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 October

6.30pm - 11pm

The Sun will already have set at 5.56pm so it will be relatively dark when the Centre opens at 6.30pm, even though ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT doesn't end until 7.48pm. By this time it will be completely dark. The phase of the Moon is 4 days after FIRST QUARTER so will already have risen at 4.50pm and will be visible all night.

To see the sky chart for the 20th 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 very early on, setting about 9.00pm. It is not as bright as it has been (it was at its brightest on June 27th 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 Sagittarius. It will be too low to be visible through the large telescopes but 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 about 26 degrees. It was at maximum tilt last September. We are now looking at them from the top.

Mars will not be setting until after midnight so should be visible through the telescopes pretty much all evening. It is in the CONSTELLATION Capricornus and at MAGNITUDE -0.9 it is still very bright even though it is now further away from Earth. It was at OPPOSITION on the 27th July.

The Moon will also be visible all evening. It is a waxing gibbous phase and will be quite bright. However, you should be able to see craters and Mare; it is a beautiful object to look at.

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. If you are lucky enough to see it, it looks like a glowing three dimensional ball of stars.

There are also some nice double stars at this time of the year too and the ANDROMEDA GALAXY will be visible, although probably too washed out by the bright Moon. 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 24th October so we are just going into maximum activity. During the evening watch out for some fast moving shooting stars which may have persistent trails. At the peak there maybe up to 25 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.

There will be smaller telescopes of our STEM Ambassador volunteers and members of local Astronomy Societies on the lawns and they welcome you to take a look at the many night sky objects.
What to see on Saturday 27th October

6.30pm - 11pm

The Sun will already have set at 5.43pm so it will be relatively dark when the Centre opens at 6.30pm, even though ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT doesn't end until 7.35pm. By this time it will be completely dark. The phase of the Moon is 2 days after FULL MOON and will be rising at 8.13pm. It will be visible through the telescopes when it rises high enough in the sky after it has risen.

To see the sky chart for the 27th 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 very early on, setting about 8.45pm. It is not as bright as it has been (it was at its brightest on June 27th 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 Sagittarius and while too low to be visible through the large telescopes but 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 about 26 degrees. It was at maximum tilt last September. We are now looking at them from the top.

Mars will not be setting until after midnight so should be visible through the telescopes pretty much all evening. It is in the CONSTELLATION Capricornus and at MAGNITUDE -0.7 it is still very bright even though it is now further away from Earth. It was at OPPOSITION on the 27th July.

The phase of the Moon is a wning gibbous and when it rises will be very bright. The Moon is beautiful to look at through the telescopes and you will be able to see craters, "seas" (Mare) and mountains. 

While the Moon will wash out some of the fainter deep sky objects we will still endeavour to find some. 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. If you are lucky enough to see it, it looks like a glowing three dimensional ball of stars.

There are also some nice double stars at this time of the year too and the ANDROMEDA GALAXY will be visible, although probably too washed out by the bright Moon. The summer triangle is still prominent, hiding the beautiful RING NEBULA (M57) and the double star Albireo.

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.

There will be smaller telescopes of our STEM Ambassador volunteers and members of local Astronomy Societies on the lawns and they welcome you to take a look at the many night sky objects.
What to see on Saturday 8th December 2018 'Christmas Round the Moon'
Time: 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. Join us for a fascinating talk given by Robin Mobbs before heading to the domes to look through the historic telescopes.

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.