We received this newsletter from the brilliant people at gostargazing.co.uk and thought it was well worth sharing in restricted times. The view above us, on those seemingly rare clear evenings gives us the freedom to roam and there is much to see and discover. Go Stargazing has provided some helpful highlights for the months ahead and you'll find more information on its website too.

Newsletter content kindly provided by GoStargazing.co.uk

Dear fellow Stargazer,

We have sent you this email as you are subscribed to our Go Stargazing website. We hope this email finds you, your friends and your family all well. Since our last email to you several months ago we’ve had all sorts of horrible weather thrown at us including several storms which left the country drenched and sodden. Frustratingly the bad weather happened at the same time as the National Parks Dark Skies Festival resulting in many events being cancelled -- a shame as a lot of people in a lot of organisations put a lot of effort into it! We hope you have had at least some opportunities to get out under starry skies!

As you might expect the virus pandemic is affecting the astronomy community significantly with many Societies, Clubs and Observatories postponing their events until further notice. Such organisations will need your support in the future so please help them by attending their events with your friends and families just as soon as it is possible to do so -- thank you! We have switched off our automated event notification emails and will switch them back on around mid-August in time for the Perseids meteor shower and in the hope some sort of normality will have returned by then.

Astronomical happenings
Here are some cool astronomical things to look out for in the coming months:

- the planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be visible close to each other in the pre-dawn skies for the coming weeks. Tomorrow morning (18th March 2020) they are joined by a thin crescent Moon — set the alarm early and look out low towards the Eastern horizon around 5:15am

- the planet Venus will continue to dazzle in the evening skies reaching peak brightness on 28th April. On the 3rd April it appears close to the Pleiades open cluster which will look awesome through binoculars and telescopes

- the Lyrids meteor shower peaks on the 22nd April and during a new Moon too so the skies will be nice and dark for observing. Planning a trip to a dark sky location would be well worthwhile and possibly a chance to self-isolate under the stars!

- Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) is exciting astronomers at the moment -- it's brighter than expected and anticipated to get even brighter. It’s currently a telescope-only object located in Ursa Major and over the coming months will move towards Perseus where it will reach its brightest around mid-May potentially being visible to the naked eye… It could be amazing or, as is often the case recently, it could be a dud! We’ll keep you posted!

- the Perseids meteor shower peaks on the August 12 with the night before and after often being good viewing and also takes place during new Moon this year when the skies will be dark

- towards the end of August the planets Saturn and Jupiter will grace our evening skies. A long term date for your diaries is the evening of the 21st December 2020 when the two gas giants will appear extremely close to each other in the skies -- a Great Conjunction!

New observatories
We would also like to bring you news of some new observatories:

- the Twice Brewed Inn Observatory near Hexham has recently opened and with our help has been running stargazing events since late last year. It’s a fantastic venue with amazing dark skies and a great location to stay over for a short break to explore nearby Hadrians Wall, Vindolanda Roman Fort, The Sill Discovery Centre and Sycamore Gap... Special offers for stargazers!

- the OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory in Davagh Forest (Northern Ireland) is scheduled to open early April 2020 and the Go Stargazing team are pleased to have been invited to the launch event, although unfortunately this is looking likely to be postponed :-(

- the North Pennines is about to get two new observatories one at the Tan Hill Inn and another on Alston Moor — it’s early doors for these facilities as both are in the planning phases however the Go Stargazing team look forward to supporting these new ventures with our usual eagerness and endeavour!

- we would also like to congratulate our friends at Rosliston Astronomy Group on the opening of their Peter Bolas Observatory at the Rosliston Forestry Centre and wish them many clear skies in the future

New dark skies parliamentary group
Finally we bring you news that a new "All Party Parliamentary Group for Dark Skies" has been formed to help in the fight against light pollution. The group will work to identify political priorities relating to dark sky issues and advocate legislation to the UK Parliament to address them. We're pleased that such a group has been created and are already supporting their efforts featuring our database of stargazing events on their website. You can follow the group on Twitter and if you live in an un-protected dark sky region please ask your local MP to consider joining the group.

The team at Go Stargazing would like to wish you continued good health and, of course, Clear Skies!