From sparkling stars to stunning meteor showers and rare eclipses, the celestial events that occur above us are a constant reminder of the vastness and majesty of our universe. Whether you're a seasoned astronomer or simply someone who loves gazing up at the sky, there's no shortage of fascinating astronomical events to look forward to in 2023.
In this article, we'll explore some of the most exciting and noteworthy celestial events that will be visible from the United Kingdom in the coming year, as well as some common celestial events to photograph and pro tips and techniques.
If you need some help looking for the very best telescopes in 2023, check out our dedicated telescope-buying guide here!
Astronomy Calendar 2023
Here we have put together a list of some of the top 2023 celestial events that will occur and be viewable in the UK.
Please note: these dates and times are subject to change and weather conditions can affect visibility. Always research your chosen celestial event and assess any safety concerns before viewing.
January 3-4: Quadrantid Meteor Shower
Visible from the UK, with the peak occurring on the night of January 3rd and early morning of January 4th.
February 15: Partial Lunar Eclipse
Will be visible from the UK, although only a portion of the Moon will in shadow. The eclipse began at 10:32 PM on February 15th and ended at 1:53 AM on February 16th.
March 8-9: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
Penumbral lunar eclipses occur when the Moon passes through Earth's faint shadow, the penumbra. It is often mistaken for a regular Full Moon.
March 20: March Equinox
This marks the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.
There are no major astronomical events that are expected to occur in April 2023 that will be visible from the UK.
May 6-7: Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower
This meteor shower will be visible from the UK, with the peak occurring on the night of May 6th and early morning of May 7th.
June 10: Annular Solar Eclipse
This event will not be visible from the UK, but it will be visible from some parts of the Northern Hemisphere.
June 21: June Solstice
This marks the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
July 14: Partial Lunar Eclipse
This eclipse will be visible from the UK, although only a portion of the Moon will be in shadow. The eclipse will begin at 7:01 PM and end at 11:03 PM.
July 28-29: Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower
This meteor shower will be visible from the UK, with the peak occurring on the night of July 28th and early morning of July 29th.
August 12-13: Perseid Meteor Shower
This annual meteor shower will be visible from the UK, with the peak occurring on the night of August 12th and early morning of August 13th.
September 23: September Equinox
This marks the first day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere.
October 8: Draconid Meteor Shower
This meteor shower will be visible from the UK, with the peak occurring on the night of October 8th and early morning of October 9th.
October 21: Orionid Meteor Shower
This meteor shower will be visible from the UK, with the peak occurring on the night of October 21st and early morning of October 22nd.
November 5-6: Taurid Meteor Shower
This meteor shower will be visible from the UK, with the peak occurring on the night of November 5th and early morning of November 6th.
November 17-18: Leonid Meteor Shower
This meteor shower will be visible from the UK, with the peak occurring on the night of November 17th and early morning of November 18th.
December 9-10: Total Solar Eclipse
This event will not be visible from the UK, but it will be visible from some parts of the Southern Hemisphere.
December 13-14: Geminid Meteor Shower
This meteor shower will be visible from the UK, with the peak occurring on the night of December 13th and early morning of December 14th.
December 21: December Solstice
This marks the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
December 22: Ursid Meteor Shower
This meteor shower will be visible from the UK, with the peak occurring on the night of December 22nd and early morning of December 23rd.
Tips and Tricks
The term Supermoon often gets used by the press but a Supermoon is only marginally larger than any other full moon. A supermoon occurs when the Moon is at its closest approach to Earth in its orbit, resulting in a slightly larger and brighter appearance in the night sky.
This happens because the Moon's orbit is not a perfect circle, but rather an ellipse, and when the full moon coincides with the point in its orbit closest to Earth, it appears slightly larger and brighter than a typical full moon. Supermoons can be a spectacular sight, and they occur several times a year.
- There is a full moon every month, but the location where it rises will vary so ensure you have checked its position when planning your shoot.
- Use distant landmarks or scenery and place yourself so the moon rises behind it. Even a city or industrial landscape will make a stunning image provided you can achieve the right distance.
- Try keeping your aperture high (F11 to F20) for a sharp Moon and foreground.
- Set your ISO low to keep noise in check, as you will need to adjust the images when post-processing.
- Once you have your images, you will need to post-process them. Adjustments like lightening, shadows, contrast and colour balance will help make the moon pop while maintaining a good foreground.
