What’s Up! August 2021

A monthly look at astronomical events in the sky and on Earth 

Compiled by John Rowland

For most people, the realisation that the days are getting shorter comes as July rolls into August. That last walk with the dog, when suddenly, some stars appear that you didn’t notice the night before, or you realise you’re turning the lights on the inside before your favourite TV program ends instead of after it. All signs that “the season” is just around the corner. And what’s nice about August is that it’s often reasonably warm when it’s dark. What bliss. Continue reading

What’s Up! July 2021

A monthly look at astronomical events in the sky and on Earth 

Compiled by John Rowland

Anyone who has read these articles of mine before will know that I never try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. If something isn’t worth getting excited about, I say so. Hyping things only disappoints. So I will be frank: for the rest of the summer and well into the autumn, apart from the ever-reliable Moon, solar system objects are going to be very disappointing. And July is of course the second lightest month in the year, starting as it does only 10 days after the summer solstice, so deep sky object observing is very limited as well. Consequently, this What’s Up will be a bit downbeat. I’m sorry, but that’s how it is. We must be content to look forward to August and beyond when observing opportunities improve dramatically. Continue reading

What’s Up! June 2021

A monthly look at astronomical events in the sky and on Earth 

Compiled by John Rowland

Well, we’re now into the lightest month of the year, and apart from the Moon and a few select double stars, there’s not much to see up there I’m afraid. The summer solstice is on June 21st at 0431 and on that day from York, the sun rises at 0434 and sets at 2139. There are no periods of astronomical darkness; the darkest nights on offer are between the 1st and the 7th, when there is some nautical twilight, but other than that there is only civil twilight (Sun 6° below horizon) all night. But let’s make the best of it and see what we can see. Continue reading

What’s Up! May 2021

A monthly look at astronomical events in the sky and on Earth 

Compiled by John Rowland

First, a Thank You.
Many thanks to all the people who commented on following What’s Up! April 2021. Those reactions have given us the reassurance that these articles are worth continuing.

 

Astronomy from the UK has always been a challenge. When we have long dark nights and a wealth of fascinating objects to observe, that means it’s winter, and only dedicated stalwarts are prepared to forsake the comfort of a warm house and brave the cold to set up and use the telescope. But we do it because we love our chosen hobby. So do we rejoice when the weather warms up in the spring? Of course we do; it’s just that by then, it doesn’t get dark enough for us to see anything! Continue reading

What’s Up! April 2021

A monthly look at astronomical events in the sky and on Earth 

Compiled by John Rowland

Please see the “Leave a Reply” appeal at the end of the article – Editor.

 

Wow! All of a sudden it’s light in the early evening, with the Sun not setting until 7:40 pm on the 1st of the month. Summer skies and reduced viewing opportunities are ahead, so make the most of what darkness remains before you have to wait until after 10 pm for nautical twilight to end – which is when it ends on the 30th.

And the situation is exacerbated by the fact that all six planets – that are normally observable when skies are not particularly dark – are too distant (e.g. Mars) or impossible to see because they are too near the Sun, or only visible briefly at around 6 a.m. and very close to the horizon. Continue reading

What’s Up! March 2021

A monthly look at astronomical events in the sky and on Earth 

Compiled by John Rowland

We’ve seen quite a flurry of activity on the space front during February. More on that and what we can expect in the future later in this article.

As far as March skies are concerned, there are no significant events and four of the five brightest planets are not observable. Sorry, I can’t be more upbeat but it is what it is. Of course, we have the vernal equinox – on the 20th at 0927 – when across the world, day and night are exactly 12 hours long. This is officially the first day of spring, and to emphasise the point, the clocks go forward on the 28th. Continue reading

What’s Up! February 2021

A monthly look at astronomical events in the sky and on Earth 

Compiled by John Rowland

February’s weather is obviously not designed to entice you out into your garden to look at the sky. But if you can catch the odd clear, windless evening when there’s no Moon, you will be rewarded with some of the most famous objects in the night sky.

Each month, we aim to highlight the objects that are conveniently placed for viewing in the four-hour evening slot of 1900 – 2300 hrs unless there’s a good reason to view earlier or later.

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What’s Up! January 2021

A monthly look at astronomical events in the sky and on Earth 

Compiled by John Rowland

A Happy New Year to all our Readers!

Prospects for 2021

Well, I hardly dare say, “What a year!” but it’s unavoidable. Thankfully, however, we enter 2021 with hope in our hearts that after such a long time, we can again get together with friends to gaze upwards, wonder, and share in the splendour of the night sky. After all, the cycles of the heavens know nothing of nor care about the trillions of microscopic organisms against which we, on this precious and exquisitely beautiful planet, are battling. Hopefully, this battle will soon be won, and we can turn our attention from microscopes to telescopes and say, “What’s Up?”. Continue reading

What’s Up! August 2020

A monthly look at astronomical events in the sky and on Earth

Well what a month July was, mainly because of the justified excitement over comet Neowise, but also because Jupiter and Saturn were prominent from early evening. Society members managed to get some photos of the comet, many of which have been posted on our Facebook Chat Group page.


What to look out for in August – a summary

You may have noticed that the nights are starting to draw in. This increase in the length of the night is noticeable in the late evenings in August and heralds the ‘shoulder season’ for astronomical observations – August is the month when one begins to notice the stars again. And with it being predominantly warm, it is probably the month with the best combination of evening comfort and  darkness.

The Perseids meteor shower is the highlight of the month, but with the Moon present it will make viewing challenging. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be easy to spot. The Andromeda Galaxy makes a re-appearance and you can also look for the Double Cluster and the Cygnus Star Cloud. Also prominent is the Summer Triangle of Deneb, Altair and Vega.

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