What to see in the night sky

It is always a lot of fun to go out onto the streets with telescopes doing guerrilla astronomy. Many people think they know the Moon but seeing it through a 10 cm telescope for the first time often produces a "wow!".

A couple of Saturday's back we took telescopes down to Cardiff Bay and showed over 100 people the Moon through a couple of telescopes for International Observe The Moon Night. That was despite almost total cloud cover. The reactions were great and we even got a double "wow" as two ladies looked through telescopes at the same time. Seeing craters from asteroid impacts and the black bits caused by ancient volcanic eruptions feels more impressive with your own eyes than via a picture in a book.

At the moment, another good object to see is the planet Jupiter. It is the bright object low in the eastern sky not long after sunset. I was admiring it with a cup of tea just the other night. Living in a busy city you might mistake it for an airplane but it is actually the largest planet in the solar system. It is currently about 600 million kilometres (370 million miles) from the Earth. With a telescope you should be able to spot Jupiter's 4 largest Moons and some of the cloud bands in its atmosphere.

The Earth turns. It orbits the Sun. That means our view of the night sky gradually changes. A good source of information about what to see in the ever changing night sky is Ian Morison at Jodrell Bank. He produces a monthly guide which is also available in audio form from The Jodcast.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Tuesday 18th Oct 2011 (21:08 BST) | Permalink
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