.

Not visible this month.  It has sunk below the horizon by the time the sky begins to darken.


Jupiter:  in Aries, mag -2.4

Shining brightly in the morning sky.  On 1st it rises at 23.48 and should be easily visible an hour later, reaching 42 degrees in the SE by dawn.  From mid month it is high enough to be seen before midnight and gets to 49 degrees in the SE in darkness. The last few days in August it culminates before it is lost in the brightening sky, on 27th it is 51 degrees in the south at 05.50, a couple of minutes before the sky becomes too bright for it to be seen.  On 31st it rises at 21.55, reaches observable altitude, 7 degrees, an hour later and culminates at 05.25 about 25 minutes before it is lost in the morning twilight, now a little brighter at mag - 2.6.


Saturn:  in Aquarius, mag 0.6

Much fainter and lower than Jupiter but still a magnificent sight through a scope.  On 1st it rises at 22.00 and reaches 10 degrees in the east by 23.30.  It culminates, 25 degrees in the south, at 03.02 and is only three degrees lower when the sky begins to brighten around 04.30. By mid month it is visible from 22.30 until almost 5am, highest point at 02.04.  It reaches opposition on 27th, when it is visible from 21.45 to 04.45 and reaches 24 degrees in the south at 01.17.  It is now a little brighter at mag 0.4. Around this time the rings appear significantly brighter than usual because sunlight falls directly on to the component particles so their shadows are directly behind, rather than to the side where they dim the view. The rings are only tilted by 8 degrees at the moment, so they appear quite thin, however the Cassini Division should still be visible through an amateur scope. By next year the rings will be down to 3.7 degrees and, by 2025, almost invisible so now is the best chance for a few years to get some decent images. By 31st it is at observable altitude from 21.30, culminates at 00.56 and is down to 10 degrees in the SW by 04.30.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.8

On 1st it is visible for about 50 minutes, reaching 27 degrees in the east before being lost in the morning twilight a little before 03.30. By mid month it should be observable from 01.45, reaching 41 degrees in the SE by dawn. It begins retrograde (E to W) motion on 29th and by month end is high enough for observing from around 4am, reaching 51 degrees in the east as the sky brightens 4 hours later. It appears quite close to Jupiter, separation a little over 9 degrees on 1st, about 7.5 degrees on 31st, with Uranus to the left. Now that we have the return of astro darkness it might be possible to spot it with the naked eye from a very dark sky site - assuming perfect eyesight and knowing exactly where to look.


Neptune:  In Pisces, mag 7.8, 

A morning object, visible in very good binoculars (maybe - see above) or a small scope as a bluish ‘star’.

On 1st it rises at 22.30, is high enough for observing from 01.15 and reaches 22 degrees in the south by dawn. It reaches observable altitude a couple of minutes earlier each day and, on 10th, is lost in the morning twilight as it culminates, 34 degrees in the south, at 03.46. On 20th it reaches 21 degrees in the SE by midnight, highest point at 03.06 and is down to 32 degrees in the south by dawn.  By 31st it is observable from 23.15 until dawn, culminating at 02.22.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres:  in Virgo, mag 8.8

Not observable this month, too low in the evening twilight.


The rest are very faint, only very experienced astrophotographers using the best equipment have any chance of catching them - and even then only as very faint dots on the image.


Pluto:  in Sagittarius, mag 15.0.

Maximum altitude 15 degrees, too low for imaging.


Haumea:  in Bootes, mag 17.4

An evening object.  On 1st it is 28 degrees in the west in astro twilight around 23.00, down to 21 degrees shortly before midnight. By 31st it is 24 degrees as the sky darkens, sinking too low after only 20 minutes.

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Makemake:  in Coma Berenices, mag 17.2

On 1st it is only 23 degrees in the west as the sky darkens, down to 21 degrees after only 10 minutes. Not observable after 11th, when it is 22 degrees in astro twilight and only observable for a couple of minutes.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.7

Much fainter even than Haumea and Makemake, out of reach of most amateurs.

On 1st it is high enough from 3am, getting to 24 degrees before being lost to dawn only 20 minutes later.  By the end of August, when it is at observable altitude from 1am, it culminates in darkness, 20 minutes before the sky brightens.


Asteroids at Opposition


10th:  10 Hygeia, in Aquarius, mag 9.7

Observable from a few minutes before midnight, when it reaches 21 degrees in the south. Culminates at 01.11, a couple of degrees higher and is down to 21 degrees a little before 02.30.


21st:   8 Flora, in Aquarius, mag 8.5

Culminates at 01.56 but only reaches 19 degrees, too low for easy telescopic observing or imaging. 


Comets


C/2021 S3 (Pan STARRS) in Puppis, mag 12.8

Only mentioned because it is predicted to reach mag 6.4 in Feb 2024, when it will be too low to be observable from the UK.  However, by late April when it will be circumpolar, it should still be a reasonable target, maybe mag 7.7.

At the moment it is too faint and too low to be observable from so far north.


C/2022 V2 (ZTF): in Cetus, mag 9.9.

Too low for imaging in the first few days of August.  By 6th it reaches 22 degrees in the SE at 03.35, only a couple of minutes before the sky gets too bright for it to be visible. Its position does improve, on 15th when it moves into Eridanus it is high enough for almost 40 minutes, reaching 26 degrees in the SE by 4am. On 31st it is observable for a little over an hour, getting to 25 degrees in the south by 04.30. It should be marginally brighter at mag 9.7.


 C/2023 E1 (ATLAS) in Cepheus, mag 11.1

At perigee on 18th, at a distance of 0.38AU.  Circumpolar, high for most of the night but faint - and fading.  Ends the month at mag 13.5.


Meteor Showers


Eta Eridanids:  active July 31st to August 18th, peak 8th, 64 kps, ZHR 3.

The radiant doesn’t rise until around 2am, and is very low for UK observers so the shower is much better seen from further south. Parent comet probably C/1852 K1 (Charcorac)


Perseids:  active July 17th to August 20th, peak 13th, 59 kps, ZHR 100 -140, though the figure of 50 -70 given in one source seems more realistic. The radiant is circumpolar, highest at 07.00. Peak activity predicted for 09.00 on 13th, with reasonable rates for a few days centred on this date.  The shower has recently shown enhanced activity after the main peak,

This year could see slightly higher rates on 13th at 04.00, when the Earth passes through a weak dust filament, and on 14th between 02.00 and 03.45, when we encounter a very old trail. No predictions of activity levels but it might be worth looking out at these times.

The best time to look for Perseids is pre dawn on 13th and on a few days before and after this date. Some should be visible in twilight as the shower includes a higher than average proportion  of very bright meteors - said to be 30% higher than for the Geminids. They are fast moving, sometimes coloured, meteors often leaving trails. The parent comet is 109P/Swift-Tuttle.

And the really good news is that the peak is close to new Moon, so no interference


Kappa Cygnids:  active August 3rd to 28th, peak 11th, 23 kps, ZHR 3 (Manchester up to 2)

The radiant of these is circumpolar, highest at 22.00, as astro twilight begins.  Peak activity predicted for 18.00, so best seen after dusk.

The shower showed enhanced activity in 2007, 2014 and 2021 suggesting a 7 year period, so we’ll have to wait another 5 years until the next time. However general activity has increased over the last few years - doesn’t say whether this is to, or from, the 3 quoted.

Much higher activity has been recorded in radar observations, indicating that the shower mainly consists of very faint meteors, though there are also occasional fireballs. .

Parent body is not known for sure, one candidate is minor planet 2008 ED9


There could be some activity at the end of August from the Aurigids, which peak on the night of 31st/1st.  66kps, ZHR 6 to 10 but sometimes much higher.  The radiant is highest at 9am so best seen pre dawn. This shower has been known to include outbursts, in 2007 a ZHR of 130 was recorded but only for 20 minutes. The almost full Moon is above the horizon until almost 8am, so will interfere. Parent comet C/1911 N1 (Kiess)


The radiant of the ANT moves through Aquarius during August, slow moving meteors, ZHR 1 -2.

Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from:

https://in-the-sky.org   

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.


The Night Sky in July 2023

by Anne Holt


Sun & Moon

Sunrise     1st:   04.44             31st:   05.22

Sunset      1st:   21.40             31st:   21.07


Day length     1st:   16.56.25           31st:   15.44.39


Astronomical darkness:   none until 31st, then 00.54 to 01.37


Earth is at aphelion on 6th, at 21.98, distance 1.016 AU.  The difference between this and the perihelion distance of 0.9833 AU is not enough to affect the amount of light and heat we receive from the Sun.  We have Summer at this time because the Earth is tilted towards the Sun, so the rays reaching us cover a smaller area and are thus more concentrated.


Full Moon:      3rd at 12.38. angular diameter 32’ 59”, in Sagittarius.

New Moon:    17th at 19.33,  passes 4 degrees 54’ north of the Sun.


Lunar perigee:    4th at 23.25,  360149 km, a/d 33’ 09”,  in Capricorn, 94%

Lunar apogee:    20th at 07.56,  406289 km, a/d 29’ 23”,  in Leo, 8%


Some sources say that July’s full Moon is a Supermoon as it is quite close to perigee.  However the definition is that this occurs when the Earth-Moon distance is less than 359,000 km whereas the distance this month is greater, so it doesn’t qualify.


The most commonly used name for July’s full Moon is the Buck Moon, as this is the time when young male deer begin to grow new antlers.

It was the medieval Mead Moon (making or drinking - or maybe both?), the Old English/Anglo Saxon Hay Moon and the Celtic Horse Moon or Claiming Moon - the latter thought to refer to an early legal system.  It was the neo Pagan Rose Moon, the Colonial American Summer Moon and the Inuit Dry Moon.  

It is also the Chinese Hungry Ghost Moon, said to be in the month which includes the Hungry Ghost Festival, when people have to be very careful not to upset the ghosts of their ancestors.  However, this year it is on August 30th - in the seventh Lunar month of the Chinese year, not the western calendar month, so somebody got that wrong!

Many of this month’s indigenous American names refer to the ripening of crops. Among the exceptions are the Hopi Moon of the Home Dance, the Arapaho Moon when the hot weather begins and the Cree Moon when the ducks begin to moult.

The most interesting of the vegetation inspired names is the Zuni’s Moon when limbs are broken by fruit.  Presumably this refers to the heavily laden branches of trees and bushes, rather than arms and legs of the local population.


Highlights


We have passed the longest day so the nights are gradually becoming longer.  Astronomical darkness returns at the end of the month, one hour 41 minutes on the morning of 31st.  Before that, astronomical twilight increases fairly quickly, 2 and a quarter hours on 1st, a little over 3 hours mid month and 4 hours 40 minutes on 30th.

Mercury and Mars are too low to be seen in the evening sky, as is Venus after the first week or so. However Jupiter and Saturn are both improving morning objects, by the end of July Saturn culminates as it is lost to the dawn. Uranus reaches observable altitude in the morning sky by the end of the month, Neptune a couple of weeks earlier.

We have several, mostly minor, meteor showers unfortunately peaking at the end of the month, close to full Moon.

But there is still a chance of seeing some noctilucent clouds.


Constellations


The Summer Triangle asterism (made up of Vega in the constellation of Lyra, Deneb in Cygnus and Altair in Aquila) is now quite high in the southern half of the sky. Cygnus, with its Northern Cross asterism, and Lyra are particularly prominent.

At the start of the month Pegasus, followed by Andromeda, is rising in the early hours.

As always during the summer months, it isn't the best time to see the zodiac constellations or planets as the ecliptic never gets very high in the sky. However, if you do happen to visit a dark sky site over the next few months you should be rewarded with good views of the Milky Way high overhead running through Cygnus and down to Sagittarius just above the southern horizon.

Conjunctions


Most of the conjunctions and close passes this month won’t be easily visible as they are in the daytime and the planets involved are very low at dusk.


  1st at 08.08:   Venus is 3 degrees 53’ from Mars.  

19th at 09.57:   Moon passes 3 degrees 30’ north of Mercury.

20th at 09.38:   Moon passes 7 degrees 51’ north of Venus.

21st at 05.00:   Moon passes 3 degrees 16’ north of Mars.

26th at 13.45:   Venus passes 5 degrees 17’ south of Mercury. 


A couple which might be seen are:


7th at 04.09:  The gibbous Moon passes 2 degrees 40’ south of Saturn. Saturn is visible until 03.40, reaching 24 degrees in the south by dawn.  Separation at 03.00 is around 3 degrees.


11th at 21.22:  The 25% Moon passes 2 degrees 13’ north of Jupiter. Jupiter is visible from a few minutes after 2am until 04.20.  Separation at 4am on 11th is a little under 5 degrees, a degree less at 2am on 12th.  On both mornings they should be visible in the same field of view of 20x50 binoculars - but take great care to stop observing before sunrise.


Planets


Mercury:  in Gemini, mag -2.3

Not visible this month.  On 1st it is at superior solar conjunction, passing 1 degree 16’ north of the Sun at 06.12.  It then becomes an evening object but remains too low to be seen.  It crosses into Leo on 22nd, when it also reaches its highest point in the evening sky, 6 degrees at sunset but down to the horizon by the time the sky begins to brighten. By month end it is still on the horizon at dusk, setting at 21.54.


Venus:  in Leo, mag -4.5

Might be seen, low in the west after sunset, during the first week of July.  On 1st it is 10 degrees in the west as the sky begins to darken soon after 10pm, remaining high enough for observing for around 20 minutes and setting at 23.23.  By 9th, when it is at its greatest brightness, it is only 7 degrees at dusk, setting in nautical twilight. It might possibly be seen for a short time from a site with a clear western horizon.  By 22nd, now a little fainter at mag -4.4, it is on the horizon as the sky begins to darken and on 31st it is below the horizon at dusk, setting at the same time as the Sun.


Mars:  in Leo, mag 1.7

Too low in the evening sky to be seen this month. On 1st it is only 3 degrees at dusk, setting at 23.44. By 9th it is on the horizon as the sky darkens and on 31st is 2 degrees below.


Jupiter:  in Aries, mag -2.2

Its position in the pre dawn sky improves during July.  On 1st it rises at 01.45 becoming visible about an hour later and reaching 21 degrees in the east by dawn.  By mid month it rises at 00.50 and gets to 30 degrees in the east before it is lost in the brightening sky.  From 29th it rises before midnight, 23.52 on 31st when it is visible for around 4 hours, now getting to 41 degrees in darkness.  It will also be slightly brighter at mag -2.4.


Saturn:  in Aquarius, mag 0.8

Also an improving morning object. On 1st it rises a few minutes after midnight and is high enough for observing about 90 minutes later.  It reaches 22 degrees in the SE before being lost in the morning twilight around 03.30.  From 18th it culminates in darkness, on this day it is 25 degrees in the south when the sky begins to brighten. From 20th it is high enough to be seen before midnight and on 31st it rises at 22.04, reaches 10 degrees in the SE by 23.31 and culminates at 03.06, down to 23 degrees by dawn.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.8

Too low for observing in the morning sky for most of July.  On 1st it is below the horizon at dawn and by mid month still only  reaches 10 degrees. From 26th it gets to 21 degrees (observable altitude) in darkness but only for a few minutes on this day.  On 31st it rises 5 minutes after midnight and is observable from around 02.40 until 3am, when it is at 26 degrees in the east.


Neptune:  in Pisces, mag 7.9

Another morning object, too low for observing in early July.  On 14th it is at 21 degrees at 02.25 as it is lost in the morning twilight.  It is observable a few minutes earlier each day, on 31st it rises at 22.34, is high enough by 01.40 and is 32 degrees in the south by dawn.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres:  in Virgo, mag 8.5

Too low in the evening sky to be observed throughout July.


Pluto:  in Capricorn, mag 15.0

Very difficult to observe or image despite reaching opposition on 22nd, when it culminates at 01.18 but is only 11 degrees in the south.


Haumea: in Bootes, mag 17.4 and Makemake: in Coma Berenices, mag 17.2

Both high enough for imaging in astro twilight in early July, with Haumea a few degrees higher in the west. Both sink below 21 degrees  before the sky begins to brighten, with Haumea visible for slightly longer.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.7

Too low for imaging in the morning sky for most of July.  On 31st it is 23 degrees in the SE soon after 03.00, about 15 minutes before the sky begins to brighten.


Comets


C/2023 E1 (ATLAS):  in Ursa Major, mag 10.6

At perihelion on 1st, at a distance of 1.03AU. Close to the N celestial pole so observable throughout the hours of darkness. At its brightest on 8th, still at mag 10.6 - or maybe slightly brighter (as always, predictions vary). It goes into Draco on 14th and Cepheus on 30th.  Ends the month still circumpolar, mag now around 11,1. 


C/2020 V2 (ZTF):  in Aries, mag 10.1

Starts the month close to Uranus, but not visible as it is below the horizon at dawn. Moves into Cetus on 18th, when it is at 8 degrees as the sky brightens.  By month end it is lost in the brightening sky when it is at 18 degrees, not quite high enough for easy observing.


Meteor Showers


Several minor, and one not quite so minor, showers this month, mostly better seen from further south, marred by bright moonlight - or both!


July Pegasids:  active 4th to 14th, peak 10th, ZHR 5, 61 kps.

There could be some activity from these for about a week centred on the peak date.  They are bright, fairly fast meteors, parent body not known for sure, probably comet C/1978 Y1 (Bradfield). On 10th the just under 50% Moon rises at 00.32, the following day, now gibbous, it rises at 00.43.


Piscis Austrinids:  active July 15th to August 10th, peak 28th, ZHR 5, 35 kps.

From Manchester the radiant is so low that it is unlikely that any will be seen.  They are faint, slow moving meteors, parent body thought to be a defunct short period comet.


July (Gamma) Draconids: active 12th to 31st,  peak 28th, ZHR 5, 27 kps.

There hasn’t been much activity from these since 2006, when a short outburst was recorded. Earth reaches the same position relative to the dust stream at 21.00. on 28th, so you never know.  Unfortunately this is in daylight, 12 minutes before sunset, then the 88% Moon is above the horizon until 00.44 on the morning of 29th.  Parent body is thought to be a Halley type comet.


Southern Delta Aquariids:  active July 13th to August 23rd, peak 30th, ZHR 25 (up to 8 from the darker areas around Greater Manchester), 41 kps.

The strongest of July’s showers is another one which is much better seen from further south.  From Manchester, the radiant rises at 22.45, towards the end of nautical twilight, and is highest at 3am, unfortunately still quite low. Peak activity is predicted for 19.00 on 30th, a couple of hours before sunset, so best seen around 3am - in astro twilight and after the almost full Moon has set.

These fast moving meteors are very bright, so a few may be seen earlier in the night while the Moon is still above the horizon. Parent comet P/2008 Y12 (SOHO).


Alpha Capricornids:  active July 3rd August 18th, peak 30th, ZHR 5 (Man 2), 23 kps.

The radiant of these is above the horizon throughout the (very short) night but remains low.  Highest, 26 degrees, at 01.00.  Peak activity predicted for 19.00 on 30th.  The almost full Moon doesn’t set until 02.34 on the morning of 31st but these slow moving meteors are also very bright so some may be seen earlier. There could also be some fireballs. Parent comet 109P (NEAT).


The Antihelion Source are meteors not attributed to a specific shower, which have a radiant on the ecliptic almost opposite the position of the Sun. In July it moves through eastern Sagittarius, across northern Capricorn and into Aquarius.  ZHR 2 to 3. In the later part of July the radiant is close to that of the Capricornids and S Delta Aquariids. However meteors from these showers are easily distinguished from the ANT - the Capricornids are slower moving and the Aquariids are stronger and faster.


Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from: https://in-the-sky.org More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails, Wikipedia.



.  



