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Space Station – ISS Passes UK May 2019

ISS, International Space Station, UK, Space Station

ISS Long Exposure photo of a visible Space Station – ISS pass over UK Credit: Mark Humpage

Space Station Pass details for the UK – May 2019

The International Space Station – ISS is back over UK skies with some great evening passes during May 2019.

The ISS is the largest Space Station/ laboratory ever built! it can be spotted with the naked eye at certain times as it orbits Earth at 17500mph at an altitude of roughly 200 miles.

Spotting the space station is very easy and you don’t need any special equipment. You only need your eyes! Read the rest of this post to find out when and how you can spot the space station this March and April.

How To Watch The Space Station

Check out the Beginners Guide to Seeing the ISS to learn how easy it is to spot sailing over and the Photographing the International Space Station.

You can also see this great guide on how to photograph the ISS with your iPhone.

All you need to know is when and where the space station will be passing over your location. Luckily the United Kingdom (British Isles) is small enough for most of us who live there to see the ISS at the same time. Neighbouring countries can see the space station pass over at roughly the same time also.

Only bright passes are included in the predictions and the fainter, less easy ones have been left out.

When To Watch The Space Station

The table below gives approximate pass times and basic information, this will help you spot the International Space Station as it passes over.

Only bright passes which can be seen from the UK are listed and the information is approximate. Timings may differ by a few seconds, dependent on observer’s location. Times may change at short notice if the Space Station performs an orbital boost and changes its orbit. All Timings are local time.

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time, get your cameras ready and enjoy the ISS as it passes over and keep your eyes peeled for meteors, satellites and other objects too, they will be visible most nights!

Good luck and clear skies…..

Space Station – ISS bright UK pass details for May 2019

Times may differ slightly to other sources and can change at short notice, so please check this page daily for accurate timings.

DateBrightnessRises 10° over the horizon (start time)Approaches From (start direction)Highest Point This PassSets/ Goes into Earths Shadow (direction) Goes into Earths ShadowApproximate ISS Pass Details
27 May 2019Incredibly bright22:22W22:26ESE22:29Overhead Pass
27 May 2019Bright23:59W00:02SSW00:02Medium Pass
28 May 2019Incredibly bright23:09W23:12SE23:14Medium Pass
29 May 2019Incredibly bright22:19W22:23ESE22:26Overhead Pass
29 May 2019Bright23:57WSW23:59SW23:59Low Pass
30 May 2019Bright23:07W23:10S23:11Medium Pass
31 May 2019Bright22:17W22:20SE22:23Medium Pass
1 June 2019Bright23:06WSW23:07SSW23:08Low Pass
2 June 2019Bright22:15SW22:18SSE22:20Medium Pass

THE ISS WILL RETURN TO UK EVENING SKIES JULY 2019

Data obtained using NORAD Two Line Elements. Table information created manually with with in-house satellite prediction software.

Live Video of Earth from the International Space Station (ISS)


Live streaming video by Ustream

  • Black Image = International Space Station (ISS) is on the night side of the Earth.
  • Gray Image = Switching between cameras, or communications with the ISS is not available.
  • No Audio = Normal. There is no audio on purpose. Add your own soundtrack.

Related Articles:

iPhone Night Sky Photography – Take Night Sky Pics Using Your iPhone

May 2019 Night Sky Guide – What’s Up In May

May Night Sky 2019

May 2019 Night Sky Guide. Welcome to the night sky in May. The days are getting longer and temperatures higher, well sometimes.

May 2019 is a great month for stargazing. Spring is well underway and Summer is just around the corner. Warmer shorter nights but well worth staying up for. It’s a great time, whether you are a beginner or seasoned stargazer. There is something for all. This guide is suitable those in the northern hemisphere and also helpful for those with zero experience upwards.

Read on to find out even more about the night Sky in May 2019.



May 2019 Night Sky Guide

Evening Planets

Mars is visible low in the west shortly after sunset. It will eventually disappear in the post sunset glare towards the end of the month.

Jupiter rises in the east around 11pm with Saturn rising after 1.00am. Both remain fairly low in the sky until dawn.

Mercury hides in the glare of the sun most of the month. It reaches superior conjunction therefore meaning behind the sun on the 21st. It starts to become more obvious the last few days of the month low in the west shortly after sunset.

Morning Planets

Venus is low on the horizon before dawn and as a result, is soon lost in the glare of sunrise.

The Moon in May 2019

May Night Sky 2019

The Full Moon in May is also known as the Flower Moon in European and North American folklore. In addition to this, there are a number of other names from ancient folklore for May’s full Moon including: the Corn Planting Moon and Milk Moon.

Moon phases for May 2019 are as follows:

  • New Moon – 4 May, 23:47
  • First Quarter – 12 May, 02:13
  • Full Moon – 18 May, 22:11
  • Last Quarter – 26 May, 17:34

Moon Events and Close Encounters May 2019

  • 7th May – Moon near Mars.
  • 10th May – Moon near Praesepe (Beehive Cluster)
  • 12th May – Moon near bright star Regulus.
  • 16th May – Moon near bright star Spica.
  • 19th May – Moon forms triangle with Jupiter and Antares.
  • 20th May – Moon near Jupiter.
  • 23rd May- Moon near Saturn.

Constellations

The constellation of Leo takes pride of place due south mid evening in May 2019. With its backwards question mark, also known as the sickle marking out the head of Leo the lion.

Leo In Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Leo signifies the Nemean lion. The lion was impervious to the weapons of mortals with its thick golden fur. Its claws were said to be sharper than the swords of mortal men. The beast was a monster and terrorised Nemea, killing livestock and men alike. The Hero Heracles was sent to kill the lion as the first of his 12 labours. After trapping the beast in a cave, Heracles subdued it with his club and then finally choked the lion to death. With the help of the goddess Athena, it was skinned by Heracles using one of its own claws. The pelt was then worn by Heracles thereafter with its magical fur protecting him from injury and weapons.

May Night Sky 2019
Leo

17th century constellation art of Leo by Johannes Hevelius. courtesy of U.S. Naval Observatory and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Virgo, Berenices Hair and the Realm of Galaxies

To the lower left of Leo is the large Constellation of Virgo – The Virgin. This constellation is the second largest constellation in the night sky. The constellation is rather unremarkable with the exception of its bright alpha star Spica and a host of objects visible through a telescope. Mainly galaxies from the Virgo cluster.

Above Virgo and below Ursa Major lies the small constellation of Coma Berenices – Queen Berenice of Egypt’s Hair, or just Berenices Hair. You can easily spot this small constellation due to its fuzzy patch to the top right of the set square (right angle shape) of the constellation. This fuzzy patch is actually a cluster of stars known as Melotte 111.

The Realm of Galaxies

To the naked eye nothing much is going on in this part of the night sky, or the area between Ursa Major and Virgo. Until you look at a star atlas of the area or through a fairly large telescope such as a Dobsonian. This is the Realm of Galaxies and there are lots of them! This area is actually the Virgo supercluster of Galaxies of which our very own Milky Way is also a member. Above all, there are a number of most noteworthy and famous galaxies and clusters here available to telescope users and you really could spend a very long time hunting deep sky objects in this region of the night sky.

Boötes the Herdsman

To the right of Coma Berenices, use the curve of the handle of the saucepan of the big dipper to draw an imaginary line. Above all else, you will find the very bright star Arcturus – Brightest star in the northern hemisphere and third brightest star in the whole night sky. Arcturus is a red giant star almost 37 light years away in the kite shaped constellation of Bootes the Herdsman.

May Night Sky 2019

Northern Constellations

Looking north you will find the 9 circumpolar constellations. the “W” shape of Cassiopeia – the queen is low down and due north. Ursa Major is high above in May 2019.