- Pick a day when the Moon is rising shortly after the sun has set. This ensures the skies are still light enough that the moon doesn’t over-expose, and the foreground isn’t too dark.
- Use technology to your advantage. Applications like “PhotoPills”, available for both Android and Apple (for a cost), will allow you to plan your shoot. This app will show you on a map where the Moon will rise, plus moonrise and sunset times to ensure you are in the right place, at the right time.
- Use the longest lens in your bag to select a distant foreground object. This will cause the Moon to appear larger in comparison to its foreground.
- Given the focal length and length of exposures required, a fixed tripod is a must!
Meteor showers can be amazing to witness but equally as frustrating to photograph. A meteor shower is a celestial event in which a large number of meteors or "shooting stars" appear in the night sky. Despite its name, meteors are generally small pieces of debris, typically from comets or asteroids, that burn up in Earth's atmosphere as they enter at high speeds.
But what’s frustrating is that they generally appear very faintly. The settings you need to use are very camera-dependent, but a starting point is ISO 1600+ (depending on how your camera handles noise). Set the aperture as wide as you can go and exposure as long as possible before you get star trailing (The wider the lens, the longer the exposure you can take). Most Meteors are faint, so you need to be able to capture as might light as possible.
- Location is important - a good foreground in a dark area without external light sources. A camera is more sensitive to light than the human eye, so will pick up light that you can’t even see. We can’t guarantee where a meteor will appear, but we do know the general area from which they’ll originate.
- Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which they appear to originate. For example, the Perseids often appear to come from the direction of the constellation Perseus, but in reality, can appear anywhere in the sky.
- Setting your White Balance to tungsten or Fluorescent works well to reduce orange skyglow.
- Using your preferred editing software, blend multiple images from the night. This will show all captured meteors in a single image.
- A fixed tripod is essential as you will be shooting multiple-second exposures. Using a remote shutter release, you’ll need to set your camera to shoot continuously.
- The widest lens you own will be your friend when shooting Meteor Showers. Meteors never appear where you want them to, so being able to cover as much sky as possible increases your chances.
The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy that’s home to our Solar System and billions of other stars, planets, and celestial objects. It is one of the most familiar and iconic objects in the night sky, and its distinctive appearance is the result of the combined light of billions of stars and other objects. From our vantage point within the galaxy, the Milky Way appears as a bright, hazy band of light that stretches across the sky. Photographing the Milky Way is not an easy feat and takes some patience and careful post-processing to get an effective shot.
- The Milky Way will be more visible depending on the time of year and the location you are attempting to view it.
- The Milky Way is visible from Sunset to Sunrise, however, the brightest parts will set shortly after the Sun, so be ready to go as soon as the skies are dark.
- Keep the aperture wide open, allowing the maximum amount of light into the camera. As discussed previously, your exposure time is limited to keep stars round, so a fast aperture and ISO are required.
- Even the widest lenses will not capture the whole of the Milky Way. This is where a panorama or mosaic is a good option. This may require you to take 2 rows of 4 or 5 images, so a sturdy tripod with a pan and tilt head will be a huge advantage.
- Ensure you are shooting in RAW as you will need to post-process the images in your processing software.
- Creating the Mosaic can be done in Photoshop or Light Room but an alternative (and free) program to use is Microsoft ICE. This software is exceptional for stacking mosaics, even 40+ image moon mosaics.
- For shooting the Milky Way pack your widest and fastest lens in your bag and shoot wide open (F2.8 or faster is best). The Milky Way stretches across most of the sky, so the wider the view the better.
- A fixed tripod and shutter release are essential, as you will be shooting long exposures.
The northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, is a phenomenon caused by the interaction between the Earth's magnetic field and charged particles from the Sun. When these charged particles enter the Earth's atmosphere, they collide with atoms and molecules, causing them to emit light in various colours.
This natural light display in the Earth's sky typically occurs in high-latitude regions, such as the Arctic and Antarctic, but can often be viewed from the UK when conditions allow. It’s very rare for it to appear overhead in the classic bright ribbons as you would see in the more northern countries, but it can still be a stunning sight and give amazing photos.
- Given the lights will appear low on the horizon, a clear northern view is a must, so coastal areas are usually a good location. Aurora is caused by charged particles ejected from the Sun, so there are no set dates or times of the year when best viewed and reports in the press often come after the event. There are apps and websites dedicated to predicting Aurora, plus a large community on social media that follow the Forecasts; use these to know when to had out.
