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Welcome to Mary’s Astronomy Page

I have had a passion for astronomy my entire life and I hope I can share that passion with you through this page. I am a passionate astrophotographer and my photos have appeared in local press and on local and national television. I am also a writer of astronomy articles and blogs and recently started writing for Sky at Night magazine. In addition, I am a co-presenter of a radio show on a specialist astronomy radio station and have made several appearances on BBC Radio Oxford. This page contains a month by month guide to things you can see in the night sky from right here in Tackley, including times for passes of the International Space Station and Iridium satellite flares. It also contains links to a series of astronomy articles and blog posts that I’ve written. You do not need any specialist equipment to enjoy looking at many things in the night sky. We have great skies here in Tackley, so I hope that I inspire you to go out and look up, and maybe even try some astrophotography.

Monthly Things to See

Every  month I collate information from various sources and write a summary of all the interesting things you can see in the night sky during the coming month. It includes planetary data, information about interesting conjunctions (when 2 or more objects are visible in the same part of the sky), meteor showers, etc.

NB: The terminology used when describing the positions of the planets or how bright at object is can be confusing at first, so you may find it helpful to read this article which explains things. Understanding Astronomy Terminology Article

Click here to download the astronomy sky notes for February 2018

Monthly Star Charts

The constellations that you can see in the sky change slightly every month. Astronomy Now have produced an excellent interactive, online star chart. You can select the month and time of night, and it will show what you can see across the entire sky. To find out what you can see this month, click here

International Space Station (ISS) and Iridium Flare Times

For the ISS pass details and Iridium Flare information, visit Heavens Above by clicking here

If you have never seen the ISS or an Iridium flare then you may not know what to look for.

The information listed in the link above shows you where to look and how bright the event will be. The height is given in degrees. The distance from the horizon to the point directly above your head is 90 degrees, so if the Iridium flare is at a height of 45 degrees, you know to look roughly half way between the two. Azimuth is now far away from North the event is happening. This is given by a number between 1 and 360, but the information also gives you an indication about whether to look in the North, South, East or West. The brightness of the event is measured in magnitude. There is more information about magnitude in the Understanding Astronomy Terminology article, but the important thing to remember is that the lower the number, the brighter it is. Most Iridium flares and bright ISS passes are bright enough to have a negative number.

ISS and Double Iridium Flare visible from Tackley on 30th May 2017

Other articles which may be of interest:

Finding Your Way Around The Night Sky - How to navigate the night sky and use stars as pointers

What are Iridium Flares? - An overview of the Iridium satellite network and observing Iridium flares

Understanding Moon Phases - An explanation about why the Moon changes appearance during the month

Lunar Features - An overview the features of our Moon and why some parts of its surface are darker than others

Astronomical Distances - A short description of the units that astronomers use to describe distances on an astronomical scale

Noctilucent Clouds - Learn all about noctilucent clouds and when to observe them

Sundogs: The Fact and the Fiction - learn about halos, arcs and sundogs and some of the mythology which surrounds them

Observing Meteor Showers - Tips and hints about how to observe and photograph meteor showers

Understanding Eclipses - An overview of how and why lunar and solar eclipses happen

Observatory Building - a blog post all about building our observatory shed in our garden here in Tackley

SOLAR ECLIPSE 2015: On the 20th of March, the people of Tackley watched as about 85% of the Sun’s surface was obscured by the Moon. There were lots of clouds at first, but we were able to catch lots of glimpses of the Sun “smiling” during the eclipse. Around 40 people joined myself and Mark for an eclipse breakfast where people had the chance to watch the eclipse safely through properly filtered telescopes, by projection methods and through eclipse glasses. Mark managed to create a fantastic timelapse video of the whole event. If you would like to see the video, please click here  

We have collated everybody’s photos from the eclipse breakfast event and the album can be viewed here

Astronomy Outreach

I am passionate about astronomy outreach, and am available to come and speak to your local group about anything astronomy related. For further information about bookings and my talks list, visit my website by clicking here.
If there is anything more you would like to see added to the Tackley astronomy page, please contact Mary via the email address:

 Orion Nebula                          © Mary Spicer