Ursa Major, also known as the Plough, Big Dipper and Saucepan is a very large constellation. However, the “asterism” that forms the plough or sauce pan is only part of the constellation. Its body and tail.

May Night Sky 2019
Credit: U.S. Naval Observatory and the Space Telescope Science Institute

International Space Station May 2019

International Space Station (ISS) passes occur over the UK late May 2019.

Times coming soon.

Copyright: www.meteorwatch.org @VirtualAstro

Further reading:

Orion Constellation – Mighty Guardian of Winter Skies

Orion Constellation

iPhone Night Sky Photography – Take Night Sky Pics Using Your iPhone

Pleiades – Seven Sisters – Subaru – M45. Jewel of Winter Skies

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Space Station – ISS Passes UK Spring 2019

ISS, International Space Station, UK, Space Station

ISS Long Exposure photo of a visible Space Station – ISS pass over UK Credit: Mark Humpage

Space Station Pass details for the UK – Spring 2019

The International Space Station – ISS is back over UK skies with some great evening passes during March and April 2019.

The ISS is the largest Space Station/ laboratory ever built! it can be spotted with the naked eye at certain times as it orbits Earth at 17500mph at an altitude of roughly 200 miles.

Spotting the space station is very easy and you don’t need any special equipment. You only need your eyes! Read the rest of this post to find out when and how you can spot the space station this March and April.

How To Watch The Space Station

Check out the Beginners Guide to Seeing the ISS to learn how easy it is to spot sailing over and the Photographing the International Space Station.

You can also see this great guide on how to photograph the ISS with your iPhone.

All you need to know is when and where the space station will be passing over your location. Luckily the United Kingdom (British Isles) is small enough for most of us who live there to see the ISS at the same time. Neighbouring countries can see the space station pass over at roughly the same time also.

Only bright passes are included in the predictions and the fainter, less easy ones have been left out.

When To Watch The Space Station

The table below gives approximate pass times and basic information, this will help you spot the International Space Station as it passes over.

Only bright passes which can be seen from the UK are listed and the information is approximate. Timings may differ by a few seconds, dependent on observer’s location. Times may change at short notice if the Space Station performs an orbital boost and changes its orbit. All Timings are local time.

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time, get your cameras ready and enjoy the ISS as it passes over and keep your eyes peeled for meteors, satellites and other objects too, they will be visible most nights!

Good luck and clear skies…..

Space Station – ISS bright UK pass details for Spring 2019

Times may differ slightly to other sources and can change at short notice, so please check this page daily for accurate timings.

DateBrightnessRises 10° over the horizon (start time)Approaches From (start direction)Highest Point This PassSets/ Goes into Earths Shadow (direction) Goes into Earths ShadowApproximate ISS Pass Details
5 April 2019Bright20:38W20:41SSE20:44Medium Pass
6 April 2019Bright21:25WSW21:26SSW21:27Low Pass
7 April 2019Bright20:33WSW20:35S20:38Low Pass

THE ISS WILL RETURN TO UK EVENING SKIES MAY 2019

Data obtained using NORAD Two Line Elements. Table information created manually with with in-house satellite prediction software.

Live Video of Earth from the International Space Station (ISS)


Live streaming video by Ustream

  • Black Image = International Space Station (ISS) is on the night side of the Earth.
  • Gray Image = Switching between cameras, or communications with the ISS is not available.
  • No Audio = Normal. There is no audio on purpose. Add your own soundtrack.

Related Articles:

iPhone Night Sky Photography – Take Night Sky Pics Using Your iPhone

March 2019 Night Sky Guide – What’s Up In March

March 2019

March 2019 Night Sky Guide. Welcome to the night sky in March. Winter is almost over and ends with the Spring Equinox toward the end of the month. From then on, nights will become shorter and days longer.

March 2019 is a great month for stargazing. Whether you are a beginner or seasoned stargazer. There is something for all. This guide is suitable those with zero experience upwards.

Read on to find out even more about the night Sky in March 2019.



March 2019 Night Sky Guide

Evening Planets

Mercury is prominent after sunset at the start of the month near the western horizon. It lingers in the sky a short while after sunset before setting itself. Greatest eastern elongation was on 27 February 2019. Mercury the Messenger will finally be lost in the evening gloom after the first week in March 2019.

Mars is still the only prominent planet in the evening sky this month. The red planet is now far past its best but is still bright in the south western sky. As well as a close encounter with the Moon on the 11th, Mars will be very close to the Seven Sisters/ Pleiades cluster on the 31st. An excellent photo opportunity.

March 2019
Mars and Pleiades 31 march 2019 Credit Stellarium/ VirtualAstro

Morning Planets

The mornings in March 2019 are a lot more interesting with Jupiter, Saturn and Venus treating us to fine displays.

Jupiter rises around 2am shining rather brightly to the left of the bright star Antares. On 27 March 2019, Jupiter has a very close encounter with the waning gibbous Moon. Saturn rises around 4am and can be spotted to the left of bright Jupiter. On March 29 the Moon will be directly below Saturn. Another ideal photo opportunity. Venus has been the star of the show if you pardon the pun during the months of Winter. In March 2019 however, Venus rises around 4am but is moving closer to the Sun and will be difficult to spot at the end of the month.

Moon and Jupiter 27 March 2019 Credit: Stellarium/ VirtualAstro

Saturn and the Moon 29 March 2019. Credit: Stellarium/ VirtualAstro

The Moon in March 2019

The Full Moon in March is also known as the Worm Moon in European and North American folklore. There are a number of other names from ancient folklore for March’s full Moon including: Lenten Moon, Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Chaste Moon, Sugar Moon, and Sap Moon.

March 2019 see’s the final Supermoon of the year. A relatively new term used to describe a Full Moon at perigee – near its closest point to earth. The Full Moon can appear as much as 14% larger than when it’s at apogee – its farthest point. To many, this difference is negligible and hardly noticeable. The increase in brightness however, can be quite obvious. With brightness being up to 30% brighter than a Full Moon at apogee.

Moon phases for March 2019 are as follows:

  • New Moon – March 6, 16:03
  • First Quarter – 14 march, 10:27
  • Full Moon – 21 March, 01:42
  • Last Quarter – 28 March 04:09

Moon Events and Close Encounters March 2019

  • 1st March – Moon near Saturn in the morning.
  • 2nd March – Moon between Saturn and Venus in the morning.
  • 3rd March – Moon near Venus in the morning.
  • 13th March – Moon near Aldebaran in Taurus.
  • 21st March – Full Moon – A Supermoon and Worm Moon.
  • 27th March – Moon very close to Jupiter in the morning.
  • 29th March – Moon below Saturn in the morning.

Constellations

March 2019 sees the most familiar winter constellations move further west. Making way for the constellations of Spring. Orion is probably the most famous and striking of all the constellations and is still very obvious. It sets along with Taurus and the Pleiades – Seven Sisters after 11pm. There are certainly many wonderful things to see in this constellation and you can find out more about them in Orion Constellation – Mighty Guardian of Winter Skies. 

To the lower left of Orion is the Constellation of Canis Major – The big dog. The constellation is itself rather unimpressive and lies low in the sky from the UK. Above all, Its crowning glory is its alpha star Sirius – The Dog Star. Above all Sirius is the brightest star in the whole night sky and is famous for its twinkling. Often mistaken for a UFO due to its bright flashes of colour. Find out more about Sirius and why it twinkles so much here.

February 2019
Credit: Stellarium

To the east of the setting winter constellations, the heralds of Spring are rising. With the most obvious being Leo the Lion. Leo is easily made out if you look for the backwards question mark or sickle asterism, which makes up the head of the lion. Its body can be made out from the star at the base of the sickle: Regulus. Ending with the the bright star Denebola to the left.

In Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Leo signifies the Nemean lion. The lion was impervious to the weapons of mortals with its thick golden fur. Its claws were said to be sharper than the swords of mortal men. The beast was a monster and terrorised Nemea, killing livestock and men alike. The Hero Heracles was sent to kill the lion as the first of his 12 labours. After trapping the beast in a cave, Heracles subdued it with his club and then finally choked the lion to death. With the help of the goddess Athena, it was skinned by Heracles using one of its own claws. The pelt was then worn by Heracles thereafter with its magical fur protecting him from injury and weapons.

Northern Constellations

Looking north you will find the 9 circumpolar constellations. Cepheus – The king is low down and due north, looking like the gable end of a house. The “W” shape of Cassiopeia – The queen is to the left of Cepheus and probably the most recognisable constellation of them all – Ursa Major is high above in March 2019.

Ursa Major, also known as the Plough, Big Dipper and Saucepan is a very large constellation. However, the “asterism” that forms the plough or sauce pan is only part of the constellation. Its body and tail.

Credit: U.S. Naval Observatory and the Space Telescope Science Institute

International Space Station March 2019

International Space Station (ISS) passes occur over the UK late March 2019.

Times coming soon.

Copyright: www.meteorwatch.org @VirtualAstro

Further reading:

Orion Constellation – Mighty Guardian of Winter Skies

Orion Constellation

iPhone Night Sky Photography – Take Night Sky Pics Using Your iPhone

Pleiades – Seven Sisters – Subaru – M45. Jewel of Winter Skies

Sirius – The Multicoloured Star and Why it Twinkles

Sirius, Twinkling Star, Multicoloured Star
Find Sirius to the bottom left of Orion. Credit: Stellarium/ VirtualAstro

Sirius – The Multicoloured Twinkling Star

During the winter months and around this time of year. We are able to see the mighty constellation of Orion rise high in the sky. Furthermore, a very bright multicoloured star lies nearby: Sirius – The Dog Star.

Sirius is the brightest star in the sky and as a result, it can easily be found in the faint constellation of Canis Major. Left and below Orion. Its name comes from ancient Greek meaning “glowing” or “scorcher.”

Sirius (a CMa) is the alpha star in this trusty hound and is roughly 8.5 light years away from Earth. Therefore, making it one of the closest stars to us. It has a tiny companion star making it a binary system. Composed of “Sirius A” the main component (which is a white main sequence star) and “Sirius B,” a white dwarf star. When seen with the naked eye, Sirius can appear to twinkle many different colours low in the winter evening sky.

Sirius. Image credit: Hubble

So why does it twinkle?

It’s not just Sirius that twinkles; all stars twinkle. Light travels many light years from stars. Right at the end of that journey, the stars light hits Earth’s atmosphere, which consists of nitrogen, oxygen and other gases.

Earth’s atmosphere is constantly swirling around and wind and air currents etc distort light travelling through it. This causes the light to slightly bend or shimmer and the light from distant stars twinkle. An extreme, more down-to-Earth example of this would be heat rising off of a road or a desert. Causing objects behind it to distort, shimmer and change colour.

Sirius appears to twinkle or shimmer more than other stars due to some very simple reasons. It is very bright, which can amplify atmospheric effects. It is also very low down in the atmosphere as a result of being viewed in the northern hemisphere. We are actually looking at it through a rather dense part of the atmosphere which can be turbulent and contain many different pollutants and dust. The lower toward the horizon an observer is looking, the thicker the atmosphere. The higher an observer is looking, the thinner the atmosphere. This is also the cause of colourful sunrise and sunsets.

This optical illusion is a big pain for astronomers and some very large telescopes. Consequently, telescopes in Chile and Hawaii use special equipment and techniques to reduce the effects of the atmosphere.

The Hubble Space Telescope doesn’t get affected at all by our atmosphere. Due to being in space. Making the light from stars crystal clear.

Twinkle, twinkle little star, now we know what you are (and why you are twinkling!)

iPhone Night Sky Photography – Take Night Sky Pics Using Your iPhone

Photograph Stars, Meteors, Satellites and even Nebulae with your iPhone using NightCap Camera – Updated for 2019

Learn how to take awesome pictures of the night sky with an iPhone and this simple app.

Download Nightcap Camera Here.

The golden rule: Keep your iPhone still.

For best results, use a tripod. Even a cheap smartphone tripod will be fine. If you haven’t got one, you’ll need some way to hold your iPhone in place while you take photos.

Contents

  1. Using NightCap Camera’s special camera modes
  2. Photographing stars
  3. Photographing star trails
  4. Northern lights / southern lights / aurora
  5. Meteors
  6. International Space Station (ISS) and satellite flares
  7. Nebulae

1 Using Special Modes

NightCap Camera includes 4 special camera modes designed to make photographing the night sky easy, in addition to Long Exposure and Light Trails modes:

The camera options menu

To access the special modes make sure you’re in photo mode and not video or time lapse, and tap the Star button: StarButton This will open the Photo Camera Options panel.

2 Stars ( StarsButton )

To photograph the stars, simply turn on Stars Mode. Stars Mode sets the camera up for you with the best settings for stars, so all you need to do is put your device in a tripod or a firm position pointing at the part of the sky you wish to photograph and tap the shutter.

After pressing the shutter the app will start a 3 second timer (to avoid blurring if you move the device slightly when tapping the button), then it’ll take a 10 second exposure. Wait until you hear the shutter sound or see the shutter button go from red (capturing) to white (ready).

Here’s an example of what’s possible:

ncp

3 Star Trails ( StarTrailsButton )

Capturing star trails is easy, all you need to do is turn on Star Trails Mode, tap the shutter button once to start capturing, then wait at least 15 minutes before tapping the shutter again to save the photo.

The longer you wait, the longer the trails will be – you can see them forming on screen. This is a 90 minute photo, pointing north (the star in the centre of the circles is Polaris, the Pole Star):

Star trail photo by Andy Stones (Twitter: @andy_stones)

Star trail photo by Andy Stones (Twitter: @andy_stones)

4 Aurora / Northern Lights / Southern Lights

We now have a dedicated Aurora tutorial (tap here to open). 

5 Meteors ( MeteorButton )

Meteors (or shooting stars) are also easy to photograph, especially during a meteor shower.  There’s plenty of information on viewing meteors and an excellent timetable of meteor showers at Meteorwatch.

To photograph meteors, just turn on Meteor Mode, point your device at a clear patch of sky, and tap the shutter button. The app will take a photo every 5 seconds until you tap the shutter again to finish.

While it’s capturing, the app will automatically scan every photo for potential meteors. It rejects any that are ’empty’ and saves the rest to the camera roll. You can then review the photos to see what it caught.

Please note that Meteor Mode will save quite a lot of photos (typically between 30 and 150 per hour, depending on sky conditions). A clear, dark, starry sky will give best results, while trees and planes will result in more photos being saved.

Here are some meteors captured with Meteor Mode:

Meteors photographed on iPhone

Left: A large, bright fireball. Center: A common shooting star, long but not very bright. Right: A short, bright meteor.

6 ISS / Satellite Flares ( ISSButton )

Many satellites orbit the Earth and can be seen easily at night – they look like a moving star, and don’t flash like a plane. The biggest, brightest and best known is the ISS (International Space Station).

There are some good sites and apps that will show ISS (and other satellite) viewing times for your location:

Meteorwatch (excellent info on up-coming ISS passes for the UK, plus details of meteor showers and more)
Sputnik! Free app by Applicate
GoISSWatch – International Space Station Tracking. Free app by GoSoftWorks

Satellites look great if you capture their trail as they pass across the sky. To do so, turn on ISS Mode, point your device in the direction the ISS or satellite is expected to pass, and be tap the shutter to start the photo (be sure to start before the pass is due to begin!) Once the ISS or satellite has passed, tap the shutter again to finish.

gallery astro

ISS by James Parker, Twitter: @JP_Astronomy (ISS mode)

7 Galaxies, nebulae ( LongExposureButton LightBoostButton )

It’s possible to photograph nebulae, galaxies and other deep space objects with an iPhone and NightCap Camera, but these objects are small and very, very faint so to capture them you’ll need a reasonably big telescope (ideally with a motorised mount that tracks the movement of the stars automatically) and an adaptor to attach your iPhone to it.

