Grab your coats, wrap up warm and get outside this month to join in stargazing events (or just head out to your back garden) across the UK. Many science centres, planetariums and observatory centres host special stargazing events where you can learn more and watch stars in the nights’ sky.
During January you can expect to see the following phenomenons in the sky. If you want to be able to read the stars or spot certain planets you can visit BBC Stargazing to get a guide on how to map stars and much more! Whilst some of the following appearances may happen late into the evening and your little ones may be tucked up in bed, it’s still great fun earlier in the evening to see what you can spot.
10th January – Wolf Moon. This occurs when the moon moves through the outer fainter part of the earth’s shadow called the penumbra and the face of the moon will have a tea-stained colour for about four hours. This phase occurs at 14:21 UTC and will coincide with a lunar eclipse! This full moon was dubbed Wolf Moon by Native Americans due to the packs of wolves howling in hunger around this time.
24th January – New Moon. The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 21:44 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
26th January – 16th February – Mercury will be brightest and easiest to spot in the evening sky between these dates
9th February – Snow Moon. This is the nickname for the full moon in February. It is named after the fact that historically, in North America, February would be when the snow is deepest, and it was the most difficult month of the year for gathering food. This phase occurs at 02:33 UTC.
9th March – Worm Moon/Full Moon Supermoon. The Worm Moon will be the first Supermoon of 2020, appearing brighter and bigger to the eye as it will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. It is also considered the last Full Moon of winter. This phase occurs at 13:47 UTC. This nickname Worm Moon is what was used by early Native American tribes because this was the time of year when the ground would begin to soften and the earthworms would reappear.
In 2020 we can expect to see two Super Moons and two full moons, the second being a Blue Moon in October. Now, how is that for a spooky Halloween?
2020 is set to be a spectacular year for Stargazing as Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus take turns to look their best. It is especially great for Mars as it will swing close to Earth. Therefore, there will be lots of focus on this planet with four spacecraft launches this summer.
Shining like a “star” with a yellow-orange hue, Mars can vary considerably in brightness. The next close approach is 6th October when it will be 38.6 million miles (62.07 million kilometres) from Earth.