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The Observatory Science Centre
Herstmonceux
Hailsham
East Sussex
BN27 1RN
Tel: 01323 832731
Fax: 01323 832741

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What to see on Open Evenings

Please note: the list of Open Evening Dates is on the Open Evenings page.
What to see on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September at the Annual Astronomy Festival

The Sun will be setting at approximately 7.45pm so it will still be light as he Centre opens up for the evening sessions. ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT ends at about 9.50pm so it will not be completely dark until this time. The phase of the Moon is 5 and 4 days before FULL MOON respectively so a waxing Gibbous. It will rise at 5.08pm on Friday and 5.50pm on Saturday so will be visible throughout the evening, not setting until 1.57am and 2.55am respectively.

To see the sky chart for the 1st and 2nd September visit Heavens Above. You will need to alter the times and dates in the boxes below the current chart to find out what is in the night sky on the dates of the festival open evenings.

The Moon is very beautiful to look at even during a bright waxing gibbous phase and you should be able to see craters and maria. Telescope operators will usually use a Moon filter to cut down the glare.

While Jupiter will be too low on the western horizon and swamped by evening twilight magnificent Saturn will still be visible early on in the CONSTELLATION Ophiucus. It reached OPPOSITION on June 15th so is not quite as bright as then but will still be spectacular at MAGNITUDE 0.4. The beautiful RING SYSTEM is fully open at 26.9 degrees giving us a stunning view of the top side of the rings. Saturn will set just before midnight.

The CONSTELLATION Hercules will still be above the western horizon in the early evening which means the magnificent GLOBULAR CLUSTER M13 will be visible. M13, is located on the right hand side of the body of Hercules (which looks like a key stone). It appears as a beautiful three dimensional ball of stars through the telescopes. There are also some nice double stars at this time of the year too and the Andromeda galaxy will be coming into view aswell. The summer triangle is still prominent hiding the beautiful RING NEBULA (M57) in the CONSTELLATION Lyra. 
What to see on Saturday 23rd September
6.30pm-11pm

The Sun will set at 6.56pm so it will still be light when Centre re-opens for the evening at 6.30pm. ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT ends at about 8.49pm so it will not be completely dark until this time. The phase of the Moon is 3 days after NEW MOON so a waxing Crescent. It will rise at 10.09am and set at 8.42pm so will only be visible at the start of the evening.

To see the sky chart for the 23rd September visit Heavens Above. You will need to alter the times and dates in the boxes below the current chart to find out what is in the night sky on the specific date.

The Moon is very beautiful to look at even though at this phase it appears as a fairly thin sliver. You should be able to see craters even if you cannot see the maria. 

Magnificent Saturn may still be visible early on in the CONSTELLATION Ophiucus. It reached OPPOSITION on June 15th so is not quite as bright as then but will still be bright at MAGNITUDE 0.5. The beautiful RING SYSTEM is fully open at 27 degrees, close to the maximum possible, giving us a stunning view of the top side of the rings. Saturn will set just afetr 10pm.

The CONSTELLATION Hercules will still be above the western horizon in the early evening which means the magnificent GLOBULAR CLUSTER M13 will be visible. M13, is located on the right hand side of the body of Hercules (which looks like a key stone). It appears as a beautiful three dimensional ball of stars through the telescopes. There are also some nice double stars at this time of the year too and the Andromeda galaxy will be coming into view aswell. The summer triangle is still prominent hiding the beautiful RING NEBULA (M57) in the CONSTELLATION Lyra.


What to see on Saturday 7th October
6.30pm - 11pm

The Sun will be setting at 6.24pm so it will be getting pretty dark when the Centre re-opens at 6.30pm. ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT ends at 8.15pm so it will not be completely dark until then. The phase of the Moon is 2 days after FULL MOON and will not be rising until 7.44pm so it will not be visible through the telescopes for the first part of the evening, only when it rises high enough in the sky. It will not set until 13.13am the following morning.

To see the sky chart for the 7th October visit Heavens Above. You will need to alter the times and dates in the boxes below the current chart to find out what is in the night sky on the date of the open evening.

