National Astronomy Week 2020

In 2020 we ran a Mars Encounter of a virtual kind

National Astronomy Week (NAW) was run in a way we've never tried before, streaming live events and planetary viewing direct to homes.

The week is now over, but the talks and observation sessions can still be viewed as recordings on YouTube. Please see the NAW YouTube channel at
or you can see details about the NAW Team Events by clicking NAW Events in the menu.

Please note that NAW is not an annual event.  No decision has been taken about the next event.

Read on...


Thank you to John Fox for making the NAW Intro video. 


About the Week:  In autumn 2020, Mars makes a close approach to Earth, and it won’t be as close again until 2035. We’ll be holding a National Astronomy Week to make sure that as many people as possible get a chance to see Mars, even if only from their back garden or online, and to find out about the exciting space missions to the planet.

The week will be Saturday 14 November to Sunday 22 November. Mars will be easily visible in the evening sky, as well as Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon. Normally, there would be observing sessions across the country, but this year because of COVID-19 we’ll be holding most of our events online, so you can join in wherever you are. 

Sky during NAW
The night sky on 19 November with Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the crescent Moon

NAW is hosting a programme of exciting virtual events with a range of unique and current topics, including top speakers with specialist knowledge - see NAW events in the menu.  And each evening, weather permitting, observatories around the country will be livestreaming views of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon and other showpieces of the sky. For the timetable, click on Events tab above.

And to find Mars in the sky for yourself wherever you are, and to learn how best to view it, click on the Observing tab above, or click here

If you are organising an event which can be added to our events calendar, please get in touch via our contact form or email

A dramatic composite image of Mars and the Moon on 6 September 2020 by Damian Peach


Why November?

ESA's Exomars Rover

Although Mars is at its closest on 6 October, it won’t be high enough to observe properly until the late evening. A month later, during NAW, however, it will be observable even in the early evening. Although it’s not quite as close, this will mean that children in particular will be able to see the planet in the sky for themselves, and watch our online talks and livestreaming. Jupiter and Saturn will also be in the evening sky, and the Moon will be waxing from a thin crescent to half phase during the week.

Several space missions to Mars are being launched during 2020, and will arrive early in 2021. British scientists are particularly involved in ESA’s Exomars Rover, named Rosalind Franklin, which has been built in Stevenage. This is due for launch in 2022