There are plenty of exciting astronomical sights to see in the night sky in 2024, from meteor showers and wandering planets to icy comets, rocket launches, supermoons, and more!

Check out the space and astronomy highlights to look forward to this year with astronomers from the Royal Observatory Greenwich. If you want to find out more, be sure to bookmark the monthly astronomy highlights blog and subscribe to the Royal Observatory Greenwich on YouTube.

Written by Jake Foster and Julienne Hisole.

January

Image
Quadrantid meteor shower over mountains

See the Quadrantid meteor shower

The new year kicks off in style with one of the strongest and most consistent meteor showers of the year, the Quadrantids. This shower is known for its fireballs - meteors that appear brighter than even the brightest planets.

The Quadrantids peak on the night of January 3rd and the morning of the 4th, when potentially up to 110 meteors can be seen in an hour. 

This year, however, at the peak the Moon will be around its last quarter phase, so moonlight will likely drown out many of the fainter meteors.

To get the best out of this shower, wrap up warm and get to a dark spot away from light pollution. Fill your view with as much of the sky as possible. If you think you see a Quadrantid meteor, you’ll know by tracing its path backwards and seeing if it passes through the northern part of the constellation Boötes, the radiant point from which the meteors will seem to originate. 

More about the Quadrantids

Image: Star Trace © Lihao Zhou, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2022

Image
Photograph of a comet taken using a telescope. The comet itself appears as a bright green light, with the tail streaming out diagonally behind

Spot the 'new year' comet, 62P/Tsuchinshan 

Early this year we will see the return of an icy interloper to our inner solar system: a comet that goes by the name of 62P/Tsuchinshan.

Discovered on New Year’s Day in 1965 by a team of Chinese astronomers, this enormous chunk of ice and rock is estimated to be 10 kilometres in diameter and makes its way back to the inner solar system once every 6.2 years. As it approaches the Sun, its ices begin to melt and evaporate away, producing a bright tail of gas that can stretch for millions of kilometres.  

Comet 62P/Tsuchinshan makes its closest approach to the Sun on Christmas Eve, and it will come closest to the Earth on 30 January, when it will be just under 75 million kilometres away. At this time of the year it will be within the constellation of Leo, but with a predicted maximum magnitude of 9 you’ll be unable to see this with the naked eye (and you’ll need a very dark sky to spot it).

Image: Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) Disconnecting Event of the Tail! © David Cruz, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023

Image
Image of spherical planet with highlights and lines/ridges of blue and yellow

See the inner planets of the Solar System (Venus and Mercury)

While both Venus and Mercury are bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye, because they're both closer to the Sun than the Earth is, they rarely get far from it in the sky. This makes them difficult or even dangerous to see at times. This is especially true for Mercury, which is smaller, fainter and closer to the Sun than Venus. 

If you’d like to see these rocky worlds for yourself, your best bet is usually to wait for their greatest elongation. This is the time when each planet is furthest from the Sun, and therefore more likely to still be above the horizon when the blinding Sun has set.

Venus will not reach its greatest eastern or western elongation in 2024. For most of the year it will be fairly close to the Sun in the sky, even passing behind it on 4 June. However, it can still be observed at certain times throughout the year. It is best viewed in January before sunrise, or in December after sunset. In and around these times, Venus will be easily visible as a morning and evening 'star' respectively. 

For a greater challenge, try looking for Mercury’s greatest elongations: western (and therefore seen in the morning) around 12 January, 9 May and 5 September and eastern (seen in the evening) around 24 March, 22 July and 16 November. 

As with any observation close to the Sun, make certain you don’t look directly at the Sun and, if observing with a telescope or pair of binoculars, wait until after sunset or before sunrise to avoid accidentally pointing them at it. 

Image by NASA

February

Image
Astrophotograph of the Andromeda Galaxy, showing a spiral of stars tinted from bluey-pink to white at the centre

Search for another galaxy

There is a new Moon on 10 March, which can be used to search for more deep sky objects in the cosmos.

Keep an eye out for the Andromeda Galaxy, which is the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way. Just after sunset, if you look towards the northwest, the Andromeda Galaxy can be seen near the Andromeda and Cassiopeia constellations. In dark areas away from city lights, this galaxy can be seen with a simple pair of binoculars or even the naked eye! 

