Archive for the ‘Planets’ Category

Moon, Mars And Venus

Just after Valentine’s Day this year, the Moon, Mars and Venus all lined up vertically in the night sky. Unfortunately, in Plymouth, the weather was awful for the few days of the alignment so I was unable to see it, but when it cleared on the 22nd February, I managed to take a couple of photos of the Moon and the planets.  As you can see below, they weren’t quite in line, but I was amazed at how close Mars and Venus were to each other, considering only a week or so previous, Mars was all the way up to the far left of the Moon.

Here is the photo I took. See if you can spot Mars near Venus.

The Moon, Mars and Venus

The Moon, Mars and Venus

If you had trouble making out Mars in the above pic, here is an annotated version. You will see how close Mars was to Venus.

The Moon, Mars and Venus - Annotated

The Moon, Mars and Venus – Annotated

Here is another pic I took when it wasn’t quite so dark. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the camera to focus properly so the brightness of the Moon and Venus made them blurry, but at least in this pic, you can clearly make them out, and also Mars as the reddish splodge just above and to the right of Venus.

The Moon, Venus and Mar - Lighter

The Moon, Mars and Venus – Lighter

1st Star Gaze Of The Year

After several months of pants weather in the evenings which stopped me from doing any stargazing, last night finally had a clear enough sky to have a good look again. The moon was ideally positioned as well which made the stars and planets on show very bright.  I didn’t get the telescope out this time but used my binoculars instead to have a scan around the Sky.

The most noticeable object in the Sky was the planet Jupiter which was shining very brightly, so I had a good look at it and managed to pick out three of Jupiter’s moons.  One was to the right of it and two more underneath it, and I could also just pick out the horizontal storms raging across the planet. As I was using binoculars, the image wasn’t very steady, so I was desperately trying to lean against the shed to steady myself!

Once I had had a good look at Jupiter, I had a look at the Pleiades (also known as ‘The Seven Sisters’) which are one of my favourite things to view in the night sky. They were shining brilliantly via the binoculars although quite dimmed out when looking with the naked eye. It still amazes me how well you can see these stars through a telescope or binoculars as it really brings them to life! The Pleiades are located in the constellation of Taurus and are one of the closest star clusters to Earth.  Here is a great photo of them from the NASA website.

Pleiades ('Seven Sisters')

Pleiades (‘Seven Sisters’)

The final section of the sky that I had a good look at last night was the Orion Nebula which is situated in the sword of the constellation Orion. As the Nebula is in the middle of the three star sword, it is easily spotted in the sky. You can just make out a blurry area with the naked eye, but using the binoculars as I was, I had a great view of the Nebula. The Nebula is also known as M42 and is 24 light years across with the mass being almost 2000 times that of the Sun. It is also the closest star forming region to the Earth which adds to its significance. I find it amazing to look at this and imagine new stars and worlds being formed in a distant part of the galaxy. Here is a photo of the Orion Nebula from the NASA website.

Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula

Here’s hoping for more clear skies over the next few weeks!

Comet Spotting – Attempt #3

Last night we went out again to try and find Comet Pan-Starrs as it was a clear night, but unfortunately, we didn’t manage to see it. There was a band of cloud along the horizon where I am sure the Comet would have been, and it was also very frosty so the atmosphere of the Earth wasn’t as clear as it had been the previous nights when we have been out. It was a bit of a shame, but we at least saw the Comet on our second attempt which was great!

Instead last night, we had a look around at the other objects in the Sky with our binoculars. Jupiter was very bright and you could see a couple of it’s Moon’s shining beside it, and we also had a good look at the Pleiades (also known as the ‘Seven Sisters’ as they are a group of seven stars that shine very brightly. The Pleiades were clear as a bell through the binoculars and were a great site! Finally, we had a go at looking for the Orion Nebula and that was showing really well. You could see a blurry, but large, mass of stars which make up the Nebula in the sword of the Constellation Orion (just south of Orion’s belt). It was a great view!

So whilst we were annoyed we couldn’t see the Comet again, we had a good time looking at some of the other features that make up the night sky!


If you can get out this week, it is a great opportunity to do some Stargazing as the skies around the country are very clear at night time at the moment!

The Moon is quite small at the moment so the light from it isn’t quite bright enough to hide all the Stars. The brighter ones can still be seen very well especially Sirius (the Dog Star), Betelgeuse (the red coloured top left star in the constellation Orion) and Aldebaran (which is another red coloured star in the constellation Taurus). But the best object by far in the sky at the moment is the planet Jupiter. It is currently situated near to the Moon each night which makes it easy to spot. Jupiter’s Moons are also very clear at the moment and if you use a telescope, you can see at least four of them shining brightly around the huge planet (depending on where they are in their orbits). You can also just make them out using a decent pair of binoculars.

I had a great half an hour on Sunday night (before I nearly froze to death!)  looking at the Moon and Jupiter. I could see the craters on the Moon very clearly as it was shining bright. I also had a great look at Jupiter and saw three Moons to start with, but then whilst I was watching, a fourth Moon peeped out from behind the giant planet. All four were shining brighter than I had probably seen them shine before. I could also see two of the purple coloured storm bands moving around the planet,  just above and below the centre of Jupiter. It was an amazing sight and whenever I view Jupiter, I can never really believe what I am seeing! It’s that fantastic and awe-inspiring to me.

So take advantage of the clear skies and fine weather and do a bit of Stargazing tonight and let me know what you see by either leaving a comment on this post or tweeting me at @strethewey. Enjoy the viewing!


At the moment Mars is shining very brightly in the sky, and if you look for it at about 9pm, it will be very close to the moon.  It is so bright that you can’t really miss it and can even be seen clearly when the full moon is shining brightly. Mars is at its closest to the Earth at the moment which is why it is a great time to get out and view the planet through either binoculars or a telescope.

I noticed it a couple of nights ago when I decided to have a look at the sky at about 9pm. Whilst looking around I spotted a very bright and red star just under and to the left of the almost full moon. At first I thought it was Betelgeuse or Aldebaran (both red giants) but as I scanned the night sky further, I picked these up further to the South East from where I was standing. So I consulted my astronomy book and found that it was actually Mars shining bright and red in the sky.  I had never seen it so red before, so I went in and got some binoculars to take a closer look (I didn’t have immediate access to my telescope at the time). I was quite amazed to be able to make out the North Polar Cap of the planet as it was shining brightly, and some of the darker mountain regions. I spent several minutes gazing at Mars and it was great!

A couple of days later, after a lot of rain, I got my telescope out ready to take a look, only for the sky to cloud over on a couple of occasions. When I did finally manage to get a glimpse between clouds, Mars wasn’t as red or as bright unfortunately. Through the telescope I couldn’t see too much at all and nowhere near the detail that I saw through my binoculars, which was a great shame. It was probably due to the Moon being completely full and the brightest I had seen it for a long time, and also because it was literally to the right of Mars. The glare of the Moon was too much to see Mars properly.  Whilst I was out there, I did get a good look at Venus again before it crept over and behind the roof of my house!

Here is an image of Mars that I have found that is closest to what I saw through my binoculars –

The Planet Mars

The Planet Mars