 


 



The Night Sky in June 2023


by Anne Holt


Sun & Moon


Sunrise    1st:    04.47       30th:    04.43

Sunset     1st:    21.21       30th:    21.41 


Day Length      1st:  16.39.55         30th:   16.57.27


Longest day           21st:  17.01.53

Earliest sunrise     17th:    04.39

Latest Sunset:       25th:    21.42 


Astronomical darkness:  none


The June (Summer in the northern hemisphere) solstice is on 21st at 15.54. This is when the Sun reaches its highest point in the northern sky and is overhead at local noon along the Tropic of Cancer.  

It is the start of astronomical summer.


Full Moon:     4th at 04.41, angular diameter 32’ 17”, in Scorpio.

New Moon:  18th at 05.38, passes 4 degrees 06’ north of the Sun.


Lunar perigee:     7th at 10.05,  364859 km, a/d 32’ 44”, in Sagittarius, phase 85%.

Lunar apogee:  22nd at 19.30,  405384 km, a/d 29’ 22”, in Leo, phase 22%.


The most widely used name for the June full Moon is the Strawberry Moon because this is the time when the fruit ripen.  

It is the Celtic Horses or Mead Moon, the Chinese Lotus Moon, the Inuit Hunting Moon and the Medieval Dyan Moon - thought to derive from a word meaning pair and refer to it being the halfway point of the year. It is also said to be a form of the name Diane, the goddess of hunting and the Moon. This full Moon is also said to be the prime time for werewolves ....... you have been warned!

Indigenous American names include the Choctaw Windy Moon, the Omaha Moon when buffalo bulls hunt the cows, the Potawatomi Moon of the Turtle and the Wishram Fish spoils easily Moon.


Highlights


Venus is still very bright but is now lower as it becomes visible soon after sunset, Jupiter and Saturn are morning objects, their position improving during the month, but we are losing Mars in the evening sky. 

There are no reasonable comets and not much in the way of meteors, most of the June showers are either daytime or defunct. 

We have the longest day on 21st, which is also the solstice, the first day of astronomical summer.  Good news for most people, bad news for astronomers as it is, of course, also the shortest night. There is no astronomical darkness throughout June and very little astro twilight - 3 hours on 1st, down to only 2 hours around the solstice - and it doesn’t begin until around midnight.

But, while the nights are quite light we still have the chance of seeing some noctilucent clouds low in the sky before sunrise and after sunset.


Constellations


The Plough asterism in Ursa Major is still prominent, being overhead for much of the night, leaving Cassiopeia on the opposite side of the Pole Star, low in the northern sky. The Summer Triangle, consisting of Vega, Deneb and Altair, is now getting higher in the late evening, though Altair, in Aquila, is still quite low in the early part of the night. The beautiful double star Albireo, at the head of Cygnus the swan, is very well placed for observing. The Milky Way is now visible from dark sky sites, running across the sky through the Summer Triangle, passing almost overhead in the early hours. The bright orange red Arcturus is shining brightly high in the SW and, if you manage to find some dark skies not obscured by cloud, you should be able to see the rest of the kite shaped Bootes, with the semicircle of stars forming Corona Borealis just to the east of it. Another red giant, Antares in Scorpio is now visible low on the southern horizon. 


Conjunctions


4th at 05.34:  Mercury passes 2 degrees 54’ south of Uranus.  Both planets are below the horizon at dawn.

 

9th at 21.22:  The 55% Moon passes 2 degrees 58’ south of Saturn, which is visible for about half an hour from 03.30, reaching 14 degrees in the SE by dawn. Separation at 3.30 on 10th is a little over 3 degrees.


22nd at 01.48:  The 16% Moon is 3 degrees 41’ north of Venus.  The planet is visible from soon after 22.00 until 23.00 (later with a clear western horizon).  Separation at 22.30 on 21st is around 5 degrees. 

 

22nd at 11.10: The 19% Moon is 3 degrees 47’ north of Mars.  The red planet is very difficult to see, only 6 degrees in the evening twilight.

At this time Mars and Venus are separated by only 4.5 degrees, on 21st the Moon is 4.5 to the right of Venus, the following evening it is 5 degrees left of the much fainter Mars.


Planets


Mercury:  in Aries, mag 0.2.

Too low in the morning sky to be seen this month. On 1st it is 3 degrees below the horizon at dawn, rising at 04.08, only 35 minutes before the Sun.  When it goes into Taurus on 7th, it still fails to appear before the sky brightens. It reaches its highest point in the morning sky on 15th - 5 degrees at sunrise but still failing to clear the horizon in darkness. Some sources say that it might be visible through binoculars, in the brightening sky mid month, but this is not recommended - the risk of catching the first rays of the rising Sun is much too high. It is in Gemini from 28th and, on 30th, appears only 1 degree from the Sun.


Venus:  in Gemini, mag -4.3.

Now lower in the evening sky but still dazzlingly bright, especially from a dark sky site.  On 1st it is 22 degrees in the west at around 22.00, remaining high enough to be seen easily until the start of astro twilight. On 4th, when it crosses into Cancer, it is at greatest eastern elongation, apparent separation from the Sun 48.4 degrees but now only 21 degrees at dusk. By mid month it is 17 degrees when it becomes visible and, from 24th, when it moves into Leo, it sets before midnight but can still be seen, low in the west, until at least 23.00.  By 30th it is only 11 degrees in the evening twilight, visible until 22.30, a few minutes before the start of nautical twilight. It is slightly brighter at mag -4.5 but, because it is no longer seen in a dark sky, the difference probably won’t be noticeable.


Mars:  in Cancer, mag 1.6.

Now only visible for a short time in the evening. On 1st it is 17 degrees in the west as the sky darkens a few minutes before 23.00, too low after only half an hour. The observation window shortens even more over the next week,  on 8th it is only 13 degrees when it becomes visible, remaining high enough for a very short time.  On 21st, when it goes into Leo, it is 6 degrees at dusk, half that by 30th.

On 1st it is separated from Venus by around 11 degrees, down to 8.5 degrees on 8th.  On the night of 30th/July 1st they are at their closest, 3 degrees 33’, but Mars is no longer visible.


Jupiter:  in Aries, mag -2.1.

Not easy to see in the first few days of June. On 1st it rises at 03.27 but only reaches 6 degrees by dawn. On 6th it is 8 degrees in the east as the sky brightens and may be seen for a couple of minutes. It becomes visible a minute or two earlier each day, by 13th it is observable from 03.45 and reaches 11 degrees in the east before being lost to view about 30 minutes later.  On 30th it rises at 01.44, almost 3 hours before the Sun, and reaches 20 degrees by dawn.


Saturn:  in Aquarius, mag 1.0.

Now a morning object, visible low in the SE in the early hours. On 1st it rises at 02.00 and is high enough for observing about 90 minutes later,  reaching 12 degrees at 03.40, in relative darkness.  Like Jupiter it can be seen a little earlier each day so is getting higher before it is lost in the morning sky.  It begins retrograde (E to W) motion on 17th, when it rises over 3 and a half hours before the Sun and is 17 degrees in the SE when it is lost to the dawn. On 30th it rises a few minutes after midnight and still takes about 90 minutes to reach observable altitude. It is now at 22 degrees when the sky brightens.

The downside is that the rings are now closing, they are currently tilted by only 7 degrees.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.9.

Not observable this month. On 1st it rises less than an hour before the Sun and appears only 20 degrees from it. The separation increases during the month but by 30th it is still below the horizon at dawn.


Neptune:  in Pisces, mag 7.9.

Also too low to be observed this month. On 1st it is 3 degrees below the horizon at dawn, rising at 02.30. It gets slightly higher during the month, on 15th it is on the horizon as the sky brightens and on 30th, when it begins retrograde motion,  it rises at 00.37, over 4 hours before the Sun, but only reaches 8 degrees in darkness.  


Dwarf Planets


Ceres:  in Virgo, mag 8.1.

On 1st it is at 31 degrees in the SW when it becomes visible around midnight, too low after only 70 minutes. By 10th it is only 22 degrees in the west as the sky darkens about 00.30, and for the rest of the month it has sunk too low by the time it gets sufficiently dark.


Pluto:  in Capricorn, mag 15.1

A morning object but much too low to be observed or imaged from our latitude.


Haumea: in Bootes, mag 17.3, and Makemake: in Coma Berenices, mag 17.2.

Both high enough for imaging during the darkest part of the night - but only by very experienced astrophotographers using the very best equipment.

On 1st Haumea is 50 degrees in the SW around midnight down to 36 degrees when the sky begins to brighten around 02.15. By month end it is 33 degrees in the west at 00.40, 24 degrees only an hour later.

Makemake is a little lower, 49 degrees in the west, down to 31 degrees on the 1st.  On 30th it is only 27 degrees when it becomes observable, sinking too low about 20 minutes before the sky brightens.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.7.

The faintest and hardest to image of the 5 dwarf planets is below the horizon during the darkest part of the night throughout June.


Comets


Nothing even reasonably bright again this month.

The one to watch, C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS)  in Virgo, still only at mag 16.5, is observable during astro twilight for most of the month. By 19th it is too low a few minutes before the sky brightens and during the last few days of June it isn’t visible at all.  When we next see it, in  late December, the predicted mag is 14.7 down to 10.1 when we lose it again in early June. When it reaches its hoped for brightest, mag 1.6, in late Sept 2024 it won’t be visible from the UK.  When we next catch it, in late October 2024, it is predicted to have faded to mag 3.2.


Meteor Showers


Not much to see this month.  There are a few showers but mainly active in the daytime.


Arietids:  active May 14th to June 24th, peak 11th, ZHR in the daytime 60 to 200.  In darkness from Manchester no more than 8 - if that! velocity  38 kps.

The radiant is only 30 degrees west of the Sun, so most of the activity is in daylight, however a few may be seen in the pre dawn sky, either shooting upwards from the eastern horizon or as Earthgrazers moving horizontally, very low in the sky.  On 11th the radiant rises at 02.13, a few minutes after the 41% Moon. Parent comet is possibly 96P/Machholz.

This shower, along with the Zeta Perseids, was first detected in 1947 by astronomers working at Jodrell Bank.


Zeta Perseids:  active May 20th to July 5th, peak 10th, ZHR 20, 26 kps.

The radiant is only 16 degrees from the Sun so it is very unlikely that any will be observed visually.  It is part of the Taurid complex, parent comet 2P/Encke. 


Beta Taurids:  active June 5th to July 18th,  peak 28th, rate medium.

This shower, also associated with the S and N Taurids, is notable only because it is thought to be the source of the Tunguska meteorite of June 30th 1908.  Some sources say that there could be several more large chunks of rock hidden in the same part of the dust stream.


A couple of minor, maybe now even non-existent, night showers.


June Lyrids:  active 10th to 21st, peak 15th/16th.  ZHR 8 (maybe)

This shower was first seen in 1966 and was around for a few years but hasn’t shown much activity recently.  They were mainly faint blue coloured meteors with a few brighter ones which left trails.  Parent body not known.


June Bootids: active June 22nd to July 2nd, peak 27th.  ZHR variable between 0 and 100+, 18 kps.

Most years there is little or no activity from this shower of slow moving, long lasting meteors. It shows occasional outbursts lasting a few hours - a ZHR of 100 was seen in 1988, 50 in 2004 and 10 in 2010.  Nothing is predicted for this year.  Parent comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke.


The antihelion source has a radiant moving through Sagittarius,  No activity mid month, ZHR 2-4 in early and late June.


Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from:

https://in-the-sky.org

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails, Wikipedia.

The Night Sky in May 2023


by Anne Holt


Sun and Moon


Sunrise       1st:   05.35        31st:    04.48

Sunset        1st:   20.38        31st:    21.25


Day Length 1st:  15.03.07    31st:  16.27.47


Astronomical darkness    1st:  23.25 to 02.45      31st:  none


We have no astro darkness after mid May.  On the night of 14th/15th it is from 00.58 to 01.11


Full Moon:      5th at 18.32.    Angular diameter 31’ 4”,  in Libra.

New Moon:    19th at  16.54.   Passes 2 degrees 10’ north of the Sun 


Lunar perigee:  11th at 16.05.     369344 km,  a/d 32’ 30”,  phase 60%,  in Taurus.

Lunar apogee:  26th at 02.38.     404509 km,  a/d 29’ 31”,  phase 39%,  in Leo.


There is a penumbral Lunar Eclipse on 5th, between 16.15 and 20.32, visible from India, Central Asia and Australia.  From the north of the UK the Moon doesn’t rise until 20.52 so no eclipse will be seen.


The most common name for the May Full Moon is the Flower Moon, for obvious reasons. 

It is the Colonial American Milk Moon, the Medieval English Mothers’ Moon or Hare Moon, the Celtic Bright Moon and the Chinese Dragon Moon.  For the Inuit it is the Goose Moon and it’s the neo Pagan Grass Moon.

There are very many Indigenous American names including the Cree Frog Moon, the Assiniboine Idle Moon, the Cheyenne Fat Horses Moon, the Arapaho Moon when ponies shed their shaggy hair, the Hopi Waiting Moon and the Tlingit Moon before Pregnancy.


Highlights


We now have too much light!  On 1st there is only 3 hrs 20 mins of astro darkness, down to 13 minutes mid month then nothing until the end of July.

There is one fair to middling meteor shower, spoilt by the just past full Moon nearby, and most of the naked eye planets are not well placed.  Mars is a fading evening object, sinking too low for observing before midnight from mid May, and Saturn may be glimpsed for a few minutes, low in the pre dawn sky, at the end of the month.

The exception is the brilliant Venus, still dominating the evening sky.  It is getting slightly lower at dusk as the month progresses but is still visible until almost midnight.

There is a very close lunar conjunction with Jupiter (an occultation is visible from Scotland) in daylight.

If you do attempt to see this using a scope BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL.


And the last week in May is the start of the season for:-


Noctilucent Clouds

One plus point about the Summer months is that we may have some noctilucent (night shining) clouds.   From late May until early August, when the Sun is between 6 and 16 degrees below the horizon, we may see these thin, wispy silvery or blue clouds low in the NW to north and hour or two after sunset, or in the NE to north before sunrise, though a very strong display could last all night.

They are formed in the mesosphere, 75 to 85 km high, where it is cold enough for ice crystals to form on dust particles, thought to be left by meteors.  At this altitude they are still in sunlight, even though it has set for observers on the ground.  

They used to be very rare but are now becoming a little more common, possibly because of increased pollution.  Recent studies have found that displays often occur around 10 days after a rocket launch, which increases the amount of water vapour in the upper atmosphere.


Conjunctions


13th at 14.07.   The 33% Moon passes 3 degrees 17’ north of Saturn. The Moon rises at 03.31, Saturn at 03.13 but only reaches 7 degrees by dawn.


17th at 14.18. The thin crescent Moon passes 47’ north of Jupiter. The Moon rises at 04.16, Jupiter, four minutes later, is too low to be seen in the dawn sky. There will be an occultation visible from most of N America, northern Central America, the Nordic countries and Scotland. Most of Scotland will only see the planet disappear behind the Moon but observers in Shetland will see the whole event. For the rest of us the pair will appear very close together. Unfortunately, as you will have realised from the timings, it all happens in daylight.

The Moon should be visible to the naked eye but a Go To scope will be needed in order to see Jupiter.

WARNING: take great care when using a scope in daylight, stand in shadow, leaving only the area to the west of the Sun visible. Please do not try to see this using binoculars. They are not as easy to control as a scope, even when using a tripod, so the chance of accidentally catching the Sun is too high.


23rd at 13.03. The 17% Moon passes 2 degrees 12’ north of Venus.  The planet is visible from around 21.45, when it is 24 degrees in the west.  Separation at 22.00 is around 5 degrees.


24th at 18.33. The 27% Moon is 3 degrees 45’ north of Mars.  Mars is visible from 22.36, when it is 22 degrees above the western horizon. Separation at 23.00 is around 4 degrees.


Constellations

As the sky darkens at the start of the month Lyra and Cygnus are rising in the north east, followed a couple of hours later by Aquila. In the later part of the night the Summer Triangle formed by Vega, Deneb and Altair, the brightest star in each of these three constellations, should be easily visible. By the end of the month Aquila will be above the horizon by around 11pm. The brightest part of the Milky Way visible to us in the UK runs through the Summer Triangle and down through Scutum and Sagittarius.

The Plough is still very high in the sky for most of the night, standing on its handle, so Cassiopeia, the W shaped 'Lady in the Chair', on the opposite side of the Pole Star is very low down in the north.

Bootes, the herdsman, is now riding high although only Arcturus, the brightest star in the celestial northern hemisphere, is above magnitude 2, so its kite asterism may not be easily visible in our light polluted skies. Arcturus is easy to find though - just follow the arc of the Plough's handle down to the south until you come to Arcturus. Carry on the arc a bit further and you come to the star Spica, the brightest star in Virgo.

At this time of year when you look up to the south you are looking out of the plane of our Milky Way galaxy instead of along it like you do in winter and summer, so there aren't many bright stars, open star clusters and nebulae. However, if you've got a telescope this is a good time of year to hunt down globular clusters like M13, the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, and faint galaxies like the many galaxies lying in the bowl of Virgo and into Coma Berenices.

Ephemerides


Mercury:  in Aries, mag 6.5

Not visible this month. On 1st it appears only 1 degree from the Sun, the following day it is at inferior solar conjunction, passing 42’ to the north.  It is at aphelion on 14th, at a distance of 0.47AU, and, on 29th, reaches greatest western elongation, separated from the Sun by 24.9 degrees.  However, because of the extremely low angle of the ecliptic to the horizon at this time, it is still below the horizon at dawn, rising only 33 minutes before sunrise. On 31st, despite having brightened to mag 0.3, it is still not visible as it doesn't rise until after the sky has brightened. 


Venus:  in Taurus, mag -4.1

Still a brilliant sight in the evening sky.  On 1st it is at 28 degrees in the west at 21.00, as the sky begins to darken, easily visible until 23.30 - a few minutes after the start of astro darkness. It gets lower in the evening sky as the month progresses but remains above the horizon until the start of astro darkness, until mid month when there isn’t any. The latest setting time is 01.01 on 16th to 20th.  By 31st it is 22 degrees at dusk, setting at 23.40 and now a little brighter at mag -4.3.


Mars:  in Gemini, mag 1.3

An evening object.  On 1st it is 38 degrees in the west as it becomes visible around 20.45, sinking too low for easy observation soon after 00.30.  By the 18th, when it moves into Cancer, it is only 26 degrees high as the sky darkens, down to 10 degrees by midnight, setting at 01.44.  It is at aphelion on 30th, when it is 1.67 AU from the Sun.  On 31st, now down to mag 1.6, it is 18 degrees when the sky darkens, visible for only half an hour and setting at 01.11.  During the month the separation from the much brighter Venus is reducing - Mars is to the left, about 26.5 degrees on 1st, down to 11.5 by the end of May.


Jupiter: in Pisces, mag -2.0

Still very bright but too low to be easily seen in the morning sky. On 1st it rises only 19 minutes before the Sun, at 05.16, on 31st at 03.30 but only reaches 5 degrees in the east by dawn.


Saturn:  in Aquarius, mag 1.0

A morning object, very low in the pre dawn sky, only 4 degrees on 1st.  By the end of May it reaches observable altitude a couple of minutes before being lost in the brightening sky - 12 degrees in the SE at 03.35.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.9.

Not visible this month.  On 1st it appears only 8 degrees from the Sun and, on 9th, is at solar conjunction, passing 18’ to the south at 20.46.  It then becomes a morning object, still too close to the Sun to be visible.  On 31st it rises at 03.59 but there is still only 19 degrees separation.


Neptune:  in Pisces, mag 7.9.

