In just over a week, Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, will be at its highest point in the sky for many years to come. Near their closest to Earth, Jupiter and its moons will appear obvious in the sky, offering fantastic opportunities to view the giant planet through a telescope.
"Through binoculars you'll be able to see that Jupiter is distinctly non-star-like and you should be able to make out the Galilean moons of Jupiter -- the four largest moons," said Dr Chris Arridge, astronomer from University College, London. "These go around Jupiter in a matter of days and so you'll be able to watch them orbit by looking at the giant planet from one night to the next."
Viewing Jupiter will be a highlight of National Astronomy Week (1-8 March 2014) where UK astronomers and local organisations have teamed up to offer opportunities all over the UK to view the giant planet. Both professional and amateur astronomers as well as organisations have been arranging events and activities in locations all over the country, giving members of the public of all ages, opportunities to get involved.
Among the events taking place across the UK, are:
1 March -- 4.30pm until late -- Great Ellingham Recreation Centre, Great Ellingham, Attleborough -- All things nocturnal! Night time guided walk, talks, star gazing and moth trapping with the RSPB and Breckland Astronomical Society.
5 March -- 7.30pm -- South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre, Chichester: A unique show in the Planetarium Dome where people will be shown the sights to look for in the night sky during the spring.
6 March -- 4:30-6:30pm and 7-9pm -- Almondell Country Park: Join the Royal Observatory Edinburgh and the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh for a night of comet making demonstrations and Jupiter viewing. Activities will be British Sign Language interpreted.
7-9 March -- 7-9pm -- Ruislip Lido in North West London: Come and view Jupiter, the Moon and other sky wonders courtesy of the West of London Astronomical Society. There'll be telescopes galore to allow you to gaze at the craters and mountains of the Moon, the belts and satellites of Jupiter and the Orion Nebula and the Pleiades star cluster.
1-9 March -- 4pm -- Life Science Centre in Newcastle: Sit back and enjoy a tour of the night sky in the planetarium, zooming into this planetary giant and investigate two of Jupiter's moons, Io and Europa: Fire and Ice. The price for this event is included in the admission for the Science Centre.
1-8 March -- Wimbleball Lake, Exmoor National Park: Wimbleball Astrocamp includes a variety of exciting activities for all the family to enjoy including talks and presentations, workshops, Planetarium, telescopes, stargazing opportunities, plus a BBQ on 1, 7 and 8 March (weather dependent). 8 March -- 6.30-pm -- Kingsland Primary School, Peebles -- Star Party and Planetarium Night including talks on how wild birds navigate using moons and stars, public viewing sessions and meteorite viewing.
Dr Tom Johnston, Co-ordinator of the Peebles Astronomy Group in the Scottish borders, said: "National Astronomy Week is a wonderful vehicle through which our new Astronomy Group in Peebles can engage with the public and introduce both young and old alike to the hobby. It will provide an opportunity for many here in The Scottish Borders to experience what will be their first views of our beautiful dark skies through a telescope."
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