Astronomy in 2021

© Ross Sneddon/Unspalsh

What does the year have in store?

If you have the special equipment to safely look at the Sun you may have already noticed that we are starting to get some Sun spots. The Sun has an 11 year cycle and mid 2020 we started a new cycle, the Sun having been very quiet for some years. Sun spots are cooler regions of the Sun’s surface, the darkness is a contrast effect if they were separate to the Sun they would be glowing. If you don’t have the equipment there are websites which publish the latest images of the Sun which are worth looking at.

The Moon on 10th June will partially eclipse the Sun, it will cover about 20% in Surrey.

The Planets:

Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, will be best visible in the evening sky around the 17th May and the morning sky 4th July and 25th October.

Venus has a disappointing year. It moves into the evening sky late April but is always low in the twilight the rest of the year.

Mars is with us until autumn but is now small and faint and well past its best.

Jupiter this year will be at its closest to us, at “opposition”, on August 20th and will be higher in the sky than the last few years. Because it is so large and its main moons so bright there is something to see throughout the year on Jupiter.

Saturn is at opposition on 2nd August and is always a joy to view with a telescope with its rings and large family of moons.

Comets:

We have no bright comets coming back in 2021, but the same was true last year and we had the Great Comet Neowise in July. New comets are discovered constantly (there are automatic telescopes scanning the skies for Near Earth Objects nightly) and although most are small and faint occasionally you get something a little special. I will keep you notified if this happens.

Meteors:

I will continue to post only the better showers. The press like to make a fuss about every one; I would prefer not to have you standing outside in the cold when with luck you might see 2 an hour. Astronomy should be spectacular! That said around the 12th August we have the Perseid meteor shower which this year should be really good and you should be able to see a meteor at least every couple of minutes.

We can’t hold the astronomy evenings at Surrey Wildlife now, perhaps in autumn? But if I can help online with any questions about astronomy or telescopes please contact me.