Still not observable, below the horizon when the sky begins to brighten throughout May.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres:  in Coma Berenices, mag 7.5

Observable in the evening sky.  On 1st it is 52 degrees in the south as the sky darkens a few minutes before 22.30, culminating at 22.32 and down to 21 degrees in the west by 03.30.  From 3rd it reaches its highest point before it becomes visible, 5 minutes on this day, and on 13th it resumes prograde motion.  It moves into Virgo on 21st, now down to mag 8.0, and visible, 39 degrees in the SW, soon after 23.30, too low by 01.40.  On 31st it becomes observable a few minutes before midnight, remaining high enough for an hour and a quarter and setting at 03.48.


Pluto:  in Capricorn, mag 15.2

Too low to be observed or imaged from the UK.


Haumea: in Bootes, mag 17.3, and Makemake: in Coma Berenices, mag 17.1, are both high enough for imaging (by very experienced astrophotographers) for most of the, albeit very short, night.  For most of May Haumea reaches 52 degrees in the south, Makemake a little higher at 58 degrees, both are down to 50 degrees at dusk by the end of the month.


Eris: in Cetus, mag 18.7

Below the horizon, when the sky begins to brighten, throughout May.


Asteroids at opposition:


Three this month, all in Libra, all below mag 10, only one high enough for observation.


3rd: 32 Pomona, mag 10.4.  Culminates at 00.56 but lower than 21 degrees in the south.

10th: 16 Psyche, mag 10 6. Culminates at 01.12, 23 degrees in the south, observable 00.14 to 02.10.

22nd: 44 Nysa, mag 10.3. Culminates at 01.10, lower than 21 degrees.


Comets


2 reach perihelion this month but neither are visible.


8th: C/2022 E3 (ZTF) appears only 9 degrees from the Sun.

9th: C/2021 K1 (PanSTARRS) is below the horizon for UK observers.


C/2021 T4 (Lemmon), in Cetus, is predicted to reach mag 8.3 on 21st July. However it is unobservable from the UK now and will still be so in July.


C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS), in Virgo, mag 17.2.

Currently observable from dusk to dawn but still very faint. It brightens very slightly during the month but has a long way to go before its predicted peak, now showing as mag 3.2, in Oct 2024. 

 

Meteor showers


Eta Aquarids:  active April 18th to May 28th, peak on the night of 6th/7th, ZHR 40 -50 (no more than 10 from Manchester - and probably far fewer), 66 kps.

These are fast moving meteors with persistent trails but little or no fireball activity. Rates are said to be good for a week centred on the peak.

The radiant rises at 02.46 and is highest after dawn, peak activity predicted for 16.00 on 6th so best seen pre dawn on 6th and when the radiant rises on the morning of 7th. 

It is a strong shower when seen from further south but, from Manchester, the radiant remains very low hence the much reduced ZHR.  Peak rates have been declining in recent years - maximum 85 in 2008, 60 in 2018, 50 in 2020, but there could be some enhanced activity this year.

However, the just past full Moon is above the horizon the whole night and will interfere significantly.

Parent comet 1P/Halley.


Eta Lyrids:  active May 3rd to 14th, peak 9th, ZHR 3 (M/c 2), 43 kps.

The radiant is circumpolar, highest at 05.00, peak activity is given as 06.00 on 9th, so best seen pre dawn on that day.  However the 85% Moon will interfere.

Parent comet C/1983 H1 (IRAS-Araki-Alcock).


There could be some activity from the Camelopardalids on May 29th  A  ZHR of 15 was recorded in 2014 but the predicted peak times this year are in daylight - 06.40, 13.40 and 14.07.

Parent comet 209P/Linear.


The antihelion source has a radiant moving across northern Scorpio into southern Ophiuchus. ZHR 2  increasing to 4 towards the end of the month.


Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from:

https://in-the-sky.org

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails, Wikipedia.


The Night Sky in April 2023

by Anne Holt


Sun and Moon


Sunrise.        1st:   06.43           30th:  05.37

Sunset.         1st:   19.43           30th:  20.36 


Day Length.  1st:  13.00.29       30th:  14.59.17


Astronomical Darkness.   1st:  21.45 to 04.26     30th:  23.21 to 02.50


On 20th there is a very rare Hybrid Solar Eclipse, visible from parts of Antarctica, E Timor and E Indonesia.

Because the Sun and Moon are almost the same size on this day, the curvature of the Earth means that when seen at sunrise and sunset the Moon fails to completely cover the Sun and there is an annular eclipse. Hybrid eclipses are very rare - only 4 this century.


Full Moon:           6th at 05.34,  angular diameter 30’ 32”,  in Virgo.

New Moon:         20th at  05.13,  passes 23’ south of the Sun. 


Lunar Perigee.   16th at 03.23,  367966 km,   a/d 32’ 27”,  phase 16%,  in Aquarius.

Lunar apogee.   28th at 07.43,   404299km,   a/d 29’ 32”,  phase  58%,  in Cancer.


The most common name for April’s full Moon is the Pink Moon.  It is no more likely to appear pink than at any other time, the name comes from the pink phlox flowers which blossom at this time.

It is the Colonial American Planters’ Moon, the Celtic Growing Moon, the Old English/Anglo Saxon Hare Moon, the neo Pagan Awakening Moon, the Chinese Peony Moon and the Inuit Snow Melt Moon.

Among the more interesting indigenous American names are the Anishinaabe Broken Snowshoe Moon,  the Hopi Moon of Windbreak, the Lakota Moon when wives crack bones for marrow fat, the Shawnee Half Moon and the Zuni Great Sandstorm Moon.

As the first full Moon after the March equinox it’s also the Paschal Moon, the one used to calculate the date of Easter.  Easter Day is the Sunday on, or after, the first full Moon following the equinox.

Only it isn’t quite that simple! 

The equinox is always counted as March 21st, even when it is on a different day - the last time it was on 21st was in 2007, the next time won’t be till 2102.

And the full Moon date isn’t necessarily when the Moon is actually full, it’s a calculated date known as the Ecclesiastical Full Moon.  The Moon returns to the same place in the sky at the same phase and on the same date after 19 years. This is known as the Metonic Cycle after the Athenian astronomer who discovered it.

It is divided into 254 months of 29 or 30 days, the first day of each month is the Ecclesiastical New Moon, the 14th day following is the Ecclesiastical Full Moon.  It sometimes coincides with the actual full Moon but there can be up to 2 days difference.

The earliest possible date for Easter is March 22nd. This happens when the calculated full Moon date is Saturday, March 21st.  It last happened in 1818 and the next time won’t be until 2285.  The latest date is April 25th, this is when there is a full Moon on March 20th and the next, the Paschal Moon, is in the week beginning Monday 19th April.  This is a little more common, it happened in 1943 and the next time will be in 2038.

The most common date is April 19th.

Because there are so many variables in the calculation of the Paschal Full Moon date and therefore Easter Day, the sequence does not begin to repeat for 5,700,000 years. There have been many attempts to standardise the date of Easter. In 1928 a law was passed making it the Sunday after the second Saturday in April. Even though this law has never been enforced, it could still be at some point in the future.


Highlights


More light than high this month, unfortunately.  We are rapidly losing astro darkness - 6 hours 37 minutes on 1st down to 3 hours 29 on 30th, when it doesn’t start until 23.20.

There is one meteor shower, the Lyrids, close to new Moon. The gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, are now lost to view but Mars is still visible in the evening sky, albeit much fainter, and Mercury has its best evening showing of the year in the first half of April. The one real highlight is Venus, unmissably bright soon after sunset and still visible at the start of astro darkness.


Conjunctions


16th at 04.49:   the 15% Moon passes 3 degrees 39’ south of Saturn.  The planet rises at 04.55  but is only 2 degrees above the horizon at dawn.  


21st at 08.05:  the 3% Moon passes 1 degree 53’ south of Mercury.  The planet is only 3 degrees at dusk and the Moon is a very thin crescent.


23rd at 14.03:  the 15% Moon passes 1 degree 13’ north of Venus. Separation at sunset is less than 3 degrees up to around 4 degrees by 21.00.


26th at 03.19:  the 37% Moon is 3 degrees 13’ north of Mars.  Separation when the planet becomes visible around 21,30 is a little less than 5 degrees.


Constellations

Now that BST has been forced upon us, we have to wait even longer for the skies to darken each evening. By the time it gets really dark the winter constellations, including the beautiful area around the Winter Hexagon, so rich in bright stars, are sinking slowly in the West.

Ursa Major is now high in the sky with the Plough overhead around midnight in the second half of the month. Follow the curve of the handle down to the orange coloured Arcturus, brightest star in the constellation Bootes the herdsman, and the 4th brightest in the night sky.

The signature constellation of spring, Leo, is still riding high in the south and the Summer Triangle of Vega (in Lyra), Deneb (Cygnus) and Altair (Aquila) is now rising in the east and visible in the early hours.


Planets


Mercury:  in Pisces, mag -1.1

In early April it is at its best for the year in the evening sky. On 1st it is only 7 degrees above the western horizon as the sky darkens, so not easy to spot.  It improves over the next 10 days, on 4th, when it moves into Aries, it should be visible for a few minutes around 20.15. On 11th it is at greatest eastern elongation, 19.5 degrees from the Sun, and also at its highest point in the sky - 16 degrees at sunset, 10 degrees at dusk. However it is fading quite rapidly, now mag -0.2.  Its position deteriorates along with its brightness, by 13th it is too low in the evening twilight to be easily seen.  On 30th, mag now 5.9 its apparent separation from the Sun is only 5 degrees.


Venus:  in Aries, mag -4.0

Now unmissable (weather permitting) in the evening sky, still visible when astro darkness begins.

On 1st it is 26 degrees in the west as the sky darkens and remains easily visible until after 10pm - later if observing from a site with a clear western horizon - setting at 23.18. It crosses into Taurus on 8th, and on 9th and 10th passes south of the Pleiades, less than 3 degrees separation on the evening of 10th. By 13th it is between the Pleiades and the Hyades and the following day is above the horizon until midnight. It is at perihelion on 17th, at a distance of 0.72AU though, because its orbit is almost circular, there is very little difference (0.01AU) between this and aphelion. It is now 28 degrees at dusk, remaining easily visible for more than 3 hours. Its highest point in the evening sky, 32 degrees at sunset, is reached on 23rd and on 30th it doesn’t set until 00.42, mag now -4.1.


Mars:  in Gemini, mag 1.0

An evening object, high in the SW as the sky darkens. On 1st it remains high enough for observing until a little after 01.30, setting at 03.29. By mid month, down to mag 1.2, it is visible from dusk until 01.15 and on 30th until around 00.40.  Its apparent size is reducing as it moves away from us, its surface markings can no longer be seen when the planet is viewed through a small scope.


Jupiter:  in Pisces, mag -2.0

Not visible this month despite its brightness. On 1st it is only just above the horizon as the sky darkens, setting at 20.20.  Its apparent separation from the Sun decreases over the next 10 days and, on 11th, it is at solar conjunction passing 1 degree 03’ to the south. A couple of days later it is at apogee  at a distance of 5.96AU.  It then becomes a morning object but is still below the horizon at dawn for the rest of the month.


Saturn:  in Aquarius, mag -1.0

Now a morning object, still too low to be visible.  On the horizon at dawn on 1st,   only 4 degrees when the sky brightens at the end of the month.


Uranus:  in Aquarius, mag 5.9

Starts the month fairly close to Venus but too faint to be seen in the still bright sky,  on 1st it is 15 degrees above the horizon as the sky darkens. By 30th it appears only 9 degrees from the Sun, setting 45 minutes after it. 


Neptune: in Pisces, mag 8.0.

Too low in the morning sky to be observed.  Appears only 15 degrees from the Sun on 1st and still below the horizon at dawn by 30th.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres: in Coma Berenices, mag 7.0

An evening object, observable for most of the night, a good target for small scopes.  On 1st it is 33 degrees in the east at dusk, culminating, 52 degrees in the south, at 00.53 and down to 27 degrees in the west by dawn. By mid month it reaches its highest point at 23.43 and is 21 degrees at dawn. From 21st it sinks below observable altitude before the sky brightens.  On 30th, now at mag 7.5, it is 52 degrees in the south at dusk, culminates soon afterwards and is down to 21 degrees in the west by 03.32.


Pluto:  in Capricorn, mag 15.2

Still too low for UK observers


Haumea: in Bootes,  mag 17.3, and Makemake: in Coma Berenices, mag 17.1, are still well placed and observable for most of the night throughout April.

Haumea is at opposition on 20th, when it is at its highest point, 51 degrees in the south, at 01.49. Makemake, just past opposition, culminates a little earlier and slightly higher at 58 degrees.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.7, is at solar conjunction on 25th, unobservable throughout April.


Asteroid 7 Iris is at opposition on 30th, in Libra, mag 9.6.

It culminates at 01.01 but is only 16 degrees above the S horizon, too low to be observed.


Comets


The newly discovered C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS) is predicted to reach mag 0.0, but not until October 2024.

As we all know, comets are notoriously unpredictable, so don’t hold your breath - it will probably be another big disappointment!

It is currently in Virgo, observable late evening until dawn, estimated mag around 18.


C/2022 A2 (PanSTARRS) in Andromeda, mag 10.6

Circumpolar but very low, observable for a short time pre dawn. The observing window shortens as it gets even lower, by the last week in April it doesn’t get higher than 21 degrees.


C/2022 E3 (ZTF): in Eridanus, mag 11.2, and C/2020 V2 (ZTF): in Triangulum, mag 10.1, are now too low to be observed.


Meteor Showers


Lyrids: active April 14th to 30th, peak on the night of 22nd/23rd, ZHR variable, usually between 10 and 18, velocity 49 kps.

This is the oldest known shower, recorded by Chinese astronomers around 2,700 years ago.  It is thought to have been much more prolific in the past - in 687 BCE it was noted that ‘meteors fell like rain’. The shower now appears to show enhanced activity every 60 years, a ZHR of 90 was seen in 1922 and 1982 - maybe we’ll have a better show in 2042.

The radiant, quite close to Vega though actually in Hercules, is highest after dawn but is reasonably high at the predicted peak time of 2am.  They are fairly bright, medium paced meteors,mostly without persistent trails, parent comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher).

The good news is that the Moon is only 3 days past new on the peak night, setting soon after 1am.


There is also a shower visible only from the S hemisphere.

Pi Puppids: active 15th to 28th April, peak 24th, ZHR variable - in the past has reached 40 but hasn’t done so recently. It is thought that the dust cloud from the parent comet 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup has become more spread out.


There is one daytime shower, detectable only with radar and  radio equipment,

April Piscids, active 20th to 26th, peak 23rd, rates low.


The radiant of the Antihelion Source (ANT) begins the month in S Virgo then moves through Libra.  ZHR 2-4.


Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from:

https://in-the-sky.org

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.


The Night Sky in March 2023

by Anne Holt


Please note:  The clocks go forward at 1am on Sunday 26th.  All times given after that are in BST (GMT + 1 hour)


Sun and Moon


Sunrise           1st:   06.57             31st:    06.45

Sunset            1st:   17.46             31st:    19.41


Day Length   1st:  10.48.36          31st:  12.56.14


Astronomical Darkness     1st:   19.42 to 04.59        31st:  21.47 to 04.38


The March (Vernal or Spring in the northern hemisphere) equinox is on 20th at 21.20.  This is the moment when the centre of the Sun crosses the celestial equator and is overhead at local noon along the terrestrial equator. It is the first day of Astronomical Spring (Autumn in the southern hemisphere).  Despite the name, which means equal night, day and night are not 12 hours each on this day.  Sunrise and Sunset times are when the top of the Sun's disc, not the centre, appears and disappears. Also, refraction of light when the Sun is very close to the horizon, means that we see it for a short while before it rises and after it sets. 

The 20th is actually 12 hrs 08 minutes and 24 seconds long, closest to 12 hours is 18th at 12.00.51.


Full Moon:     7th at 12.40.  a/d 29’ 48”,  in Leo

New Moon:   21st at 17.24.  Passes 2 degrees 13’ north of the Sun.


Lunar apogee:    3rd at 18.00,  405889 km, a/d 29’ 28”, phase 90%, in Cancer.

Lunar perigee:    19th at 15.12,  362696 km, a/d 32’ 55”, phase 3%, in Aquarius.

Lunar apogee:    31st at 12.17,  404928 km, a/d 29’ 29”, phase 75%, in Cancer.


The most common name for the March Full Moon is the Worm Moon - earthworms appear now that the ground is no longer frozen.  It could also refer to insect larvae, which emerge from the bark of trees at this time. Other names are the Celtic Winds or Seed Moon, the neo Pagan Death Moon, the medieval Chaste Moon, the Colonial American Fish Moon, the Chinese Sleepy Moon and the Inuit Snow Bird Moon.

As always there are some descriptive names from Indigenous American peoples.  It’s the Choctaw Big Famine Moon, the Ojibwa Moon of the Crust on Snow, the Mohawk Much Lateness Moon, the Hopi Whispering Wind Moon and the Dakota Sioux Moon when eyes are sore from bright snow.

And, as the last Full Moon of the Winter season it is also known as the Lenten Moon.


Highlights


The star of the show this month is Venus, shining brightly in the early evening sky, though it has yet to reach its best in magnitude or position.  At the beginning of March it appears very close to Jupiter and, after the first week, is still visible at the start of astro darkness. Mars is still quite prominent in the evening sky, albeit much fainter now, and dwarf planet Ceres reaches opposition and is a good target for small scopes.

The length of astronomical darkness is reducing - 9 hrs 17 mins on 1st, down to 6 hrs 5 mins on 31st, when it doesn't start until almost 10pm.  Though that would have been 9pm if we hadn’t had to change the clocks a few days previously.

We have the equinox, after which the days start to get longer than the nights, good news for most people, bad news for astronomers.

And, around the time of the equinox, when the ecliptic is closest to vertical to the horizon after sunset, is the best time to look for the elusive Zodiacal Light in the evening sky. If you have a dark sky, completely free from any light pollution, look to the west around the start of astro darkness. You might be lucky enough to see a very faint diffuse cone of light, widest at the horizon. It is caused when sunlight is scattered by a cloud of dust along the plane of the solar system.  It is thought to originate from asteroid collisions and Jupiter family comets but there is also a theory that it is dust originating on Mars. Like the aurora it sometimes shows on images, even when it isn’t visible to the naked eye.

The best time to see it is from March 12th to 23rd, when the Moon is out of the way.


And the bad news, at the end of March our 2022/23 season comes to a close.


Constellations


We are now losing the winter highlights of Orion, Sirius and Taurus soon after midnight, though they are still prominent in the south in the early part of the night. Auriga, with the bright yellowish-white star Capella, is now overhead soon after sunset, with Gemini and Leo also prominent. The not very obvious zodiac constellation, Cancer, is now well placed. The Plough is overhead by midnight, the handle pointing to the orange hued Arcturus, the brightest star north of the celestial equator, in the constellation of Bootes. By the end of March the Summer Triangle will be above the horizon soon after 2am - or by 1am if you've forgotten to put the clock forward.


Conjunctions


2nd at 05.05:  Venus is 29.4’ from Jupiter, conjunction at 10.41 when Venus is 32’ to the north.  On the evening of 1st the separation is around 36’, the following day almost 50’.


2nd at 09.35:  Mercury passes 55’ south of Saturn. Not visible as both appear too close to the Sun to be observed safely.


24th at 10.27:  The thin crescent Moon passes 6’ south of Venus. The planet is 25 degrees in the west as the sky darkens, separation at 19.00 on 23rd is around 7 degrees, one degree closer the following evening. 

An occultation will be visible from S and E Africa, parts of the Middle East and the northern Indian Ocean.


28th at 14.16:  The almost first quarter Moon passes 2 degrees 17’ north of Mars.  Separation at 21.00 is around 5 degrees.


31st at 07.13:  The brilliant Venus passes 1 degree 17’ north of the approximately 7,500 times fainter Uranus.  Separation at 20.00 on 30th and 31st isn't much more but Uranus is very difficult to see in the still bright sky.


