VAC Writer Test

Hi, and thanks for applying to spend a few hours each month writing about the moon, planets and events.

As mentioned on the application form, I need you to complete a short test to assess your ability to gather data and write about the night sky. Please read and complete the following steps carefully. The deadline for submitting your work is Thursday 8th February, there will be no extensions and I’ll be following up with the successful candidate next Friday, 9th Feb.

You should submit your writing on this form. Please do not email it to me directly.

Steps to Follow

  1. Visit the following pages to get a sample of how I write them today (all of the links open a new tab, you won’t lose this page):




2. Next, look at the sample planet images below for Mercury in October 2023. This is how you’ll receive the images each month in the draft and it’ll be your role to write the content for them.

The code beneath each image is planet | date(ddmmyy) | time | height above horizon in degrees. So, for the 05 October image, for example, we can see that it is Mercury and 6:45 in the morning and it’ll be 4° over the horizon at that time.

For each of these three images, write up to 20 words to briefly describe what’s happening in the image (remember to use the links above to see how I do it today)

05th October 2023

Mercury 051023 0645 4

15th October 2023

Mercury 151023 0720 2

25th October 2023

Mercury 251023 1830 1

3. Next, write 150 words (max) over three-five paragraphs explaining for the amateur astronomer what Mercury is doing this month, including where, when and how we can see it (or if we can’t). Include one or two interesting and relevant facts about the planet, such as the proportion lit, angle of the ecliptic, its disc size, etc.

4. Finally, using the data below and your own knowledge/software, write up to 200 words / five paragraphs explaining what the moon is doing in October 2023. Make sure to cover when it will be best to observe the lunar surface and when the best times of the month will be for observing DSOs (i.e. when the sky will be dark). Again, use the links above to see how I currently do this.


Please submit your writing on this form no later than Thursday 08 February.

As a reminder, this is what you’re expected to write:

  • Maximum of twenty words each for the three Mercury pictures
  • Maximum of 150 words, over 3-5 paragraphs, describing Mercury’s movements across the sky in October 2023
  • Maximum of 200 words, over 3-5 paragraphs, explaining the moon’s phases in October 2023.

I’ll be in touch with successful applicants on Friday 09 February.

Good luck!