Those of us who enjoy stargazing and observing the night sky can't always plan when and where we're going to get the chance to gaze upwards.

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Busy schedules, light pollution, the weather: sometimes finding even just 30 minutes to stand and stare up at a clear, dark night sky and take in the planets, stars and constellations can be a feat in itself.

So when you do find the time, you'll need to know what's visible in the night sky, and the best things to look out for when stargazing.

Complete newcomer? Read our guide to best telescopes for beginners

Milky Way over Namthing Pokhri Lake Basudeb Chakrabarti, West Bengal, India, 13 March 2022 Equipment: Nikon D5200 DSLR, Tokina 11–16mm lens, tripod
Milky Way over Namthing Pokhri Lake Basudeb Chakrabarti, West Bengal, India, 13 March 2022 Equipment: Nikon D5200 DSLR, Tokina 11–16mm lens, tripod

Here's our stargazing guide to what you can see in the night sky tonight. Our guide is centred around what's visible from the UK, but all northern hemisphere observers should be able to use it, with the odd adjustment to stated times.

In our guide, we use Universal Time (UT) and British Summer Time (BST). UT is the standard time used by astronomers around the world. BST is one hour ahead of UT

We also use RA (Right ascension) and dec. (declination). These coordinates are the night sky’s equivalent of longitude and latitude, describing where an object is on the celestial ‘globe’. For help with these, read our guide to celestial coordinates.

For more advice, read our guide on how to stargaze or sign up to receive the BBC Sky at Night Magazine e-newsletter for weekly tips delivered directly to your email inbox.

What's visible in the night sky tonight?

Tuesday 29 November

The 40%-lit waxing crescent Moon lies 8° to the east-southeast of magnitude +0.8 Saturn this evening.

How to see it:

  • Naked eye: Allow 20 minutes for your eyes to become dark-adapted

Wednesday 30 November

Just over a week from opposition, Mars now shines at mag. –1.8 and presents an apparent disc size of 17 arcseconds. From the centre of the UK it achieves an altitude of 60°.

How to see it:

  • Large scope: Reflector/SCT over 6 inches, refractor over 4 inches
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Thursday 1 December

Albedo features on Mars. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Credit: Pete Lawrence

The planet Mars is closest to Earth today, presenting its largest apparent disc size of 17.2 arcseconds.

How to see it:

  • Small/medium scope: Reflector/SCT under 6 inches, refractor under 4 inches

  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

This evening’s 54%-lit waxing gibbous Moon sits 3.8° west-southwest of mag. –2.4 Jupiter.

How to see it:

  • Naked eye: Allow 20 minutes for your eyes to become dark-adapted
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Sunday 4 December

location of crater Mersenius

As midnight approaches tonight and into the morning of 5 December, the 85km-diameter crater Mersenius on the Moon will be revealed.

How to see it:

  • Small/medium scope: Reflector/SCT under 6 inches, refractor under 4 inches

  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Monday 5 December

It will take around eight seconds for Uranus to disappear behind the Moon’s leading, bright limb as occultation begins. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Credit: Pete Lawrence

The Moon occults Uranus between 16:50 UT and 17:21 UT. Times correct for the centre of the UK and will vary slightly depending upon your location. For more details read our guide on the lunar occultation of Uranus.

How to see it:

  • Small/medium scope: Reflector/SCT under 6 inches, refractor under 4 inches

  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Thursday 8 December

A chart showing the timings for the lunar occultation of Mars on 8 December 2022
Credit: Pete Lawrence

The planet Mars is occulted by the full Moon. Disappearance occurs at 04:57 UT, with reappearance at 05:57 UT. For full details, read our guide on the lunar occultation of Mars.

How to see it:

  • Naked eye: Allow 20 minutes for your eyes to become dark-adapted
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Wednesday 14 December

Geminid meteor shower Meena Singelee, Schwartzsee, Zermatt, Switzerland, 13 December 2021 Equipment: Canon 200D DSLR, Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens
Credit: Meena Singelee

The annual Geminid meteor shower reaches peak activity around 13:00 UT. The night of 13/14 December presents the best opportunity for seeing a Geminid meteor, but a bright waning gibbous Moon will interfere.