Planets


Mercury:  in Aquarius, mag -0.6

Not visible this month, on 1st it is below the horizon when the sky begins to brighten.  Its apparent distance from the Sun decreases over the next couple of weeks, it moves into Pisces on16th and is at superior solar conjunction the following day, passing 1 degree 28’ north of the Sun.  It is now at mag -2.0,  pity we can’t see it!   It then becomes an evening object but too low to be visible.  On 31st, when it is at perihelion at a distance of 0.31 AU, it is still well below the horizon when the sky darkens.


Venus:  in Pisces, Mag -4.0

Now dominating the early evening sky.  It is very close to Jupiter at the beginning of March but the separation increases as Venus gets higher in the evening twilight.  On 1st it should be easily visible soon after 18.00, when it reaches 20 degrees in the west, remaining observable for at least 90 minutes, longer with a clear horizon, setting at 20.34. As the month progresses it is higher at dusk and remains visible for longer.  After the first week it can be seen in astronomical darkness, though only for a couple of minutes on 8th.  On 16th, when it crosses into Aries, it is at 24 degrees when the sky begins to darken and is easily visible until 20.30.  By 31st it is  26 degrees at 20.00 and easily seen until a few minutes after 22.00, almost 20 minutes into astro darkness, setting at 23.15.


Mars:  in Taurus, mag 0.4

On 1st it is 61 degrees in the south as the sky darkens, culminating 15 minutes later and remaining visible until it sinks to 10 degrees in the SW around 01.50. From 5th it reaches its highest point before the sky darkens enough for it to be seen.  On this day it is at 61 degrees at 18.34, sinking to 10 degrees in the SW by 01.40.  It fades during March and is at mag 1.0 on 31st when it is at 55 degrees when it becomes visible at dusk and remains high enough for observing until 01.45.


Jupiter:  in Pisces, mag -2.1

Still bright but increasingly low in the SW as night falls. On 1st it becomes visible soon after 18.00, 21 degrees in the SW and very close to the 6 times brighter Venus. It remains visible for about an hour and a half, setting at 20.39.  The observing window decreases as the month goes on, by 9th it is only high enough for around an hour and by 22nd this is down to just 2 minutes, as it is only 8 degrees when the sky darkens. It isn’t really visible for the rest of the month, on 31st it is only 2 degrees above the horizon at dusk.


Saturn:  in Aquarius, mag 0.9

Not visible this month following mid February’s solar conjunction. On 1st the separation from the Sun is only 10 degrees.  This does increase during the month but, on 31st, the planet just fails to clear the horizon by dawn.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.8

Now an evening object, setting before midnight.  On 1st it becomes visible, 40 degrees in the SW, soon after 19.00 as the sky darkens, remaining observable until 21.30. By mid month it is high enough for less than an hour, on 15th it is down to 30 degrees in the west at dusk and by 24th is only 22 degrees when it becomes visible, sinking too low after only a few minutes.  


Neptune:  in Aquarius, mag 8.0

Not observable in March.  On 1st it appears only 14 degrees from the Sun, on 4th, when it crosses over into Pisces, it is down to 11 degrees. The separation decreases over the next couple of weeks, it is at solar conjunction on 15th, when it passes 1 degree 10’ to the south. It is then a morning object but remains too close to the Sun to be observable.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres:  in Coma Berenices, mag 7.1

The closest dwarf planet, orbiting in the Asteroid Belt, the only one which the average amateur has any real hope of observing or imaging.

On 1st it reaches 21 degrees in the east at 21.34, culminates 49 degrees in the south at 02.18 and is down to 44 degrees in the SW by dawn. It is at opposition on 21st, a little brighter at mag 6.9 and observable from 19.50, culminating at 00.45 and remaining observable until the sky begins to brighten.  On 31st it is high enough for observing from dusk until dawn, culminating at 00.57.


Pluto:  in Capricorn, mag 15.2

No chance!  Too far south for UK observers.


Haumea:  In Bootes, mag 17.3

On 1st is observable from 23.15 until dawn, by 31st from 22.15. Culminates in the early hours, 51 degrees in the south.


Makemake: in Coma Berenices, mag 17.1

Observable from mid evening, highest point 58 degrees at 3am in early March. At opposition on 30th, when it culminates at 01.59 and is down to 40 degrees in the west by dawn.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.7

Appears too close to the Sun for imaging, this month.


Comets


C/2022 E3 (ZTF), in Taurus, estimated mag 8.9

On 1st it is observable from dusk, when it is 36 degrees in the south, until it sinks too low around 21.45, setting at 00.23.  It is moving southwards, crossing into Eridanus on 5th, when it is 33 degrees in the SW when the sky darkens and high enough for observing for only a couple of hours. By 20th it is down to 22 degrees in the south when the sky darkens, and observable for only a few minutes, estimated mag now 10.4. It isn’t visible for the rest of the month, on 31st it is only 11 13 degrees at dusk, predicted mag now 11.1.


There are a couple of fainter comets, circumpolar for at least part of the month.


C/2022 A2 (PanSTARRS):  in Lacerta, mag 9.9

On 1st it is high enough for observing throughout the night, 32 degrees in the NW at dusk, reaching 36 degrees in the NE by dawn. It is moving S eastwards, into Andromeda on 10th, when it is 31 degrees in the NE by dawn. It remains circumpolar but, from 16th, is too low for observing for an increasing part of the night, initially observable for a short time in the dawn and dusk sky but from 21st in the morning only, reaching 21 degrees in the NW at 03.42 and 28 degrees by dawn, about an hour later. By 31st, now mag 10.6 (??) it is at observable altitude from 04.40, only 5 degrees higher by dawn.


C/2020 V2 (ZTF):  in Andromeda, mag 10.0

An evening object, circumpolar for the first part of the month but too low to be visible for much of the night.  On 1st it is 50 degrees in the west as the sky darkens soon after 19.00, down to 21 degrees in the NW by 22.45. The observing window shortens as it moves southwards and from 18th it sets for a short while - only 5 minutes on that day, from 02.23 to 02.28.  It is observable from 19.40 to 21.12.  It is in Triangulum from 20th, when it is 32 degrees in the west at dusk, and on 31st is down to 22 degrees as the sky darkens, too low after only 4 minutes.


Meteor Showers


A very poor month for these. The only shower worth mentioning is visible only from the southern hemisphere and isn’t very prolific.


Gamma Normids, active Feb 25th to March 28th, peak 14th, ZHR 6, 56 kps.


The radiant of the ANT is low, passing through S Virgo.  ZHR 2 - 5 but could be higher around 15th.

Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from: https://in-the-sky.org

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.


The Night Sky in February 2023

by Anne Holt


Sun and Moon


Sunrise     1st:   07.54         28th:   06.55

Sunset      1st:   16.51         28th:   17.44


Astronomical Darkness    1st:  18.52 to 05.52        28th:  19.40 to 05.01


Day length     1st:  8. 56. 38       28th:  10. 44. 24


Full Moon:      5th at 18.28,   a/d 29’ 35”,  in Cancer

New Moon:  20th at 07.06,    a/d 33’ 15”, passes 4 degrees 15’ south of the Sun


Lunar apogee:    4th at 08.54,  406475 km,  a/d 28’ 32”, phase 99%, in Cancer

Lunar perigee:  19th at 09.05,  358266 km,  a/d 33’ 20”, phase 0%


The full Moon is close to apogee so will appear smaller than average, the new Moon is near perigee so the thin crescent around that time will be larger than average,


The most common name for February’s full Moon is the Snow Moon. It is the Celtic Ice Moon, the Medieval English Storm Moon, the neo Pagan Quickening Moon, the Chinese Budding Moon and the Inuit Seal Pup Moon.

As always there are many indigenous names, among the more interesting are the Cree Bald Eagle Moon, the Cherokee Bony Moon, the Hopi Moon of Purification and Renewal and the Wishram Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Moon.


Highlights


On 1st comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is at perigee and also at its brightest, observed magnitude has remained steady, at 5.2, over the last few days, so will probably stay at that level early in the month.

Jupiter and Venus are both prominent in the early evening twilight, as Jupiter sinks lower over the course of the month, Venus gets higher.  The two are separated by about 30 degrees at the start of Feb, only one and a half by month end. On 22nd they are joined by a thin crescent Moon low in the SW after sunset.  Uranus is still visible, now an evening object and dwarf planet Ceres is observable from before midnight until dawn, now brighter than Neptune so a target for small scopes.

On the minus side, the days are getting longer, nearly 11 hours on 28th, which means the nights are shortening.  We have 11 hours of astro darkness on 1st, down to 9 hours 20 minutes on 28th.  But it does still begin at a reasonably early hour.

There is one meteor shower and several lunar occultations but none visible from the UK.


Constellations

Orion and Taurus are now above the horizon as the sky darkens but start to set at around 2am at the start of February and soon after midnight by the end of the month. Gemini and Auriga are still prominent, remaining above the horizon until the early hours. Leo, the signature constellation of Spring, is now high in the sky for most of the night and Bootes, with it's bright red star Arcturus is rising soon after 11, and around 9pm at month end. In the early part of the evening the Plough is low in the North East standing on its 'handle', and Cassiopeia high in the North West as darkness falls. By month end, the Summer Triangle will have risen soon after 3am - summer already? Someone better tell the weather.

Conjunctions


11th at 05.03.  Mercury passes 1 degree 34’ north of Pluto.  Not visible as they are both on the horizon at dawn.


15th at 12.25.  Venus passes 47” south of Neptune, Separation at 18.00 on 15th is still less than half a degree, but faint Neptune is only 9 degrees above the horizon at dusk. very difficult to observe.  If trying to see the pair through a scope be very careful - wait until the Sun has completely set - 17.18 in Manchester.


21st at 18.00.  The 6% Moon passes 2 degrees south of Neptune. The planet is only 4 degrees at dusk, setting at 19.28.


22nd at 07.55.  The 8% Moon passes 2 degrees 05’ south of Venus.  Closest, 1 degree 50’,at 09.41.  Venus is visible in the evening sky, separation at 18.00 on 21st is around 8 degrees, one degree less the following evening.


22nd at 22.00. The Moon passes 1 degree 11’ south of Jupiter.  Closest, 1 degree 03’, at 22.57.  Jupiter is visible, low in the SW for a couple of hours from 18.00.  At this time the Moon is low in the sky with Venus to the right and Jupiter to the left and slightly higher.

An occultation of Jupiter will be visible from southern  S America, the Falkland Islands and parts of the S Pacific and Antarctica.


25th at 12.13.  The 36% Moon passes 1 degree 10’ north of Uranus. Separation at 21.00 on 24th and 19.00 on 25th is around 6 degrees.

An occultation will be seen from parts of N Canada and S Greenland.


28th at 04.31.  The 8 day Moon passes 1 degree 04’ north of Mars. Separation at 01.54, as the planet sinks to 10 degrees in the NW,  isn’t much more.

Again there will be an occultation visible from the far north, this time from E Greenland, Svalbard and parts of the Arctic. 


Planets


Mercury:  in Sagittarius, mag -0.2

Not visible this month.  On 1st it is only 3 degrees in the east in the morning twilight.  It is at aphelion on 18th, at a distance of 0.47AU, and on 28th It is below the horizon at dawn.


Venus:  in Aquarius, mag -3.9

Very bright so, given a clear horizon, easily seen not long after sunset, while the sky is still quite light.  On 1st it is at 13 degrees in the SW at 17.15, remaining high until 18.00 and setting at 18.59. It becomes visible a couple of minutes later each day, as the days lengthen, but can be seen for longer.  By mid month it is at mag -4.0, 16 degrees at dusk, remaining high until 18.45 and setting an hour later.  It is in Pisces from 16th and by the end of the month is at 20 degrees when the sky begins to fade, remaining easily visible until 19.30. Its separation from Jupiter decreases during the month, as Venus gets higher and the gas giant gets lower, on 1st it is almost 30 degrees, down to about one and a half degrees on the evening of 28th.


Mars:  in Taurus, mag -0.3

Now past its best, fading and appearing to shrink as it moves away from us. On 1st it becomes visible around 17.30 as the sky darkens, 45 degrees in the SE, highest point 51 degrees, at 19.53 and remaining visible until a little after 3am.  During the first half of the month it passes north of the V shaped Hyades cluster and on the 5th is a little over 8 degrees from the similar hued but slightly fainter Aldebaran - the eye of the bull - the brightest star in the zodiac constellations. (Just! It beats Spica by about one tenth of a mag).  By mid month it is down to mag 0.1 and is 57 degrees in the SE at dusk, culminating at 19.17 and remaining visible until 02.30.  By 28th, now at mag 0.4, it is 61 degrees as the sky darkens, culminating 20 minutes later and remaining at observable altitude until a few minutes before 2am.


Jupiter:  in Pisces, mag -2.2

Still bright but now only visible for a short time after darkness falls. On 1st it is 34 degrees in the SW around 17.15, remaining visible until 21.00 and setting 55 minutes later. It is in Cetus from 6th to 18th then back into Pisces for the rest of the month.  On 28th it is 28 degrees in the SW as the sky begins to darken at 18.00, down to 10 degrees by 19.45.  It is now only one and a half degrees to the left of the much brighter Venus.  



Saturn:  in Capricorn, mag 0.8

Now too low in the evening sky to be seen.  On 1st it is only 2 degrees at dusk, setting at 18.00. It crosses into Aquarius on 13th, when it appears only 3 degrees from the Sun.  On 16th it is at solar conjunction, passing 1 degree 15’ south of our star.  It is then a morning object but, by 28th, is separated from the Sun by only 19 degrees, rising 8 minutes before it.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.8

Now an evening object, on 1st it is observable from dusk, when it is 52 degrees in the south, until a little after 23.00.  By 28th it is 41 degrees in the SW as the sky darkens around 19.00, remaining high enough for observing until 21.30 and setting at 00.03.

It should be visible in 10x50 binoculars but only as a point of light.  A scope is needed to see the blue/green disc.


Neptune:  In Aquarius, mag 7.8

Now too low to be observed in the evening sky.  On 1st it is only 19 degrees at dusk, setting at 20.43.  By 28th, now at mag 8.0, it appears only 15 degrees from the Sun.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres: in Virgo, mag 7.7

The closest and brightest of the dwarf planets is now high enough for observing before midnight.  On 1st it reaches 21 degrees in the east by 23.45 and its highest point, 47 degrees, at 04.13.  It remains high enough for observing until dawn. It brightens slightly during the month and becomes visible a little earlier each day. By 28th it is at mag 7.1 and reaches observable altitude at 21.39, culminates at 02.73 and is down to 34 degrees in the SW by dawn.  It is now brighter than Neptune but, because Neptune is not currently observable, comparisons can’t be made.


Pluto:  in Sagittarius, mag 15.1

Appears only 13 degrees from the Sun at the start of Feb.  It moves into Capricorn on 17th but remains much too low in the sky to be observed from the UK.  It goes so slowly round the Sun, taking 248 years to complete one orbit, that it won’t get to 22 degrees, the necessary altitude for observing and imaging, in UK skies until August 2069.  


Haumea:  in Bootes, mag 17.4

High enough for imaging, by very experienced astrophotographers, from 1am until dawn on 1st, and from a few minutes after 23.00 on 28th.


Makemake:  in Coma Berenices, mag 17.3

Observable from 23.15 till dawn on 1st, and from 21.30 on 28th.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.7

Appropriately named after the goddess of discord, Eris was first thought to be larger than Pluto. It is now known to be slightly smaller, though 27% more massive. 

Now only high enough for imaging, for a very short time in the evening sky, in early Feb. By the end of the month it’s only 18 degrees at dusk.


Comets


C/2022 E3 (ZTF):  in Camelopardalis, latest observed mag, 5.2 (late Jan).For the first few days of the month it is close enough to the N celestial pole to be reasonably high throughout the night. On 1st it is at perigee, at a distance from Earth of 0.284 AU and also at its brightest. Predicted mag 5.7 but, as it is currently about half a mag brighter than previously estimated, it could be as high as 5.2.  This is, in theory, naked eye brightness but it is very unlikely to be seen without optical aid even from a very dark sky site.  It is diffuse, rather than a point of light, and the 87% Moon, in Gemini, will be above the horizon for most of the night.  It now begins to fade as it moves southwards, into Auriga on 5th, when it is still observable all night, highest point, 37 degrees in the north, at 2024.  On the night of 5th/6th it passes 5 degrees west of Capella soon after midnight. From 9th it is no longer circumpolar, visible 18.31 to 02.04 and reaching its highest point, 68 degrees in the south, at 19.38.  It sets at 05.44.  It crosses into Taurus on 10th, estimated mag 6.6 but still maybe a little brighter, and the following day passes a little under 1 degree east of Mars.  Separation at midnight on 10th/11th and on 11th/12th  is almost 2 degrees. On 16th its highest point, 51 degrees, is at 19.02 and it sinks to 21 degrees a few minutes before midnight.  By 28th it is predicted to have faded to mag 8.8 and be observable for only a short time - 37 degrees in the south as the sky darkens, down to 21 degrees by 21.55.


We have two more circumpolar comets, much fainter than E3 at the start of Feb but fading much more slowly so there is only around one mag difference by month end.


C/2022 A2 (PanSTARRS):  in Draco, mag 9.5

Observable throughout the night. On 1st it is 36 degrees in the NW at dusk, highest point, 52 degrees in the NE, at 05.25 not long before dawn.  It goes into Cygnus on 2nd, Cepheus on 9th and back into Cygnus on 17th when it is still highest, now 41 degrees in the NE, just before dawn.  It is in Lacerta from 24th and on 28th, now at mag 9.8, 32 degrees in the NW at dusk, 36 degrees in the NE at dawn.


C/2020 V2 (ZTF):  in Cassiopeia, mag 9.9

Observable throughout the night, highest at dusk.  On 1st it is 77 degrees in the west as the sky fades, down to 21 degrees in the north by dawn.  It is moving southwards, into Perseus on 4th and Andromeda on 11th, when it is 68 degrees in the west at dusk, 16 degrees in the north by dawn. By 17th it is so low that it is only observable until a few minutes after midnight, when it is down to 21 degrees in the NW.  On 28th it is still circumpolar but only at observable altitude for a little under 4 hours, 51 degrees in the north at dusk,down to 21 degrees in the NW by 22.50.  Predicted mag now 10.0.


Meteor Showers


February is a very poor month for meteors. There is just one shower, the Alpha Capricornids, with a ZHR of only around 6, peaks on 8th but is visible from the southern hemisphere only.

There’s a daytime shower, the Capricornids/Sagittarids, active from Jan 31st to Feb 4th, rates given as medium.

And the ANT is active, radiant moves across S Leo but the ZHR is no more than 2 or 3.


Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from: https://in-the-sky.org

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.


The Night Sky in January 2023

by Anne Holt


Sun and Moon


Sunrise         1st:  08.24        31st:  07.56

Sunset         1st:  16.00         31st:  16.49


Astronomical Darkness       1st:  18.10 to 06.14          31st:  18.50 to 05.53


Day length       1st:  7.35.08                    31st:  8.53.01


Full Moon:        6th at 23.07,  angular diameter 29’ 25”, in Gemini

New Moon:    21st at 20.54,   passes 4 degrees 57’ south of the Sun.


Lunar Apogee:    8th at 23.07,  406458 km,  a/d 29’ 23”,  phase 96%.

Lunar perigee:  21st at 20.57,  356569 km,  a/d 33’ 20”,  phase 0%


Lunar perigee is only a few minutes after the new Moon, so the thin crescent on the days before and after will appear larger than average. 


The most common name for the January full Moon is the Wolf Moon, because these animals tend to howl at this time.  It is not, as was once thought, because they are hungry but in order to mark their territory and locate other members of their pack.  

It’s the Anglo Saxon Moon after Yule, the Celtic Quiet Moon, the Chinese Holiday Moon and the Inuit Dwarf Seal Moon.

