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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

 

Southern Skywatch May, 2016 edition is now out!

Morning sky on Saturday May 7 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 4:00 am ACST.  The radiant of the eta Aquariid meteor shower is shown.   Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at equivalent local times. (click to embiggen).

The May edition of Southern Skywatch is  up.

This month sees the opposition of Mars, the eta Aquariid meteor shower and  still more nice planetary action.

Jupiter and Mars and Saturn are prominent in the evening sky. Mars is at opposition on the 22nd. Mars, Antares and Saturn form a triangle in the evening skies.

 Jupiter sees some some nice jovian moon action.

Mars comes close to the faint globular cluster M80 and on the 22nd, the night of opposition, the Moon, Mars, Antares and Saturn form a diamond in the sky.

Saturn has a close encounters with the Moon.

Venus is low in the morning twilight and is close to the crescent Moon on the 6th. Venus disappears in the twilight after this.

Mercury, enters the morning sky late in the month

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday May 5 to Thursday May 12

The New Moon is Saturday May 7. Jupiter is visible all evening long. Venus is low above the horizon in the twilight and is close to the crescent Moon on the 6th. Saturn is close to the red star Antares and forms a triangle with Mars. Mars is in retrograde motion and is within binocular distance of the faint globular cluster M80. The Eta Aquariid meteor shower peaks May 7-8.

The New Moon is Saturday May 7. The Moon is at perigee, when it is closest to the Earth, on the 6th.

Evening sky on Saturday May 7 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 18:30 ACST. The inset is the telescopic view of Jupiter at this time Showing the shadow transit of Europa. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter was at opposition on the March 8th, when it was biggest and brightest as seen from Earth. However, Jupiter will be an excellent telescopic target for many weeks to come.

Jupiter enters the evening sky as the sun sets, and is  good for telescopic observation from around 19:00 on. Jupiter's Moons will be an excellent sight all evening. On the 7th Europa and its shadow cross Jupiter's face.

The evening is also graced by the summer constellations of Taurus (with the V shaped cluster the Hyades forming the head of Taurus the Bull) just above the western horizon at the beginning of evening. Orion the Hunter and Canis Major with bright Sirius, the dog star are above it and set early in the evening.

Evening sky on Saturday May 7 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. Mars, Saturn and Antares form a triangle. Mars is close to the dim globular cluster M80. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is high in the morning skies and is now rising in the evening before  midnight. Mars is in the head of the Scorpion.

Mars starts the week next to the bright red star Antares in Scorpio. Mars forms a triangle with Saturn and the red star Antares. Between the 3rd and 12th of May Mars is within a binocular field of the dim globular cluster M80, being closest on the 7th.The brightness of Mars may make seeing the cluster a bit difficult though.

Saturn is low in the evening sky around midnight and is readily visible below Scorpius. Saturn forms a triangle with Mars and the red star Antares.

Early morning sky on  Friday May 6 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:30 am ACST showing Venus low in the twilight with the thin crescent Moon just above.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Venus is becoming harder to see as it sinks in the  morning twilight. It is visited by the thin crescent Moon on the 6th, and is essentially lost to view after this.

Mercury is lost in the twilight.



Morning sky on Saturday May 7 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 4:00 am ACST.  The radiant of the eta Aquariid meteor shower is shown.   Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at equivalent local times. (click to embiggen).

The eta Aquariids meteor shower, the debris from Halleys comet, will peak on May 6 UT . However, the best rates will be seen from Australia on the mornings of the 7th  and 8th with around one meteor every 3 minutes at dark sky sites. More details and viewing hints are at my eta Aquariid post.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. 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 AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.
 
Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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Monday, May 02, 2016

 

eta Aquariid Meteor Shower 7-9 May, 2016

Morning sky on Saturday May 7 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 4:00 am ACST.  The radiant of the eta Aquariid meteor shower is shown.   Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

The eta Aquariids meteor shower, the debris from Halleys comet, will peak on May 5 UT , which translates to 6:00am AEST on May 6 in Australia.  However, the best rates will be seen from Australia on the mornings of the 7th and 8th.

This year conditions are near perfect for seeing the eta Aquariids, with the Moon a thin crescent or new.  People in the suburbs should see a meteor around once every 6 minutes, and in the country about once every 3 minutes. The radiant of the shower is about five hand-spans up from the eastern horizon, and three hand-spans to the left of due east at 4 am (see spotter chart at 4 am above).

You may have read that this year the eta Aquariids have a predicted ZHR of 40 meteors. The figure ZHR is zenithal hourly rate. This is the number of meteors that a single observer would see per hour if the shower's "point of origin", or radiant, were at the zenith and the sky were dark enough for 6.5-magnitude stars to be visible to the naked eye.