Image: Andromeda Galaxy: The Neighbour © Yang Hanwen and Zhou Zezhen, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2022

March

Image
Composite image showcasing the motion of the Sun between the Summer and Winter Solstices

Notice the tilt of the Earth at equinoxes and solstices

Changes in the length of day and night are caused by the tilt of the Earth. When the Earth orbits the Sun, at certain times of year the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun and the Southern Hemisphere is tilted away from it. For the other half of the year, the reverse happens. 

Equinoxes happen when neither hemisphere is tilted towards or away from the Sun and there are roughly equal hours of daylight and darkness. Solstices, on the other hand, happen when a specific hemisphere is tilted towards or away from the Sun, which makes long days or long nights. 

You can keep an eye out for the equinoxes and solstices to notice how the length of day and night changes throughout the year. The two equinoxes happen on 20 March (Spring Equinox) and 22 September (Autumn Equinox) and the days and nights should roughly be the same length. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice will be on 20 June and there will be over 16.5 hours of daylight on this particular day! The winter solstice will be on 21 December, and there will be slightly less than eight hours of daylight. 

More about equinoxes and solstices

Image: Between Solstices © György Soponyai, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2021

April

Image
PS-66052-9_Milky Way and Meteor at Porthgwarra © Jennifer Rogers.jpg

Look out for the Lyrid meteor shower

The Lyrids will be visible from 14-30 April, peaking on 22-23 April. Although not the most active meteor shower, the Lyrids can sometimes feature meteors with bright dust trails that glow for several seconds. 

The best time to look for the Lyrids, if the weather permits, is in the early hours of 23 April. This year, the shower comes to a maximum at full Moon, so moonlight will affect viewing conditions.

The source of the Lyrids is the Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which orbits the Sun once every 415 years. It is the oldest recorded meteor shower still visible today, and was first recorded in 687 BCE. 

About the Lyrids

Image: Milky Way and Meteor at Porthgwarra © Jennifer Rogers, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2020

Never miss a shooting star

Sign up to our space newsletter for exclusive astronomy highlights, night sky guides and out-of-this-world events.

May

Image

Look out for the Eta Aquariids

The Eta Aquariid meteor shower is active between 19 April and 28 May, peaking around 6 May with a rate of up to 50 meteors per hour.  

This shower is more visible for the Southern Hemisphere and will appear low in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere in the early hours pre-dawn.  

Nevertheless, it should still be possible to see the shower in the eastern sky, even when the radiant is below the horizon. This year the maximum on May 6 happens two days before new Moon, resulting in good seeing conditions.

Look eastwards to spot the star Eta Aquariid in the constellation of Aquarius, after which the meteor shower is named. The source of the meteor shower is the famous Halley’s Comet, which is visible from Earth every 75-76 years. 

Explore the Eta Aquariids

Image: Shooting Star and Jupiter © Rob Bowes, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017

June

Image
Image showing road at night with trees to the left and right, with sky above lit up with blue and silver noctilucent clouds

Sight some noctilucent clouds

Many of us in the Northern Hemisphere can look out for noctilucent clouds during their peak season in June and July. 

Noctilucent clouds are clouds which appear to glow silver or blue during the late evening or early morning hours. This happens when the Sun is below the horizon but still illuminates the nighttime clouds from below.  

These clouds are formed in the mesosphere when ice crystals form on suspended dust particles. Although their occurrence is quite unpredictable, there are ways you can give yourself the best chance of seeing them. 

Look up an hour or two after sunset or before sunrise from somewhere with a flat horizon and a clear view of a wide patch of sky. In the evening, look west around 40 minutes after the Sun has set. In the early morning, look towards the northeast where the Sun will soon be rising. 

More about noctilucent clouds

Image: The Road Back Home © Ruslan Merzlyakov - Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017

July

Image
Night skyscape showing the Perseid Meteor Shower and the Milky Way, with stars appearing to cascade down to a scene of green fields and lakes

Catch the Perseid meteor shower

July and August will see the Perseid meteor shower, caused by the debris stream from the comet Swift-Tuttle (also known as the Great Comet of 1862). 