Matt at iAstrophotography has written about how he took this great photo of the famous Orion nebula with his iPhone at iAstrophotography.com.

Photo by Matt at iastrophotography.com

Photo by Matt at iastrophotography.com

 

Not got NightCap Camera yet?

Orion Constellation – Mighty Guardian of Winter Skies

Orion Constellation

The Orion Constellation – Mighty Guardian of Winter Skies

Out of all the constellations in the night sky, one of the most well known and obvious is Orion. Anyone just looking up at the winter sky can’t help but notice this celestial wonder. Orion is probably the most striking of all the constellations. Let’s explore it some more.

Orion The Hunter

Orion the Hunter Credit: Stellarium

Orion the Hunter Credit: Stellarium

Orion: In Greek Mythology, Orion is a mighty hunter. The son of a Gorgon and Poseidon. Legend has it, Orion offended the goddess Gaia when he said he could kill all the animals on Earth. Because of this, the angry goddess tried to kill Orion with a scorpion, but Ophiuchus intervened and saved Orion. Consequently, this is why Orion and Scorpius – the scorpion, are at opposite sides of the sky with Ophiuchus midway between them.

The Constellation

Orion is on the celestial equator, therefore it’s pretty much visible from most of the planet. The constellation sits between and below Taurus in the West and Gemini in the east. In addition Monoceros, Canis Major, Lepus and Eridanus are on its borders. At first glance, the constellation consists of 7 bright stars forming Orion’s shoulders, waist and lower body- An hour glass asterism. Furthermore, fainter stars mark out his club above his head and outstretched arm holding a lion. In the northern hemisphere, Orion is a winter constellation.

Bright Stars

orion-7-stars

7 Brightest Stars. Credit: Stellarium

The 7 brightest stars consist of:

  • Betelgeuse – (Alpha Orionis) Represents Orion’s right shoulder. A red supergiant star near the end of its life. When it explodes it will be visible in the daytime for several months. Betelgeuse is over 600 light years away so it may have exploded already. The light from the explosion may not have reached us yet.
  • Rigel – (Beta Orionis) Is found at the bottom right of the 7 stars, the left foot and is a blue supergiant. Rigel is the 6th brightest star in the sky and will either end in a spectacular supernova or diminish to a white dwarf.
  • Bellatrix – “The Amazon Star” A blue giant star found on the right shoulder.
  • Saiph – A fainter star than the others forming the shape of the constellation and found at the right foot of Orion.

The Three Belt Stars

Orions Belt. Credit: Stellarium

Orions Belt. Credit: Stellarium

The three central stars form the “Orions Belt” asterism and are the easiest way of identifying the constellation. Orion’s belt has featured heavily in history, from the Egyptians placing the great pyramids so they reflect the positions of the belt stars, to the films “Blade Runner” and “Men in Black”.

  • Alnitak – Also known as “The Girdle”, is the easternmost star out of the trio. It is a blue supergiant approximately 800 light years away. It is the brightest O class star in the sky.
  • Alnilam – Arabic meaning “String of pearls” Is the central star out of the trio. It is also a blue supergiant 1975 light years away.
  • Mintaka – Also known as “The Belt”, is the westernmost star out of the three. It is a double star system approximately 900 light years away.

Head, Club and Shield Stars

In addition to the brighter stars, there are also stars that make up the rest of the constellation. Three stars form a triangle consequently marking out Orions head and stretching up from Betelgeuse are five fainter stars forming the club. The shield/ lion is comprised of 6 stars to the west of Bellatrix.

Meteor Showers

The Orionid Meteor Shower is the only meteor shower associated with the constellation. It peaks around the 20th of October every year with around 10 to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. The meteor showers origins are due to Halley’s Comet.

Deep Sky Objects

GreatOrion Nebula - Credit: NASA

GreatOrion Nebula – Credit: NASA

In addition to the asterisms and bright stars, Orion is a fantastic constellation for spotting deep sky objects. It is host to the most noteworthy, prominent and famous of them all: The Great Orion Nebula – M42. Easily identified with the naked eye, as a result it’s true splendour comes to life in binoculars and telescopes. A stellar nursery of gas, dust, and infant stars (as a result of being illuminated by the Trapezium) is found below the belt stars in what appears to be Orion’s sword.

@AhmedFullMD

@AhmedFullMD


@AstroExeter

@AstroExeter


@JParker_Photo

@JParker_Photo


@BeckerPhysics

@BeckePhysics

Furthermore, if you have a large telescope a wealth of different objects can be found consequently, there are too many to include here. Therefore here are the more famous: Beneath the star Alnitak is “The Horsehead nebula” A massive cloud of dust in the shape of a horses head blocking light from the nebulae behind. To the left of Alnitak can be found the “Flame Nebula” NGC 2024 Lying to the north-east opposite the belt and a similar distance as the belt is long, is the much fainter M78. Similar in composition and distance to M42 but much fainter. If you have a very large telescope and take long exposure images you can pick out Barnard’s Loop, weaving its way around the constellation.

M78 Credit: NASA

M78 Credit: NASA


Horsehead and Flame nebula Credit: NASA

Horsehead and Flame nebula Credit: NASA

In conclusion, there is much more to explore with binoculars or a telescope in this favourite of many constellations. Explore it and see what you can see…

Morningstar Venus – Bright Wonder of Winter Morning Skies

Venus and Mercury Credit: Szabolcs Nagy from the VirtualAstro Flickr group

Morningstar Venus – This Winters Brilliant Morning Object

Morningstar Venus: If you’re up early before sunrise this winter, you will notice the unmissable Morningstar Venus. Venus will be shining brightly in the eastern sky before the sun rises. It will also be visible for a short time after sunrise due to being so bright!

Venus became the “Morningstar” early in November and will become more and more spectacular. Read on to find out more.

Planet Venus

The first thing we need to get out of the way is, Venus isn’t a star. It’s a planet! It’s the closest out of all the planets in the solar system to Earth. Roughly 41000km at its closest approach.

The Planet is roughly the same size as Earth, but it’s much different. During the Victorian era and early twentieth century, it was thought the planet was a rich tropical world covered in rainforests and exotic jungles. However, in reality that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

What’s it like There

Venus is Earth’s evil twin! Nothing lives there due to a runaway greenhouse effect caused through extreme volcanic activity and the lack of a magnetic field. Most of the water has evaporated and blown away by the solar wind and replaced by greenhouse gasses.

Temperatures on the surface are hotter than an oven at over 450°C/  860°F. Not only is it hot, the pressure on the surface is extreme at around 90 times that of the Earth. The equivalent pressure you would encounter at a depth of 3000ft in the ocean. To add to this crushing and roasting environment, there are clouds of sulphuric acid and acid rain. Due to the heat and pressure on the surface the acid rain evaporates before it hits the ground.

To add to this even more, a day on Venus is equal to 116 days on earth. And to top it all off the average wind speed is around 220mph. It really is Earth’s evil twin and not very pleasant at all!

In the late 60’s and early 70’s, a small number of Russian Venera Spacecraft visited the planet. The conditions were so harsh the spacecraft only lasted an average of 60 minutes before they were overcome by pressure and heat.

Credit: NASA/ JPL

What To Expect this Winter

Venus will be the or morning star from November 2018 through to March 2019. It will achieve maximum brightness on the 1st of December 2018 with a brightness of magnitude -4.9. This will make the planet the third brightest object in the sky behind the Sun and Moon. It will appear much brighter than the International Space Station and Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. One of the reasons Venus is so bright is because of its thick dense and very reflective cloud cover.

