Although it's not a great month for planets, there is a comet brightening. C/2017 Panstarrs K2 is expected to brighten through the month, possibly becoming a binocular object. it will come from the constellation Aquila towards Ophiuchus as
the month goes on. The Moon is out of the way for the start of the month, so it will be a brilliant time to go deep sky hunting for nebula and galaxies.
A minor meteor shower peaks tonight. The Eta Aquarid shower is unfortunately not great for us to see in the northern hemisphere as the area they radiate from doesn't start to rise here until 3:00am, giving us only a couple of hours
before the Sun washes them out.
Also, take a look at the Moon over the next few nights and you will see the mountain range Montes Apenninus appear out of the shadows.
it's time for the Jewelled handle to make an appearance on tonights Moon. This awesome effect is caused by the sunlight on the Moon glinting off the tips of this mountain range - causing them to shine out of the shadows.
The Moon will occult a star from 1:30am (depending on your location). The bright star Porrima will slowly disappear behind the Moon as it moves backwards across the sky, with it appearing again on the Moons other side around 2:50am. A cool thing to watch and our binocular object of the month.
The highlight of the month will be a total lunar eclipse, happening at 2:30am. Again, depending on your location, the Moon will slowly turn red as the earths shadow covers it from 3:27am, with totality starting at 4:29am. Something really worth staying or getting up for and also our naked eye object of the month.
Now, Mars and Neptune are pretty close in the morning sky, but Neptune will be extremely hard to spot or see even through a telescope. However, why not pop out when you can over the month to see the morning planets.
This morning, the planets are again joined by the Moon like last month. It will start today near Saturn and then move closer to Mars, then finally Jupiter over the next few mornings - making an awesome morning sight.
It's now Noctilucent cloud spotting time, where each year you may spot these cool white blue wispy clouds created by burnt up meteors high in the earths atmosphere. The sunlight glints up from below onto them around 90 - 120 minutes after sunset or sunrise - which are our Astrophotography object of the month.
This morning you will see a cool triangle created by Jupiter, Mars and a thin Moon. You may even spot a very low Venus off to their left.
If you have a good low eastern horizon, you may be able to spot Venus with a tiny crescent Moon just below it. A pretty cool sight to see. Remember when looking in this area to take care of the rising Sun. If in doubt just look with your eyes.
Last but not least, this morning, Jupiter and Mars will be pretty close in the sky - with Mars just below right of the gas giant - marking the end of the month.
The highlight of the month has to be the total lunar eclipse. When the Moon slowly moves into penumbra of earths shadow at around 2:30am, the moon will slowly darken from its left side. Then, as it enters the Umbra, it will turn red from 3:27am - with totality starting at 4:29am. I would get up about half hour before and just sit out take pics with your phone. Watch it darken over time whilst sipping a coffee watching this cool event.
The Moon will occult a star from 1:30am (depending on your location). The bright star, Porrima, will slowly disappear behind the Moon as it moves backwards across the sky. Porrima is a star in the constellation Virgo. It will appear again on the Moon's other side around 2:50am. Binoculars are a great tool to watch the star slip behind our Moon.
The Pinwheel galaxy. It's been a while since we last looked at a galaxy. The cool face on spiral is around 21 million light years away. It can be easily found by finding the Plough or Saucepan asterism in the sky. Follow the handle up to the star Mizar, then continue in a line up - ignoring the line to the star Alkaid at the end of the asterism. You should find it pretty much to the right of Alkaid - a really nice looking galaxy to see.
Noctilucent cloud spotting is great for taking pics as they show up really well even on phones. Spot these cool white blue wispy clouds created by burnt up meteors high in Earth's atmosphere. The sunlight glints up from below onto the around 90 - 120 minutes after sunset or sunrise. So pop out set up before the Sun sets and see if you can snap a few. Or, if you're a mad astronomer like me, stay up just before Sunrise.
Clear skies guys, and remember... there's a billion worlds in your back garden!