.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Friday, December 19, 2014

 

Aurora Alert 19-20 December

A geomagnetic alert and aurora watch has been issued by the Australian IPS, the activity is due to a glancing blow from a coronal mass ejection. The activity is likley to peak late in the evening of the 19th to the early morning of the 20th, possibly lasting to the night of the 20th.

If aurora occur, this may be visible in Tasmania, New Zealand, and possibly Southern Vic, WA and Southern South Australia. However, geomagnetic storms are fickle, and the storm may arrive in daylight or may fizzle out entirely .. or might just be spectacular.

 As always look to the south for shifting red/green glows, recently beams have been reported too. As usual, dark sky sites will have the best chance of seeing anything, and always allow around 5 minutes for your eyes to become dark adapted.

The all sky aurora camera in Southern Tasmania at Cressy may be of help in monitoring for aurora http://www.ips.gov.au/Geophysical/4/2

Labels:


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday December 18 to Thursday December 25

The New Moon is Monday December 22. Earth is at solstice at this time. Venus is low in the evening sky and is visited by the Moon on the 23rd. Mars is easily visible in the early evening. Jupiter is prominent in the morning sky. Saturn returns to the morning sky, the Moon is close to Saturn on the 20th. Comet C/2102 Q2 Lovejoy is easily visible in binoculars in the early evening and may become visible to the unaided eye.

The New Moon is Monday December 22. Earth is at solstice, when the days are longest, at this time.


Evening sky on Tuesday December 23 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:00 (9:00 pm) ACDST in South Australia.  The thin crescent Moon is close to Venus and Mercury. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

  
Mercury  is low in the twilight, and may be visible by the end of the week.

Venus is still difficult to see low on the western horizon in the twilight. At civil twilight, half an hour after sunset, it is just under a hand-span above the horizon. While Venus is bright  you will need a flat, clear horizon like the ocean to see it. On the 23rd Venus is visited by the thin crescent Moon.

 Mars  is easily seen in the western evening sky, setting around 11:30 daylight saving time. Mars was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest, on the 9th of April, and is still  readily distinguishable as the bright red/orange object above the western horizon in the early evening.

Mars is in the constellation of  Capricornius.


Morning sky on Saturday December 20 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 am ACDST showing Saturn and the crescent Moon.  The inset shows Jupiter's Moons on the 22nd at 3:00 am. Jupiter is the brightest object above the northern horizon. (click to embiggen).

Saturn returns to the morning sky. On the 20th, it is very close to the crescent Moon, low on the horizon.

 Jupiter  rises higher in the morning sky, and now is easy to see above the horizon before twilight. Jupiter is the brightest object above the northern horizon. It is now not far from the bright star Regulus in the sickle of Leo (this forms the head of the constellation of the  Lion).

Jupiter is now high enough for good telescopic observation before astronomical twilight. Jupiter's Moons will be putting on a good display, and there is an occulation of Europa and an transit of Io and Europa  on the 22nd at 3 am.

Evening sky on Saturday December 20 looking south-east  as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 (10:00 pm) ACDST in South Australia. Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is below Canopus.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is brightening in the sky much faster than expected. The comet is passing below the star Canopus heading towards Orion, passing above Canis Major.

It is brightest in January, but is easily visible in binoculars now and people in dark sky sites have been able to see it with the unaided eye. Binoculars or small telescopes show it as a definite fuzzy patch. Instructions on viewing the comet and printable finding charts can be found here.

By Christmas, especially if you are out camping somewhere dark, it may be visible to the unaided eye as a fuzzy star moving rapidly from night to night.This might be something special for Christams night or Christmas eve.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with the comet brightening rapidly in the early evening sky.  If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEDST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.

Labels:


Monday, December 15, 2014

 

Images of Comet Lovejoy, 2014's Christmas Comet

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy taken on 29 November 2014. iTelescope T12, 5x3minute exposures Bin 2, stacked in ImageJ and Median image extracted. Click to embiggen to see the faint tail.  Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy taken on 14 December 2014. iTelescope T12, 5x3minute exposures Bin 2, stacked in ImageJ and Median image extracted. Click to embiggen to see the tail and the galaxy. 

I think the two images above give a good idea of how rapidly comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy has brightened. Taken just two weeks apart (okay 15 days) under the same exposure conditions the comet and its tail has brightened dramatically (and I have had to use less drastic measures to brighten the comet to show its tail).

