Jupiter At Opposition


Set your alarms ready for the 8th of March, because it will be the best chance you will get of catching a glimpse of Jupiter for a while!

The giant planet will be at its nearest to us here on Earth, with its face fully illuminated by the sun. It will be visible for most of the night, reaching its highest point at around midnight. Bear in mind that this is absolutely the best time to view and photograph Jupiter as well as its moons,  so I will be ready waiting with my telescope to gaze at the largest planet in our solar system.


If you are worried about what you will be able to see, don’t worry. A decent sized telescope should allow you to see quite a few of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands, and even with a good pair of binoculars you will be able to see the four larger moons. They will be bright dots visible on the side of the planet.

So remember to aim your telescopes (and binoculars!) towards the constellation Leo at around 12am GMT on the 8th of March to join me as we marvel at one of the most impressive planets in our solar system. I will be there waiting eagerly with my Saxon Novo 705AZ3!

Constellation of Lea in context with other constellations


Pluto a Planet or not?

Pluto and Charon

Pluto and Charon

Recently the Astronomical society voted out Pluto as a Planet. What is Pluto then if not a Planet? Well I did not first understand and went to a friend who is an astronomer by profession. He told me things which made my knowledge base strong and I could understand. So you would be curious what makes a heavenly body qualify as a planet right! Well there are three aspects:

  1. The body must be revolving round a sun.
  2. It should be round. In astronomical terms it is known as hydro-static equilibrium.
  3. Its neighborhood is clean. Sounds crazy doesn’t it?

Well Pluto is revolving round the Sun and is round. So, what does a clear neighborhood mean? Well it means that the designated planet does not have a body as large as itself in its vicinity. This is not the case with Pluto. Its moon has its own gravitational pull outside Pluto’s influence. Charon is also almost half the size of Pluto. Pluto loses here as a Planet. The Astronomical society has categorized it as a “dwarf planet“. So Pluto loses its category and becomes one of the 44 other dwarfs of our solar system. It is not exactly a planet anymore. There goes the acronym I learned in school – ” My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets”. Planets is out so is Pluto. So, folks be ready for discovery of a new Planet. We cannot do with only eight in our solar system. Astronomers please look out for a new planet so that my acronym is complete.

Comet Lovejoy and other February Delights



Comet pictured from an Oulton observatory. Picture: David Jackson

Photo by David Jackson (Norfolk man see below)


Given the weather not been doing much stargazing but done a bit of internet searching and exploring on various aspects of astronomy. Found this interesting blog talking about the comet  Lovejoy and some amazing photos. Also on there was a video of last years comet Rosetta and the “sound’ it makes. it ws speeded up and really sounded like the Predator -quite creepy!!Following the links on the site, Space.com, I found some really interesting video shows some fact some fiction but all really interesting. I never suspected how many layers I would find when I decided I was interested in the stars. I found Spacewatch; lovely for cosmic killers the most engrossing – have a look and tell me what you think. Also take a look at this article about a Norfolk man who managed a great photo of the comet – wish I could afford his gear!

I also found this site, Dark Sky Discovery which lets you know the best places to view the stars with Britain, with interactive maps, there are also surveys that you can take part in. Really so interesting and I must say time consuming, if you are planning to take this up for a hobby it will be good to know that it does take up your time. If you just want to lie under the stars, and looking no problem but if you want to know more and learn more about your hobby it takes time and money – things can be done inexpensively but I guess like anything else you get involved in a cost is expected and you will have to be firm with your budget.

Next month hopefully will get to see the solar eclipse on the 20th, although a total eclipse for some we should be able to see a partial eclipse in the UK…here hoping.


Shadows on Jupiter

Jupiter showing the shadows of the Galilean Moons

Jupiter and its 3 moons Io. Callistra & Europa

Not done a lot of stargazing this month due to the wet, cold and snowy weather, plus got myself a real dose of the flu mid month, just recovering from it now. So, not felt like doing much of anything really. One event that was on my calendar to not miss was the triple moon shadows on Jupiter. The three moons of Io, Callistra and Europa will all pass over Jupiter. We will not see this event again until 2032 so I was determined not to miss it. I have been told that seeing Jupiter and the Galilean moon is easy from the UK but not if you think you are dying of flu and it is raining and cloudy. So I was tucked up with my lemsip and watched the live webcast on the Livestream channel of the Griffith Observatory. This is a really great channel that I did not know about before but have spent quite a few days watching some of their previous webcasts. Wish I had found it sooner might not have watched as much Big Bang Theory over the past couple of weeks, who I’m kidding? I’d watched both. I fell asleep after watching the Io and Callistra moons so did not get to see Europa, but there is the recording on their Livestream website or a speeded up version on their You Tube channel. I forgot to mention I got a gift from my parents at Christmas and I am so pleased with it, a year’s subscription paid to the Astronomy Now magazine, it’s fantastic. The January issue has just arrived so much of interest in it especially for a beginner like me. You can see something of what is in it here.