It’s a highlight of many astronomers’ calendars due to its high hourly rate and bright meteors. At the peak you could see up to 100 meteors per hour, and you might even catch some fireballs too. 

In 2024 the Perseid meteor shower is active between 17 July and 24 August, with the shower peaking 12-13 August. This year the maximum of the shower falls during the Moon's first quarter phase, so viewing conditions are reasonably favourable.  

The shower will appear to radiate from the constellation of Perseus, so find a dark spot and look there for the best chance of seeing some Perseid meteors. 

More about the Perseids

Image: The Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way over Petworth Deer Park © Kush Chandaria, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2022

August

Image
This image shows Jupiter flanked by two of its many moons (Io and Europa) under perfect conditions. A wealth of rarely seen detail is visible such as detail on the disks of the moons themselves and fine detail within Jupiter's atmosphere.

Observe a planet at opposition

When a planet is at opposition, it’s positioned opposite to the Sun in the sky, which fully illuminates its face so that it appears at its brightest. 

Four planets will be at opposition in 2024; Saturn moves into opposition on 8 September, Neptune on 21 September, Uranus on 17 November and Jupiter on 7 December. 

These moments are potentially great opportunities for astrophotography, but it may be worth trying your techniques out on more visible planets like Saturn first! 

Planets at opposition

Image: Dance of the Moons © Damian Peach, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023

October

Image
Rectangular image featuring a mountainous landscape in the bottom, with the Milky Way arching from the left to right of the image, smattered with stars. In the direct middle of the arc is an Orionid meteor, shining very brightly

Sight some Orionid meteors

With a maximum rate of around 25 meteors per hour, the Orionid meteor shower peaks around the night of 21 October. This shower features particularly fast meteors which can leave persistent trains.  

In 2024, with the Moon at its waning gibbous phase during the peak, conditions are not particularly favourable to spot this shower - but it's still worth a try!

As with other showers, for the best chance to see the Orionids fill your view with the sky. Look out for the bright streaks of light that come from small grains of the famous Halley’s Comet crashing into Earth’s atmosphere.

Discover the Orionids

Image: Autumn Milky Way Arc and an Orion Bolide © Chunlin Liu, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023

Image
Full Moon rising over an ancient pagoda

Marvel at a supermoon

The Moon revolves around the Earth in an elliptical or oval-shaped orbit, which means that during its orbit it travels from its closest approach to us (perigee) to its furthest distance from us (apogee).

When the Moon is at perigee and it’s at a full Moon or new Moon phase, we call it a supermoon. A full Moon at perigee will appear 14% bigger and 30% brighter than a full Moon at apogee, but since we can’t really compare the two side by side, most people won't notice much difference. 

There will be two Super Full Moons in 2024, one on 18 September and another on 17 October. 

Learn about supermoons

Image: Moon with Ancient Pagoda © Liang Chen, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023

November

Image
Blue hued stars in the Pleiades Cluster

Say hello to the Seven Sisters

The Pleiades star cluster is well-placed in the night sky for observing throughout the whole of November. 

This open star cluster sits within the constellation of Taurus the Bull and is visible with the naked eye. It’s one of the most easily recognisable asterisms (pattern of stars) to spot in the night sky during the winter, with the stars in the cluster glowing a luminous blue. 

While you may assume there are only seven stars in the cluster, there are actually over 1,000, but only six are usually visible with the naked eye. Stargazers with sharper eyes, however, may be able to spot more members of the family. 

The Pleiades are very young in the scheme of the Universe at only around 100 million years old, meaning the dinosaurs walked the Earth before these stars were formed! 

No viewing equipment is needed to see the sisters, but taking a look with binoculars or a telescope will allow you to look closely at individual gems within the cluster. 

More about the Pleiades

Image: Blue Spirit Drifting in the Clouds © Haocheng Li and Runwei Xu, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023

Image
Europa Clipper Illustration of spacecraft flying over moon with Jupiter behind - JUICE mission

Watch the Europa Clipper launch 

In 2024 we won’t just be going to our moon, but other planets' moons as well! Scheduled for launch in October 2024, the Europa Clipper will explore Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, which scientists believe has an ocean of liquid water under its crust which has more water than Earth’s oceans combined, making it one of the only places in our Solar System that humans could inhabit in the future. 