- Any display from the UK will be faint, so high ISO, low aperture and multi-second exposures are required. The Aurora is a moving and fluid thing, so exposures of a few seconds, rather than 30 seconds are best to avoid blurring.
- Post-processing is essential. Ensure you shoot in RAW.
- A fixed tripod is a must, as is a separate shutter release.
- Any camera with manual settings will allow you to capture the Aurora, but a wide and fast lens will be beneficial. Longer focal lengths are also usable but are not ideal as you’ll limit the amount of foreground in your shot.
Star trails are achievable for everyone, no matter what level of camera equipment you own. They can even be captured with your smartphone.
In a star trail image, we are capturing the rotation of the earth - the stars themselves are not moving - we are. The night sky as we view it is always moving, rotating around a fixed point next to the pole Star. This is the reason why Astronomers and Astrophotographers use tracking mounts which counteract this constant movement and fix the stars in position.
- A dark sky is not so critical for star trails (as long as light pollution isn’t so severe it overexposes a 30-second shot). This allows a wide choice of locations, including city centres.
- Set your exposure time to 30 seconds, your aperture to mid-range (F8) and keep your ISO low. Using a remote shutter release, set it to run continuously (do not leave gaps between your exposures) and let it run for as long as you can - the longer the better.
- All stars in the Northern Hemisphere appear to rotate around the star Polaris (the North Star). Having Polaris in your field allows you to obtain fully circular trails.
- The software I use to stack the final images is called “Star trails” and is free to download and easy to use. You load the images, there are a couple of settings to select and set it going.
- Make sure you shoot in JPG for star trails. This software only accepts jpg so this can save you a lot of time.
- An easy way to locate the pole star is to use the constellation of the Plough or Big Dipper. The shape appears like a saucepan and if you take the 2 ‘vertical’ stars on the end of the pan and look in a straight line, the next bright star is Polaris.
- Any camera that can be attached to a tripod and can shoot long exposures will work for star trails; even some mobile phones will work. Whichever lens works best for your foreground is fine, as long as you can include enough sky.
What is astronomy?
Astronomy is the scientific study of celestial objects, such as stars, planets, galaxies, and other phenomena in the universe. It involves a wide range of disciplines, including physics, mathematics, and computer science, and aims to better understand the properties, behaviour, and evolution of these objects.
What is astrophotography?
Astrophotography is the art and science of capturing images of celestial objects using cameras, telescopes, and other specialised equipment. It allows photographers to capture stunning images of the night sky and celestial objects, such as stars, planets, galaxies, and nebulae.
What equipment do I need to get started with astrophotography?
To get started with astrophotography, you will need a camera that is capable of taking long exposure shots, a tripod or other support for your camera, and a lens with a wide aperture. Additionally, a telescope or specialised astrophotography equipment can be used to capture more detailed images.
How do I find a good location for astrophotography?
To find a good location for astrophotography, you should look for areas with minimal light pollution, such as rural areas or designated dark sky sites. You should also consider factors like weather conditions, accessibility, and safety.
How can I identify different celestial objects in the night sky?
There are several tools and resources available to help identify celestial objects in the night sky, including star charts, mobile apps, and online resources. Additionally, many astronomy clubs and organisations offer guided stargazing sessions and educational events to help people learn more about the night sky.
When is the best time for stargazing?
The best time of year for stargazing depends on your location and the specific celestial events you are interested in observing. Generally, clear and cool nights during the fall, winter, and spring months offer the best conditions for stargazing in most regions.
Keep a close eye on the weather as clear skies are essential. Apps such as “Clear Outside” and the website YR.no (a Norwegian weather site) are useful and very reliable. Sat 24 is good for satellite maps for cloud cover.
How do you calculate the maximum exposure time?
There is what is known as the 500 rule. 500 Divided By the Focal Length of Your Lens = The Longest Exposure in Seconds Before Stars Start to the trail. (Remember to multiply your focal length by 1.5/1.6 for crop sensors.)
How do you focus in the dark?
Autofocus is useless at night, so get used to using manual focus. Most lenses will show 'infinity' on the focusing ring, although this will not give perfect focus. If your camera has a live view, aim at a bright star, push your ISO high and use the Zoom function on your LCD screen to get in close to a bright star. Then adjust the focus until the star appears as small as possible.
Do I need to use red lights?
It takes around 20 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark and any exposure to white light ruins this. When out in the dark, use a red torch instead. Using red light will allow you to see, but maintains your dark adaption, making it easier to move around in the dark.