It’s August once again, and that means the Perseid meteors are inbound. This shower is a sure-fire bet starting this weekend, though 2020 sees the spectacle go down under somewhat challenging circumstances.
Watch for comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE at dusk in late July… if it survives perihelion.
Update – Friday July 3rd: Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE reaches perihelion today at 16:18 UT/12:18 PM EDT. As of writing this, several observers worldwide have recovered the comet at dawn, and it seems to be holding steady at magnitude +0.5. The dawn apparition is, however, a tough catch, as the comet stays very low to the northeast at dawn in early July. We’ve added in a finder chart (below) for this brief dawn apparition; things improve greatly towards mid-July, as the comet shifts over to the dusk sky and heads out away from the Sun. Let’s hope it stays bright, and maybe throws an outburst our way! We’ll continue to post updates on Twitter as @Astroguyz as the celestial situation warrants.
Eclipse season resumes on June 5th, with a fine penumbral lunar eclipse.
Are you cursing the June Full Moon as it thwarts your dreams of deep-sky imaging this week? Fear not; said Moon is actually the first astronomical draw for June 2020, as this coming weekend’s Full Moon marks the start of second eclipse season for 2020, with a penumbral lunar eclipse.
Got clear skies? If you’re like us, you’ve been putting the recent pandemic-induced exile to productive use, and got out under the nighttime sky. And though 2020 has yet to offer up a good bright ‘Comet of the Century’ to keep us entertained, there have been a steady stream of good binocular comets for northern hemisphere viewers, including C/2017 T2 PanSTARRS and C/2019 Y4 ATLAS. This week, I’d like to turn your attention to another good binocular comet that is currently at its peak: the ‘other’ comet ATLAS, C/2019 Y1 ATLAS.
Are you hanging out at home this week, and looking to observe some naked eye planets? As we mentioned last week, while Venus is shining bright in the dusk sky, all of the other four naked eye planets of Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury are skulking in the early dawn.
Happen to have clear skies tomorrow morning and live in the western part of North America? Then you may have a chance to spy a unique event, as the waning crescent Moon occults (passes in front of) the planet Mars.
Never seen Neptune? It’s time you should, and this weekend offers a fine time to try, as the faintest planet in the solar system approaches the brightest in the dusk sky, for a splendid conjunction of the pair.
Ready for another amazing year of sky watching and astronomy in 2020? Hard to believe, were already a fifth of the way into the 21st century. 2020 rounds out the final year of the second decade, promising an amazing year of skywatching to come.
Looking forward to the next bright comet in 2020 or beyond? You’re not alone. Though we’ve had a steady string of decent binocular comets over the past few years, we haven’t had a good naked eye comet since W3 Lovejoy beat solar death during its blistering perihelion passage in 2011. But this survivor turned out to be bashful, and headed for southern hemisphere skies… Comet P1 McNaught followed suit in 2007, hiding from northern hemisphere observers at its best. And we all remember what happened to Comet S1 ISON—touted as the next great ‘Comet of the Century’ on U.S. Thanksgiving Day 2013. Here it is almost 2020, and you have to go allll the way back nearly a quarter of a century to Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake to remember just how brilliant a good naked eye comet can be.