The spacecraft, set to reach orbit around Jupiter by 2030, will make multiple flybys around Europa at altitudes as low as 25 kilometres above the surface, and will be able to scan almost the entirety of the moon. This mission aims to gather more information about Europa’s composition and geology, which will help to investigate whether places underneath the surface have conditions that may support life.  

Image: Artist's concept of Europa Clipper over Jupiter's moon Europa by NASA

December

Image

Spot the Geminid meteor shower

The Geminid meteor shower, with a possible hourly rate of 150 meteors per hour, is usually one of the best meteor shower displays you can see all year. 

In 2024 it’ll be active between 4 and 20 December and reaches maximum on 14-15 December. In 2024 the peak happens when the Moon will be full, so its natural light pollution will cause some interference viewing the shower. 

Geminid meteors are often slower than those from most other meteor showers, and so they often appear to last longer. 

As with most meteor showers your best chance to see meteors is in the early hours of the morning around the peak, though a good number should be seen any time from a few hours after sunset. Fill your view with the sky and wait for the lights to appear. And, given this is a midwinter wonder, don’t forget to wrap up warm! 

More about the Geminids

Image: Gemini meteor shower © Sutie Yang, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Header image: Radio Polaris © João Yordanov Serralheiro, shortlisted in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023

Milky Way rising behind a castle turret in the mountains

2024 guide to the night sky

Plan your year of stargazing ahead with the Royal Observatory's astronomy calendar

What’s On

See events at the Royal Observatory.

Earth From Space
A fish-eye view of Earth taken from a satellite. Yellow and orange desert is visible along with deep blue ocean and wispy clouds
Exhibitions

Earth From Space

See the world through a satellite’s lens, and explore our changing planet at the Royal Observatory Greenwich
Open daily | 10am-5pm
Free for Planetarium show ticketholders and Royal Observatory visitors
Royal Observatory
We Are Guardians
A graphic illustrating a planetarium show. A neon blue outline of the Earth is set amidst nature images such as dolphins, an elephant and an eagle
Planetarium shows

We Are Guardians

Join Earth's fleet of state-of-the-art satellites for an immersive exploration of their role in safeguarding our planet
Daily shows
Adult £12 | Child £6 | Student & Under 25: £8
Royal Observatory
The Sky Tonight
Images of constellations, the Moon, Mars, a comet and the Andromeda galaxy
Planetarium shows

The Sky Tonight

A classic guide to the night sky presented live by a Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomer
Daily shows
Adult £12 | Child £6 | Student & Under 25: £8
Royal Observatory
Morning Stars
A collection of multi coloured stars seen by the Hubble Space Telescope
Planetarium shows | Community astronomy

Morning Stars

Our more relaxed planetarium shows for those who prefer a calmer environment, such as people with ASD
Monday 12 & Friday 16 February 2024 | 10.15-11.00am
£10 Adult | £5 Child | Free Companion tickets
Royal Observatory
Ted's Space Adventure
Ted the bear with a rocket, blue planet and the Sun
Planetarium shows

Ted's Space Adventure

Join Ted the bear on an adventure around the Solar System in this special live planetarium show for under-7s - perfect for little astronauts everywhere!
Weekends and holiday weekdays
Adults £12 | Child £6 | Student & Under 25: £8
Royal Observatory
Starstruck
Images of different coloured stars, a nebula, a supernova and a blackhole
Planetarium shows

Starstruck

Discover the birth, life and death of a star presented live by a Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomer.
Weekends and holiday weekdays in February
Adult £12 | Child £6 | Student & Under 25: £8
Royal Observatory
Amateur Astronomy For Beginners
The Great Equatorial Telescope at the Royal Observatory at twilight, with the onion-shaped dome partially open
Courses | Astronomy courses

Amateur Astronomy For Beginners

A course for those looking to make astronomy into a hobby
Tuesdays, 7-9pm | 6-week courses available from 31 Oct 2023 and 20 Feb 2024
£96
Royal Observatory
Audio Universe: Tour of the Solar System
A red, yellow, pink and blue gas clouds behind images of Saturn and the Earth. Over the top of this are white, glowing sound waves and music notes.
Planetarium shows

