Observing things in Space

The Liverpool Telescope

In the night sky we can see planets as well as stars. This is because the light from our Sun is hitting the planets and being reflected back to us. Almost every night of the year planets will be visible. The easiest planets to see are Venus and Jupiter because they are the brightest. Venus because it is the closest to us, and Jupiter because it is the largest.

Sometimes it’s possible to see two planets in the night sky close together, this happens every couple of years for different planets. So every year there will likely be a time of the year when you can see 2 planets close together in the night sky. In December 2020 Jupiter and Saturn were very close together in the night sky, the closest these planets have been for 800 years, but you needed to catch them early in the night before they set below the horizon.

During the day the stars and planets are still in the sky, but the light from the Sun is so much brighter that you can’t see them. You can test this out by standing near a lamppost at night and seeing how many stars you can see – then move somewhere darker and look again – you should be able to see many more stars. The Sun has the same effect but it’s much, much stronger!

Sometimes the Earth, Sun and Moon all line up. When this happens we have an eclipse. If the Moon lines up between the Earth and the Sun we see a solar eclipse. Where the Moon blocks out the light from the Sun. If the Earth lines up between the Sun and the Moon we see a lunar eclipse. The Earth blocks out the light getting to the Moon, we see the Moon in the shadow of the Earth and it appears red. Because all three objects must line up perfectly to see an eclipse they are quite rare. The next lunar eclipse visible form the UK will be in May 2022, and the next full solar eclipse we can see from the UK won’t be until September 2090!!!