The Morning Star will be the most striking object in the sky to the naked eye. In large binoculars the crescent of the planet can be seen, and even can be seen even closer in a telescope. Due to the thick cloud cover that shrouds its surface, no detail is visible.

Venus will rise approximately 3 minutes earlier each morning. By mid December it will rise at approximately 4:00am before rising later each morning until March. In mid December the planet will be visible in the pitch dark of night a couple of hours before the light of dawn.

Venus, Morning Star, Morningstar

Seen through telescope

When Will Venus become the Evening Star again?

Venus will not be visible through the summer of 2019 and will be visible in the evenings late November 2019 through to June 2020.

 

Pleiades – Seven Sisters – Subaru – M45. Jewel of Winter Skies

Pleiades, M45, Seven Sisters, Subaru

Pleiades over Weatherly Pennsylvania. Credit: Tom Wildoner

The Pleiades, Seven Sisters, Subaru, M45 – Star Cluster of Many Names

The Pleiades star cluster is the jewel of winter skies. It is an object with many names. It is also referred to as the Seven Sisters, or Messier 45 (M45). The Japanese have their own name for this prominent star cluster also. “Subaru” – meaning to unite.

Read more about this amazing object and how to see it in the night sky.

Yes, the same namesake as the manufacturer of the brand of cars. Look closely at any Subaru vehicle, you will notice the bonnet and boot badges (hood and trunk if you’re from across the pond) also have the stars of the Pleiades emblazoned upon it.

Pleiades, Seven Sisters, Subaru, M45

Subaru Car badge – No this isn’t an ad, it’s part of the article

How to Find the Pleiades/ Seven Sisters

The Pleiades are one of the easiest objects to find in the night sky. They resemble a tight cluster of bright stars in the shape of a tiny Big Dipper.

They are easy to find as long as you look at the right time of year. The best time is in the winter and November is the best month to see them. November is when the star cluster is visible from dusk to dawn.

The Seven Sisters are very obvious and therefore easily spotted with the naked eye. I often say they are almost as easy to spot as the Moon. A quick scan of the sky with the naked eye and you will almost certainly spot this bold jewel in the night sky.

Also known as M45 or Messier 45 from the famous Charles messier star catalogue, the Pleiades reside in the constellation of Taurus the Bull. It’s very easy to spot if you wish to star hop and use the constellations of Orion and Taurus. Use the 3 belt stars of Orion and follow an imaginary line through them and to the right to the bright orange star Aldebaran. Continue this imaginary line for a similar distance again to finally find the Seven Sisters/ M45.

Use Orion’s belt and Aldebaran to star hop to the Pleiades (top)

How many stars can you see in the Seven Sisters?

To the passing observer only 5 or 6 stars are visible to the naked eye. In a very dark sky the keen eyed can spot as many as 8 and some even claim to see 11! (That may be down to too much alcohol served at the stargazing event they were attending?)

There are in fact 7 stars visible to the naked eye, however there are over several hundred stars in the cluster itself.

The Seven Sisters in Binoculars or a Telescope

Due to the ease of identifying the star cluster with the naked eye, it’s one of the easiest objects to find in binoculars or a telescope.

In a good pair of binoculars dozens of bright white blue stars pop into view and observers with good seeing and very dark skies may also see faint wisps of gas within the cluster.

Telescopes with low power or wide angled eyepieces can pick out even more.

Pleiades Star Cluster Credit: Wikipedia

The Myth behind the Pleiades

In Greek mythology, the Pleiads were the daughters of the Titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione. The Seven Sisters names were Alcyone, Asterope, Celaeno Taygete, Maia, Electra, and Merope.

Atlas was forced to carry the sky on his shoulders. Orion took advantage of this and pursued his daughters. Zeus ruler of the gods, feeling sorry for atlas turned the Pleiad nymphs into stars so Orion could never get to them.  Orion is now eternally seen chasing the Pleiades across the sky.

The Pleiades (1885) by the Symbolist painter Elihu Vedder. Credit Wikipedia

SuperMoon – Read All About the February Full Moon.

Supermoon
Credit: VirtualAstro

A Supermoon is a recent term. Often used to describe a full Moon nearer than 360,000 km (224,000 miles) near perigee. Its closest point to earth. The Full Moon can appear larger than usual. Up to 14% compared to when the Moon is at apogee – its furthest point away from Earth.



A casual observer may in fact not even realise there is a Supermoon unless otherwise informed. As the apparent size to the naked eye is negligible. It is slightly noticeable but not dramatically so. However, there is an obvious difference in brightness with a Full Moon at Perigee. The brightness can be as much as 30% brighter than when the full Moon is at apogee. A Minimoon.

Credit: NASA

A little Bit of Hype

Many traditional astronomers dislike the term “Supermoon” branding the expression as hype or sensationalism. In a way the are quite right! But in another they need to realise this is kind of a good thing. If you are sensitive to your surroundings as I am. You will notice quite a difference compared to other times the Moon is full. Hyping up these events in a way is a good thing as it gets more and more people looking up who wouldn’t normally. The only thing we have to do is manage their expectations. Astronomy can blow peoples minds, but do it wrong and all you will hear people say is a deflated “is that it?”

So in a nutshell. A supermoon is a full Moon that is closer than normal. It can appear ever so slightly larger – not obviously larger. But it can be much brighter than usual.

The Moon can appear rather large when it is low in the sky close to the horizon. This can happen during any full Moon and is an illusion. The Moon Illusion.

When is the Supermoon

There are three Supermoons in 2019. There was one back in January which was also a lunar eclipse. February 19 and march 21.

The largest/ nearest, or brightest whatever way you want to put it is on February 19. 2019 at 3:53 pm perfect timing for viewing it that evening.

February’s Full Moon has another older name that originates in ancient folklore. The Snow Moon. Other names from European and North American traditions are the Hunger Moon or Storm Moon. You can find out more about the Full Moon in February in our February 2019 Night Sky Guide

February 2019 Night Sky Guide – What’s Up In February

February 2019

February 2019 Night Sky Guide. Welcome to the night sky in February. This month brings the promise of crisp clear nights (when it isn’t cloudy of course) and maybe even some snow.

February 2019 is certainly a fantastic month for stargazing. Whether you are a beginner or seasoned stargazer. There is something for all. This guide is suitable those with zero experience upwards.

Read on to find out even more about the night Sky in February 2019.



February 2019 Night Sky Guide

Evening Planets

Mars is still the only prominent planet in the evening sky this month. The red planet is now far past its best but is still very bright and obvious in the south western sky.

Neptune and Uranus are visible in a small telescope or good binoculars. You will find a star map or astronomy app rather useful in finding them.

On the evenings of 12 and 13 February 2019 the planet Uranus can be spotted with binoculars very close to Mars. This encounter is one of those rare occasions where we use a very obvious object to find a difficult one. Uranus is usually out of reach to everyday stargazers, but on the 12 and 13 February it will be easy to spot. Use the charts below to find Uranus next to Mars in binoculars. If you don’t own a pair of binoculars, here’s a guide to choosing a good pair.

February 2019
Uranus next to Mars on February 12 2019

February 2019
Uranus next to Mars on February 13 2019

Mercury makes an appearance mid month near the western horizon. It lingers in the sky for about an hour after sunset before setting itself. The tiny planet will be easily spotted mid month onwards, but will fade out of view later in the month. Greatest eastern elongation on 27 February 2019.

Morning Planets

The mornings have been quite spectacular in January and still impress in February 2019. Bright Venus and Jupiter still being the stars of the show (I mean planets).

Jupiter rises around 5am and is followed shortly after by Venus. On 1st February 2019, Jupiter, Venus, the thin crescent Moon and Saturn can all be seen together around 7am. An ideal photo opportunity for the early risers. As the month moves on, Jupiter and Venus will move further apart with Venus moving closer to the Sun.

