What to look out for in 2019

  1. A total eclipse of the moon takes place on 21 January – and it will be the best such event visible from the UK until 2029.  The entire eclipse will be visible and the moon will be reasonably high in the sky. The gotcha is that it starts about 3am and goes on until after 6am with maximum totality starting at about 4.45am. But it’s well worth getting up for.  Expect to see the moon turn a blood red colour (see picture).Lunar-Eclipse.jpg
  2. Late winter and spring offers slim pickings for meteor showers with only the Lyrids peaking on 23 April offering decent rates before Autumn. The year’s major showers will be the Perseids (13 August), Orionids (21 October), Leonids (18 November) and Geminids (14 December).  Remember shooting stars can be seen in the days before and after and the dates given are for maximum activity.
  3. On 22 January Venus and Jupiter will be very close together in the pre-dawn sky – these are the brightest planets visible from earth. 
  4. Jupiter will be at its best and visible low in the south on 10 June. On this night the giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and much brighter than any star.  A pair of binoculars will reveal its four largest moons, appearing as bright dots either side of the planet.  This fine object is very low at the moment for UK observers and the view will improve over the next decade.
  5. The magnificent ringed planet – Saturn – is at its best on 9 July.  Looking like a bright yellow star, a small telescope will reveal its lovely rings.  The planet remains quite low down, which is not ideal for observing.   But don’t let that put you off – seeing this marvellous object should be on everyone’s bucket list.
  6. Watch out for ghostly noctilucent clouds on the northern horizon from late May until early August.  Electric blue and stunningly beautiful they are the highest clouds that can form in the earth’s atmosphere and really do glow in the dark.  Last year was a vintage one thanks to the long hot summer.
  7. A rare transit of Mercury across the face of the Sun is visible from the UK on 11 November.  The planet will be seen as a black disc moving across the sun. The event starts soon after noon and to observe it you will need a telescope fitted with a special solar filter.  Looking at the sun without such a protective filter will cause permanent eye damage!  This video shows you some of the ways you can stay safe and enjoy the spectacle – https://vimeo.com/161001352
  8. There are two fabulous Dark Sky Festivals this year.  The Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors, Northumberland and the South Downs stage their joint event from 15 February to 3 March, marking the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.  The North Pennines AONB takes the stage with its celebration in late October.   Both feature scores of amazing events.
  9. Want to buy a telescope?   Click on blog thoughts on the tab line.
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