How to see it:

  • Naked eye: Allow 20 minutes for your eyes to become dark-adapted
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Thursday 15 December

Ganymede Fernando Menezes, São Paulo, Brazil, 26 April 2020. Equipment: ZWO ASI 290MC colour camera, Meade LX200 10", iOptron CEM60-EC mount
Credit: Fernando Menezes

Jupiter's giant moon Ganymede transits the planet between 19:02 UT and 22:02 UT.

How to see it:

  • Small/medium scope: Reflector/SCT under 6 inches, refractor under 4 inches

  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Tuesday 20 December

Orion constellation photographed with an iPhone
Credit: Iain Todd

With dark skies as the Moon approaches its new phase, the magnificent constellation of Orion is well-presented for viewing around midnight.

How to see it:

  • Naked eye: Allow 20 minutes for your eyes to become dark-adapted
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Wednesday 21 December

In April 2022 the Solar System's smallest planet Mercury reaches a favourable evening elongation, setting over two hours after the Sun.

Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation (20.1°), the mag. –0.4 planet visible above the southwest horizon shortly after sunset.

Today is the winter solstice and the longest night of the year.

How to see it:

  • Naked eye: Allow 20 minutes for your eyes to become dark-adapted
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Thursday 22 December

Chart showing the radiant position of the 2022 Ursid meteor shower
Chart showing the radiant position of the 2022 Ursid meteor shower. Credit: Pete Lawrence

With a new Moon tomorrow, this year’s Ursid meteor shower is favourable, peaking around 22:00 UT.

  • Naked eye: Allow 20 minutes for your eyes to become dark-adapted
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Ganymede transits Jupiter just before it sets. View from 23:05 UT.

How to see it:

  • Small/medium scope: Reflector/SCT under 6 inches, refractor under 4 inches
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Friday 23 December

Ninth-magnitude comet C/2020 V2 ZTF is just 4° from Polaris this evening. Locate Polaris with our guide on how to find the North Star.

How to see it:

  • Small/medium scope: Reflector/SCT under 6 inches, refractor under 4 inches
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Saturday 24 December

Mag. –0.3 Mercury, –3.8 Venus and a slender 2%-lit waxing crescent Moon form an attractive triangle, visible shortly after sunset low above the southwest horizon.

How to see it:

  • Naked eye: Allow 20 minutes for your eyes to become dark-adapted
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Sunday 25 December

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will dip into and out of Serpens Caput in October 2022. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will dip into and out of Serpens Caput in October 2022. Credit: Pete Lawrence

A treat for Christmas: comet C/2022 E3 ZTF is predicted to be viewable with binoculars, reaching mag. +8.0 today. The comet is currently inside the semi-circular constellation of Corona Borealis.

How to see it:

  • Binoculars: 10x50 recommended
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Monday 26 December

This evening’s 15%-lit waxing crescent Moon lies 4.5° south of mag. +0.9 Saturn.

How to see it:

  • Naked eye: Allow 20 minutes for your eyes to become dark-adapted
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Thursday 29 December

This evening’s 48%-lit waxing crescent Moon is 5.4° east of mag. –2.2 Jupiter.

Just after sunset, mag. +0.6 Mercury appears 1.5° from mag. –3.8 Venus, low above the southwest horizon.

How to see it:

  • Naked eye: Allow 20 minutes for your eyes to become dark-adapted
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Friday 30 December

This evening’s first quarter Moon will exhibit the popular clair-obscur effects known as the Lunar X and V. Peak visibility is around 21:00 UT.

How to see it:

  • Naked eye: Allow 20 minutes for your eyes to become dark-adapted
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Saturday 31 December

Mars appears next to the Pleiades, 30 March 2019. Photo by: Alan Dyer/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo by: Alan Dyer/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As the New Year approaches, bright Mars sits north of the Hyades open cluster, 8° north of mag. +0.8 Aldebaran (Alpha (α) Tauri). It is also located 9° east of the Pleiades.

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How to see it:

  • Large scope: Reflector/SCT over 6 inches, refractor over 4 inches
  • Photo opp: Use a CCD, planetary camera or standard DSLR

Authors

Pete Lawrence, astronomer and BBC The Sky at Night presenter.
Pete LawrenceAstronomer and presenter

Pete Lawrence is an experienced astronomer and astrophotographer, and a presenter on BBC's The Sky at Night.

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