Among  the many names attributed to Indigenous American peoples are the  Mohawk Big Cold Moon, the Choctaw Cooking Moon, the Passamaquoddy Whirling Wind Moon, the Apache Flying Ant Moon,  the Dakota Sioux Moon of the Terrible and the Oneida Someone’s Ears are Freezing Moon.


Earth is at perihelion on January 4th, at a distance of 147,098,935 km, almost 5 million km closer than at aphelion. However this has very little effect on the amount of light and heat reaching us, we have winter at this time because the Earth is tilted away from the Sun, meaning its rays cover a larger area than when tilted towards it.


Highlights

We still have plenty of astro darkness, a little over 12 hours on 1st, about an hour less by the end of the month. Mars and Jupiter are still prominent, though Mars is fading now and Jupiter is an early evening object, setting by 10pm in late January.

Venus is improving, getting higher in the evening twilight.  By the end of the month it should be visible even to those without an unobsructed SW horizon. There is another occultation of Uranus, visible from the UK - at a reasonable time and a reasonable altitude. 

We have one, sometimes major, meteor shower but rates have been below average in recent years. 

And, of course, there is a comet which could possibly reach binocular, maybe even naked eye, brightness in late January. It will be very well positioned, close to the N celestial pole, but magnitude estimates vary between mag 8 and mag 4.9.


Constellations

There isn't much change in the prominent constellations since December, just that everything rises, or sets, a couple of hours earlier. Orion is now well above the horizon by 8pm at the start of the month, with Sirius rising at this time. By month end, Sirius will rise at about 6pm. Auriga, Gemini and Cassiopeia are all high in the sky. The Summer Triangle is now setting earlier as the Winter Hexagon rises. Taurus and the Pleiades are still very prominent and the spring constellation of Leo is above the south eastern horizon by 9pm.


Conjunctions

1st at 21.45:  the gibbous Moon is 39.3’ from Uranus.  An occultation will be visible from Manchester, beginning at 22.29 when the planet is 44.1 degrees in the SW, ending at 23.02 when it is 4 degrees lower. The occultation is also visible from Greenland, Iceland, the N Atlantic and Scandinavia.


3rd at 19.36: the 93% Moon passes 32’ south of Mars, closest, 31.4’, at 19.51.  An occultation will be visible from south & SE Africa and parts of the S Atlantic and Indian oceans.


20th at 07.51: the very thin crescent Moon passes 6 degrees 56’ south of Mercury.  The planet rises at 06.41 but only reaches 4 degrees by dawn.  


22nd at 19.36:   Venus passes 21’ south of Saturn. The pair are close enough to fit in the same field of view of binoculars or a small scope. However, at this time, both planets will have set for UK observers.  Around 17.00, the separation is 30’. Venus should be visible, low in the SW,  but Saturn will be very difficult to see as it is so much fainter.


23rd at 07.22: the crescent Moon passes 3 degrees 49’ south of Saturn.


23rd at 08.19:  the Moon passes 3 degrees 27’ south of Venus.

The Moon and Venus should be visible from a few minutes before 17.00 but Saturn will be very difficult to spot  At this time the separation of the Moon and Venus will be about 5 degrees, the Moon and Saturn a little closer, wth the Moon to the left of the planets.


26th at 02.03: the 28% Moon passes 1 degree 48’ south of Jupiter, closest, 1 degree 36’, at 03.30.  On the night of 25th/26th Jupiter is visible from around 17.00, when the separation is 6 degrees, until 21.15 when it is a degree less.


29th at 03.28: the 60% Moon is 52.8’ from Uranus. The planet is observable until almost 1am.  When it culminates at 18.25 on 28th the separation is around 5 degrees, down to 2 degrees by midnight. An occultation will be visible from the Canadian Arctic Islands and northern Greenland.


31st at 04.24: the 78% Moon passes 6’ south of Mars. On the night of 30th/31st Mars is visible from around 17.30, when the separation is 5 degrees, to a little after 3am when it is down to less than 1 degree. An occultation will be visible from southern USA, Central America, the Caribbean and NW South America.


Planets


Mercury:  in Sagittarius, mag 1.8

Very difficult to see throughout January, appearing too close to the Sun at the start of the month.  It is at perihelion on 2nd, at a distance of 0.31 AU.  It reaches inferior conjunction on 7th, passing 2 degrees 24’ north of the Sun, now down to mag 5.3 because very little of the illuminated side faces Earth. It then begins to brighten as the separation from the Sun increases but it remains very low in the morning sky.  On 24th when it reaches its highest point, 9 degrees at sunrise, it is still only 4 degrees at dawn, mag now 0.2. It is at greatest western elongation, 25 degrees from the Sun, on 30th and the following day is only 3 degrees at dawn.


Venus:  in Sagittarius, mag -3.9

Low in the SW at dusk in early January, on 1st it is only 4 degrees as the sky darkens, setting at 17.17.  It moves into Capricorn on 2nd and by mid month is 8 degrees at dusk, so is much easier to see. It is in Aquarius from 25th, now 11 degrees at 17.00 and remaining visible for at least half an hour - more if you have an unobstructed SW horizon.  By 31st it is 12 degrees in the evening twilight, remaining easily visible for 40 minutes.

 

Mars:  in Taurus, mag -1.2

On 1st it is visible from dusk until 5am, culminating, 61 degrees in the south, at 21.45.  It reaches its stationary point on12th at 20.54, then resumes prograde (W to E) motion. On this day it culminates at 21.02 and is a little fainter at mag -0.9.  By 31st it will have faded further to mag -0.3, reach its highest point at 19.56 and remain visible until a few minutes after 3am.


Jupiter:  in Pisces, mag -2.4

An early evening object, easily visible from dusk throughout January. On 1st it is 34 degrees in the south as the sky fades, reaching its highest point, 35 degrees, an hour later.  It is down to 7 degrees in the west by 22.30.  From mid month it culminates before it becomes visible in the evening twilight. It reaches perihelion on 22nd at 05.53 at a distance of 4.95 AU.  By 31st, now at mag -2.2, it is 24 degrees in the SW when it becomes visible, sinking too low for observing soon after 21.00 and setting an hour later.


Saturn:  in Capricorn, mag 0.8

On 1st it is only 17 degrees in the west as the sky darkens, remaining visible for about an hour. By mid month it is too low at dusk to be seen easily, on 16th it is 11 degrees in the SW soon after 17.00 and only visible for a couple of minutes. By 31st it is only 2 degrees above the horizon in twilight, setting at 18.03.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.7

The seventh planet is at the limit of naked eye visibility, excellent eyesight and a completely dark sky are needed - plus knowledge of exactly where to look.  For the rest of us it should be a reasonable target for good binoculars, even easier to find using a go-to scope. 

It culminates in astro darkness for most of January, on 1st it is 41 degrees in the SE as the sky darkens soon after 17.00, reaching 52 degrees in the south at 20.13 and remaining high enough for observing until 01.15.  On 20th it is down to 21 degrees in the west by midnight and on 22nd is at its stationary point before resuming prograde motion. On 31st it culminates at 18.15, as the sky gets dark enough for it to be seen, remaining at observable altitude until 23.15.


Neptune:  in Aquarius, mag 7.9.

If you can see Uranus without any optical aid you might manage to spot Neptune using binoculars.  It is now an early evening object, on 1st it is 31 degrees in the south as the sky darkens, remaining observable until almost 20.00, when it is down to 21 degrees.  The observing window gets shorter as the month progresses, by 22nd it is 22 degrees in the SW at dusk, too low after only a few minutes. By 31st it is only 20 degrees at dusk, a little below observable altitude. 


Dwarf Planets


Ceres:  in Virgo, mag 8.4

On 1st it is high enough for observing soon after 01.30 and reaches its highest point, 46 degrees in the south, at 05.57.  It is lost in the brightening sky 50 minutes later. By 31st it has brightened to mag 7.9 and becomes visible a few minutes before midnight, culminating at 04.17 and remaining reasonably high until dawn.


Pluto:  in Sagittarius, mag 15.1

At solar conjunction on 18th, when it passes 2 degrees 16’ south of the Sun.


Haumea:  in Bootes, mag 17.4

A morning object in early January, high enough for imaging from 03.10 and reaching 48 degrees in the SE by dawn .On 22nd it culminates, 51 degrees in the south, as it is lost in the morning twilight. By month end it is high enough for imaging from 01.10, is highest at 06.03 and down to 50 degrees in the south when the sky begins to brighten about half an hour later.


Makemake:  in Coma Berenices, mag 17.3

A couple of hours ahead of, and a little higher than, Haumea, observable from 01.20 on 1st, culminating at 06.47 at 58 degrees. From 22nd it reaches 21 degrees by midnight and on 31st is observable from 23.20, highest point at 04.49 and down to 53 degrees in the SW by dawn.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.8

Only a target for very experienced astrophotographers, who might be able to find it by playing ‘spot the difference’ with images taken a few days apart. 

It’s an evening object, on 1st it is 31 degrees in the east as the sky gets really dark, reaching 35 degrees in the south at 19.11 and too low after 22.30.  On 18th it sets at midnight and from 20th has culminated before it becomes visible.  By 31st it is 33 degrees in the south at 18.15, only high enough for imaging for a little over 2 hours


Asteroids at opposition


2 Pallas; in Canis Major, mag 7.7

Opposition on 16th at 04.46.  Too far south for UK observers, maximum 6 degrees above the horizon.


6 Hebe: in Cancer, mag 8.7

Opposition on 26th at 16.46. Visible from 19.30 to 05.00, culminating at 00.16 when it reaches 49 degrees in the south.


Comets


C/2022 E3 (ZTF) in Corona Borealis, mag around 7.5

Observed mag is now 7.8 (late December) so it does appear to be living up to expectations - so far!

It is now moving northwards quite rapidly and, we hope, brightening considerably during January. On 1st it is at observable altitude from 03.00, reaching 54 degrees in the SE by dawn, a little before 7am.  It is circumpolar from 10th but still too low for observing in the early part of the night.  On that day it should become visible from around 01.50 reaching 63 degrees in the SE before being lost in the morning twilight. It is at perihelion on 12th, at 1.11 AU from the Sun  It moves into Bootes a couple of days later, when it is observable from 01.07, now getting to 68 degrees by dawn. On 19th it reaches observable altitude at 23.45 and gets to 76 degrees in darkness.  The following day it is high enough to be observed for most of the night - if the more optimistic predictions of its magnitude (6.0) prove to be correct. If it fails to live up to expectations it won’t be visible until later, when it’s higher in the sky. It crosses into Draco on 22nd, Ursa Minor on 26th and Camelopardalis on 29th.  It is now close to the north celestial pole and visible throughout the night.  Best estimate for magnitude at this time is 4.9,  maybe even visible to the naked eye - from the proverbial dark sky site.


C/2020 V2 (ZTF):  in Cepheus, mag 9.8

Circumpolar, visible throughout the night.  It is moving slowly southwards, into Cassiopeia on 6th, but still close to the north celestial pole. On 26th it is 79 degrees in the NW as the sky darkens, down to 25 degrees in the north by dawn. By 31st it is slightly lower, 77 degrees at dusk, 22 degrees when it is lost in the morning twilight, marginally brighter at mag 9.7.  


81P/Wild:  in Libra mag 10.6

Too low to be seen from the UK after the first few days in January.  On 1st it is only 22 degrees in the south as the sky brightens around 06.45.  It is moving SE wards and by 3rd is only 21 degrees at dawn, so difficult to observe. 


118P/Shoemaker-Levy:  in Cancer, mag 10.8

Faint but well positioned for imaging.  It is at observable altitude for most of the night throughout January.  On 1st it culminates, 45 degrees in the south, at 02.11.  It reaches peak brightness on 7th, but is still only predicted to be at mag 10.7.  By the end of Jan it reaches its highest point, now 50 degrees, a little before midnight.


Meteor Showers


We have one, possibly major, shower this month.


Quadrantids: active Dec 28th to Jan 12th, peak 4th, ZHR given as 110 but said to vary between 60 and 200, (last year's rates were below average, observers in even the darkest areas of N England are unlikely to see more than 40), velocity 41 kps.

The shower was named after the former constellation Quadrans Muralis, the wall mounted quadrant, which was first recorded in sky charts in 1795 but was omitted from the official list of 88 decided by the IAU in 1922.  It was a small, insignificant constellation, with no bright stars, located between N Bootes and Draco, near the handle of the Plough. 

The radiant, now in Bootes, is circumpolar, highest after dawn.  The shower has a short peak of only 6 hours centred on 04.30 on 4th, so the best time to look is between then and dawn. The almost full Moon will be low in the sky, setting at 06.41.  They are medium speed, medium bright meteors not usually leaving trails.  However the shower does sometimes include brighter ones, maybe even fireballs.

The parent body is thought to be asteroid 2003 EH, possibly a remnant of comet C/1490 Y1, recorded by Chinese astronomers but which disintegrated about a hundred years later.  The shower was first recorded in 1815 - it is thought that the Earth didn’t previously pass through the dust stream, it was probably shifted during a close encounter with Jupiter around that time.


Gamma Ursae Minorids:  active Jan 10th to 22nd, peak 18th, ZHR 5, 31 kps.

The radiant is circumpolar, highest after dawn, peak activity given as 16.00 on 18th so best seen pre dawn and after dusk on that day.


Kappa Cancrids.

There hasn’t been much activity from these in recent years but it might be worth having a look on Jan 10th, around 4am, when the Earth is at the same position relative to the dust stream as it was when there was a short outburst in 2015.  The radiant is close to that of the ANT but the Kappa Cygnids are much faster moving.


The radiant of the antihelion source (ANT) is in SE Gemini at the start of January,  then crosses Cancer during the month.  ZHR 2 to 3.

 

Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from: https://in-the-sky.org

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.


The Night Sky in December 2022

by Anne Holt


Sun and Moon


Sunrise         1st:    08.01        31st:    08.25

Sunset          1st:   15.53         31st:    15.59


Latest sunrise:    30th at 08.25

Earliest sunset:   13th at 15 49


Day Length:   1st:  7hr 52’ 16”       31st:  7hr 33’ 56”


Shortest days:  21st and 22nd at 7hr 28’ 27”


The December Solstice is on 21st at 21.43. This is when the Sun reaches its most southerly point in our sky and is overhead at local noon along the Tropic of Capricorn.

It is the first day of astronomical winter in the northern hemisphere, the start of summer south of the equator.


Astronomical darkness     1st:   18.02 to 05.54      31st:   18.09 to 06.14


Earliest start:  10th at 17.59       Latest end: 29th Dec to 4th Jan at 06.14

Longest period of astro darkness:  18th to 21st at 12 hr 9’


Full Moon:       8th at 04.08.  Angular diameter 29’ 50”.

New Moon:   23rd at 10.17.  Passes 3 degrees 52’ south of the Sun.


Lunar apogee:    12th at 00.28.  405868km,  a/d 29’ 25”,  phase 83%.

Lunar perigee:    24th at 08.26.  358269km,  a/d 33.20”,   phase 3%.


The most common name for the December full Moon is the Cold Moon, for obvious reasons.

It’s the Old English/Anglo Saxon Moon before Yule, the neo Pagan Long Nights Moon and the Colonial American Christmas Moon. The Chinese call it the Bitter Moon and for the Inuit people it’s the Dark Night Moon.

As always there are very many Indigenous American names, including the Ojibwa Little Spirit Moon, the Kiowa Real Goose Moon (do they have fake geese before this?) the Winnebago Big Bear Moon, and the Hopi Respect Moon.

The Choctaw tribe call it the Peach Moon - do they think it looks like a peach, surely they don’t grow them at this time of year?


Highlights


We have plenty of astronomical darkness, around 12 hours each night throughout December.  There are several meteor showers including the one often said to be the best, most reliable of the year, and a couple of comets around mag 10,  though one could be significantly brighter, maybe becoming a binocular target.

Uranus is still high enough for observing for much of the night and, near the beginning of the month, is occulted by the Moon, unfortunately in the evening twilight.  Mars and Jupiter are still dominant, though we are now losing Jupiter before midnight. Mars is almost as bright, visible for most of the night as it reaches opposition early in the month - at the same time as it is occulted by the Moon in the pre-dawn sky.


Constellations


Orion, with the stars of his belt pointing down to the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, is now well above the horizon by midnight, and is a beautiful sight especially from a dark sky site. By month end these will be visible from 10pm - weather permitting. Taurus and the Pleiades precede him across the sky.

Gemini, including the 'twins' Castor and Pollux, and Auriga with the bright Capella are also very prominent. Aries and Pisces, while not particularly bright - or often not even visible in our light polluted skies - are both quite high this month.

Perseus, Andromeda and the Great Square of Pegasus are also well placed for most of the night. The Plough starts the night quite low in the Northern sky, with Cassiopeia high overhead. Because of the long winter nights, these last two will have changed places before dawn as they rotate around the celestial north pole.

Conjunctions


2nd at 00.56.  The gibbous Moon passes 2 degrees 30’ south of Jupiter. The planet should be visible until a little after midnight, when the separation is slightly under 3 degrees.


5th at 17.30.  The Moon passes 36.2’ from Uranus. An occultation is visible from Manchester, the planet disappears at 16.51, in nautical twilight so not easy to see.  It reappears at 17.21, in astro twilight, about 24 degrees above the eastern horizon.


8th at 04.24.  Conjunction of Mars and the full Moon.  At 04.56 Mars is occulted by the Moon, at this time it is 28.9 degrees above the NW horizon.  When it reappears at 05.57, at the end of astro darkness, it will have sunk to 19.8 degrees.

When Mars becomes visible a little after 16.30 on 7th the Moon will be about 6 degrees to the right, closing in as the night progresses.

The occultation is visible from most of N America, the N Atlantic, Scandinavia, France, Iberia and a small part of N Africa.

Mars will be at mag -1.9, the Moon at -12.6.


24th at 11.25.  The Moon passes 3 degrees 28’ south of Venus then moves towards Mercury, passing 3 degrees 45’ to the south at 18.31.  That evening the 3 form a triangle, very low in the SW soon after sunset.  However they will be extremely difficult to see - Mercury is only 4 degrees above the horizon at dusk, Venus a couple of degrees lower.  The Moon, lower still, will be a very thin crescent.

THE USUAL WARNING:  If looking for these through binoculars make sure that the Sun has fully set.  Even catching the last rays could irrevocably damage your eyes.


26th at 16.11.  The Moon passes 4 degrees south of Saturn. They are closest, 3 degrees 46’, at 18.56.  The planet should be visible, 18 degrees in the south, towards the end of civil twilight around 16.45, sinking too low to be seen by 18.30.


29th at 09.21. Venus passes 1 degree 24’ south of Mercury. Again very low and difficult to see after sunset. Both set soon after 17.00 in nautical twilight.


29th at 12.25. The almost first quarter Moon is 2 degrees 03’ from Jupiter.  The planet is visible from dusk, soon after 16.15, when it will be 33 degrees in the SE.  Separation around this time is about a degree more, with the Moon to the left.


Planets


Mercury:  in Ophiuchus, mag -0.6

Very difficult to spot this month.  On 1st it has sunk below the horizon by the time the sky begins to darken.  It moves into Sagittarius on 5th, still failing to clear the horizon by dusk. It does move away from the Sun over the next couple of weeks but, because of the very low path of the ecliptic at this time, remains very low in the evening sky. On 21st when it reaches greatest eastern elongation, 20 degrees from the Sun, it is still only 4 degrees at dusk and sets at 17.19. Highest point in the evening sky, 8 degrees at sunset, is on 27th but it is still down to 4 degrees in the evening twilight. By 31st, now down to mag 0.8, it is only 1 degree at dusk.