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy taken on 14-12-14 with my Canon IXUS point and shoot. 10x 15 second exposures ISO 400 stacked with deep sky stacker. and cropped to the region of interest, showing Pi (bottom) and Nu (top) Pupis and the comet (Click to embiggen)Can't see the comet? I have circled it for you. It is close to a magnitude 7 star, but it is the fuzzy one.

AS I said before, there are now several reliable reports of the comet being seen with the unaided eye at dark sky sites. This might be an outburst and the comet will fade again. Or it might be ongoing as suggested by the consistency of recent observations, and we might get a peak around magnitude 4.

Anyway, this will be a nice comet to follow regardless. See my guide to C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy for hints on how to find an see the comet.

Labels: , , ,


 

A Christmas Comet? C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy brightens rapidly

Path of the comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy as it brightens in December skies. This printable black and white chart is for 10 pm AEDST looking east (click to embiggen). Already easily visible in binoculars, there are reports of it being visible to the unaided eye.Animation of the path for the comet during December simulated in Stellarium. The view is to the east and at 10:00 pm AEDST.

Terry Lovejoy has done it again! After C/2011 W3 Lovejoy, which was also a Christmas comet, he has found us another great comet. C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is brightening rapidly. Currently the comet is around a full magnitude brighter than predicted, and there are multiple reliable reports that is is now (faintly) visible to the unaided eye.

There is every possibility the comet may reach magnitude 4. While it will not have the magnificent tail developed by C/2011 W3, and will only be a fuzzy dot to the unaided eye, it will be the brightest comet we will have seen in southern skies since Terry's previous Christmas comet, and you won't have to get up at 4 am to see it.

More detailed views of the path of C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy suitable for guiding binocular viewing (also facing east). Click to embiggen for printing. Photorealistic simulation of the skies of the 14th December at 10:00 pm AEDST. There are several clear stellar signpost to help you find the comet.

Look to the east when looking for the comet, after 10 pm the sky will be dark enough for hunting the comet. It is currently very easy to see in 10x50 binoculars as a fuzzy ball (and a snap in small telescopes).  There are lots of reasonably bright stars which you can use to star hop to the comet using the charts above (and when using the charts, don't forhe to cover your torch with red cellophane to avoid destroying your night vision).

A binocular chart suitable for the next week.The comet is between Pi and Nu Puppis (see charts above to orient yourself to the stars location). Click to embiggen and print

At the moment, the comet is above the distinctive star cluster around the bright star pi Puppis (see black and white maps above). Alternatively, if you draw a line between Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, and Canopus. for the next week or so the comet will be around 2/3rd of the distance to Canopus. A little hunting around the area with binoculars will soon reveal the comet. There are lots of star clusters around the area, but none will have the fuzzy ball appearance of the comet.

When going out, allow at least 5 minutes for your eyes to adjust and become dark adapted. Here's some hints on dark adaption of your eyes so you will not be disappointed in your comet hunt. Also the later at night the darker the sky and the higher the comet will be. While it is readily visible in suburban locations (like mine, where I saw it tonight), dark sky sites are best. So if you are going camping at Christmas, go look for it!

Labels: , , ,


Thursday, December 11, 2014

 

Geminid Meteor Shower 14-15 December 2014

The northern horizon at 4:00 am ACDST as seen from Southern Australia (northern Australia is similar but Gemini and the radiant is higher in the sky) on Monday December 15. The Geminid radiant is marked with a starburst (click to embiggen).


The Geminids are unusual in that their parent body is 3200 Phaethon, an asteroid, rather than a comet. It is speculated though that Phaeton is actually a "gassed out" comet, and so the debris that makes up the Geminids may still be cometary particles.
 
The Geminids are a fairly reliable meteor shower and although this year moonlight will interfere a bit, but some decent meteors should be seen. 


Unlike the Leonids, where there is a very narrow peak of high activity, the Geminids have a broad peak and will show good activity well before and after the peak, and on the day before and after.The peak is December 14, 12h00m UT. That is midnight December 15 in Australia.  However, the radiant doesn't rise until just before midnight (daylight saving time) in most of Australia, so you will still have to disturb your sleep for this one. 