Magnificent Saturn is still hanging on and will be in the night sky early on. It is not as bright as it has been (it was at its brightest on June 15th when at OPPOSITION) but it is still fairly bright at MAGNITUDE 0.5. It will be in the western sky in the constellation of Ophiucus, just above Scorpius. Setting at about 9.15pm it may be too low to be visible through the large telescopes. However, if smaller telescopes are available on this evening they will be able to view Saturn early on all being well with the weather. The beautiful RING SYSTEM is fully open, tilted Earthwards at 27 degrees, close to the maximum possible, giving us a stunning view of the top side of the rings.  

When the Moon rises it will be very bright and tends to wash out the more faint deeper sky objects but it is itself very beautiful to look at and you should be able to see the Ocean of Storms and some bright craters. The telescope operators usually use Moon filters to cut down the glare from the Moon.  

For the deeper sky objects, a favourite at this time of the year is Messier Object M13, which is just about visible early on. It is a fabulous GLOBULAR CLUSTER in the CONSTELLATION of Hercules. There are also some nice double stars at this time of the year too and while a bit too close to the bright Moon, the ANDROMEDA GALAXY will also be coming into view aswell. The summer triangle is still prominent, hiding the beautiful RING NEBULA (M57).

Objects to look out for without having to use a telescope include the Pleiades cluster in Taurus, coming up over the North-eastern horizon. This is a beautiful knot of stars also known as the 7 sisters. On a very clear evening and with good eyesight you should be able to spot about 7 of the hundreds of stars in this OPEN CLUSTER. This is a real sign we are heading int the Autumn! The Pleiades cluster is far too big to look at through the telescopes and it is better to view it through a pair of binoculars.

In addition the 7th Ocober coincides with the peak of the Draconids METEOR SHOWER. The point from which the meteors seem to appear is called the radiant and almost coincides with the head of the constellation Draco the Dragon in the northern sky (see below; image courtesy of EarthSky). The radiant point is highest in the sky as darkness falls. This means that, unlike many meteor showers, more Draconids are likely to be seen in the evening hours rather than in the morning hours after midnight. The Draconids only usually produces a handful of slow moving meteors per hour in most years. But watch out if the Dragon awakes! In rare instances, many hundreds of meteors have been seen in a single hour. In 1933 and 1946 thousands were seen per hour and in 2011 there were 600 per hour. In 2017, watch the Draconid meteors at nightfall and early evening on October 7 and 8, before the bright waning gibbous moon rises into the sky at early-to-mid evening. The debris trail that produces the Draconid meteor showers is from comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner.

What to see on Saturday 21st October
6.30pm - 11pm

The Sun will already have set at 5.54pm so it will be relatively dark when the Centre opens at 6.30pm, even though ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT doesn't end until 7.45pm. By this time it will be completely dark. The phase of the Moon is 2 days after NEW MOON so will already have risen at 9.01am. It will be setting at 7.09pm so will not be visible at all through the telescopes as it is just too low in the sky.

To see the sky chart for the 21st October visit Heavens Above. You will need to alter the times and dates in the boxes below the current chart to find out what is in the night sky on the date of the open evening.

Magnificent Saturn is still hanging on and will be in the night sky early on. It is not as bright as it has been (it was at its brightest on June 15th when at OPPOSITION) but it is still fairly bright at MAGNITUDE 0.5. It will be low in the western sky in the CONSTELLATION of Ophiucus, just above Scorpius. Setting at about 8.15pm it will be too low to be visible through the large telescopes. However, if there are smaller telescopes available on this evening you may be able to view Saturn early on all being well with the weather. At the moment the RINGS are nice and open, tilted Earthwards at 27 degrees which is close to the maximum possible and we are looking at them from the top.

Without a Moon the deeper sky objects will be more visible giving you a fabulous opportunity to look at some of these objects. A favourite at this time of the year is Messier Object M13, a fabulous GLOBULAR CLUSTER in the CONSTELLATION of Hercules, which will be visible at the start of the evening. There are also some nice double stars at this time of the year too and the ANDROMEDA GALAXY will be visible. The summer triangle is still prominent, hiding the beautiful RING NEBULA (M57).

Objects to look out for without having to use a telescope include the Pleiades cluster in Taurus, coming up over the North-eastern horizon. This is a beautiful knot of stars also known as the 7 sisters. On a very clear evening and with good eyesight you should be able to spot about 7 of the hundreds of stars in this OPEN CLUSTER. This is a real sign we are heading into the Autumn! The Pleiades cluster is far too big to look at through the telescopes and it is better to view it through a pair of binoculars.