Audio Universe: Tour of the Solar System

Experience the Solar System like never before - by travelling on a spacecraft that can turn the objects in space into sound!
Weekends and holiday weekdays from March
Adult £12 | Child £6 | Student & Under 25: £8
Royal Observatory
Moons Beyond Counting
A collage of different moons of the solar system; Triton, Enceladus, Phobos, Pandora, Ganymede, Iapetus and Mimas
Planetarium shows

Moons Beyond Counting

Learn more about our own Moon and some of the more exotic moons of the Solar System in this show narrated by our Royal Observatory astronomers
Weekends and holiday weekdays in March
Adult £12 | Child £6 | Student & Under 25: £8
Royal Observatory
Foundation Astrophysics
Photo of the Andromeda Galaxy - a dark black sky sprinkled with stars
Courses | Astronomy courses

Foundation Astrophysics

A series of ten-week courses on more advanced topics in astrophysics
Tuesdays, 6.30-9pm | 10-week modules available from 12 Sept and 28 Nov 2023; 5 March 2024
£200 per module
Royal Observatory
Intermediate Astronomy
Telescope
Courses | Astronomy courses

Intermediate Astronomy

Acquire a rigorous scientific understanding of the universe with the Royal Observatory Greenwich
Tuesdays, 6.30-9pm | 10-week modules available from 12 Sept and 28 Nov 2023; 5 Mar 2024
£205 per module
Royal Observatory
Astronomy and Islam
The new crescent Moon alongside an antique qibla compass.
Planetarium shows | Identity

Astronomy and Islam

Join us for a special show featuring the New Crescent Moon and historic Islamic astronomy.
Select Saturdays and Sundays | 10.30am
£10 Adult | £5 Child
Royal Observatory
Observatory Unlocked
A teacher demonstrates a special type of video camera to students
Events and festivals | British Science Week

Observatory Unlocked

Want to travel through time? Use a telescope! Discover the secrets of astrophotography in this special drop-in session at the Royal Observatory
9, 10, 16 and 17 March | 11am-2.30pm
Included with Royal Observatory admission
Royal Observatory
Young Astronomers
A family workshop at the Royal Observatory, with a boy drawing with a pen and a girl playing with a VR headset
Family fun | British Science Week

Young Astronomers

How long does it take to travel to other worlds? Join this family workshop with Royal Observatory astronomers to find out!
9, 10, 16 and 17 March | 11.30am-2.30pm
Free for Planetarium ticketholders and Royal Observatory visitors
Royal Observatory
Silver Screen Science-Fiction presents... Back To The Future
The Veil Nebula as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Filaments of blue, green, and red light cover the image, tracing different gases inside the curtain-like cloud.
Events and festivals | British Science Week

Silver Screen Science-Fiction presents... Back To The Future

Join us for Marty McFly's debut as he heads back to the future!
Saturday 16 March 2024 | 6pm-8:30pm
£10 Adult | £5 Child
Royal Observatory
South Asian Astronomy: Holi Show
A colourful scan of the Moon behind a gold spacecraft on the Moon's surface. Next to these are two images of Hindu deities wearing gold and riding creatures. Above them is the word "Chandrayaan" in Sanskrit
Planetarium shows | Community astronomy

South Asian Astronomy: Holi Show

Celebrate the festival of colours by learning about South Asian connections to the objects we see in our night skies
Sunday 24 March 2024 | 10.30am
£10 Adult | £5 Child | Free Companion Tickets
Royal Observatory
Royal Observatory Greenwich Illuminates: Search for Life
Elevated disk sculpture illuminated by LED lights
Talks and tours | Member events

Royal Observatory Greenwich Illuminates: Search for Life

Learn more about our search for life out in space in this talk given by Royal Observatory astronomers
Wednesday 10 April | 6.30pm-8pm
Free for Members – booking required
Royal Observatory
Introduction to Astrophysics
Courses | Astronomy courses

Introduction to Astrophysics

Explore topics at the cutting edge of scientific research and the limits of human knowledge
Tuesdays, 7–9pm | 6-week courses available from 12 Sep 2023; 2 Jan and 16 Apr 2024
£96
Royal Observatory