Venus: in Ophiuchus, mag -3.9

Even lower than Mercury in the evening sky for most of December but, because it is so much brighter, might be glimpsed towards the end of the month, very low in the SW soon after sunset - if you have a completely unobstructed view.  On 1st it is on the horizon as the sky darkens, setting at 16.18, less than half an hour after sunset.  It is in Sagittarius from 8th and reaches aphelion on 25th.  Its distance from the Sun is now 0.73 AU but, because its orbit is almost circular, there is very little difference between this and the perihelion distance.  It is now 3 degrees above the horizon at dusk, setting at 16.54.  By 31st it is 4 degrees at dusk, setting 70 minutes after the Sun.


Mars:  in Taurus, mag -1.8

The star of the show this month as it reaches opposition and is occulted by the full Moon. 

On 1st it becomes visible soon after 17.00 when it reaches 7 degrees in the NE, culminates at 61 degrees in the south at 00.38 and remains visible until dawn. It is then at perigee, 0.54 AU from the Earth and with an angular diameter of 17.2”.  It reaches opposition on the morning of 8th, on the night of 7th/8th it is visible from 16.40 to 07.30, culminating at 00.05 now at mag -1.9. Occultation is towards the end of astro darkness on 8th, details in the ‘conjunctions’ section. The planet at this opposition is not as bright as the ones in 2018 (mag -2.8) and 2020 (-2.6), but it is higher in the sky, shining with an obvious reddish hue.  It then begins to fade quite rapidly, by 31st it is down to mag -1.2, is 23 degrees in the east at dusk, reaches its highest point at 21.54 and sinks to 7 degrees in the west by 05.15. 


Jupiter:  in Pisces, mag -2.6

An evening object, still very bright but fading slightly.  On 1st it is at 22 degrees in the SE as the sky fades, reaching 34 degrees in the south at 19.23 and too low for observing by 00.20.  On 6th it sinks to 7 degrees in the west by midnight and on 23rd by 11pm. On 31st it is 33 degrees in the south at dusk, culminating a little over an hour later and down to 7 degrees in the west around 22.30.  Mag now - 2.4.


Saturn:  in Capricorn, mag 0.8

Visible for about 3 hours in the evening sky in early December. On 1st it is 20 degrees in the south at 16.45, culminating 10 minutes later. It remains high enough for observing until a few minutes before 20.00.  On 5th it becomes visible in the darkening sky as it culminates at 16.41, remaining reasonably high until around 19.30. By mid month it is too low to be easily seen after 19.00 and on 31st it is 17 degrees in the SW as darkness falls, down to 11 degrees shortly after 18.00.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.7

Still high enough for observing for a large part of the night, especially in early December.  On 1st it is 22 degrees in the east as the sky darkens around 17.30, reaching its highest point, 52 degrees, a few minutes after 22.15 and down to 21 degrees in the west by 03.20. By 31st it is 40 degrees in the east at dusk reaching 53 degrees by 20.17 and remaining high enough for observing until 01.30.  It should be easily visible in good binoculars, albeit only as a point of light.  An average sized amateur scope will show it as a small blue/green disc.


Neptune:  in Aquarius, mag 7.9

An early evening object, a good target for a small amateur scope, though a larger one is needed to show the blue disc.  On 1st it is observable from dusk, when it is 29 degrees in the SE, until around 10pm and culminating at 19.99 when it is 32 degrees above the southern horizon. It resumes prograde (west to east) motion on 3rd and on 12th is observable from dusk until shortly after 21.00.  In the last week of the month it culminates before the sky darkens, remaining observable for almost 3 hours on 25th, less than 2 and a half hours by 31st.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres:  in Leo, mag 8.7

A pre dawn object, not at its brightest or best this month, though it does get quite high by dawn.  On 1st it should be observable from 3am, reaching 46 degrees in the east by daybreak. It moves into Virgo on 4th and rises at midnight on 9th, becoming visible 2 and a half hours later. On 10th, when it is at perihelion at a distance of 2.55 AU from the Sun, it is observable for about 4 hours in the morning sky.  On 31st it reaches observable altitude at 01.36, culminates at 06.00 and is a degree lower when it is lost in the morning twilight 45 minutes later.


Pluto:  in Sagittarius, mag 15.2

Will remain too far south for imaging from the UK for a few years yet. 


Haumea:  in Bootes, mag 17.4

High enough for imaging for a short time in the pre dawn sky, just over an hour at the start of the month, 3 and a half hours by 31st.


Makemake:  in Coma Berenices, mag 17.3

High for about 3 hours pre dawn in early December, 5 and a half hours by 31st when it reaches 57 degrees before being lost in the brightening sky.


 Eris:  in Cetus, 18.8

An evening object, a target for only the very best astrophotographers. Observable on 1st from 18.00 to 00.30, highest point, 35 degrees, at 21.11. By 31st it is 31 degrees in the east at dusk, culminates at 19.13 and sinks below 21 degrees in the SW by 22.30.



Asteroids at opposition


Dec 1st:  345 Dembowska:  in Taurus, mag 9.7

Observable 17.42 to 06.00,  culminates, 66 degrees in the south, at 23.51.


Dec 2nd: 532 Herculna:  in Orion, mag 10.1

At observable altitude 20.00 till 04.15, highest point, 43 degrees, at 00.05.


Comets 


2 comets reach perihelion in December.


81P/Wild: in Virgo, mag 10.7

High enough for imaging for a short time in the pre dawn sky. On 1st it is at 21 degrees a little before 6am, reaching 26 degrees in the SE by dawn about half an hour later. It is moving SE wards, at perihelion on 15th, when it is 1.60 AU from the Sun and observable soon after 6am, now only 24 degrees by dawn. It is in Libra from 29th and on 30th is only at observable altitude for a few minutes, reaching 22 degrees in the south before being lost in the brightening sky.


C/2017 K2(PanSTARRS):  in Ara, mag 8.6.  

Perihelion on 19th at 1.80AU but too far south to be observable from the UK.


And 2 predicted to be at their brightest in early 2023.


C/2022 E3 (ZTF): in Serpens Caput, mag 10.6 (?)

On 1st it is observable for nearly an hour, reaching 29 degrees in the east by dawn. It is moving northwards and is predicted to brighten considerably during the month, maybe even reaching binocular brightness. It crosses into Corona Borealis on 11th, when it is at observable altitude from 04.50, and up to 37 degrees by dawn. On 31st it is observable from a few minutes after 3am, reaching 53 degrees in the SE before it is lost in the morning twilight.  Magnitude at this time probably somewhere between 9.0 and 6.0 - estimates vary considerably. It will be at its brightest in early February, when it will be in Camelopardalis, circumpolar and visible all night.

And possibly a naked eye object.


C/2020 V2 (ZTF):  in Draco, mag 10.5

Close to the north celestial pole, so high enough for observing throughout the night. It goes into Camelopardalis on 13th and Cepheus on 20th.  It spends 22nd and 23rd is in Ursa Minor - only 4 degrees from Polaris on the night of 23rd - before going back into Cepheus for the rest of the month. It isn’t expected to get much brighter, maybe 9.8 in early January.


Meteor Showers


We have one (very) major shower and several minor ones this month.


Geminids: active Dec 4th to 20th, peak 14th, ZHR 120 to 150, from the very darkest areas in the north of England could possibly reach 100 - but probably won’t.  Slow moving 35 kps. 

The peak time is given as 13.00 on 14th.  The radiant is above the horizon all night, highest at 2am, so the shower is best seen between then and dawn on the morning of 14th, and also after dusk that day. The radiant is quite low in the evening sky but, to compensate, the gibbous Moon doesn’t rise until 22.00.  They are slow moving meteors, sometimes with short lived trails, mainly white but the shower does often include coloured meteors.  They are usually very bright but those seen on the day before the maximum are often much fainter. 

The parent body is 3200 Phaethon, a strange bluish coloured object belonging to a class known as active asteroids. It shows some comet like properties, it brightens and develops a tail when closest to the Sun and has a similar orbit to some comets.


Monocerotids:  active Dec 5th to 20th, peak 9th, ZHR 3,  41kps.

Peak activity is given as 11am on 9th, the radiant is highest at 2am, so best seen between then and dawn on 9th.  Meteors from this shower are often confused with Geminids as the radiant is in a similar area of the sky but Monocerotids are slightly faster moving. The just past full Moon will be above the horizon all night on 9th, so will interfere.

Parent comet C/1917 F1 (Mellish).


Sigma Hydrids:  active Dec3rd to 20th, peak 9th (or maybe 10th or 12th) ZHR 2 or 3 (M/c 1), 58 kps.

Peak activity at 9am, the radiant rises at 20.59, highest at 3am, so the shower is best seen before dawn, on whichever date proves to be correct. The shower often includes very bright meteors, faster moving than Geminids or Monocerotids, which are also active at this time.  Parent body thought to be an unknown comet


Comae Berenicids: active Dec 12th to 23rd, peak 16th, ZHR 3 (M/c 2), 65  kps.

Peak activity 08.00 on 16th, the radiant rises at 22.21, highest in daylight so the best chance of seeing a meteor or 2 is pre dawn on 16th.  This was once thought to be part of the Geminids but is now considered to be a separate shower as they are much faster moving. Parent body again an unknown comet.


December Leonis Minorids:  active Dec 5th to Feb 4th, peak 20th, ZHR 4 (M/c 4 or fewer) 64 kps.

A weak, long lasting shower of faint meteors.  The radiant rises at 19.25 highest at 05.00, an hour before the predicted peak, so one or two may be seen before dawn on 20th when there is minimal Moon interference.

Parent comet thought to be C/1739 K1.


Ursids:  active Dec 19th to 26th, peak 22nd, ZHR 10 (figure for Manchester given as 9 but that’s probably very optimistic), 33 kps.

The radiant, in Ursa Major, is circumpolar, highest after dawn. Peak activity 22.00 on 22nd so best seen between then and dawn on 23rd. This shower occasionally produces a meteor storm, in 1945 and 1986 a ZHR of 500 was recorded but only for a very short time. There were lesser outbursts in 2014 and 2015, with a ZHR of around 50.  There are 2 short periods of enhanced activity predicted for this year but both are in daylight on 22nd. Close to new Moon so no interference. Parent comet 8P/Tuttle.


There are a couple of showers visible only from the southern hemisphere.


Phoenicids: active Nov 28th to Dec 9th, peak 2nd, ZHR variable,  very slow 18 kps.

Parent comet 28P/Blanpain.


Puppid Velids: active Dec 1st to 15th, peak 7th, ZHR 10, 40 kps.

This is thought to be a complex of several not well studied showers. Parent body unknown.


The antihelion source (ANT) is active from around 10th, when both Taurid streams have finished. The radiant is in Taurus in mid Dec, then moves across S Gemini.


The Night Sky in November 2022

by Anne Holt


Sunrise     1st:    07.07          30th:   08.00

Sunset      1st:    16.36          30th:   15.54


Day Length     1st:  9.28.39     30th:  7.54.33


Astronomical darkness   1st:   18.35 to 05.10      30th:   18.02 to 05.53 



Full  Moon:      8th at 11.02,   angular diameter 30’ 34”

New  Moon:  23rd at 22.58.   passes 1 degree 38’ north of the Sun 


On 8th there is a total lunar eclipse visible from E Asia, W and central N America, E Australia and the Pacific Ocean.

From Manchester the Moon will be below the horizon at the time.


Lunar apogee:   14th at 06.39,  distance 404923 km,  angular diameter 29’ 29”, phase 66%

Lunar perigee:   26th at 01.31,  distance 363825 km,  angular diameter 32’ 55”, phase 9%

 

The most common name for the November full Moon is the Beaver Moon, as it’s the time when these animals make their preparations for winter.  Other names given in the Old Farmer’s Almanac are the Frost Moon and the Freezing Moon.

It’s the Medieval English Snow Moon, the neo Pagan Tree Moon, the Chinese White Moon and the Inuit Itartoryuk Moon - meaning the Moon when white mist fills the igloo.  

As always, indigenous American tribes all have their own names including the Choctaw Sassafras Moon, the Dakota Sioux Moon when horns are broken off, the Ojibwa Ice Flowing Moon, the Hopi Fledgling Raptor Moon and the Wishram Snowy Morning Mountains Moon. 


Highlights


We have plenty of astronomical darkness, beginning before 7pm now we’ve gone back to proper time. On 1st there are 10 and a half hours, up to almost 12 hours by month end. 

Jupiter is still very bright, visible until soon after 2am on 1st and midnight by the end of November. Mars is improving in position and brightness, for most of the month, only the Moon and Jupiter outshine it in the night sky. Uranus reaches opposition early in the month and is observable for most of the night.

We have a few minor meteor showers with a strong possibility of a higher than usual number of fireballs - and maybe even a short lived meteor storm.


Constellations

If it is clear you will see that the Summer Triangle comprising the 3 bright stars Vega, Deneb and Altair is now sinking slowly in the West, giving way to the stars of winter now rising in the east.

Mid-evening the square of Pegasus, the signature constellation of autumn, is fairly high in the south but not particularly prominent, containing only 2nd magnitude stars. It's an easy star-hop from Alpheratz, the top left star of the square of Pegasus to the Andromeda Galaxy, M31, which is now nicely placed fairly high in the south east.

The Winter Hexagon is a beautifully rich area bounded by Sirius (Canis Major), Rigel (Orion), Aldebaran (Taurus), Capella (Auriga), Pollux (Gemini) and Procyon (Canis Minor). This relatively small region contains half of the ten brightest stars. It will be above the horizon not long after midnight at the start of November and before 11pm by month end.

The Pleiades, just outside the Hexagon are also very well placed and are a beautiful sight in binoculars or a small telescope.

Cassiopeia is still riding high leaving the Plough, on the opposite side of Polaris, low in the Northern sky for much of the night.

Conjunctions


1st at 21.08:  The 62% Moon passes 4 degrees 11’ south of Saturn, closest, 3 degrees 58’, at 23.25. Saturn is visible until around 21.40, culminating at 18.49 when the separation is 5 degrees.


4th at 08.20:  The 89% Moon passes 3 degrees 40’ south of Neptune. The planet is observable from 18.00 to 23.45, culminating a few minutes before 21.00, when the separation is 9 degrees on 3rd, a degree less on 4th.


4th at 20.28:  The Moon is 2 degrees 23’ south of Jupiter, closest, 2 degrees 07’, at 22.19. The planet culminates at 21.11 when it is 34 degrees above the southern horizon.


8th at 12.39:  The full Moon is 41.8’ from Uranus. On the night of 8th/9th Uranus is visible throughout the night, highest point, 52 degrees, at 23.53. The separation at 19.00  is around 4 degrees, up to 7 by midnight.

An occultation will be visible from E Asia, Alaska and parts of north & western Canada.


12th at 13.46: the 90% Moon passes 2 degrees 27’ north of Mars. On the night of 11th/12th Mars is visible for most of the night, culminating at 02.23 when it reaches 60 degrees in the south.  Separation is around 4 degrees at 19.00, up to 7 degrees by midnight.


29th at 04.40:  The 40% Moon is 4 degrees 09’ south of Saturn, closest, 3 degrees 56’ at 06.57.  The planet is visible from dusk until around 20.00.  The separation at 20.00 on 28th is 8 degrees, at 17.00 on 29th around 7 degrees.


Planets


Mercury:  in Virgo, mag -1.2

Not visible this month. On 1st the separation from the Sun is only 4 degrees.  It goes into Virgo on 4th and is at superior solar conjunction at 16.56 on 8th, when it passes 5 arcminutes north of the Sun, distance from Earth now 1.44 AU. It crosses into Scorpio on 18th and is at aphelion the following day when it is 0.47 AU from the Sun, but appears only 6 degrees from it. It is in Ophiuchus from 23rd and on 30th, now at mag -0.6, is still below the horizon at dusk.


Venus:  in Libra, mag -3.9

Still not visible, despite its brightness.  On 1st it appears only 2 degrees from the Sun.  On 18th, when it goes into Scorpio, the separation is 6 degrees and it rises and sets shortly after the Sun. It also crosses into Ophiuchus on 23rd and on 30th is still not visible as it is on the horizon at dusk, setting only a few minutes after the Sun.


Mars:  in Taurus, mag -1.3

Now shining brightly for most of the night, it starts the month at a similar magnitude to Sirius, outshining the star after the first few days. On 1st it rises at 18.34 and reaches observable altitude, 7 degrees in the east, a little before 20.00. Its highest point, 60 degrees, is at 03.06 and it remains visible until dawn, when it is down to 40 degrees in the west.  It moves slowly westwards between the horns of the bull during the month, culminating a few minutes earlier and remaining visible for a few minutes longer each day. On 30th it is at mag -1.8, visible from soon after 18.00  and culminating at 00.44. It is down to 13 degrees in the west when the sky brightens at 07.30. 

It is now just over a week from opposition, appearing at its largest when seen through a scope. An average amateur scope should reveal some of the surface markings.


Jupiter:  in Pisces,  mag -2.8

Now past its best for the year but still the brightest planet currently on view, unmissable in the early to mid evening sky. On 1st it is 12 degrees in the east when the sky begins to darken around 17.00.  It culminates, 34 degrees in the south, at 21.24 and is down to 7 degrees in the west by 02.20. It fades slightly during November and sinks too low for observing a few minutes earlier each day. It reaches its stationary point on 23rd at 22.58, then goes back to prograde (W to E) motion.  By 30th, now at mag -2.6, it is 22 degrees in the east as the sky fades, culminating at 19.27 and down to 7 degrees in the west by 00.22.

Through a scope it appears twice the size of Mars and Saturn, and the 4 Galilean moons should be easily visible. 


Saturn:  in Capricorn, mag 0.7

Visible in the early evening. On 1st it is 17 degrees in the SE at dusk, culminating at 18.49 when it is 19 degrees above the southern horizon. By 30th it is only visible for about 3 hours, 20 degrees in the south when the sky darkens, culminating only 15 minutes later and down to 11 degrees in the SW by 20.00.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.7

Now at its best, observable for most of the night. On 1st it is at 21 degrees in the east at 19.20, highest point, 53 degrees in the south, at 00.26 and down to 21 degrees in the west by 05.30. It is at opposition on 9th when it is at observable altitude from 18.45 to 04.55, culminating at 23.49.  By 30th it is at 22 degrees when it becomes visible, culminates at 22.23 and is down to 22 degrees in the west by 03.30. For any observers with excellent eyesight who are lucky enough to be in a very dark sky site this is the ideal time to try to spot the planet with the naked eye, however it will only appear as a very faint ‘star’. It should be easily visible in binoculars and a fairly small scope will show the blue/green disc.


Neptune:  in Aquarius, mag 7.8

On 1st it is 21 degrees in the SE a few minutes after 18.00, reaches 32 degrees in the south by 21.59 and sinks below 21 degrees in the SW shortly before midnight.  By 30th it is 28 degrees in the SE at dusk, culminates at 19.04 and is too low in the SW for observing by 22.00. It is still close to Jupiter, on 1st the separation is about 6.75 degrees.  They are closest on 22nd, when it is 6.1 degrees below and to the right of the gas giant. 

If your eyes, and sky, are good enough to see Uranus without optical aid you should be able to find Neptune using decent binoculars, otherwise a small scope is needed. A larger scope will show it as a small blue disc. In both cases you will need to know exactly where to look.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres:  in Leo, mag 8.8

Not at its brightest or best positioned this month. On 1st it rises at 01.15, is high enough for observing from around 03.50 and reaches 37 degrees in the SE before being lost in the brightening sky soon after 05.30. It becomes visible a few minutes earlier each day, remaining so until dawn. From 6th to 8th it passes through the area of the Triplet Galaxies and by 30th reaches 21 degrees by 3am andis 45 degrees in the SE as dawn breaks, now marginally brighter at mag 8.7.


Pluto:  In Sagittarius, mag 15.0

Still too low for imaging or telescopic observing from the UK.