In practise, you will never see this many meteors as the radiant will be some distance below the zenith. Also, unless you are out deep in the countryside, the darkness will be less than ideal. How many are you likely to see in reality? I discuss this further down, lets talk about when to see them first.

Although the actual peak is on 6th at 06:00 AEST, for Australia the best time to see the eta-Aquarids is in the early morning of the 7th, 8th and 9th. This year the thin crescent Moon will not interfere on the 6th, and the 7th is New Moon, so you should have almost ideal observing conditions if the cloud stays away.

How many will be seen on the 7th is not entirely clear (see prediction below, but they are only predictions), but good rates were seen in 2014, and dark sky sites may possibly see one meteor every three minutes or so. There were many bright ones reported with persistent trains in 2014. People in the suburbs may be will see less, but at least one every 6 minutes should be possible. Rates should be  much the same on the 8th and a bit less on the 9th.

The radiant of the shower is about five hand-spans up from the eastern horizon, and three hand-spans to the left of due east at 4 am (see above for a spotter chart at 5 am). When looking, be sure to let your eyes adjust for at least 5 minutes so your eyes can be properly adapted to the dark. Don't look directly at the radiant site, because the meteors will often start their "burn" some distance from it, but around a handspan up or to the side. The best way to watch the Eta Aquariids is to let your eye rove around the entire patch of the sky above the north-east horizon, between the only two obvious bright stars in the north-east, Altair and Fomalhaut.

Be patient, although you should see an average of a meteor every six to three minutes, a whole stretch of time can go by without a meteor, then a whole bunch turn up one after the other.

Make yourself comfortable, choose an observing site that has little to obstruct the eastern horizon, have a comfortable chair to sit in (a banana lounger is best), or blankets and pillows. Rug up against the cold.  A hot Thermos of something to drink and plenty of mosquito protection will complete your observing preparations. As well as meteors, keep an eye out for satellites (see Heavens Above for predictions from your site).

Use the NASA  meteor shower flux estimator for an estimate of what the shower will be like from your location (you may need to enter your longitude and latitude, surprisingly, while Adelaide and Brisbane are hard wired in, Sydney and Melbourne are not). See the image to the left for typical output. The peak is rather sharp.

You need to choose 31 Eta Aquariids and remember to set the date to 6-7, 7-8 or 8-9 May 2016 and turn off daylight saving time. You can follow the progress of the shower at the IMO live Aquariid site.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday April 28 to Thursday May 5

The "Blue"  Last Quarter Moon is Saturday April 30. Jupiter is visible all evening long . Venus is low above the horizon in the twilight. Saturn is close to the red star Antares and forms a triangle with Mars. Mars is in retrograde motion. Start of Eta Aquariid meteor shower.

The  Last Quarter Moon is Saturday April 30. This is a "Blue" Last Quarter Moon, the second Last Quarter Moon this month.

Evening sky on Thursday April 28 looking north-west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. The inset is the telescopic view of Jupiter at 23:00 ACST this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter was at opposition on the March 8th, when it was biggest and brightest as seen from Earth. However, Jupiter will be an excellent telescopic target for many weeks to come.

Jupiter enters the evening sky as the sun sets, and is  good for telescopic observation from around 21:00 on. Jupiter's Moons will be an excellent sight late in the evening. On the 28th Europa appears from eclipse.

The evening is also graced by the summer constellations of Taurus (with the V shaped cluster the Hyades forming the head of Taurus the Bull) just above the western horizon at the beginning of evening. Orion the Hunter and Canis Major with bright Sirius, the dog star are above it and set early in the evening.

Evening sky on Saturday April 30 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. Mars, Saturn and Antares form a triangle. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is high in the morning skies and is now rising in the evening before  midnight. Mars is in the head of the Scorpion.

Mars starts the week below the bright red star Antares in Scorpio. Mars forms a triangle with Saturn and the red star Antares.

Saturn is low in the evening sky around midnight and is readily visible below Scorpius. Saturn forms a triangle with Mars and the red star Antares.

Early morning sky on  Thursday May 5 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:00 am ACST showing Venus low in the twilight.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Venus is becoming harder to see as it sinks in the  morning twilight. It is a  distinct "gibbous Moon" shape and is nice in a small telescope.

Mercury is lost in the twilight.



Morning sky on Thursday May 5 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 4:00 am ACST.  The radiant of the eta Aquariid meteor shower is shown.   Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at equivalent local times. (click to embiggen).

The eta Aquariids meteor shower, the debris from Halleys comet, will peak on May 6 UT . However, good rates (compared to the peak) will be seen from Australia on the morning of the 5th at around one every five minutes, although the best rates are the 7th and 8th with around one meteor every 3 minutes.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. 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 AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.
 
Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday April 21 to Thursday April 28

The  Full Moon is Friday April 22 and is the smallest Full Moon this year. Jupiter is visible all night long . Venus is low above the horizon in the twilight. Saturn is close to the red star Antares and forms a triangle with Mars. Mars is in retrograde motion and is visited by the Moon on the 24th. ANtares, Saturn and Mars are close to the Moon on the 25th.

The  Full Moon is Friday April 22. The Moon is at apogee on the 22nd, and this is the smallest Full Moon this year (a Mini-Moon).

Evening sky on Thursday April 21 looking north-west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. The inset is the telescopic view of Jupiter at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter was at opposition on the March 8th, when it was biggest and brightest as seen from Earth. However, Jupiter will be an excellent telescopic target for many weeks to come.

Jupiter enters the evening sky as the sun sets, and is  good for telescopic observation from around 21:00 on. Jupiter's Moons will be an excellent sight late in the evening. On the 21st Ganymede transits Jupiter and Europa appears from eclipse.

The evening is also graced by the summer constellations of Taurus (with the V shaped cluster the Hyades forming the head of Taurus the Bull) just above the western horizon at the beginning of evening. Orion the Hunter and Canis Major with bright Sirius, the dog star are above it and set early in the evening.

Evening sky on Monday April 25 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. Mars, Saturn and Antares form a triangle with the Moon nearby. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is high in the morning skies and is now rising in the evening before  midnight. Mars is in the head of the Scorpion.

Mars starts the week below the bright red star Antares in Scorpio. Mars forms a triangle with Saturn and the red star Antares. On the 24th and 25t the waxing Moon is near Mars.

Saturn is low in the evening sky around midnight and is readily visible below Scorpius. Saturn forms a triangle with Mars and the red star Antares. On the 25th the Moon joins Mars, Saturn and Antares.

Early morning sky on  Sunday April 24 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:00 am ACST showing Venus low in the twilight.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Venus is becoming harder to see as it sinks in the  morning twilight. It is a  distinct "gibbous Moon" shape and is nice in a small telescope.

Mercury is lost in the twilight.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. 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 AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.
 
Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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Monday, April 18, 2016

 

Sunspot 2529 visible with safe viewing techniques

Heart-shaped Sunspot 2529 imaged Sunday 17 April at 4:30 pm from Largs North, Adelaide. Canon IXUS at 400 ASA , 1/100 of a second exposure, infinity to infinity focus with a 4" Newtonian and 25 mm eyepiece and neutral density solat filter.

The sunspot is the large dark spot (click to embiggen) and the other dark stuff is junk on the CCD chip.

Sunspot 2529 is big enough to be visible with use safe solar viewing techniques. It will rotate off the sun in a the next two days, but is worthwhile looking at.




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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday April 14 to Thursday April 21

The  First Quarter Moon is Thursday April 14. Jupiter is  is visible all night long and is close to the Moon on the 18th. Venus is low above the horizon in the twilight. Saturn is close to the red star Antares and forms a triangle with Mars which is in on the head of the Scorpion. Mars is stationary on the 17th.

The First Quarter Moon is Thursday April 14.


Evening sky on Monday April 18 looking north-west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. The inset is the telescopic view of Jupiter at this time, showing Io before Jupiter occults it.. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter was at opposition on the March 8th, when it was biggest and brightest as seen from Earth. However, Jupiter will be an excellent telescopic target for many weeks to come.

Jupiter enters the evening sky as the sun sets, and is  good for telescopic observation from around 21:00 on. Jupiter's Moons will be an excellent sight late in the evening. Jupiter occults Io on the 18th, and there is a double transit of Io, Europa and their shadows on the 19th.

The evening is also graced by the summer constellations of Taurus (with the V shaped cluster the Hyades forming the head of Taurus the Bull) just above the western horizon at the beginning of evening. Orion the Hunter and Canis Major with bright Sirius, the dog star are above it and set early in the evening.

Evening sky on Saturday April 16 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 23:00 ACST. Mars Saturn and Antares form a triangle. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is high in the morning skies and is now rising in the evening before  midnight. Mars is in the head of the Scorpion.

Mars starts the week below the bright red star Antares in Scorpio. Mars forms a triangle with Saturn and the red star Antares. on the 17th Mars's motion comes to a stand still, and then it reveres direction as Earth overtakes it in it orbit.

Saturn is low in the evening sky around midnight and is readily visible below Scorpius. Saturn forms a triangle with Mars and the red star Antares.

Early morning sky on  Sunday April 17 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:00 am ACST showing Venus low in the twilight.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Venus is becoming harder to see as it sinks in the  morning twilight. It is a  distinct "gibbous Moon" shape and is nice in a small telescope.

Mercury is lost in the twilight.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. 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 AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.
 
Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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