There is a double celestial event to whet your appetite this January! As a starter, in the early hours of the 4 January we will be treated to the Quantadrids, which is one of the most abundant annual meteor showers of the year with 60 to 120 shooting stars per hour. Providing the sky is clear you will be pretty much guaranteed to see shooting stars galore. A dark location would be ideal but even from a built up area you shouldn't be disappointed. I once watched the Perseids from my garden and got to see at least a dozen meteors, with one of them even breaking apart mid-flight.
Next we have a partial solar eclipse. At precisely 8.27am the moon will start to cover the surface of the Sun and even though it is only a partial eclipse, we can still expect to see about 75 per cent of the sun's disc obscured by the moon.
I remember in 1999 when the UK had a total solar eclipse from the south west of England and partial eclipse everywhere else. I was stood in my garden again, in the city centre of Liverpool with my family and it was crystal clear. Patrick Moore the eminent astronomer, star of 'The Sky at Night' and personal hero of mine, was on the south coast with many other professionals and armatures alike. There were lots of tv cameras there, as it was live on the BBC, but they were completely clouded out!
So there I was with my family, who had never witnessed a solar eclipse, with our eclipse glasses getting the most awe inspiring view of this magnificent event. I couldn't help feeling a little smug knowing the anti-climax that Mr Moore and the tv people were facing down on the south coast. (I know I shouldn’t be saying that about my hero though!) The most notable thing was the change in temperature. It went very cold even though it was a lovely hot day and the birds stopped singing, which was a very strange experience.
So if you have the stamina, invite some friends and family around, wrap up warm and go outside in the early hours of 4 January. You can spot a dozen or so shooting stars, then have a sleep for a couple of hours! Later, you should get yourself a good view of the horizon, as the eclipse starts very soon after sunrise, put on your eclipse glasses and watch one of Mother Nature's most spectacular celestial events. I assure you, you will not be disappointed. Unless of course we have wall to wall cloud cover -in that event, blame the weather forecasters!