Stargazing activity for this week

Additional note, I did this exercise for Abergavenny last week and although it was not the best of nights – it was a bit misty and very cold, I managed to count 14 stars in Orion from my back garden in Abergavenny.  The app then informed me that that was better than 77% of places in the UK so that can’t be bad. – Nick Busby


Not sure if it will be clear at all this week but if it is there is an activity going on that the Campaign for Rural England organises each year.  The idea is that you count all the stars you can see by eye in the constellation of Orion and send in the results.  This will allow any changes to light pollution in the UK to be mapped.  You can find full details and all support materials by clicking on the following link:

Star Count 2021: explore what we learned


Happy New Year

Wishing you a very happy, peaceful and healthy New Year.

It has certainly been a difficult and challenging year to put it mildly.  Out of necessity we have become used to staying in touch via Zoom but can look forward with hope that at some point this year we will be able to meet again in person. 

On a more positive note and setting aside for a moment the problems that 2000 held, from an astronomical observers viewpoint it was a remarkable year, particularly for those with an interest in our solar system.  Jupiter and Saturn were around for much of the summer although annoyingly low in the sky, but they made up for that with the best conjunction since 1623 on 2000 December 21.  The 1623 conjunction was not visible at night – you would need to go back to 1226 to have seen the next best one and you will not be able to see a similar conjunction until 2080.  The planets also made a spectacular triple with a crescent Moon on the December 16th.

Still on the planets, Mars has had one of its best apparitions in many years.  It was very close and large and thankfully, unlike the last apparition a couple of years ago was not veiled by sandstorms.  It is still observable high in the south west early in the evening although is much smaller and receding rapidly.

In July, literally out of the blue, we had the comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).  This comet was first spotted back in late March during the NEOWISE mission of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope.  Nobody knew then what a beautiful naked eye object it would turn out to be.  It was easily visible at dusk in the northern skies for a couple of weeks.

All of these phenomena could easily be observed by eye and even photographed with basic equipment, which goes to show that you do not need to go to any expense to enjoy the night sky, it can be a very welcome source of joy and diversion from more earthly problems whatever one’s means.


Its been about 10 months since I took up astronomy and being a member of AAS (at least in theory as I didn’t quite make my first meeting before lockdown kicked in early 2020) has helped enormously.
Particularly a big thank you to Nick Busby who has helped me enormously with both setting up my telescope and tips and advice- I have enjoyed the Zoom meetings very much – very informative and interesting thanks to all who gave presentations.
I am looking forward to this new year and observing the night sky, as well as doing a bit of astrophotography – will be great when we can get together for real , have a pint and meet some of you!
Clear skies and thank you!!!
Tony P-F

Do it yourself stargazing

Fancy doing it a bit stargazing but unsure how to start or you do not have any equipment?  Don’t worry help is at hand.  A series of podcasts has been produced so that you can listen to a commentary of things to look for by eye or with binoculars at any time of year.  Simply click on the link below, select the podcast you want and away you go.  There is also some advice to help you get the best out of your stargazing endeavours.  And if the weather is cloudy you can just sit and listen from the comfort of your favourite armchair!

Stargazing Podcasts

This project has received funding via the Regional Tourism Engagement Fund and supported through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government; the Fund to improve the visitor experience and create stronger destinations by working together.

Many thanks Nick.  A merry Christmas to all!  Mark H

Next meeting Thursday 17th December 2020 at 7pm

Credit Evilkalla at English Wikipedia

The next meeting of the Society will be  on Thursday 17th December, Nick Busby will present the Mike Thomas  Christmas talk on “Aricebo remembered”.  The radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico made massive contributions to our astronomical knowledge over the 57 years that it operated.  This talk aims to celebrate its illustrious history by reviewing its history and the discoveries that it made.

Mike Thomas was a very long standing member and friend of Usk Astronomical Society and a talk is dedicated to his memory at the end of each year.

Meeting starts at 7pm, please find the Zoom link for the meeting below:-

Topic: Aricebo remembered
Time: Dec 17, 2020 07:00 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 850 0380 8116
Passcode: 616595

Next meeting Thursday 10th December 2020 at 7pm

The next meeting will be on Thursday 10th December and will we hear Bob Wright from Usk Society deliver the second part of his talk on exoplanets.  All welcome, start time is 7pm by Zoom.  The link to the meeting can be found below.  This will work for just about any internet connected device and you do not need to have Zoom installed on your device as it will work in an internet browser such as Chrome or Edge.  If you get a message saying the pop-up was blocked when you try to start it just click on “allow”.

Topic: Astronomical Society Meeting, Exoplanets part 2
Time: Dec 10, 2020 07:00 PM

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 829 4429 5927
Passcode: 431755

There will also be a meeting the following week on Thursday 17th at 7pm, to avoid confusion the link for that meeting will be published later.  The meeting on the 17th will be the Mike Thomas Lecture.  For those not familiar with this event Mike was a founding member of the Usk Astronomical Society and passed away a few years ago.  A talk is arranged each year before Christmas in his memory.  The talk will be remembering another old friend – the Arecibo Observatory which very recently collapsed catastrophically.  This observatory had be operating for 57 years and made many breakthrough discoveries.  This talk, presented by Nick Busby, will look back over its illustrious history.  Unfortunately, this year you will have to supply your own mince pies!

Virtual Meeting Thursday 26th November 2020

The next Society meeting will be on Thursday 26th November.  Bob Wright from Usk Society will present part one of “Worlds among the stars” a talk on exoplanets. 

Around 4200 exoplanets have been discovered to date,  they have been found in all shapes and sizes and have caused astronomers to completely rethink many of the theories of solar system formation.  As the technology develops smaller and planets are being discovered and with the new huge telescopes coming on line in the coming years the prospect of directly imaging some of them will probably become a reality.  Clearly an area of astronomy to watch.

The meeting will start at 7pm, Zoom call details below:
Topic: Astronomical Society Meeting, Worlds among the stars
Time: Nov 26, 2020 07:00 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 867 1500 2563
Passcode: 463786