Despite the peak occurring before radiant rise, and the influence of the last quarter Moon, Australians should see a meteor every three to four minutes under dark skies in the early morning of the 15th, between 2:00 am and 4:00 am local time. You can find predictions for your local site at the meteor flux estimator (choose 4 Geminids and date 14-15 December, don't forget to change the date to 2015).



At 1.00 am in the morning AEDST (midnight, AEST) Castor (alpha Geminorum) is about two hand-spans above the horizon and 10 hand-spans to the left of due north. Pollux, the other twin, is less than a hand-span to the left again. The radiant is just below Pollux.

When you get up, allow at least 5 minutes for your eyes to adjust and become dark adapted (even if you have stumbled out of bed in the dark, here's some hints on dark adaption of your eyes so you can see meteors better) and be patient, it may be several minutes before you are rewarded with you first meteor, then a couple will come along in quick succession (a meteor every three minutes is an average, they won't turn up like a ticking clock but more or less randomly).

Choose a viewing spot where you can see a large swathe of sky without trees or buildings getting in the way, or with street lights getting in your eyes. The darker the spot the better (but do be sensible, don't choose a spot in an insalubrious park for example). While the radiant is where the meteors appear to originate from, most of the meteors will be seen away from the radiant, so don't fixate on the radiant, but keep your eye on a broad swath of sky roughly centred just above the radiant (as the radiant doesn't rise very high, looking exactly at the radiant will mean you miss some higher up).

A lawn chair or something similar will make your observing comfortable (or a picnic rug spread on the ground and a nice pillow), and having a Thermos of hot coffee, tea or chocolate to swig while watching will increase your comfort. Despite it being summer, make sure you have a jumper or something as the night can still get cold

Guides to taking meteor photos are here and here.

As well, Orion and the Hyades will be visible and bright Jupiter will be nearby. So it will be a quite nice morning for sky watching. Keep an eye out for satellites!

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky

Labels: , ,


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday December 11 to Thursday December 18

The Last Quarter Moon is Sunday December 15. Venus is low in the evening sky. Mars is easily visible in the early evening. Jupiter is prominent in the morning sky, the Moon is near Jupiter on December 11. Comet C/2102 Q2 Lovejoy visible in binoculars in the early evening. Geminid meteor shower on the morning of the 15th.

The Last Quarter Moon is Sunday December 15. The Moon is at apogee, furthest from the Earth, on the 13th.


Evening sky on Saturday December 13 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 (10:00 pm) ACDST in South Australia.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Venus is very difficult to see low on the western horizon in the twilight. At civil twilight, half an hour after sunset, it is a mere 4 finger-widths above the horizon. While Venus is bright it might be possible to see not long after sunset, but you will need a flat, clear horizon like the ocean to see it.

 Mars  is easily seen in the western evening sky, setting just before midnight. Mars was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest, on the 9th of April, and is still  readily distinguishable as the bright red/orange object above the western horizon in the early evening.

Mars is in the constellation of  Capricornius.

Morning sky on Friday December 12 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 am ACDST.  Jupiter is above the north-east horizon and not far from the Moon. (click to embiggen).

Saturn is lost in the twilight.
  
Mercury  is lost in the twilight.

 Jupiter  rises higher in the morning sky, and now is easy to see above the horizon before twilight. Jupiter is the brightest object above the northern horizon. It is now not far from the bright star Regulus in the sickle of Leo (this forms the head of the constellation of the  Lion).

Jupiter is now high enough for good telescopic observation before astronomical twilight. On Thursday December 12 Jupiter is near the waning Moon.

Evening sky on Saturday December 13 looking south-east  as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 (10:00 pm) ACDST in South Australia. Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is below Canopus.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is brightening in the sky much faster than expected. The comet is passing below the star Canopus heading towards Orion, passing above Canis Major. It is brightest in January, but should be easily visible in binoculars as the Moon leaves the evening sky. Binoculars or small telescopes should show it as a small fuzzy patch with maybe the hint of a tail. A B and W printable  spotters map is available here , the large circle is the approximate field of view of 10x50 binoculars.

At magnitude 7.8 you will need to let your eyes adapt to darkness to see the comet clearly. UPDATE! the comet is brightening rapidly, it is already magnitude 7!


The northern horizon at 4:00 am ACDST as seen from Southern Australia (northern Australia is similar but Gemini and the radiant is higher in the sky) on Monday December 15. The Geminid radiant is marked with a starburst .