Haumea:  in Bootes, mag 17.4

Too low for observing during the first half of November.  By 17th it reaches 22 degrees at 06.03 but is lost in the brightening sky only a couple of minutes later. The observing window increases as the month progresses, by 30th it reaches 22 degrees at 05.15 and gets to 32 degrees in the east by dawn, about 70 minutes later.


Makemake:  in Coma Berenices, mag 17.2

Observable for a short time in the pre dawn sky. On 1st it rises at 02.31, reaches observable altitude soon after 05.15 and is 25 degrees in the east by dawn 20 minutes later.  By 30th it is high enough for 3 hours from 23.25, reaching 47 degrees in the SE before being lost in the brightening sky.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.8

Not for the faint hearted or anyone not in possession of the very best photographic equipment. On 1st it is higher than 21 degrees from 20.00 to 02.30, highest point, 35 degrees, at 23.10. By 30th it culminates at 21.15 and is high enough for imaging from 18.00 to 00.30.


Asteroids at Opposition


Four this month, all around mag 9.


12th.   27 Euterpe: in Aries, mag 8

Observable 18.57 to 04.50, culminates at 23.53 when it is 53 degrees in the south.


19th.  115 Thyra:  in Perseus, mag 9.7

Circumpolar, observable from dusk when it is 33 degrees in the NE, to dawn when it is 25 degrees in the NW.


22nd.  324 Bamberga: in Perseus, mag 9.1

Also circumpolar, 33 degrees in the NE at dusk, 26 degrees NW at dawn.


29th.  30 Urania:  in Taurus, mag 9.6

At observable altitude from 18.06 to 05.35, culminating at 23.51 when it reaches 61 degrees in the south.


Comets


Nothing predicted to be brighter than mag 11 this month.  However we have a couple which may (or may not) reach a reasonable magnitude early next year.


C/2022 E3 (ZTF): in Serpens Caput, mag 11.9

Currently only high enough for observing for a very short time - just under an hour from 6pm on 1st.  The observing period gets shorter, only 6 minutes on 23rd, and on 24th it is at observable altitude for a couple of minutes in both the dawn and dusk sky.  On 30th, now at mag 10.8, it is high enough for around 45 minutes pre dawn. Predicted to reach mag 6.5 or maybe even higher at the beginning of February, when it will be in Camelopardalis, circumpolar and visible for much of the night.


C/2020 V2 (ZTF): in Ursa Major, mag 11.4

Circumpolar and observable for most of the night.  Brightens to 10.6 by 30th.  Predicted to reach mag 9.9 by January, when it will be in Cassiopeia.


Meteor Showers


One fairly minor, and a few very minor, showers this month - but we do have the possibility of a higher than usual number of fireballs and a short lived meteor storm.


Northern Taurids: active Oct 20th to Dec 10th, peak 12th/13th, ZHR 5 (from Manchester up to 4) 29 kps.

Maximum activity is around 18.00 on 12th so the shower is best seen between then and 01.00,when the radiant is highest.  This shower, like the associated Southern Taurids, is often rich in fireballs.  Enhanced activity is predicted for these this year, especially until Nov 20th, when both streams are active.  Parent body is thought to be asteroid 2004 TG, a fragment of a long defunct comet. Parent of the S Taurids, comet 2P/Encke, is also thought to derive from this. On the night of 12th/13th the Moon is only 4 days past full, rising around 18.30, so will interfere.  Still worth looking out for fireballs, though.


Leonids: active Nov 6th to 30th, peak 17th, ZHR 10 - 15 (from the darkest parts of Manchester possibly as many as 12) 77kps.

The radiant rises at 22.14 and is highest at 07.00.  Peak activity is at 23.00 so the shower is best seen between then and dawn. On 18th, the 33% Moon rises soon after midnight.

 Enhanced activity is predicted for a short time on the morning of 19th when the Earth passes through a very dense region of the dust cloud. Exact times given vary but all fall within the period 05.50 to 06.30 in astro and nautical twilight. We could see a ZHR of between 50 and 200 but only for a few minutes. The meteors should be brighter than is usual for this shower.  However the 24% Moon is in Leo, rising at 01.35 and will interfere. Lesser peaks are predicted for the morning of 18th at 07.00, as civil twilight begins, and on 21st at 15.00 in daylight.  These are fast moving meteors often leaving trails, parent body is comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.


Alpha Monocerotids: active Nov 4th to Dec 6th, peak 28th, ZHR variable, usually no more than 5, 65 kps.

The radiant, in Canis Minor, rises at 21.47  peak activity 23.30 on 21st, so best seen between then and 4am, when the radiant is highest. The parent body isn’t known but is thought to be a comet with a period of around 500 years.

The peak is close to the new Moon, so no interference.


November Orionids:  active Nov 4th to Dec 6th, peak 28th, ZHR 3 (no more than 2, even from the darkest areas around Greater Manchester) fairly slow moving - 44kps.

The radiant rises at 18.09, highest at 02.00.  Peak activity is given as 14.00 on 28th so the best time to look is before dawn and after the radiant rises on that day. The 1st quarter Moon sets at 20.37 on 28th. Parent comet is thought to be C/1917 F1 (Mellish).


Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from: https://in-the-sky.org

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.


The Night Sky in October 2022

by Anne Holt


BST ends on the morning of Sunday 30th, so any times given after then are in GMT


Sunrise.                1st:   07.10                31st:   07.05

Sunset                  1st:   18.45                31st:   16.38


Day Length           1st:   11.35.26           31st:   9.32.32


Astro Darkness     1st:   20.42 to 05.14  31st:   18.36 to 05.09


On 25th there is a partial solar eclipse visible from Manchester.  However only 16% of the Sun will be covered at maximum.  It lasts from 10.06 to 11.45 with the maximum at 10.56, when the Sun is 19.9 degrees above the SSE horizon.   The bad news is that this day is cloudy 85% of the time. 

This eclipse is not total anywhere on Earth, it improves the further north and east you go - only 8% in Penzance rising to about 30% in the Shetland Isles.  Parts of Siberia will see 85% of the Sun obscured.


Full Moon:            9th at 21.54.  Angular diameter 31’ 28”

New Moon:           25th at 11.45.  The Moon will pass 1 degree 02’ north of the centre of the Sun.


Lunar Perigee:     4th at 17.33.     369334 km,     ad 32’30”,    74%

Lunar apogee:     17th at 11.22.     404329 km,    ad 29’ 32”    48%

Lunar perigee:     29th at  15.49.    368287 km,    ad 32’ 25”    25%


The most common name for the October full Moon is the Hunters' Moon, so called because this is the time when people in the northern hemisphere begin their preparation for winter by hunting animals, then preserving the meat.  Other names given in the Old Farmer’s Almanac are the Travel Moon and the Dying Grass Moon.

It was the Medieval English and neo Pagan Blood Moon, presumably also referring to hunting.  The Chinese call it the Kindly Moon and it’s the Inuit Tugluvik Moon, meaning the Moon when ice forms on the sandy shores of the ocean.  For the Dakota Sioux it’s the Moon when beading and quilting are done and it’s the Choctaw Blackberry Moon, the Cheyenne Deer Rutting Moon, the Hopi Long Hair Moon, the Mohawk Poverty Moon, the Algonquin Raven Moon and the Wishram Travel in Canoes Moon.


Highlights


It isn’t a bad month for astronomers, we have quite a lot of astronomical darkness, around 8 and a half hours on 1st, a couple more on 31st,  beginning at a reasonable hour, especially at the end of the month when the clocks go back.  It’s quite good for planets, we’ve lost Venus, and Saturn is past its best but Mercury should be visible in the morning twilight for a couple of weeks after the first few days in October, Jupiter is still shining brightly for most of the night and Mars is brightening and can be seen well before midnight and culminating, high in the sky, in darkness. 

We have a couple of fair to middling meteor showers and several minor ones, though some will be marred by bright moonlight.  However, 2022 is predicted to be a very good year for fireballs, especially after Oct 10th, when both Taurid streams are active.

The real highlights are the return of GMT and the start of the new HPAG season.

And, of course, the partial solar eclipse on the morning of 25th, visible from Manchester - weather permitting!


Constellations


The Summer Triangle, made up of Vega in Lyra, Deneb in Cygnus and Altair in Aquila, is losing its dominance in the night sky. It is still visible during the first part of October high in the south west but by the end of the month all three constellations will have set by 4am. It's place in the southern sky is being taken by the Great Square of Pegasus, autumn's signature constellation.

The beautiful Pleiades star cluster (also known as the Seven Sisters) followed by the rest of Taurus, will be visible by 11pm in early October and by 8pm (now back to GMT) at month end.

By the end of October Orion will be easily visible by midnight, with Sirius just above the eastern horizon at this time.

Perseus and Andromeda are still high in the sky for most of the night, making it a good time to look for M31, the Andromeda galaxy. If you are at a very dark sky site, it should be visible to the naked eye, especially when using averted vision.

Cassiopeia is now high in the sky for most of the night, so the Plough, on the opposite side of the North Celestial Pole, is low in the north.

Conjunctions


5th at 15.51:  the 85% Moon passes 4 degrees south of Saturn, slightly closer, 3 degrees 51’, at 19.02. Separation as the planet becomes visible at 10.15 is not much more.


8th at 03.00:  the almost full Moon passes 3 degrees south of Neptune.  The planet is observable from 20.44 to 02.34 culminating at 23.39, when it is 32 degrees above the southern horizon.  At this time the separation is around 5 degrees.


8th at 18.06:  the 85% Moon passes 2 degrees 03’ south of Jupiter.  Closest, 1 degree 50’, at 20.48.  The planet is visible from soon after19.00, when it reaches 7 degrees in the east.


12th at 07.11:  the 91% Moon passes 47.2’ from Uranus.  On the night of 11th/12th Uranus is observable from 21.45 to 06.03, when it culminates at 02.51 the separation is around 2.5 degrees, down to one degree by 6am.  An occultation will be visible from mid and western N America and parts of the Pacific Ocean. 


15th at 04.40:  The 69% Moon is 3 degrees 35’ from Mars.  They are in conjunction at 05.31 when the Moon is 3 degrees 37’ to the north.  Mars culminates at 05.09 so will be high in the south at this time.


Planets


Mercury:  in Virgo, mag 1.4

The closest planet to the Sun has its best morning showing of the year, this month.  

On 1st it rises at 05.51 but only reaches 2 degrees by dawn. Its position improves over the next few days, by 6th, when it is at perihelion, 0.31 AU from the Sun, it reaches 9 degrees by dawn and should be visible for a few minutes around 06.40.  It is at greatest eastern elongation on 8th, separated from the Sun by 18 degrees.  It should be visible soon after 06.30, reaching 11 degrees in the east by the time the sky brightens 15 minutes later.  The following day it is at its highest point in the morning sky, 15 degrees at sunrise but still only 11 degrees at dawn. It reaches this altitude in the morning sky for the next few days, visible for 20 minutes, then the observing window gets shorter as it moves in towards the Sun.  By 20th it is only visible for a few minutes pre dawn, at 8 degrees in the east, though brighter at mag -1.0.  By 31st the separation from the Sun is only 5 degrees.

For much of the month it is at a similar magnitude to Mars but, because it is only ever seen in twilight, appears significantly fainter.


Venus:  in Virgo, mag -3.9

Not visible this month, despite its brightness, as it approaches superior solar conjunction. On 1st it appears only 5 degrees from the Sun, down to 2 degrees by 12th.  Solar conjunction is on 22nd, when it passes 1 degree 03’ north of the Sun at 22.49.  It crosses into Libra on 30th and on 31st separation from the Sun is still only 2 degrees.


Mars:  in Taurus, mag -0.6

On 1st it rises at 21.24 and reaches 8 degrees in the NE by 22.40.  It culminates, 58 degrees in the south, at 05.44 and is only slightly lower when the sky brightens around 06.40. On 30th it is at its stationary point at 13.21, then begins apparent retrograde ( east to west) motion against the background stars. On 31st, now at mag -1.6, it rises at 18.39 and is high enough to be seen just over an hour later.  Highest point, 60 degrees, is at 03.10 and it is down to 40 degrees in the west by dawn.


Jupiter:  in Pisces, mag -2.9

Quite low in the sky but really stands out as it is in an area devoid of bright stars. On 1st it rises at 18.41 and reaches 7 degrees in the east just under an hour later. It culminates, 36 degrees in the south, at 00.48 and is down to 7 degrees in the west by 05.45.  From mid month it is higher than 7 degrees when it becomes visible in the evening twilight.  By 31st, now marginally fainter at mag -2.8, it is 12 degrees in the east as the sky darkens, now around 5pm as we have got rid of BST. It reaches 34 degrees in the south at 21.25 and remains high enough for observing for a further 5 hours.   


Saturn:  in Capricorn, mag 0.5

Now past its best.  On 1st it is 13 degrees in the east as the sky darkens, culminates, 20 degrees in the south, at 21.52 and is down to 10 degrees in the SW a little before 1am.  From mid month it sinks below observable altitude by midnight, on 13th it is 10 degrees in the west at 23.57.  It reaches its stationary point at 09.00 on 23rd, then resumes prograde motion.  On 31st, now at mag 0.7, it is only 17 degrees in the east as the sky darkens, culminates at 18.53 and is down to 10 degrees in the SW by 21.45.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.7

Still well placed for most of the night and should be easy to see in good binoculars - if you know exactly where to look - looking like a faint star.  An amateur  scope should show it as a small blue/green disc.

On 1st it reaches 21 degrees in the east by 22.25 and culminates, 53 degrees in the south, at 03.32 and is still high, 45 degrees in the SW, at dawn.  By 31st it is at observable altitude from 19.30, culminates at 00.30 and is down to 21 degrees in the SW by 05.35.


Neptune:  in Aquarius, mag 7.8

Still quite well placed, at observable altitude for much of the night in early October.and until midnight by month end. On 1st it reaches 21 degrees in the SE by 21.11 and culminates, 32 degrees in the south, at 00.07.  It is down to 21 degrees in the SW by 03.03.  By 30th it is at observable altitude from 18.09 until 23.59, culminating at 21.03. 

At the start of October it is separated from Jupiter by about 8.5 degrees, down to a little over 7 degrees by month end, both situated below the circlet asterism, with Neptune WSW of the gas giant.

It might be visible in very good binoculars from a dark sky site, otherwise a small scope is needed.  A larger amateur scope should reveal its small bluish disc.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres:  in Leo, mag 9.0

Not at its brightest or best this month. On 1st it may be observable, 22 degrees in the east, for a couple of minutes before the sky brightens around 05.40.  It improves slightly during October, on 31st it should be observable from a couple of minutes before 2am, reaching 36 degrees in the SE before being lost as the sky begins to brighten about 05.40.


Pluto:  in Sagittarius, mag 15.1

Still several years until it gets high enough to be observable from our latitude.


Haumea:  in Bootes, mag 17.4

Appears too close to the Sun to be observable this month. It is at solar conjunction on 23rd, when, because of the high inclination of its orbit to that of the Earth, it passes 27 degrees north of the Sun and is only 13 degrees above the horizon at dusk. It is now at its furthest from Earth at 50.99 AU though, at this distance, the added 2 AU of our orbit makes very little difference to the apparent magnitude. 


Makemake:  in Coma Berenices, mag 17.2

Also at solar conjunction this month, on 1st, when it passes 27 degrees north of the Sun. Slightly further from us than Haumea, at 53.52 AU.  By the end of October it is high enough for observing or imaging for a very short time, reaching 24 degrees in the east around 5.38 as the sky begins to brighten.


Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.7

Reaches opposition this month so it’s the best time for very experienced astrophotographers to have a try at imaging it - though it will never appear as anything more than a very faint dot, identified only because its position alters slightly over a period of a few days.

On 1st it is at observable altitude from 23.00 to 05.34, culminating at 02.17 when it is at 35 degrees in the south. Opposition is on 18th, when it is high from 21.53 to 04.26, highest at 01.10. By 31st it culminates at 23.10 and is too low for imaging by 02.30.


Comets


Still nothing predicted to be higher than mag 12, though a few are quite high in the sky.


22P/Kopff: in Cetus, mag 12.3. High for most of the night.


C/2020 V2:  in Ursa Major, mag 12.1. Brightens slightly during the month.


48P/Shoemaker-Levy: in Gemini, mag 12.2.  High in the sky in the early hours.


C/2022 E3 (ZTF) in Corona Borealis, mag 12.8

The one to watch. Observable for a short time in the early evening sky.

It is still predicted to brighten considerably over the next few months, maybe mag 6.7 in early February, though some sources say it might be even better, maybe reaching naked eye visibility. But we all know what comets are like, so don’t hold your breath!


Meteor Showers


This month sees a couple of moderate showers and some minor ones.  Many are, unfortunately, marred by bright moonlight.


October Camelopardalids:  active 5th and 6th, peak at 6 am on 6th,  ZHR 5, speed 47 kps. The radiant is circumpolar, highest in daylight at 7am so the shower is best seen pre dawn on 6th. The 90% Moon sets a little after 2am. Parent body not known, probably a long period or a Halley type comet.


Draconids:  active 6th to 10th, peak 2am on 9th,  ZHR 10,  speed 20 kps. Another shower with a circumpolar radiant, this one highest at 17.00 so best seen after nightfall  Significant interference from the full Moon, which is above the horizon all night. Parent comet is 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, hence the shower’s alternative name, the Giacobinids.


Southern Taurids: active Sept 10th to Nov 20th, peak 17.00 on 10th, ZHR 5 (Manchester 3) speed 27 kps. The radiant, in Cetus, rises at 19.09, so the best time to look is between then and 2am, when it is at its highest. Unfortunately this year the Moon is only one day past full and above the horizon all night.  However, some may still be visible, they are generally very bright and also slow moving, making them ideal photographic targets. The parent comet is 2P/Encke, thought to be a remnant of a much larger comet which broke up more than 20,000 years ago.  Asteroid 2004 TG10, the probable parent of the associated Northern Taurids, is another fragment of this comet. The dust stream is very spread out hence the long activity period of both streams. It also contains a higher than average number of larger particles so they are often rich in bright fireballs. 2022 is predicted to be a very good year for these, especially after Oct 10th, when both streams are active. 


Delta Aurigids, active 10th to 15th, peak 17.00 on 11th,  ZHR 3,  64 kps. The radiant is circumpolar, highest at 05.00 so the shower is best seen pre-dawn and after dusk on 11th.  The Moon is only a few days past full, on 11th it sets at 09.18 and rises again at 18.59.

Parent comet is not known for sure, probably C/1911 N1 (Kiess).


Epsilon Geminids:  active 14th to 27th,  peak 19.00 on 18th,  ZHR 3 (Manchester 2),  speed 70 kps. The radiant rises at 21.00 so the best chance of seeing a couple of meteors is shortly after this time. The 45% Moon rises a few minutes before midnight.

Parent comet not known, one candidate is C/1987 B1 (Nishikawa-Takamizawa-Tago)


Orionids;: active Oct 2nd to Nov 7th, peak 19.00 on 21st, ZHR 15 (Manchester 10), speed 66 kps. The radiant rises at 21.55, highest at 06.00 so the shower is best seen after 22.00 on 21st, and pre-dawn when the radiant is high.  The crescent Moon rises at 03.41 on the morning of 22nd, so there won’t be much interference.  This shower often has a few lesser peaks so there could be some periods of enhanced activity on the couple of days before and after the given date. Parent comet is 1P/Halley.


Leonis Minorids:  active 19th to 25th, peak 19.00 on 24th,  ZHR 2 to 5, speed 62 kps. The circumpolar radiant is highest at 10.00,  the best time to spot a meteor or two is after dusk on 24th. Parent comet C/1793 K1 (Zanotti).


Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from: https://in-the-sky.org

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.


The Night Sky in September 2022

by Anne Holt


Sunrise          1st:   06.18         30th:    07.08

Sunset           1st:   19.58         30th:   18.48 


Day length     1st:  13.40.48     30th:  11.39.38


Astronomical darkness             1st:  22.11 to  04.06       30th:   20.45  to  06.12


Autumnal equinox:  23rd at 01.58, day length 12.09.03. 

