See all naked eye planets one go

On the 20th January, Just before sunrise, you can see all five naked eye planets in one go, as the picture below shows:

5 planets

Sunrise is just after 08:00GMT. The picture above is for 07:00GMT on the 20th January. Right to left we have Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus and Mercury. Although Pluto has been plotted, it will be too dim to see. This last happened on January 5th 2005 and all five should continue to be visible in the dawn sky throughout February.

Clear skies,

The Geminid meteor shower

Time now for one of the better meteor showers of the year. The Geminid meteor shower runs from the 8th to the 17th December, as the Earth runs into the dust particles shed from the Apollo asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This year the peak of the display is expected on the 14th December at 13:00GMT. However we can expect high rates on the nights of the 13th and 14th.

This is usually a fairly active shower (100 meteors per hour under excellent conditions). The best time to view them will be at midnight when you’re looking in the same direction as the Earth is travelling through space and the radiant is at its highest. However, the radiant is above the horizon all night so you should see some anytime after dark. Be aware the Moon will be up till 19:30GMT on the 14th. The map below shows you where the radiant is.


You don’t need any special equipment to view the meteors. A comfy chair and some warm clothes and a hot drink are all you need. Sit yourself down facing a nice clear patch of sky. If you look to the side of the radiant, you will probably see more meteors than if you look directly at it. Geminid meteors tend to be bright but short.

Clear skies,

Early morning conjunction tomorrow (7th December).

There’s a chance (if the weather clears) to see a nice conjunction of the Moon, Venus and Comet Catalina tomorrow morning, before sunrise. The map below shows where they are:

catalina venus moon

You will need binoculars or a telescope to see Catalina (more formally C/2013 US10) to the east of Venus and the Moon. Venus sits about midway between the two, approx. 4 degrees from either, and a bit below. Catalina will be a bit of a challenge in the morning twilight as it is about 6th magnitude, far dimmer than either the Moon or Venus. The comet rises about 04:05 GMT, sunrise is 07:58 GMT.

Clear Skies,

Leonids meteors

If the weather ever clears up, there’s a chance to see the peak of the Leonid meteor shower in the pre dawn skies of the 18th November. The radiant appears to be in the constellation of Leo (hence the name). The moon should be out of the way giving you a good chance to see between 10 and 20 meteors per hour. The map shows you where to look at around 5am on the 18th November.

leonids 2015

These meteors come from dust off of Comet 55P/Temple-Tuttle. The tiny dust grains move very fast at speeds of up to 71km/s. We’re not expecting a major shower this year.

Clear Skies,

Tonight’s observing session (2/11)

We will not be observing tonight.

At one point this afternoon, I had a modest hope that the break through may give some relief in the mist / fog / low stratus over us and give us a window into the evening. Benson’s visibility increased to a nice 5 km, but it’s now back to 1500 metres so we will have to wait to tomorrow, though with no change in airmass, I don’t hold out too much hope.