the sky at night 2020

the sky at night 2020
November 1, 2020


Read on for the top 20 night sky events happening all year long.

Visitor notice: All of our sites have reopened and we can't wait to welcome you back. Starting the year off with a bang, the Quadrantids meteor shower will peak on the night of January 4th. For others, you’ll need stargazing equipment like a telescope or binoculars. The Perseids meteor shower peaks every year in mid-August; in 2020, this peak is expected to occur on the night of August 12th. But it was once considered the ninth planet, so it still has a soft spot in our hearts. Join us for Solar System Discovery, a live online planetarium show presented by an astronomer from the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

This comet has an orbital period of 5.5 years, so it has reached perihelion like this 7 times since its discovery in 1981.

The planet will also be at its brightest and, thanks to its distinctive red colour, the planet will be easy to spot. For your best chances of spotting some meteors from both showers, find a wide, open space far from street lights and other light pollution. From 2024 through 2026 it will be close to the Pleiades. Juno was one of the first asteroids ever discovered, and is the 11th largest we’ve found. As the moon will be 25 days-old, it shouldn’t interfere with your ability to spot this deep space object. Which of these 2020 astronomical events is on your must-see list? Just fill out the form and instead of adding children’s questions tell us you would like a video chat.

Let us know in the comments! If you love the night sky, you already know what makes the night of August 12th so special – it’s the peak of the Perseids! The Leonids meteor shower is occurring through most of November, but the night of peak activity is November 17th. 2020 is going to be a great year for astronomical events – and in this post, we’re rounding up 20 of the best events in the night sky in 2020.

The Universe is a vast and intriguing place, and this show explores our own little corner of it: the Solar System. Since its discovery in 2017, this comet will be moving closer to the sun; on May 4th it will be only 1.6 AU from the sun, and may reach as bright as 7.0 magnitude.

You may be able to see unaided, but probably binoculars or a small telescope will necessary. Check out our range of high quality observing equipment recommended by Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomers. Radiating from the constellation Draco, the dragon, this northern hemisphere constellation will be spotted near the bright star of Vega on the night of October 7th when the meteor shower is expected to peak. The night of the 8th October sees the peak of the Draconids meteor shower. Hunting for meteors is a waiting game, so bring along a comfy chair to sit on, wrap up warm and have a hot drink with you as you could be outside for a while. Instead, scan the whole northern half of the sky to try and see these somewhat faint meteors as they appear. For October, they're talking about the discovery of phosphine in the clouds on Venus and interviewed one of the astronomers behind the discovery, Dr Emily Drabek-Maunder. This week is perfect for planet-spotting, Moon-gazing and finding star clusters. We try to include both southern and northern hemisphere events; Space.com is also a great resource! If you like what you read and want to learn even more about astronomical events in 2020, grab your own copy here for just $3.99. This month two most beautiful clusters of stars are on display in the same night sky. There are many other interesting events and good nights for stargazing all year long. In our new Observatory Online sessions, we will answer your questions about Astronomy. That goes double given the end of daylight saving. Tonight Jupiter and Saturn reach just 5º apart in the post-sunset night sky and there’s something beautiful brewing! On June 20, 2020, there will be an annular solar eclipse across parts of East Africa, the Middle East, northern India, and China. The Orionids meteor shower is one of the best known, and most reliable, meteor showers of the year and peaks on the night of 20/21 October. What’s the Messier Marathon? Starting from our home planet, the Earth, we’ll travel through our celestial neighbourhood, visiting objects like planets, moons and asteroids, and ending with a fly-out to view our galaxy, the Milky Way. The night of March 18th is a triple-whammy: over the course of this night, the moon will make a close approach with three different planets – and it can all be seen with the unaided eye. Congratulations to Fakhri Al-Alami for the stunning image of the night sky. Allow 15 minutes for your eyes to become sensitive in the dark and remember not to look at your mobile phone or any other bright device when stargazing. For some of these, you can spot them with your own eyes. Subscribe to our brand new YouTube channel and join us on a journey through time and space as we explore our wonderful Universe. On December 7th, asteroid Psyche will be at opposition. The moon will be roughly 50% illuminated, which may create some light pollution, but it’ll still be obvious that our planetary neighbors are all hanging out in the same part of the night sky. Next week the tiny planet Mercury reaches its “greatest western elongation” before dawn, which merely means that it’s going to appear furthest from the Sun in the darkest-possible sky. Even if you can’t see the comet, there will be plenty of stars to enjoy. While most people are setting resolutions to mark the new year, why not set one to get out and enjoy the amazing natural resource of the night sky?

Although this meteor shower has a rate of around 10 meteors per hour, it has been known to produce more active displays in the past, with the most intense showers recorded in 1933 and 1946.
Close to midnight, stand facing east then draw a line left across the sky from Mars and a line down from the brightest star in Aries. Keep your eyes peeled for Lyrid Fireballs which burn brighter and leave a shadowy trail in the sky!

The Draconids meteor shower isn’t as active as other meteor showers – including the Orionids later in the month. By Patricia Skelton, Astronomy Education Officer, with contributions from Henri Hobbs-Bastin (work experience student summer 2020), (Details given are for London and may vary for other parts of the UK). Be sure to add #ObservatoryOnline, #Museumfromhome and #sciencefromhome to your tweet! On this night, Neptune will be at its brightest – a good opportunity to try and spot its methane blue hue. If you’re up in the early hours of the morning, look towards the East and you’ll spot the planet Venus.
As well as taking you through what to see in the night sky each month, Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomers pick a topic to talk about. October begins with a full moon and ends with one too. That makes the weekend ideal for trying to spot the “swift planet”—which takes just 88 days to orbit the Sun—before sunrise. For stargazers keen on spotting meteors, the month of October provides two great opportunities to do so.

The first half of this week is perfect for planet-spotting. In 2020, there are two dates when Neptune may be visible. Look for meteors coming from the constellation of Gemini. You can find it half-way between bright star Altair, at the foot of the Summer Triangle, and Albireo at its center—the “head” of Cygnus, the swan. Unfortunately te moon will be over 50% illuminated on the night of October 7th. At over 30 times further from the sun than Earth, Neptune is the final planet in the solar system, and a truly mind-boggling distance away.

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