Closest day to 12 hours is 25th at 12.00.38.


The equinox is the moment when the centre of the Sun crosses the celestial equator on its journey southwards.  It rises due east and sets due west and is overhead at local noon along the equator.  The day is not exactly 12 hours long because sunrise and sunset are the times when the top of the Sun’s disc appears and disappears, the equinox is when the centre of the Sun is above the horizon for 12 hours.


Full Moon:         10th at 10.58.  Angular diameter 32’ 21”

New Moon:        25th at 22.55.  Passes 3 degrees 23’ above the Sun.


Lunar perigee:   7th at 19.18.    364490 km,  a/d 32’46”,   phase 93%

Lunar apogee:  19th at 15.43.   404555 km,  a/d 29’ 31”,   phase 29%


This full Moon is the closest one to the September equinox, making it the Harvest Moon.

Most of the names given to the Moon this month are crop and harvest related, including the medieval English Barley Moon. 

Non harvest names include the Celtic Singing Moon or Wine Moon (possibly a connection between these two), the Chinese Chrysanthemum Moon and the Inuit Harpoon Moon. 

Among the best Indigenous American names are the Dakota Sioux Moon when calves grow hair, the Ojibwa Leaves Turning Moon, the Tunice Little Sister of the Hot Moon, the Comanche Paperman Moon, the Mohawk Time of much freshness Moon and the Omaha Moon when the deer paw the Earth.


Highlights


One highlight this month is the increasing lack of light.  We have almost six hours of astro darkness at the start of September, nine and a half hours by month end.  Soon after the equinox on 23rd the nights (including twilight) start to get longer than the days.

It isn’t a bad time for planets, Mercury isn’t visible and we’re losing Venus in the morning sky, but the rest are all on view.  Saturn is past its best and Mars hasn’t yet reached its optimum position, for a few days early in the month it gives Taurus the bull 2 eyes, as it moves into the Hyades.  Jupiter, at opposition in late September, can be seen shining brightly (weather permitting) for most of the night. Uranus and Neptune are also well positioned for binocular and telescopic observation. Neptune is at opposition on 16th, a couple of days after the Moon occults Uranus - visible from the UK, albeit very low in the eastern sky.

The bad news is that we have only a couple of minor meteor showers and some very faint comets.

However the fireball season begins around mid month with the start of the Southern Taurids.


Constellations

The Milky Way is still prominent overhead, albeit not in these parts! Find a dark sky site though, and it's spectacular.

The Summer Triangle is high in the southern sky for much of the night in early September. By month end Aquila is setting in the west at about 2am, with Lyra and Cygnus following just before dawn.

However, on the opposite side of the sky, the Pleiades are climbing above the horizon in the east by 10.30pm at the start of September, and as darkness falls at month end. Capella, in Auriga, and the V shaped Hyades cluster at the head of Taurus the Bull are not far behind.

If you stay up until about 4am (or get up very early) you might see Orion making a welcome return to the night sky. By the end of September, it should be above the horizon by 2am.

The ecliptic is now slightly higher across the Eastern sky, passing through Capricorn, Aquarius and Aries - though none of these are particularly bright or memorable.

Pegasus, Perseus and Andromeda are still well placed, rising in the east to north east from mid evening, as is the bright W asterism of Cassiopeia higher in the north east.

Conjunctions


8th at 11.31.  The 96% waxing Moon passes 3 degrees 56’ south of Saturn.  Closest, 3 degrees 43’, at 13.25. Saturn is visible 20.05 to 03.50, separation at midnight on 7th/8th is a little under 10 degrees, down to 8 degrees at 03.30 on the morning of 8th. On the evening of 8th they are about 6 degrees apart as the planet becomes visible.


10th at 20.00.  The full Moon passes 3 degrees south of Neptune.  The planet becomes observable at 22.30, when it reaches 21 degrees in the SE, but the separation isn’t much more at this time. However it won’t be easy to see in the glare of the bright Moon.


11th at 16.16.  The 96% waning Moon passes 1 degree 48’ south of Jupiter, 12’ closer at 17.41.  Separation when the planet becomes visible around 21.00 is 2 degrees, up to 5 at 02.10 when it culminates.


14th at 23.26.  The 73% Moon is 44.1’ from Uranus.  An occultation is visible from Manchester, the planet disappears behind the illuminated side of the disc at 22.32 and reappears from the dark edge at 23.25.  However during this time Uranus is very low in the east, only 12.7 degrees at the start, 20.6 at the end - almost at the 21 degrees which is considered observable altitude. The occultation will be visible from most of Europe, parts of N Africa and the Mediterranean.


17th at 01.16.  The 53% Moon is 3 degrees 32’ from Mars, they are in conjunction at 02.42 when the Moon is 3 degrees 36’ to the north.  Mars is visible from 23.20 to 06.12, when it is 58 degrees above the southern horizon.


Planets


Mercury:  in Virgo, mag 0.3   

Not visible this month, on 1st it is below the horizon by the time the sky darkens. It appears to move towards the Sun over the next 3 weeks reaching inferior solar conjunction on 23rd at 07.45 when , because of the inclination of its orbit to that of the Earth, it passes 2 degrees 51’ below the Sun.  It is now at mag 5.7 because very little of the illuminated side faces us. By 30th it is up to mag 1.9, still not visible as it appears only 12 degrees from the Sun.


Venus: in Leo, mag -3.9

Still very bright but now extremely difficult to see in the morning sky.  On 1st it is 8 degrees in the east as dawn breaks a few minutes before 6am.  It is at perihelion at 23.10 on 5th when it is 0.72 AU from the Sun. Venus’ orbit is almost circular so there is very little difference between this and its distance at aphelion. It gets even lower during the month and on 25th, when it moves into Virgo, appears only 7 degrees from the Sun, down to 6 degrees by month end.


Mars:  in Taurus, mag -0.1

Improves in both position and brightness during the month. It is much fainter than Jupiter but higher in the sky.  It is now increasing in apparent size as it moves closer to Earth, a 6” scope should show some of the surface markings. On 1st it becomes visible around midnight and reaches 54 degrees in the SE by dawn. From 5th it is in the Hyades, at the opposite end of the V shaped asterism to Aldeberan, giving the bull 2 reddish tinged eyes for a few days, before moving eastwards between its horns.  On 18th it becomes visible around 23.15, when it is 9 degrees in the NE, culminating, now at 58 degrees, at 06.15 as it fades from view in the morning twilight.  On 30th, now at mag -0.6, it is visible from 22.45 and culminates at 05.47 about 50 minutes before it is lost to the dawn.


Jupiter:  in Cetus, mag -2.8

Very bright, outshining all the other planets now we’ve lost Venus. On 1st it rises at 20.44, visible from an hour later when it reaches 7 degrees in the east.  It culminates, 37 degrees in the south, at 02.54 and is down to 26 degrees in the SW by dawn. It crosses into Pisces on 2nd, a degree lower at dawn. It gets lower by dawn during the month and by 22nd is 7 degrees in the west a few minutes before the sky brightens. It is at opposition on 26th, when it is visible from 20.00 to 06.10 reaching its highest point, 36 degrees in the south, at 01.05.  It is now directly opposite the Sun in our sky and at its brightest and best.  On 30th it rises at 18.45, reaches 7 degrees in the east an hour later and culminates at 00.47, remaining visible until 05.50.  A small telescope will show the main bands and the 4 Galilean moons.


Saturn:  In Capricorn, mag 0.3

On 1st it rises at 19.23 and reaches 10 degrees in the SE about an hour and a half later.  It culminates, 20 degrees in the south, at 23.57 and remains high enough for observing until 3am.  By 30th, now slightly fainter at mag 0.4, it is 13 degrees in the SE when it becomes visible in nautical twilight around 19.30, highest point at 21.56 and down to 10 degrees in the SW a few minutes before 1am. It should be reasonably easy to spot, despite its low altitude, as there are no bright stars in the area around it.


Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.7

On 1st it rises at 21.50 and reaches observable altitude, 21 degrees, a few minutes before 01.30, up to 52 degrees in the south as it fades from view around 04.45 towards the end of astro twilight.  From 10th it culminates before it is lost in the dawn sky, on this day it is 53 degrees at 04.56 as the sky begins to brighten. On 14th, when it is occulted by the Moon (see conjunctions notes earlier) it reaches 21 degrees at 23.33 and culminates at 04.40, remaining visible for a further 25 minutes.  On 30th it is visible from around  22.30, culminates at 03.36 and is lost in the morning twilight around 05.45.  It is, in theory at least, a naked eye object - just. However this is assuming perfect eyesight and a perfectly dark sky - and knowledge of exactly where to look.  If you only have the last of these you should be able to see it, looking like a slightly greenish star, using decent binoculars. A reasonable sized scope will show it as a small disc.


Neptune:  in Aquarius, mag 7.8

Well placed for observing through a small scope, or even with good binoculars from a very dark sky site.  On 1st it reaches observable altitude, 21 degrees, in the SE by 23.10. It is at its highest point, 33 degrees in the south, at 02.08 and is down to 24 degrees in the SW by dawn.  From 5th it sinks to 21 degrees before being lost in the brightening morning sky. It is at opposition on 16th when it is observable from 22.11 to 04.05, culminating at 01.08.  It is now at its closest to Earth, 28.91 AU, however because it is so distant there is very little difference in brightness and apparent size between now and when it is on the far side of the Sun. On 30th it reaches 21 degrees at 22.11, culminates at 01.08 and remains observable until 4am.


Dwarf Planets


Ceres, in Leo, mag 8.9

The closest and brightest of the dwarf planets, the only one accessible to the average amateur,  isn’t visible this month. Its position is improving but by 30th it just fails to reach observable altitude by dawn.


Pluto:  in Sagittarius, mag 15.1

Culminates in darkness throughout September but still much too low, max 13 degrees, for observing or imaging from our latitude.


Haumea:  in Bootes, mag 17.4

Now an evening object, only high enough for imaging for a short time. On 1st it is 24 degrees above the western horizon when darkness falls around 21.30, too low after only 15 minutes.  By mid month it is down to 21 degrees and, by 30th, only 18 degrees.


Makemake:  in Coma Berenices, mag 17.2

Now too low for imaging, 18 degrees in darkness on 1st, only 13 degrees by 30th.


Eris: in Cetus, mag 18.8

The best placed dwarf planet this month but so faint that it is only a target for the very best astrophotographers.  On 1st it reaches 21 degrees by 1am and 35 degrees in the south at 04.16, about half an hour before it is lost as the sky begins to brighten.  From mid month it is high enough for imaging by midnight. . On 30th it is at observable altitude for around six and a half hours from 23.00, culminating at 02.21.


Asteroids


3 Juno:  in Pisces, mag 8.1

On 1st it is observable from 22.30 till 04.37, reaching 33 degrees in the south at 01.33. It crosses into Aquarius on 5th and is at opposition on 7th, now at mag 7.9, when it culminates at 01.08 and remains high until 4am.  By 30th it is down to mag 8.4,  higher than 21 degrees from 21.00 to 1.30 and culminating at 23.15.


Comets

We have 3 very faint comets on show this month, all predicted to brighten significantly early next year.


C/2020 V2 is circumpolar in Ursa Major, highest just before dawn but only mag 12.5.  Predicted to reach mag 9.6 by January, when it will be in Cassiopeia.


118P/Shoemaker-Levy in Taurus, mag 12.9.  Again highest before dawn.  Prediction for January is mag 10.7.  It will be in Cancer and observable for most of the night.


C/2023 E3 (ZTF) is still on course to reach mag 6 by mid February. It is currently in Hercules, high for much of the night but only mag 13.3.

ZTF is the Zwicky Transient Facility,  It uses a very wide field of view camera on a 45” Schmidt telescope to scan the entire northern sky, searching for near Earth objects and supernovae.  It operates from the Palomar observatory in California.


Meteor Showers


Nothing major thai month.


Aurigids:  active August 28th to Sept 5th, peak on the night of 31st/1st, ZHR 6 - 10 (from the darkest areas around Manchester no more than 5) fast moving, velocity 66 kps.  This shower does occasionally have short outbursts.  The radiant is highest at 9am, peak activity predicted for 10.00 on 1st, so the best chance of seeing anything is before dawn on that day.  There could also be slightly enhanced activity around 2am.   Parent comet is C/1911 Kiess


September Epsilon Perseids: active 5th to 21st, peak 9th, ZHR 5 (could be up to 4 from around Manchester), velocity, 64 kps. The radiant is highest at 05.00, peak activity predicted for 18.00 on 9th, so best times to look are pre dawn and after dusk.   On the 9th the almost full Moon sets at 04.34, 10 minutes after astro twilight begins, and rises again at 19.53. It might also be worth looking the following morning as some activity is predicted for 3am on 10th.  However the now full Moon doesn’t set until 06.06.  The parent body of these is not known, thought to be a long period comet.


Daytime Sextantids: active Sept 9th to Oct 9th, peak Sept 27th (although these dates are said to be uncertain) visual ZHR 2 - 3, from Manchester 1 at best, fairly slow moving 33kps. The radiant, which is only 30 degrees east of the Sun, rises at 04.08, peak activity predicted for 19.00 on 27th.  Most of the activity of this shower is in the daytime but a few may be spotted pre dawn from late September to early October.  Parent body is asteroid 2005 UD.



The Southern Taurids begin on Sept 10th, the peak isn’t until mid October but it’s worth looking out in the early hours as the shower often includes very bright fireballs.


The ANT is not active in September, but the month is said to be the peak time for sporadic activity, meteors which could appear anywhere in the sky.


Credits

Most of the solar system information given here is from: https://in-the-sky.org

More information, exact co-ordinates and finder charts of all solar system objects can be found on this site.

Also quite useful is https://theskylive.com

https://www.imo.net/resources/calendar/

https://www.timeanddate.com

Other information is from various internet sources, including NASA, Britannica, Space Facts, Universe Today and, when all else fails,Wikipedia.


The Night Sky in August 2022

by Anne Holt


Sunrise          1st:  05.24         31st:  06.16

Sunset           1st:  21.05         31st:  20.01


Day length    1st:  15.40.26     31st:  13.44.54


Astronomical darkness    1st: 00.37  to  01.53        31st:  22.14  to  04.04



Full Moon:   12th at 02.35.    In Capricorn, angular diameter 33’ 02”

New Moon:  27th at  09.18.  a/d 30’ 02”, passes 4 degrees 46’ north of the Sun.


Lunar perigee:   10th at 10.08.  359829 km,  a/d 33’ 11”, phase 98%

Lunar apogee:   22nd at 22.52 km, a/d 29’ 27”, phase 13%


The most commonly used name for August’s full Moon is the Sturgeon Moon because, at this time, these fish are plentiful and easy to catch.  The Colonial American name is the Dog Days Moon,  this is said to be the time when Sirius, the Dog star, is visible in the east just before Sunrise (though from here this doesn’t happen until early Sept). It’s the Celtic Dispute Moon or Barley Moon, the Medieval English Barley Moon or Wort Moon, the Chinese Harvest Moon, the Inuit Swan Flying Moon and the Neo Pagan Lightning or Lightening Moon

Among the indigenous American names are the Cree Flying up Moon or Young ducks fly Moon, the Assiniboine Black Cherries Moon, the Tlingit Mountain Shadows Moon and the Hopi Joyful Moon.  For the Choctaw it’s the Women’s Moon and the Mohawk call it the Freshness Moon.  The Dakota Sioux seem to be very busy at this time - for them it’s the Moon when all things happen.


Highlights

Astronomical darkness is back, an hour and 16 minutes on 1st rising to 4 hours by mid month and nearly 6 hours at the end of August.

We’re losing Venus in the dawn sky but Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are all reasonably well placed. Saturn is the lowest and faintest of the 3 but well worth observing this month as it reaches opposition and the rings are at their brightest. Mars and Jupiter are higher, Mars is still not at its brightest but Jupiter outshines all the stars. 

One of the most prolific meteor showers of the year, the Perseids, has its peak night marred by the presence of the just past full Moon.  However the shower is said to include a higher than average number of very bright meteors so some should still be visible.


Constellations

When it finally gets dark enough, the Milky Way is now at its best. From a dark sky site it can be seen stretching right across the sky and down to the southern horizon, passing almost overhead around midnight.

The Milky Way passes through the Summer Triangle, which is now high in the sky, with Deneb and Vega particularly prominent. Alberio, a beautiful yellow and blue double star at the head of Cygnus the swan, is very well placed for telescopic observation.

The Plough and its host constellation Ursa Major are now very low in the Northern sky which means that the W asterism of Cassiopeia is riding high in the south east and very easy to spot.

Pegasus and Andromeda are now well above the horizon for most of the night and Perseus, followed by Auriga, are rising soon after midnight.

Conjunctions


1st:  Mars passes 1 degree 22’ south of Uranus at 01.22.  Uranus should be visible from around 22.30, when the separation is a little under 1 degree 30’, with Uranus 20 degrees in the east.


12th:  The full Moon passes 3 degrees 54’ south of Saturn at 04.55, when the planet is low in the SW.


15th.  The gibbous Moon passes 1 degree 51’ south of Jupiter at 10.41. At midnight on 14th/15th the separation is 7 degrees 30’, down to 5 degrees by 4am.


18th. The 50% Moon is 31.1’ north of Uranus at 15.14.  Separation on the morning of 19th is around 5 degrees at 01.30, a couple more by 4am when the planet is 44 degrees in the SE.  An occultation will be visible from parts of the N Pacific.


19th.  The 42% Moon is 2 degrees 41’ north of Mars at 13.17.  The separation at 1am is 5 degrees, about a degree less by 5am. On this day Mars is a little under 6 degrees south of the Pleiades.

The following morning the three form a triangle with Mars to the south.


24th.  Venus passes 5 degrees 1’ south of Ceres at 20.13.. The dwarf planet, at mag 8.8, is very difficult to see in the dawn sky as it appears only 17 degrees from the Sun.


25th.  The thin crescent Moon is 4 degrees 17’ north of Venus at 21.58. The planet is only 8 degrees above the horizon as dawn breaks, separation at 05.30 on 25th is 10 degrees, half that the following morning.



Planets


Mercury:  in Leo, mag 0.6

Not visible in August, even on 6th when it reaches its highest point in the evening sky, 5 degrees at sunset but on the horizon as the sky darkens. On 27th it reaches greatest eastern elongation, apparent separation from the Sun 27.3 degrees, though, because the ecliptic is so low at this time, it’s to the south of the Sun, rather than to the east.  It is now 2 degrees below the horizon at dusk, a degree lower on 31st.

It is at aphelion on 23rd, when it is 0.47 AU from the Sun.  It has the most elliptical orbit of all the major planets, at perihelion the distance is only 0.31AU.


Venus:  in Gemini, mag -3.9

Still extremely bright but very low in the morning sky. On 1st it rises at 03.20 and should be visible for about half an hour from 05.30, reaching 11 degrees in the NE before being lost in the dawn sky.  On 11th, when it crosses into Cancer, it becomes visible at around 04.50, now only 10 degrees in the east when the sky brightens 20 minutes later. It goes into Leo on 27th, down to 8 degrees at dawn, and on 31st may be glimpsed for a couple of minutes around 05.45.

And that’s it until it returns as an evening star in mid January 2023.


Mars:  in Aries, mag 0.2

Improves in brightness and altitude during August.  On 1st it rises at midnight, becoming visible soon after 01.15 and reaching 38 degrees in the SE by dawn.  It goes into Taurus on 10th, when it is visible from a few minutes before 1am, now 43 degrees in the SE before being lost in the morning twilight 4 hours later.  By 17th it is at mag zero and reaches 47 degrees by dawn.  On 31st, now at mag -0.1, it becomes visible soon after midnight and is 53 degrees