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The long nights ahead are perfect for star and planet gazing, and you don’t (always) have to stay up so late. What might you see staring up into the darkness in the next month or two?

Meteor Shower

Venus

What? A steady silvery light.

When?
Three hours before dawn in October and November.

Where?
Found in the eastern sky, near to the horizon. 

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Orionid meteor shower

What? Fast-moving, fine trains of light, made up of pieces of the famous Comet 1P/Halley. While Comet Halley only passes earth every 75-76 years, the tiny debris falling from the comet as it orbits the sun enters our earth’s atmosphere each year.

When? 1 October to 6 November, with the meteor peak on the night of 21 – 22 October, from midnight until dawn.

Where? The meteors’ path seems to originate from a point in the Orion constellation, in the west-southwest direction in the UK night skies.

Mercury

What? Bright “star” with yellowish-orange hue.

When? In the morning 2 hours before the sun rises between Nov 3 and Nov 22.

Where? Look to the horizon. You might also see Venus shining brightly nearby.

Mars

What? Shining at a magnitude of 2.7, Mars is three times brighter than Sirius (the brightest star in the night sky).

When? Throughout October and November

Where? Mars rises over the eastern horizon, early to mid-evening. Visible shining closely to the moon at dawn.

Jupiter

What? Non-twinkling, silvery star.

When? Visible in the evenings until mid-December.

Where? Against the star background of Sagittarius, the Archer.

The great conjunction

What? Once every 20 years, a great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn takes place.

When? Watch them get closer from now until December 21, when they will be closest.

Where? Jupiter is the brightest object in the evening sky, Saturn is just east of Jupiter shining with a golden colour.

Orion the hunter

What? A short, straight line of three medium-bright stars.

When? From early November, Orion the Hunter will become easy to spot during the mid-evening.

Where? Rising in the east.

Geminid meteor shower

What? The meteors of Geminid burn in several colours due to the trace metals found in the rocks entering the atmosphere. If you’re lucky, you could see up to 100 meteors per hour.

When? From 4 to 17 December, peaking on 14-15 December in 2020.

Where? Locate the bright star Castor in the constellation Gemini, for the point at which the meteor shower begins. To find Gemini, first find Orion (see above), then turn your head slightly northeast.

Night Sky Over The Sea

Meet astrophotographer Aaron Jenkin, who shot this timelapse, to discover his life spent shooting the stars.

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