West of London AS – Monday 11th February

On Monday the 11th of February I will be visiting West of London Astronomical Society (WOLAS).

I will be presenting Out Of The Darkness: Pluto, New Horizons & Ultima Thule.

The talk takes you through the history of Pluto, from it’s discovery by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, right up to the results of the amazing Hew Horizon’s mission. This amazing probe finally revealed Pluto and its Moons in fantastic detail as it shot past in July 2015.

New Horizons first extended mission allowed it to shoot past another Kuiper Belt object, 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule by the mission team, on New Years day 2019. All the data and images transmitted slowly across over 4 billion miles will take 20 months to be returned to Earth.

As this data is being returned this presentation is constantly being updated to include new images and findings. From the latest results released the end of last week, it looks like they are having to  re-write the text books entirely re-think how Kuiper Belt objects like Ultima Thule are formed way out in the solar system.

This is a new society for me, so am looking forward to meeting some new fellow enthusiasts.

WOLAS’s meeting starts at 8pm.

Christ Church,
Redford Way,
Belmont Rd,


1st January – Triple Conjunction Continues

The lovely triple conjunction of The Moon, Venus & Jupiter continues on the morning of the 1st of February.

Yesterday, The Moon was between the two more distant planets as can be seen in my images at the bottom of this page.

The Moon has now moved more to the East and closer to the horizon, so will be a bit lower in the sky, as well as a sporting a much thinner crescent.
The diagram below shows the view at 07:00am on the 1st for February.

Just get out and enjoy the spectacle and start your Friday off with a smile.



Sky Diary for February 2019

My free monthly sky diary for February 2019 showing the events of the night sky visible from the UK is now available in a printable pdf version for download.
Click here, or on the image below to download the pdf.

I also have the sky diary to share available on Google calendars.
Click here to go to my Google calendar.

More events will be added to the live Google calendar as more information becomes available.

Don’t forget to watch the results and images coming back from New Horizons as it whizzes past the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule on New Years Day. Click on the link below for more details:

Total Lunar Eclipse – 21st January 2019.

In the early hours of Monday the 21st of January there is a total lunar eclipse.
This is caused by The Moon moving through The Earth’s shadow.
The Sun, Earth and Moon are completely lined up in a straight line, with The Earth in the middle.

Here’s a composite image of a lunar eclipse taken in 2007.

The complete eclipse is visible from the UK, although you will need to stay up until the early hours of the morning to view it. That is if the weather decides to co-operate with us.

At the start of the eclipse, The Moon will be 46° above the south-western horizon.
As the eclipse progresses, The Moon will get lower and lower in the sky.
At the end of the eclipse The Moon will very low in the north-western sky.
Make sure that you take this into account and view the eclipse with a clear horizon in this direction if you want to see it right up until the end.

For more details about the eclipse click here to visit Fred Espanek’s fabulous Web site for more details:

To learn how to photograph the Eclipse visit AstroBackYard’s Web site by clicking here.

The diagram below shows how the Moon goes into the Earth’s shadow.
I have added the times that The Moon reaches crucial points during the eclipse.

02:36 – The eclipse begins.
At this time The Moon’s limb touches the outer penumbral part of the Earth’s shadow.
It will slip gradually into this fainter shadow, but any change in brightness as the Sun’s direct light is cut off is unlikely to be noticed until it gets much deeper into the penumbra.

When The Moon is deepest into the penumbra, you may be able to see a bit of darkening of the left hand limb at this stage.
This is more noticeable if you take a slightly under-exposed image of the Moon just before the partial umbral phase begins.

03:33 – The Moon reaches the Earth’s darker umbral shadow.
At this time the drop-off of light on that side of The Moon is very dramatic as all direct light from the Sun is prevented from reaching the surface.

There will be very little colour for a while, but within about 30 minutes, as more of The Moon goes into the umbra, we should hopefully be able to see some red colour starting to appear on the Moon. The only light reaching the Moon’s surface within the Umbra is passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. Most of the blue in the sunlight is scattered in the Earth’s atmosphere, so predominantly red coloured light reaches the lunar surface.

The further The Moon moves into the umbra, the darker and redder it will become.

How dark will The Moon get?
That depends on two things:

1. How deep The Moon goes into the umbra.
During this eclipse The Moon passes a little bit north of the central shadow, so will be a bit brighter than other eclipses where the path is more central.

2. Cloud cover around the limb of The Earth. The more cloud there is, the less light reaches The Moon.
Of course we have trouble doing local weather forecasts, so don’t expect a forecast for around the whole circumference of The Earth!

