Scruton Sky at Night – January 2021

by Peter Williams

A full moon on 28 January is the only special event this month. However, the night sky is very dark and there should be excellent views of the Milky Way on clear nights.

Looking back at 2020 – there were 3 ‘supermoons’ during the year and the comet Neowise made an appearance in August. In October, there was an amazing mission to collect samples from asteroid Bennu (due to return to Earth in 2023). The collected material would have been present at the formation of the Solar System and so will be interesting to study.

Perhaps the most devastating news was the catastrophic collapse in December of the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico. The telescope was constructed in the early 60’s and has contributed to many astronomical discoveries, as well as being the backdrop in several films!

Closer to home, there was the good news that the Yorkshire Dales and the NY Moors National Parks have been awarded Dark Sky Reserve status, which should benefit tourism.

Looking forward to 2021 – three significant missions (launched in 2020) from the UAE, China and the USA will all arrive at Mars in February 2021. There is also the expected launch of the James Webb space telescope in October. This new telescope is the replacement for the Hubble telescope, which is coming to the end of its useful and fantastic life. There will also be a partial solar eclipse visible from Scruton on 10 June.

Keep reading this column for more news; I hope you find it interesting.