February 2019
Saturn, Crescent Moon, Venus and Jupiter February 1 2019

The morning skies keep on giving this month with a rather close encounter with Saturn and Venus on the mornings around the 18 February 2019 at around 6am. Jupiter and Saturn continue to move away from Venus even more as the month progresses. There’s a close encounter with the moon again on the final days of the month. Get your cameras ready for the mornings of February 2019, they will be spectacular.

February 2019
Morning Sky 18 February 2019

The Moon in February 2019

As well as dancing with the planets and other objects in the night sky during February. The Full Moon In February 2019 will be a Supermoon and the closest and apparently largest for 8 years.

February 2019
Credit: VirtualAstro

The Full Moon in February is also known as the Snow Moon in folklore. Other names from European and North American traditions are the Hunger Moon or Storm Moon.

Moon phases for February 2019 are as follows:

  • New Moon – February 4, 21:03
  • First Quarter – 12 February, 22:26
  • Full Moon – 19 February, 15:53
  • Last Quarter – 26 February 11:27

Moon Events and Close Encounters February 2019

  • January 1- 2 thin Crescent Moon joins Venus and Jupiter in the early Morning Sky.
  • Moon and Mars close together January 16.
  • The Moon and Aldebaran in Taurus are close together on January 13.
  • Closest Supermoon for the next 8 years. (even more info in another article coming shortly)
  • January 30 – 31 Crescent Moon joins Venus and Jupiter in the pre dawn sky.

Constellations

February 2019 is the setting for the most familiar winter constellations, which are now perfectly on view. Above all Orion is probably the most famous and striking of all the constellations and is due south in all it’s glory this month. There are many wonderful things to see in this constellation and you can find out more about them in Orion Constellation – Mighty Guardian of Winter Skies. 

Top right of Orion is the constellation of Taurus the Bull. The bright orange giant star Aldebaran (Visited by the Moon on 13 February 2019) in the V shaped Hyades cluster and Pleiades star cluster further to the right further some more. Find out more about the Pleiades in Pleiades – Seven Sisters – Subaru – M45. Jewel of Winter Skies.

To the lower left of Orion is the Constellation of Canis Major – The big dog. The constellation is itself rather unimpressive and lies low in the sky from the UK. Above all, Its crowning glory is its alpha star Sirius – The Dog Star. Brightest star in the whole night sky. Sirius is famous for its twinkling. Often mistaken for a UFO due to its bright flashes of colour. Find out more about Sirius and why it twinkles so much here.

February 2019
Credit: Stellarium

In the northern sky you will find all of the usual circumpolar constellations. The only difference is their positions. Cassiopeia and Cepheus are almost seated upside down and Ursa Major – The Big Dipper or Plough is tail/ handle down February 2019.

Asterisms

The stars in the night sky form shapes that are known as asterisms. However, these aren’t to be confused with constellations which are actually boxes that contain groups of stars which make up asterisms. The plough or big dipper being the most famous asterism example.

Winter Triangle

Using the image above you can trace the asterism of the Winter Triangle. Trace an imaginary line from Betelgeuse in Orion to Sirius in Canis Major. Then trace another imaginary line up and to the right the same distance to the bright star Procyon in Canis Minor. Then trace a line back to Betelgeuse to form the winter triangle asterism.

Winter triangle
Winter Triangle

Winter Hexagon

Another well known winter asterism is the Winter Hexagon. The shape made by joining up the stars: Aldebaran, Rigel, Sirius, Procyon, Pollux, Capella and then back to Aldebaran.

Winter Hexagon

The night sky is contains many asterisms. These will help you learn and find your way around the night sky. You can even make up your own.

International Space Station February 2019

International Space Station (ISS) passes occur over the UK early February 2019. Times and info can be found here.

Copyright: www.meteorwatch.org @VirtualAstro

Further reading:

Orion Constellation – Mighty Guardian of Winter Skies

Orion Constellation

iPhone Night Sky Photography – Take Night Sky Pics Using Your iPhone

Pleiades – Seven Sisters – Subaru – M45. Jewel of Winter Skies

ISS – International Space Station Passes UK Winter 2019

ISS, International Space Station, UK, Space Station

ISS Long Exposure photo of a visible ISS pass Credit: Mark Humpage

UK ISS Pass details for WINTER 2019

The International Space Station (ISS) is back over UK skies with some great evening passes during January and February 2019.

The ISS is the largest Space Station/ laboratory ever built! it can be spotted with the naked eye at certain times as it orbits Earth at 17500mph at an altitude of roughly 200 miles.

Spotting the station is very easy and you don’t need any special equipment. You only need your eyes! Read the rest of this post to find out when and how you can spot the station this January and February.

How To Watch The Space Station

Check out the Beginners Guide to Seeing the ISS to learn how easy it is to spot sailing over and the Photographing the International Space Station.

You can also see this great guide on how to photograph the ISS with your iPhone.

All you need to know is when and where the station will be passing over your location. Luckily the United Kingdom (British Isles) is small enough for most of us who live there to see the ISS at the same time. Neighbouring countries can see the station pass over at roughly the same time also.

Only bright passes are included in the predictions and the fainter, less easy ones have been left out.

When To Watch The Space Station

The table below gives approximate pass times and basic information, this will help you spot the station as it passes over.

Only bright passes which can be seen from the UK are listed and the information is approximate. Timings may differ by a few seconds, dependent on observer’s location. Times may change at short notice if the Station performs an orbital boost and changes its orbit. All Timings are local time.

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time, get your cameras ready and enjoy the ISS as it passes over and keep your eyes peeled for meteors, satellites and other objects too, they will be visible most nights!

Good luck and clear skies…..

ISS bright UK pass details for Winter 2019

Times may differ slightly to other sources and can change at short notice, so please check this page daily for accurate timings.

DateBrightnessRises 10° over the horizon (start time)Approaches From (start direction)Highest Point This PassSets/ Goes into Earths Shadow (direction) Goes into Earths ShadowApproximate ISS Pass Details
7 February 2019Bright17:37SSE17:41SE17:44Medium Pass
7 February 2019Faint19:15WSW19:17SSW19:18Low Pass
8 February 2019Bright18:22W18:25SSE18:28Medium Pass
10 February 2019Faint18:17WSW18:18SSW18:19Low Pass

THE ISS WILL RETURN TO UK EVENING SKIES SPRING 2019

Data obtained using NORAD Two Line Elements. Table information created manually with with in-house satellite prediction software.

Live Video of Earth from the International Space Station (ISS)


Live streaming video by Ustream

  • Black Image = International Space Station (ISS) is on the night side of the Earth.
  • Gray Image = Switching between cameras, or communications with the ISS is not available.
  • No Audio = Normal. There is no audio on purpose. Add your own soundtrack.

Related Articles:

iPhone Night Sky Photography – Take Night Sky Pics Using Your iPhone

Quadrantids 2019 – Best Meteor Shower this Year

Quadrantids, meteor shower, 2019
Credit Meteorwatch @VirtualAstro

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower 2019 is above all others this year the one to watch. In fact, It will probably be the best meteor shower of the year.

But why? “Aren’t the Perseids in August and Geminids in December the best?” I hear you say. They aren’t this year I’m afraid.

Read on to find out why the Quadrantids above all others could be the best meteor shower of 2019



Quadrantid Meteor Shower 2019

The Quadrantids will probably be the best meteor shower of the new year. 2019 isn’t looking good as far as meteor showers go. Both of the main two meteor showers. The Perseids in August and Geminids in December occur with a full, or nearly full moon present. This will wash out all but the brightest of the meteors in those showers with bright moonlight.

Most of the meteor showers in 2019 have a bright moon present. The Quadrantids are the only major shower to occur during the dark night of a new moon.