04:41 – Totality begins.
The Moon is now completely within The Earth’s umbral shadow.
No direct light from the Sun reaches the lunar surface.
Hopefully we will now have a lovely glowing red Moon shining in the only light reaching the Moons surface.
As the ruddy Moon is a lot fainter than normal, longer exposures can be used to reveal the star background behind The Moon, without over-exposing it. These make for great images.

Also look out for a turquoise tinge at the beginning and end of totality, which is light passing through The Earth’s ozone layer.
See the image I took below during the 2015 lunar eclipse which shows this effect really well.

The area of the lunar limb towards the edge of the shadow (north) may appear to be a bit brighter throughout totality as it is not so deep within the umbra.

This is especially pronounced at the beginning and end of totality, when the Moon is closer to the edge of the umbra.

An long exposure of the eclipse from the 28th of September 2015, showing background stars.

05:13  Maximum Eclipse.
We are now halfway through the eclipse.
So now time to make the most of the next 30 minutes we have left of totality.

Just before totality ends, don’t forget to look out for that turquoise tinge, which is light passing through The Earth’s ozone layer.

05:43 – Totality ends.
The Moon has now started to move back into the lighter shadow of the penumbra.
Some direct sunlight is now hitting the lunar surface.
The brighter lit portion of The Moon gradually gets bigger until direct sunlight reaches all parts of The Moon’s visible disk.
Any red colour which may have been visible will fade as the portion directly lit by The Sun increases.

06:50Second penumbral phase begins.
A repeat of the first penumbral phase of the eclipse now plays out in reverse.
By this time, The Moon is getting very low in the north-western sky.

But don’t forget to look behind you (Yes, it’s that season!).
Venus and Jupiter will be visible over in the eastern sky, shining like bright beacons.

The sky should now be getting brighter as dawn approaches.

07:48Penumbral Eclipse ends. The end of the eclipse.
The show is now all over.

Hopefully, if the clouds co-operated, we will all be very happy, but very tired bunnies.

The sky will be very bright and it will be either time to go to bed, or to get ready to go to work.
I’ve got a few planetarium shows to do that day!

Here’s hoping for some happy eclipsing.



Practical Astronomy Show – 9th March 2019

The Practical Astronomy Show comes to Kettering, Northamptonshire.

A FREE, yes I did say FREE whole day of practical astronomy.
What’s not to like?

The Practical Astronomy Show brings a selection of leading astronomy businesses, organisations and educational institutions together under one roof, for one day.

Astronomy products and services will be available for purchase from various stands.

Organisations involved in astronomy education, outreach and tourism will be available to meet and greet the general public.

I will have a small stand at the show.

As well as selling my books and promoting presentations and planetarium, I will have lots of hands-on fun for visitors as well.
This will, of course include the ever popular whiff and feel of comet 67P and some new 3D astronomical images.

I will also be promoting all the local astronomical societies in my area.
If your society would like me to hand out some leaflets, please let me have them.

A list of the main attending vendors is at the bottom of this page.

As well as the trade stands displaying lots of astronomy goodies, there are a number of free talks as well:

  • Dr Paul Abel – UK Visual Astronomer.
  • Dr Robin Glover – Author of SharpCap PRO image capture software.
  • Gary Palmer – UK Astrophotographer.
  • Damien Peach – UK Astrophotographer.
  • Niels Haagh – designer of the unique Panther mount.

Exhibitor stand numbers so far…

F1 Altair Astro / iOptron / Pegasus

F2 Widescreen Centre

F3 Tring Astronomy Centre

F4 Orion Optics

F5 Rother Valley Optics

F6 Starlight Xpress

F7 365 Astronomy

F8 Peak2Valley Instruments / Saturn Instruments

F9 Ian King Imaging

F10a Gary Palmer Astrophotography – Speaker

F10b Dr Robin Glover SharpCap PRO – Speaker

F11 Altair Astro

F12 WW Astro

Exhibitors so far…

656 Imaging

Teleskop Schutzbauten

Space Rocks

NPAE Precision Astro Engineering


BAA – British Astronomical Association

Campaign for Dark Skies

Online Astronomy Society Academy

Webb Deep Sky Society

BBC Sky at Night Magazine

International Astronomy Show

Star-Gazing (That’s Me Folks!)

Tim Treadwell

Sky Diary for January 2019

My free monthly sky diary for January 2019 showing the events of the night sky visible from the UK is now available in a printable pdf version for download.
Click here, or on the image below to download the pdf.

I also have the sky diary to share available on Google calendars.
Click here to go to my Google calendar.

