What to see on Open Evenings

Please note: the list of Open Evening Dates for 2018 is on the Open Evenings page.
What to see on Saturday 20th January 2018
T6.30pm - 11pm

The Sun will have already set at 4.28pm and the end of Astronomical Twilight is 6.27pm so by the time the Centre opens at 6.30pm it will be completely dark. The phase of the Moon is 3 days after NEW MOON and it will already have risen at 9.34am and will not be setting until 8.09pm so will just be visible at the start of the evening.

To see the sky chart for the 20th January 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 evening.

Uranus will be visible throughout the evening. It is in the CONSTELLATION of Pisces and does not set until about midnight. At a MAGNITUDE of 5.9 you should technically be able to see it with the unaided eye. However, it needs to be extremely dark, extremely clear, the seeing conditions need to be very still and you also need extremely good eyesight so the chances of seeing it without a telescope are pretty slim! It is a long way away so dont be disappointed if you see it as a very small object. Look again it is a definite disc and don't forget the reason why you see it is because it is reflecting the Sun's light and the Sun is an average 1,784 million miles from Uranus.

With no Moon towards the end of the evening, the sky will be very dark making it easier to see deeper sky objects. A winter favourite is the ORION NEBULA, which is fabulous to look at. The ANDROMEDA GALAXY may also be visible but it is heading towards the western horizon so earlier evening is better for this enormous galaxy.

Objects to look out for without having to use a telescope include the Pleiades cluster in Taurus, which will 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.
What to see on Saturday 8th December 2018 'Christmas around the Moon'
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 after NEW MOON and will already have set at 5.04pm before the Centre re-opens for the evening making it very dark all night. You may be wondering if we cannot see the Moon why are we calling this evening Christmas around the Moon? It was 50 years ago this month that Apollo 8 went up into space and orbited the Moon so we could not let that anniversary pass us by! 

Apollo 8 was the second manned spaceflight mission. Launched on December 21, 1968, it became the first manned spacecraft to leave the Earth's orbit, reach the Earth's Moon, orbit it and return safely to Earth. 

To see the sky charts for the 8th 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 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 it will be high enough in the sky 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 8th December is a few days before the peak activity of the Geminids METEOR SHOWER but still falls on the edge of 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.