Last updated 24th September 2020Follow @NatAstroWeek
National Astronomy Week 2020
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 through a telescope, and to find out about the exciting space missions to the planet.
The week will be Saturday 14 November to Sunday 22 November. During this week, Mars will be easily visible through telescopes in the evening sky, as well as Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon. Astronomers up and down the UK will be holding observing sessions with their telescopes, and we’ll be listing them on this website.
Having fun observing (Photo: Mark Wiggin)
Call to action
We are calling upon astronomical societies, observatories and university departments to join in to make this the most successful National Astronomy Week ever. We want to hear from institutions, educators and the UK’s world-class space industry about great ideas for getting the public involved.
Previous NAWs have been highly successful and have grabbed the imagination of the public and the media, with contributions and publicity from TV and the media. So to get involved, please complete our contact form and we will get back to you.
We’ve been organising National Astronomy Weeks since 1980. They take place when there is a big astronomical event that will get everyone talking. Previous NAWs have marked the return of Halley’s Comet, the close approach of Mars in 2003, the 400th anniversary of the invention of the telescope, and most recently Target Jupiter. You can find out more by visiting the Wikipedia page about National Astronomy Week
About the 2020 Mars approach
Mars gets close to Earth in its orbit about every two years – what are known as oppositions of Mars, as Mars is then opposite the Sun in the sky. However, some oppositions are closer than others. The last event, in 2018, was particularly close and the disc of Mars was visible even through small telescopes.
ESA Exomars Rover (Photo: ESA)
However, as seen from the UK it was a disappointment, as it was very low in the sky. The turbulence of our own atmosphere meant that its image was constantly shimmering, making details hard to see. The 2020 opposition will be much higher in the sky, so we’ll get a much better view.
Although Mars is at its closest on 6th October, it won’t be high enough to observe properly until the late evening. A month later, however, it will be observable even in the early evening, even though it’s not quite as close, which will mean that children in particular will be able to attend observing sessions. 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.
We will be extending this website closer to the date of NAW, to provide additional support for those running events, to help publicise the events and to supply resources for schools and others.
Want to get in touch? If you are interested in participating in National Astronomy Week and would like to tell us, or just have a question, please get in touch by completing this form
Don’t forget you will be able to find out more about us on and follow us on Twitter by clicking Follow @NatAstroWeek
There’s always something impressive, mysterious or spectacular going on in the universe and NAW is the ideal opportunity for you to see for yourself!