More events will be added to the live Google calendar as more information becomes available.

Don’t forget to watch the results and images coming back from New Horizons as it whizzes past the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule on New Years Day.
Click on the link below for more details:

Comet C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) – A nice Object in January?

For a printable version of this page, CLICK THIS LINK.

Another comet of interest was discovered on the 18th of December by Japanese astronomer Masayuki Iwamoto.

Comet C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) is a fast-moving comet passing closest to Earth around the 11th of January. It will still be at least 28 million miles from Earth at it’s closest.

It’s estimated maximum brightness will be between +7.5 and +8.9. Although not that bright, it should be easily visible in binoculars or a small telescope and make a great photographic subject.

The chart below shows the path of the comet against the star background over the next 3 months.














The map below shows the comet’s path during the first part of January until the beginning of February.

The map below shows the path of the comet throughout January, into February.

On the 3rd of February, the comet passes a couple of degrees north of The Sombrero Galaxy Messier 108.

On the 10th and 11th of February the comet will pass fairly close to the three Messier galaxies, M95, M96 and M105.

This will make a great photographic opportunity, especially as the comet will be at its brightest but it will be moving at its quickest around this time. The Moon will be just before 1st Quarter, so stay up late into the early hours after Moonset when the comet is high in the sky.

On the 12th of February, the comet will by now have moved considerably and will lie fairly close to the bright +3.6 magnitude star Eta (η) Leonis, situated within The Sickle of Leo.
The Moon will be at First Quarter on this evening.

Passing through the northern part of Cancer mid-February, by the 18th of February the comet will be found close to the 1st magnitude star Castor in Gemini, making it very easy to find.

This map shows the path of the comet towards the end of February into March 2019.


By the 27th of February, the comet, now fading considerably, will have moved into Auriga. It passes between the bright open clusters M38 and M36 on this date, making another great photographic opportunity. The Moon will be just after last quarter this day, so will not rise until the early hours.

How this comet will actually perform and how bright it might become is anyone’s guess.
After all, it is a comet.

The only way to tell for sure is to out there and enjoy this new comet and whatever it brings us.


For a printable version of this page, CLICK THIS LINK.

New Horizons Ultima Thule Flyby – How to watch

If the political climate and government department shut-downs in the United States continue, NASA TV will not be operating on New Years Day.

This is of course the day that New Horizons is shooting past its next target way out in the Kuiper Belt; The Ultima Thule Flyby.

Click HERE or on the image below to download the press kit.

If NASA TV isn’t back up and running by then, live images and data streaming back from the probe on the day will not be broadcast.

Luckily there are other ways of us being able to keep up with this.


Live coverage will be streamed via that Web site.
The schedule of the webcasts is below:

Friday 28th December, 2018
18:00 – 18:30 GMT (1:00-1:30 pm EST)
New Horizons: Beyond Pluto. Preview of the spacecraft and science operations during the Ultima Thule flyby.

Monday 31st December, 2018
19:00 – 20:00 GMT (2:00-3:00 pm EST)
Press briefing: Ultima Thule flyby science and operations preview

20:00 – 21:00 GMT (3:00-4:00 pm EST)
Q&A: Ask the New Horizons Team

01:00 – 04:00 GMT (8:00-11:00 pm EST)
Panel discussion on exploration of small worlds (01:00 – 02:00 8 – 9 pm EST); Ultima Thule flyby countdown events; mission updates

Tuesday 1st January, 2019
05:15 – 05:45 GMT (12:15-12:45 am EST)
Live coverage of countdown to closest approach (12:33 am); real-time flyby simulations

14:45 – 15:15 GMT (9:45 – 10:15 am EST)
Live coverage of New Horizons signal-acquisition from Ultima Thule flyby

16:30 – 17:30 GMT (11:30 am– 12:30 pm EST)
Press briefing: Spacecraft status, latest images and data download schedule

Wednesday 2nd January, 2019
17:00 – 18:00 GMT (2:00-3:00 pm EST)
Press briefing: Science results from Ultima Thule

Thursday 3rd January, 2019
19:00 – 20:00 (2:00-3:00 pm EST)
Press briefing: Science results from Ultima Thule

To make sure everyone can join in the excitement, Alan Stern, Principle Investigator for New Horizons, is determined to keep us all as informed as much as possible so will be streaming and posting as many ways as possible.

John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory will be webcasting live on their Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/jhuapl

Alan will also be posting results on social media, so keep up to date with this exciting encounter by following him here:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlanStern

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/s.alan.stern