Many astronomical events are regular and predicatble, such as the phases of the moon and both solar and lunar eclipses. Others are not, such as the emergence of a new comet or a super-nova event. This page lists the regular meteor showers that occur annually and observable astronomical objects and events that are occurring now and in the near future - this is by no means full and comprehensive.
Public Observing Guides
We produce 3 public observing guides for the astronomical observing season as well as a monthly star chart. These provide an easy way to find your way around the night sky for the beginner to intermediate amateur and take in a visual tour with the naked eye, a binocular object guide and some starter objects for small telescopes. They are designed for use under dark skies or moderately light-polluted observing sites from the North of England:
- AUTUMN - A beginners guide to the Autumn Sky
- WINTER - A beginners guide to the Winter Sky
- SPRING - A beginners guide to the Spring Sky
- Sky Map - latest MONTHLY map of the night sky
The above documents are in Adobe PDF format, you will require Acrobat Reader to access these files.
Regular annual meteor showers
The following annual meteor showers are visible from the Northern Hemisphere:
||Dates of Maximum
||Zenith hourly rate
||3 - 4 January
||21 -22 April
||5 - 6 May
||28 - 29 July
||17 - 18 November
||13- 14 December
These showers can be observed for a few days before and after the dates of the maximum but with very few observed in a given hour. The Zenith hourly rate is the average number visible in a given hour on an average year. Some years can be well in excess of this figure and others well under. The showers which are usually most impressive from this latitude in the northern hemisphere are the Leonids, Geminids and Perseids. They are best observed on evenings where there is no significant phase of the Moon or when the Moon set early in the evening.
Satellites of Jupiter
Jupiter is often, but not always, visible in the night sky (see further below for more details). It has many moons, the largest four of which are clearly visible in binoculars and can be tracked over a period of hours or days. Directly below is a real-time schematic of how these moons & Jupiter's Great Red Spot, are in relation to the planet right now (click in the box below to edit date and time then press return to change the graphic and see where they are at different times):
The 4 Gallilean moons illustrated above are: G-Ganymede, C-Callisto, E-Europa & I-Io. Occasionally you may see a duplicate letter in cyan rather than white - this isn't another Moon, but labelling the shadow of a particular moon on the disk of the planet. Please note that the time is UT (Universal Time) or GMT, so to compensate for BST in the UK please subtract an hour from what you watch or clock reads.
The current lunar phase and dates of the next four major phases can be viewed below:
Which stars, planets, comets, etc. are currently visible, and where? There are many sources for such information available on the web, usually given as sky notes for the current month with some sites giving information on what will be visible in future months. You can visit our links page or follow some of the following suggestions:
- Heavens Above - Guide to just about everything in the sky (including whole sky chart). If you don't live in the Stockton-on-Tees area follow the on-screen instructions to change your location
- AstroSpace - Paul Money's astronomy guides, including The Monthly
- The Society for Popular Astronomy - Sky Diary available in a PDF format download as a timetable of celestial events for the current quarter
- Jodrell Bank - The University of Manchester's monthly notes for observing the night sky
- Night Sky Observer - Gary Nugent's sky notes for the current month
- Astronomy a Go Go! - Podcasts and sky notes on planets, occultations, comets, Messier objects and more for the current month and the rest of the year
- Your Sky - Fourmilab's sky maps, horizon views and virtual telescope on-line. You need to know your latitude & longitude (for Stockton it's roughly 54.5° North & 1.4° West) if your not sure try a latitude & longitude finder
Phases of the Moon and Sky events such as planet visibility and occultations for International Tear of Astronomy 2009 can be seen below: