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 Friday 27th July 2018
8pm - 12.30am

Join us for a fabulous evening when Mars is at opposition and will therefore be near the closest point it will come to Earth all year. The full Moon will rise totally eclipsed PLUS Jupiter and Saturn will be visible during the evening.

The Sun will not set until 8.56pm so it will still be light when the Centre re-opens at 8pm. ASTRONOMICAL TWILIGHT ends at midnight so technically it will not get completely dark until then but it will be dark enough to see some fascinating nigt sky objects. The phase of the Moon is FULL MOON and there is the added bonus that as it rises at 8.49pm it will be totally ECLIPSED. This will be a very special and quite beautiful to see if the weather is clear. 

To see the sky chart for the 27th July 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. 

Both Jupiter and Saturn will already have risen before sunset so will be visible even though they are quite low in the sky.

Jupiter will be setting just after midnight but will be visible during the first part of the evening. It was at OPPOSITION on May 9th so the closest it came to Earth this year. It is in the CONSTELLATION of Libra, and is still very bright at MAGNITUDE -2.1. The GREAT RED SPOT on Jupiter will be passing the Centre of the planet at 10.44pm this evening so visible for about 2 hours either side of this time. The four largest Moons (the Galilean Moons) will definitely be visible with Io on its own on the eastern side to begin with and Callisto disappearing behind Jupiter. Ganymede will stay on the western side but Europa will also be getting closer to Jupiter as the evening progresses. Remember, the telescope looks at things upside down and back to front!

Saturn will not be setting until the wee small hours on the morning of the 28th so should be visible all evening. The RINGS are still pretty open and tilted towards Earth by 26 degrees which makes the system even brighter. At MAGNITUDE 0.2 it is no where near as bright as Jupiter or Mars but you will still be able to see the RINGS. Saturn is in the CONSTELLATION Sagittarius and reached OPPOSITION on the 27th June.

Mars will not rise until about 9.40pm so will not be visible until it has risen high enough in the sky to be visible through the telescopes. However, the smaller telescopes of our STEM Ambassador volunteers should be able to pick it up a little earlier than the large historic telescopes. It is in the CONSTELLATION  Capricornus and at MAGNITUDE -2.8 it will outshine Jupiter. It is at OPPOSITION on this evening so on the opposite side of the Earth to the Sun. Its actual closest approach will be on 31st July when it will be 35.8 million miles (57.6 million km) from Earth. This is just 1.2 million miles further away than during the 2003 closest approach. The orbit of Mars is elliptical and this opposition is close because Mars will be at its closest point to the Sun (PERIHELION) and therefore also closer to Earth.

Along with the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars you will also be able to see the CONSTELLATION Hercules which will be high in the sky. This 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 and while it may appear fainter due to the brightness of the Moon it is still a fabulous object to look at.

The summer triangle of stars is also high in the sky at this time of year. The 3 stars Deneb in the constellation Cygnus, Vega in Lyra and Altair in Aquila make up the triangle meaning that the magnificent double star Albireo in Cygnus the swan will be visible; one is gold and one is blue. The RING NEBULA (M57) in Lyra is also worth a look; it is a beautiful planetary nebula.  

There will be smaller telescopes of our STEM Ambassadors on the lawns and they welcome you to take a look at many night sky objects.

Prior to viewing, before it gets dark enough to spot night sky objects there will be a talk by our astronomer John Pilbeam about Mars entitled: 'A Brief History of Mars'

This talk is aimed at all ages and for those whom are curious as to what that big bright Red light is in our nightsky at the moment. See Mars as it was and as it is today. Why did it capture the imaginations of ancient people? Why does it still capture our imaginations today. Discover what makes Mars Red. See what would happen to a drop of water on Mars. Using early images and some of the most recent images from Mars see this world for the beautiful object it truly is.

And then....when you see Mars through two of our Historic Telscopes built at the time of some of the ealiest Mars discoveries you will see this Planet in a whole new light.
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. 

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.