Discover more from Lockdown Stargazing
Lockdown 2.0 begins
Look for Mars, Jupiter and Saturn tonight
If you, like me, live in England, today’s the first day of a month-long lockdown. This newsletter will go out on Mondays starting next week, but I wanted to send out some tips for tonight, for anyone who needs some escapism.
Here are a few timings and places to look tonight. If you are going out, don’t forget to wrap up warm (I recommend a hot water bottle) and stay safe.
6pm - look south-west for Jupiter and Saturn
The evenings in the UK are getting dark so early, but the good thing about this is we get to see Jupiter and Saturn before they set (at around 8pm). Looking south-west at around 6pm you’ll spot two really bright ‘stars’ near the horizon. The brightest of these is Jupiter, and just above it to the left will be Saturn. If you have a pair of binoculars, you might be able to see four of Jupiter’s moons - Io and Ganymede to the left, although they’re so close it might be difficult to resolve them, Europa and Callisto to the right - they’ll form a line either side of the planet.
sunset onwards - look for Mars
Mars is shining extremely brightly at the moment. It was closer to Earth than it’s been for 15 years in October, and is slowly moving away again now. But it’s still a spectacular sight.
Find the red planet by looking east/south-east just after sunset. This is a great time to spot it because it’s one of the first spots of light to appear as the sun goes down. Throughout the night, Mars will climb higher in the sky and will be due south at about 10pm. You can tell it’s Mars because it’s brighter than the stars around it, and it has a distinct red hue.
10pm - Orion rises
As winter draws on, Orion stars to rise earlier and earlier. This is a true winter constellation, but at the moment it’s rising around 10pm, where you’ll see it below and to the right of the moon - just above the south-eastern horizon.
Once you’ve found the three stars that make up Orion’s belt, look below to the right for a bright blue star. This is Rigel, the brightest star in the constellation. Then, look above and to the left of the belt for the red-hued Betelgeuse.
The eastern horizon at 10pm tonight (screenshot from Stellarium for desktop)
Orion is one of the best constellations to get to know, because from here you can star-hop to many other points in the sky. But we’ll leave it there for today.
Please let me know if you do see any of these things, and if there’s anything you want me to cover in future newsletters.