The Orionids METEOR SHOWER peaks between 21st and 23rd October. During the evening watch out for some fast moving shooting stars which may have persistent trails. At the peak there maybe up to 20 meteors per hour this year. The radiant point for the Orionids is from the constellation Orion which is only just coming over the eastern horizon towards the end of the evening. The debris trail comes from Halley's comet.

What to see on Saturday 28th October
6.30pm - 11pm

The Sun will already have set at 5.40pm so it will be quite dark when the Centre opens at 6.30pm. However, ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT doesn't end until 7.33pm so it will not be completely dark until then. The phase of the Moon is 1 day after FIRST QUARTER so will already have risen at 2.58pm and will therefore be visible all night.

To see the sky chart for the 28th October visit Heavens Above. You will need to alter the times and dates in the boxes below the current chart to find out what is in the night sky on the date of the open evening.

Magnificent Saturn will be setting at about 8pm so will unfortunately be too low in the western sky to be visible through the telescopes.

The Moon is a fabulous object to look at. While it will be pretty bright, telescope operators will often use a Moon filter to lessen the glare and you should be able to see craters and the dark maria.

For deeper sky objects, there are some nice double stars at this time of the year and the ANDROMEDA GALAXY will be high in the evening sky. Pegasus is a prominent CONSTELLATION and hides the lovely GLOBULAR CLUSTER M15.

Objects to look out for without having to use a telescope include the Pleiades cluster in Taurus, coming up over the North-eastern horizon. This is a beautiful knot of stars also known as the 7 sisters. On a very clear evening and with good eyesight you should be able to spot about 7 of the hundreds of stars in this OPEN CLUSTER. This is a real sign we are into the Autumn months! The Pleiades cluster is far too big to look at through the telescopes and it is better to view it through a pair of binoculars. Another object to look out for with binoculars is the double cluster in the CONSTELLATION of Perseus.


What to see on Saturday 11th November
6.30pm-11pm

The Sun will already have set at 4.16pm and ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT ends at 6.12pm so it will be completely dark when the Centre re-opens at 6.30pm. The phase of the Moon is 1 day after LAST QUARTER and will already have set at 1.45pm so not visible at all throughout the evening.

To see the sky charts for the 11th November visit Heavens Above. You will need to alter the times and dates in the boxes below the current chart to find out what is in the night sky on the dates of the open evenings.

Uranus and Neptune will already have risen and may also be located during the course of the evening along with deeper sky objects which are much easier to see when there is no Moon. These include the ANDROMEDA GALAXY and some ineresting double stars. Objects to look out for without having to use a telescope include the Pleiades cluster in Taurus, which should be nice and high in the ight sky. This is a beautiful knot of stars also known as the 7 sisters. On a very clear evening and with good eyesight you should be able to spot about 7 of the hundreds of stars in this OPEN CLUSTER. The Pleiades cluster is far too big to look at through the telescopes and it is better to view it through a pair of binoculars. Another object to look out for with binoculars is the double cluster in the CONSTELLATION of Perseus. As we get close to the winter months you will see the CONSTELLATION of Orion appearing over the eastern horizon with the beautiful ORION NEBULA. Lovely to look at through binoculars but stunning through a telescope.

You should also watch for shooting stars, the fleeting bright streaks of light left behind as meteors enter the Earth's atmosphere. The 11th November is just 1 day before the peak activity of the Taurids METEOR SHOWER. The normal limits for seeing the Taurids is between 20th October and 30th November so quite a long time. These meteors are a bit slower than others but are often accompanied by more bright events and even fireballs. There are usually about 10 per hour at the peak and the radiant where the shooting stars appera to come from is in the CONSTELLATION Taurus. The Taurids meteors arise from the debris left behind by comet Encke.
What to see on Friday 17th November
6.30pm-11pm

The Sun will already have set at 4.08pm and ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT ends at 6.05pm so it will be completely dark when the Centre re-opens at 6.30pm. The phase of the Moon is 1 day before NEW MOON and will already have risen at 5.49am and set at 4.12pm so will not be visible at all during the evening.

To see the sky charts for the 17th November visit Heavens Above. You will need to alter the times and dates in the boxes below the current chart to find out what is in the night sky on the dates of the open evenings.