You can expect to see 50-100 meteors per hour during its peak period.

The Quadrantids are a Rather Special Meteor Shower

Unlike the other meteor showers, with the exception of the geminids in December. The Quadrantids originate from an asteroid, not a comet.

All meteor showers have a parent comet or in rare cases such as the Quadrantids and Geminids, an asteroid. The parent comet or asteroid passes through the solar system and sublimates as it gets closer to the sun. This releases dust and gas. When the Earth encounters these streams of dust and gas debris in Space, meteor showers are produced.

The parent body of the Quadrantids is Asteroid 2003 EH1. Discovered in 2003 by astronomer Peter Jenniskens. The astroid takes about 5 and a half years to orbit the sun.

There is also something else unusual about the Quadrantids. Unlike other meteor showers with fairly broad periods of peak activity, some over a day or two. The Quadrantids have a particularly short period of time at their maximum. The peak only lasting a few hours.

And there’s more..

There is also something else that makes this meteor shower stand out from the rest. It’s name.

Meteor showers are named for the constellation they originate from. So the Perseids radiate from the constellation of Perseus and the Leonids from Leo and so on.

The Quadrantids radiate from the constellation of Quadrans Muralis. Ehhh??? There’s no such place!

The International Astronomical Union removed Quadrans Muralis from the list of constellations in the early 20th century. The meteor shower however still retained its old name. The constellation it radiates/ originates from now is Boötes. If you wanted to be pedantic, you could call them the Boötids.

Credit Stellarium

When to see the Quadrantids

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower is active from December 27 to January 10. The peak of the Quadrantids is on the evening of 3/4 January.

Expect to see 50-100 meteors an hour from a dark clear site. On average observers could see around 25- 50 per hour from suburban areas.

Quadrantids produce short but very bright fireballs due to the high radiant. The shower is best for observers in the northern hemisphere.

How to Watch the Quadrantids

As with all meteor showers watching them is fairly straight forward. You need to be warm ,comfortable and patient and allow yourself a minimum of 30 minutes observing time or longer if possible.

There is no particular direction to look as the meteors will appear randomly in any part of the sky. Please read this guide on maximising your chances and how to watch meteor showers.

Good luck, Happy New Year and Happy Meteor Spotting

Further Reading:

Watching Meteors – How to Watch and Observe Meteor Showers

January 2019 Night Sky Guide – What’s Up In January

Lights in the Sky – Have you Seen a UFO Flash or Streak at Night?

January 2019 Night Sky Guide – What’s Up In January

January 2019 is upon us and first of all, I would like to wish you Happy New Year!

Did you get a telescope or binoculars for Christmas? Maybe an astronomy book or new camera? January 2019 is perfect for getting started. You can certainly count on long dark nights and crisp starry skies. As long it stays clear.

January 2019 is a fantastic month for stargazing. Whether you are a beginner or seasoned stargazer. There is something for all.

Read on to find out even more about the night Sky in January 2019.



January 2019 Night Sky Guide

Evening Planets

The only prominent planet in the evening sky is Mars in January 2019. The red planet is now well past its best and sets around 11.30 pm in the dim constellation of Pisces.

Neptune and Uranus are visible in a small telescope or good binoculars. You will find a star map or astronomy app rather useful in finding them.

Morning Planets

The mornings are certainly far more interesting in January 2019. Brilliant Venus shines brightly at around magnitude -4.5 in the pre dawn sky.

Jupiter rises around 6am to the lower left of Venus and can be seen to the left of the bright star Antares. The king of the planets is a lot less bright than Venus at roughly magnitude -2. However, still very bright and obvious to spot. As the month moves on Jupiter and Venus will move closer together. Jupiter will pass over Venus on the morning of the 22nd January 2019. On January 1 – 3 and then 30 – 31 Venus and Jupiter are joined by the Crescent Moon. This will be an amazing sight and a perfect photo opportunity!

Saturn makes an appearance in the dawn twilight at approximately 7am. It is much fainter than Jupiter and Venus. It’s further away to the left of the photographic trio of Venus, the Moon and Jupiter on the 31st.

Venus, Crescent Moon and Jupiter January 31 Credit Stellarium

The Moon in January 2019

The Moon generates a fair amount of interest in January 2019 with some close encounters and a rather impressive eclipsed Supermoon toward the end of the month.

Credit: VirtualAstro

The Full Moon in January is also known as the Full Wolf Moon in folklore. Believed to originate from the dark ages Anglo Saxon calendar. The Moon of Howling Wolves. Other names from European and North American traditions are the Moon After Yule, Ice Moon, Old Moon and Snow Moon. The latter is usually the name for the Full Moon in February.

Moon phases for January 2019 are as follows:

  • New Moon – January 6, 01:28
  • First Quarter – 14 January, 06:45
  • Full Moon – 21 January, 05:16
  • Last Quarter – 27 January 21:10

Moon Events and Close Encounters

  • January 1- 3 Crescent Moon joins Venus and Jupiter in the early Morning Sky.
  • Moon and Mars close together January 12.
  • The Moon and Aldebaran in Taurus are close together on January 17.
  • The best Lunar Eclipse of the year occurs on January 20/21 during a Full Supermoon. (even more info in another article coming shortly)
  • January 30 – 31 Crescent Moon joins Venus and Jupiter in the pre dawn sky.

Blood Moon
Credit: Maxwell Palau from the VirtualAstro Flickr group

Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen is on the edge of naked eye visibility in January 2019. The comet can be seen moving from the constellation of Lynx into Ursa Major early in the month but is fading fast. A tough binocular object mid month and best seen in a telescope before it disappears altogether.

Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Of all the meteor showers in 2019 the Quadrantids will be the best!

Why? You may ask! The Quadrantids are the only good meteor shower without the presence of the Moon spoiling the view. This year, the Perseids in August and Geminids both have an almost Full Moon during both showers. In addition, other showers get interfered with by the Moon in 2019. So, the Quadrantids in January 2019 are our best bet of seeing a Moon free meteor shower this year. This is due to their peak activity being on the January 2019 Full Moon.

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks on the evening of 3/4 January 2019 with maximum activity expected after midnight and before dawn on the 4th. The Meteor Shower will be visible from January 1 – 6.

The Quadrantids originate from the debris stream of asteroid 2003 EH1 which is odd as meteor showers with the exception of the Geminids originate from comets.

The Quadrantid peak is quite narrow, being only a couple of hours. Therefore at the right time, an observer could see 50 – 80 meteors per hour. The radiant/ point of origin is in the now defunct constellation of Quadrans Muralis. In the early 20th Century, the constellation was removed by the International Astronomical Union. The radiant is now in Bootes. To find out even more about viewing the Quadrantids see this guide here.

Credit Meteorwatch @VirtualAstro

Constellations

January 2019 brings some striking and familiar constellations into view. Above all Orion is probably the most famous and striking of all the constellations and is due south in all it’s glory this month. There are many wonderful things to see in this constellation and you can find out more about them in Orion Constellation – Mighty Guardian of Winter Skies. 

Top right of Orion is the constellation of Taurus the Bull. The bright orange giant star Aldebaran (Visited by the Moon on January 17) in the V shaped Hyades cluster and Pleiades star cluster further to the right further some more. Find out more about the Pleiades in Pleiades – Seven Sisters – Subaru – M45. Jewel of Winter Skies.

To the lower left of Orion is the Constellation of Canis Major – The big dog. The constellation is itself rather unimpressive and lies low in the sky from the UK. Its crowning glory is its alpha star Sirius – The Dog Star. Brightest star in the whole night sky. Sirius is famous for its twinkling. Often mistaken for a UFO due to its bright flashes of colour. Find out more about Sirius and why it twinkles so much here.

Credit: Stellarium

In the northern sky you will find all of the usual circumpolar constellations. The only difference is their positions. Cassiopeia and Cepheus are almost seated upside down and Ursa Major – The Big Dipper or Plough is tail/ handle down mid month.