The Geminids are a fairly reliable meteor shower and this year moonlight will partly interfere.

Unlike the Leonids, where there is a very narrow peak of high activity, the Geminids have a broad peak and will show good activity well before and after the peak, and on the day before and after.

The radiant doesn't rise until just before midnight (daylight saving time) in most of Australia, so you will still have to disturb your sleep for this one. Australians should see a meteor every three to four minutes under dark skies in the early morning of the 15th, between 1:00 am and 4:00 am local time. You can find predictions for your local site at the meteor flux estimator (choose 4 Geminids and date 14-15 December, don't forget to change the date to 2014).

At 1.00 am in the morning AEDST (midnight, AEST) Castor (alpha Geminorum) is about two handspans above the horizon and 10 handspans to the left of due north. Pollux, the other twin, is less than a handspan to the left again. The radiant is just below Pollux.

As well, Orion and the Hyades will be visible and bright Jupiter will be nearby. So it will be a quite nice morning for sky watching. Keep an eye out for satellites!


There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Mars prominent in the early evening sky.  If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEDST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.

Labels:


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday December 4 to Thursday December 11

The Full Moon is Saturday December 6.   Venus is low in the evening sky. Mars is easily visible in the early evening.  Jupiter is prominent in the morning sky, the Moon is near Jupiter on December 11. Comet C/2102 Q2 Lovejoy visible in small telescopes in the early evening.

The Full Moon is Saturday December 6.


Evening sky on Thursday December 4 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 (10:00 pm) ACDST in South Australia.  Mars is close to the faint cluster M75(see inset). Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Venus is very difficult to see low on the western horizon in the twilight. At civil twilight, half an hour after sunset, it is a mere 3 finger-widths above the horizon. While Venus is bright it might be possible to see not long after sunset, but you will need a flat, clear horizon like the ocean to see it.

 Mars  is easily seen in the western evening sky, setting just before midnight. Mars was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest, on the 9th of April, and is still  readily distinguishable as the bright red/orange object above the western horizon in the early evening.

Mars is in the constellation of  Capricornius. On the 4th it will be in binocular range of the faint globular cluster M75.

Morning sky on Thursday December 11 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 am ACDST.  Jupiter is above the north-east horizon and not far from the Moon. (click to embiggen).

Saturn is lost in the twilight.
  
Mercury  is lost in the twilight.

 Jupiter  rises higher in the morning sky, and now is easy to see above the horizon before twilight. Jupiter is the brightest object above the northern horizon. It is now not far from the bright star Regulus in the sickle of Leo (this forms the head of the constellation of the  Lion).

It is now high enough for good telescopic observation before astronomical twilight. On Thursday December 11 Jupiter is near the waning Moon.

Evening sky on Saturday December 6 looking south-east  as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 (10:00 pm) ACDST in South Australia. Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is below Canopus.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is brightening in the sky much faster than expected. The comet is passing below the star Canopus heading towards Orion, passing above Canis Major. It is brightest in January, but should be easily visible in binoculars in the second half of the month after the Moon leaves the evening sky. Binoculars or small telescopes should show it as a small fuzzy patch with maybe the hint of a tail. A B and W printable  spotters map is available here , the large circle is the approximate field of view of 10x50 binoculars.

At magnitude 8.0 you will need to let your eyes adapt to darkness to see the comet clearly.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Mars prominent in the early evening sky.  If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEDST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.

Labels:


Monday, December 01, 2014

 

Southern Skywatch December, 2014 edition is now out at its New Home!

Western horizon as seen from Adelaide on 23 December at 9:00 pm ACDST . Click to embiggen.


The December edition of Southern Skywatch is now up at its new home.  This month has a little bit of  planetary action  some meteors and a comet.
 
Jupiter rises higher in the morning sky and is near the Moon on the 13th. Jupiter enters the evening sky later in the month.

Mars is obvious in the western evening sky.  Mars is close to the globular clusters M75 early in the month (3rd and 4th).

Saturn enters the morning sky.

Venus enters the evening sky.

Mercury returns to the evenining sky but is very difficult to see. It forms a triangle with the Moon and Venus low to the horizon on the 23rd

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy graces our skies this month, it may become bright enough to see with the unaided eye. 
 
The Geminid meteor shower is at its best on the morning of the 15th.

Labels:


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?