Eye on the sky

 

Martin Kearney

Web Copy Producer, EHT

 

Our pick of 2013’s astronomical events and what you’ll need to enjoy them

It’s a big year for astronomy with some (literally) once-in-a-lifetime celestial events taking place. Spectacular objects, like Comet Ison, will even be viewable with the naked eye in broad daylight if conditions
are right.

However, if you can’t wait until then to get your fix of astronomical action, you might want to think about investing in some quality optics. This doesn’t just mean telescopes though. With the right pair of binoculars, or even a spotting scope, astronomers of all levels can get great results.   

For the total beginner, there are some powerful computerised options available, like Celestron’s AstroMaster 130EQ-MD, SkyProdigy 102 and SkyProdigy 130 that can automatically map the night sky and track stars, planets and more with the push of a button.


Traditional scopes

If you’re more of a traditionalist however, then the AstroMaster 70EQ refractor telescope will work well for everyday and deep space viewing. The kit even packs a tripod and comes with SkyX astronomy software to help you brush up on your knowledge of the sky. Its classic reflector-based cousins, the AstroMaster LT 60AZ is ideal for those craving power with portability (essential for getting to dark sky sites in out-of-the-way areas). The TravelScope C21035 is an even smaller travel-friendly choice and comes with a backpack to keep everything in top condition.

So just what is going on above our heads in 2013? There’s quite a lot actually, with a major comet sighting, meteor showers and a penumbral eclipse among other things.

 
 
 

Here are some of our picks for the year ahead:

 

Uranus in oppostion

Those with powerful scopes, or access to an observatory, should be able to enjoy a view of this blue-green planet on October 3.

Penumbral eclipse of the Moon

Likely to cause some darkening of the Moon’s lower limb from October 18, it should peak during the very early hours of the following morning with over 70% shading.

Orionid meteor shower

Originating from Halley’s Comet, this shower will be visible from October 20 to 24 with best viewing times coming in the early morning. It’s expected to be quiet intense with a showing of around 20 meteors each hour, although a bright moon could interfere with visibility.

Leonid meteor shower

Boasting thousands of meteors a minute in 1966, this year’s Leonid shower is set to be a much tamer affair. Keep an eye out around November 16 to 18 after midnight.

Perseid meteor shower

One of the sky’s most reliable events, the annual Perseid meteor shower has been observed for the past 2000 years. Usually quite bright and lively, it gets underway during August 12, with the best visibility available after midnight.

Geminid meteor shower

Another annual favourite, the Geminid shower, can be seen between 13 and 14 December this year. A real treat for amateur astronomers, it needs little to enjoy apart from clear skies and some binoculars.

Comet Ison

Roughly the size of a respectable mountain and tipped as the ‘comet of the century’ by some, Ison - named for the International Scientific Optical Network - will show up between mid-November and December. Given the right conditions, it could appear 15 times brighter than the moon. Although how bright it’ll actually be is anyone’s guess this early on. As the astronomer David H. Levy said: “comets are like cats: they have tails, and do precisely what they want.”