International Space Station

International Space Station (ISS) passes start again in the evenings over the UK late January 2019. Times and info will be posted closer to the time.

Further reading:

Quadrantids 2019 – Best Meteor Shower this Year

Orion Constellation – Mighty Guardian of Winter Skies

Orion Constellation

iPhone Night Sky Photography – Take Night Sky Pics Using Your iPhone

Pleiades – Seven Sisters – Subaru – M45. Jewel of Winter Skies

Comet in the Sky – How to See This Months Comet

Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Lights in the Sky – Have you Seen a UFO Flash or Streak at Night?

Lights, Sky, UFO, Flash, Streak

Credit Freepik

Lights in the Sky – Have you Seen a UFO Flash or Streak in the Night Sky?

Have you seen lights in the night sky recently? Or what you may think is a UFO flash, streak, or fly across the heavens in the dead of night?

If you have, read on!

First of all, VirtualAstro hasn’t gone all History Channel. Nor is the author of this article a closet believer in Ancient Aliens, Nibiru or the Lizard people.

If you are a believer in modern myths and conspiracies. You may get a little upset during the course of this article. Hopefully though, you will find it just as interesting, entertaining and enlightening as other readers.

Another thing I’d like to mention. Before we dive in and start discussing UFO lights, flashes and streaks across the sky. People are entitled to believe in what they want and have their own reasons for doing so.  However, this article is actually a guide to describing what these lights, flashes, steaks in the sky and other UFO phenomena actually are.

Have you seen a UFO?

Many people if asked “have you seen a UFO?” will answer yes and quite rightly so! They have seen odd bright lights. Objects that flash and streak across the sky and other strange phenomenon. Are these UFO sightings? Yes they are.

Before you shout at your device and hit the back button. Keep reading a little longer. All will be explained using science and fact. We’ll put hysteria, superstition and beliefs aside for the moment.

Unidentified Flying Objects

When I was a child first starting out on my stargazing journey. I would look up at the night sky. I would see the regular night sky and occasionally there would be something different. Things would move. Lights would flash, streak, appear, disappear and so on. Sometimes these out of the ordinary unidentified flying objects would be accompanied by something making a noise in the bushes.

I would run indoors terrified! Locking the door behind me!

In my Child mind I had seen a UFO and there were Aliens in the bushes! Or so my imagination led me to believe. It didn’t help that I watched Close encounters of the Third Kind that Christmas.

Now I’ve been stargazing for over 30 years. I know I wasn’t seeing UFO’s. I now know exactly what these objects are. They are no longer Unidentified Flying Objects. They are really cool objects! However, I still run indoors when I hear things in the bushes.

If you don’t know what these lights, flashes, streaks and other phenomena are.  Then to you, they are UFO’s – unidentified flying objects. We just need to identify them and understand what they are.

UFO’s Explained

As an adult and experienced stargazer, I can easily say that I have never seen a UFO. I have been able to identify every light, flash, streak, flare, pop and object I have seen in the night sky. If I couldn’t identify or explain it straight away, I would research it and find out what it was. I do this all the time now and very little is unexplained and nothing is supernatural.

So what are these things in the sky?

Look up for a while on any clear evening and as well as stars and regular objects. You will see lights, streaks of light, flashes, things moving and more.

You can separate these objects into natural or manmade phenomena.

Natural Objects and Phenomena

Meteors

Meteors, are pieces of space rock and dust that impact the Earth’s atmosphere. When this happens, friction between the atmosphere and meteor causes the meteor burn up in a flash or streak of light. We often romanticise this as a shooting star.  Some meteors are tiny and barely noticeable, lasting a fraction of a second. Other larger meteors appear as bright fiery streaks of light across the sky. Otherwise known as fireballs or bolides. They can last a few seconds or longer depending on their size.

Meteors can be prolific at certain times creating Meteor Showers. They can also be sporadic bits of space rock that occasionally encounter the Earth’s atmosphere randomly. Meteors can be seen every night if the sky is clear.

Typical Meteor Fireball.

Planets

To the uninitiated, a planet can easily be mistaken for a UFO. Venus and Jupiter probably being the most common culprits. They appear as bright lights in the sky all of a sudden to those who don’t stargaze regularly.

The word Planet is taken from the Greek word for wanderer. Planets can change position and move a fair amount over a short period. This can lead a person who doesn’t stargaze into thinking they are seeing a UFO. The sky is always changing and in motion. Therefore, changes in planet positions can appear alarming to some.

Weather and Space Weather

The weather can also cause all sorts of different effects on the sky. From Lunar to Solar halo’s. Sun dogs, Moon dogs, clouds, thunder storms and more. Many of these phenomena are easily noticed as some sort of atmospherics. Or otherwise known as atmospheric optics.

Space Weather is the direct effect of light or objects interacting with our atmosphere from space. These include, Aurora – Northern and Southern Lights caused by charged particles fro the sun. Noctilucent Clouds, Belt of Venus and even more caused by light interactions in the right conditions.

Man made Objects and Phenomena

Most lights in the sky. UFO sightings, streaks and flashes can certainly be attributed to manmade objects.

International Space Station

The International Space Station appears as a bright light moving across the sky. It can sometimes materialise out of nowhere. Or disappear in the same fashion. It does this as it leaves or enters Earth’s shadow depending on when and where it is in its orbit.

Satellites

Satellites are usually fainter and can move in a similar fashion to the Space Station. In contrast, they can move at different speeds, directions and brightness. For the purpose of this article we will refer to everything humans have put into orbit as satellites. Some are actual communications, science, or military satellites. Some are bits of space junk. Spent rocket bodies, satellite fairings, rocket motors etc.

Some of this space junk de-orbits occasionally and can be seen as a spectacular fireball with the debris burning up as it falls through the sky.

Many satellites cruise happily around the planet fixed in their attitude. Appearing as a faint or sometimes even brighter points of light moving across the sky. Some however tumble or spin as they move. These are usually rocket bodies or bizarre or broken satellites orbiting the earth. Due to their tumbling or spinning, they can flash or pulse as they reflect sunlight from various surfaces as they move. Some can materialise and light up the sky for a few seconds. These are iridium satellites. Famous for the soon to be ended iridium flares.

Tumbling satellite sped up via youtube

 

Satellites can be solitary or can travel with friends. Some have no relation to the other and can cruise through the sky together and can also cross paths. Like celestial ships passing through the night. A few satellites form “constellations” of satellites with two or more satellites in a group moving across the sky. One particular group forms a triangle and really does look like a straight out of the box area 51 UFO. Worth looking out for! Don’t call the police if you see it though. You’ll look silly.


A Video showing how busy the night sky is. Showing satellites, meteors and space junk via youtube

Aircraft

Aircraft are usually distinguishable from everything else due to different colour flashing lights. However, the lights from aircraft especially landing lights seen from a distance can be mistaken for a UFO. Because of the intensity of the lights, the aircrafts other blinking/ flashing lights can be obscured. This can fool the observer into thinking its a solid moving light. If you live in an area with busy flight paths, you may see multiple aircraft dancing low in the sky together. Sometimes these groups if seen from the right direction, look like they are hovering and interacting with each other. Many UFO reports have been made due to this, but in the end it was air traffic.

Multiple aircraft as described above – via youtube

Everything Can be Explained

If you take the time to study the night sky. Familiarise yourself with it and your surroundings. You will certainly understand the motion and behaviour of the sky and the objects in it.

As I said above, I have seen lights in the sky, flashes, meteors streaking, satellites, space junk and more. But I have never seen an actual UFO.

Are there Aliens? Are there real UFO’s?

I have never seen one, however I am open minded and would like to think there is extraterrestrial life in the Universe. You can count on it!

I hope they are friendly.

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