Uranus and Neptune will already have risen and may also be located during the course of the evening along with deeper sky objects which are much easier to see when there is no Moon. These include the ANDROMEDA GALAXY and some ineresting double stars.

Objects to look out for without having to use a telescope include the Pleiades cluster in Taurus, which should be nice and high in the ight sky. This is a beautiful knot of stars also known as the 7 sisters. On a very clear evening and with good eyesight you should be able to spot about 7 of the hundreds of stars in this OPEN CLUSTER. The Pleiades cluster is far too big to look at through the telescopes and it is better to view it through a pair of binoculars. Another object to look out for with binoculars is the double cluster in the CONSTELLATION of Perseus. As we get close to the winter months you will see the CONSTELLATION of Orion appearing over the eastern horizon with the beautiful ORION NEBULA. Lovely to look at through binoculars but stunning through a telescope.

You should also watch for shooting stars, the fleeting bright streaks of light left behind as meteors enter the Earth's atmosphere. The 17th November falls with in the limits of the Taurids meteor shower and the peak of the Leonids METEOR SHOWER. The normal limits for seeing the Taurids is between 20th October and 30th November so quite a long time. These meteors are a bit slower and are often accompanied by more bright events. There are usually about 10 per hour at the peak. The Leonids METEOR SHOWER has a much shorter duration; 15th - 20th November so fingers crossed you may see some coming from a northerly direction. These are very fast meteors often leaving persistent trails. There are usually about 20 or so per hour at the peak and with no Moon to brighten the sky the chances of seeing these meteors is very favourable this year. The Leonids radiant is in the CONSTELLATION Leo (see below; image courtesy of stardate.org) and the meteors are associated with the debris trail left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle.


What to see on Saturday 9th December
6.30pm-11pm

The Sun will already have set at 3.51pm and ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT ends at 5.54pm so it will be completely dark when the Centre re-opens at 6.30pm. The phase of the Moon is 1 day before LAST QUARTER and will not be rising until 11.05pm and will therefore not be visible at all throughout the evening.

To see the sky charts for the 9th December visit Heavens Above. You will need to alter the times and dates in the boxes below the current chart to find out what is in the night sky on the dates of the open evenings.

Uranus and Neptune will already have risen and may also be located during the course of the evening along with deeper sky objects which are much easier to see when there is no Moon. These include the ANDROMEDA GALAXY and some ineresting double stars. As we descend into winter you will see the CONSTELLATION of Orion appearing over the eastern horizon and should reach a high enough elevation to view the beautiful ORION NEBULA. Lovely to look at through binoculars but stunning through a telescope!

Objects to look out for without having to use a telescope include the Pleiades cluster in Taurus, which should be nice and high in the night sky. This is a beautiful knot of stars also known as the 7 sisters. On a very clear evening and with good eyesight you should be able to spot about 7 of the hundreds of stars in this OPEN CLUSTER. The Pleiades cluster is far too big to look at through the telescopes and it is better to view it through a pair of binoculars. Another object to look out for with binoculars is the double cluster in the CONSTELLATION of Perseus. 

You should also watch for shooting stars, the fleeting bright streaks of light left behind as meteors enter the Earth's atmosphere. The 9th December is a few days before the peak activity of the Geminids METEOR SHOWER but still falls within the normal limits of activity which is 8th - 17th December. The Geminids occur as the Earth passes through the debris left behind by the ASTEROID 3200 PHAETON and the radiant, where the meteors appear to come from is in the CONSTELLATION Gemini (see below; image courtesy of stardate.org). These meteors are slow moving with a good proportion of bright events. There are usually about 100 per hour at the peak. You need to look towards the CONSTELLATION Gemini in the east to try and spot these shooting stars and with no Moon to spoil the party spotting them is very favourable this year. This is the richest of all the annual showers.
Annual Astronomy Festival
September 1 (2.30pm - 11pm), 2 (10am - 6pm then 6.30pm - 11pm), 3 (10am -6pm). Join us for a fantastic weekend. There is so much to do for everyone and you do not have to be an astronomer to enjoy the fabulous atmosphere. Come for an evening, come for a day or come for the whole weekend and camp under the backdrop of the amazing domes! There are lectures, trade stands, family activities, viewing the night sky through some of the country's largest telescopes (weather permitting) and so much more. For more information about prices and details of the programme of activities and lectures for the weekend visit the Astronomy Festival page in the What's On section.
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