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Friday, July 01, 2016

 

Southern Skywatch July, 2016 edition is now out!

Evening sky on July 9 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 9:00 pm 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 July edition of Southern Skywatch is  up.

This month sees all five bright planets in the evening sky and  still more nice planetary action.

Jupiter and Mars and Saturn are prominent in the evening sky. Venus and Mercury return to the evening sky late in the month. Mars, Antares and Saturn form a triangle in the evening skies.

 Jupiter is very close to the waxing Moon on the 9th.

Mars Between 1 and 5 July Mars is within binocular distance of the faint globular cluster NGC 5897.  On the 15th, the Moon, Mars, Antares and Saturn form a diamond in the sky.

Saturn has a close encounter with the Moon.

Venus is returns to the evening twilight and is close to Mercury on the 17th.

Mercury, enters the evening sky late in the month and is close to the bright star Regulus on the 30th and 31st, forming a line-up with Venus and Jupiter.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

 

See the ISS buzz Jupiter and Mars (1-6 July, 2016)

The ISS passes above Mars, as seen from Adelaide on the evening of  Friday 1 July at 18:46 ACST. Simulated in Stellarium (the ISS will actually be a bright dot), click to embiggen.The ISS passes near Jupiter, as seen from Melbourne on the on the evening of  Friday 1 July at 19:16 AEST. Simulated in Stellarium (the ISS will actually be a bright dot), click to embiggen.The ISS passes beside Jupiter, as seen from Perth on the evening of  Friday 1 July at 18:46 AWST. Simulated in Stellarium (the ISS will actually be a bright dot), click to embiggen.
All sky chart showing local  times from Heavens Above for Friday 1 July for Adelaide.All sky chart showing local  times from Heavens Above for Friday 1 July for Melbourne.All sky chart showing local times from Heavens Above for Tuesday Friday 1 July for Perth.

Starting July 1 there is series of bright passes of the International Space Station occurring in the early evening. In most places in Australia the ISS will pass close to Jupiter at varying times, others close to Mars and in still others there are close passes to bright stars such as the pointers.

Friday evening (1 July) sees the  ISS pass close to Jupiter as seen from Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne. Melbourne in particular will have a very close pass, and some sites may see the ISS pass in front of Jupiter. On Friday the ISS also passes close to Mars as seen from Adelaide, and close to alpha Centauri (Rigel Kent) as seen from Perth.

There's lots more, although several are close to the horizon. For example, from Adelaide there is another close Jupiter pass on the 4th, and a very close pass to the bright star Canopus on the5th. On the 24th from Melbourne, the ISS passes through Orion's Belt. Melbourne has a very close pass to both pointers on the 4th. Perth has a close Mars pass on the 2nd.

When and what you will see is VERY location dependent, so you need to use either Heavens Above or CalSky to get site specific predictions for your location (I'm using Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth as examples, choosing  some of the more distinctive events, but there are lots more that are perfectly nice and lost of other good sights from other Australian sites, Brisbane has a nice Mars pass on the 1st fro example).
 
Start looking several minutes before the pass is going to start to get yourself oriented and your eyes dark adapted. Be patient, there may be slight differences in the time of the ISS appearing due to orbit changes not picked up by the predictions. For several passes the ISS enters the earth's shadow (eg Melbourne July 1, just after the ISS passes Jupiter it should wink out) when the ISS is not very high.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday June 30 to Thursday July 7

The New Moon is Monday July 4. Earth at aphelion July 5. Jupiter is visible most of the evening. Mars and Saturn are visible all night long. Saturn is close to the red star Antares and forms a triangle with Mars. Mercury and Venus are lost in the twilight. Comet C/2013 X1 PanSTARRS is visible in good binoculars in the evening sky.

The New Moon is Monday July 4. The Earth is at aphelion, when it is furthest from the Sun, on July 5.

Evening sky on Saturday July 2 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:00 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. Jupiter will be an excellent telescopic target but s rapidly coming too close to the horizon.

Jupiter is in the north-western evening sky as the sun sets, and is  good for telescopic observation from around 18:00 on until around 9:30 pm when it will be a little too close to the horizon. Jupiter's Moons will be an excellent sight all evening.

The early evening is also graced by the constellation of  Canis Major with bright Sirius, the dog star, above the western horizon.

Evening sky on Saturday July 2 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. Mars, Saturn and Antares form a triangle. Comet C/2013 X1 is now visible in the evening, close to the tail of the Scorpion. The inset shows telescopic views of Mars and Saturn. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is high in the evening skies near the head of the Scorpion in Libra.

Mars comes to a stand still this week, before reversing direction. Mars forms a line with the star Dschubba in the head of the Scorpion and Anatres.  As well Mars forms a triangle with Saturn and the red star Antares. Mars was at opposition on May 22, but Mars will still  be big and bright for this week. It is visible all night long. In even small telescopes Mars will be a visible disk, and you should see its markings.

Mars is also within half  finger-width from the magnitude 8.4 globular cluster NGC 5897. This is visible in binoculars only under dark sky conditions, but both Mars and the cluster will fit within a telescope eye-piece view this week and should be interesting together.

 Saturn was at opposition on the 3rd. However, Saturn's change in size and brightness is nowhere near as spectacular as Mars's, and Saturn will be a reasonable telescopic object for many weeks. Saturn is reasonably high in the evening sky and is readily visible below Scorpius. Saturn forms a triangle with Mars and the red star Antares. It is now high enough for good telescopic observation in the evening. In even small telescopes its distinctive rings are obvious.

Comet C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) rises  around 4:00 pm local time, and is clear the of  horizon murk from around 9 pm.  It is currently around magnitude 6.5.  The comet will be close to the tail of the Scorpion for much of this week. Detailed maps and guides are here.

Venus is lost in the twilight.


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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Thursday, June 23, 2016

 

Seeing comet C/2013 X1 PanSTARRS from Australia (June-July 2016)

Eastern evening sky at 9:00 pm ACST, 24 June - 14 July showing the path of comet C/2013 X1 as seen from Adelaide. The positions are for the 24th, 29th, 4th, 9th, and 14th (getting higher as the month wears on). Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (and most of the Southern Hemisphere). Click to embiggen.

The good news is that Comet C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) is now high in the evening sky to be visible without having to stay up past midnight. The comet was closest to the earth on June 21, so should be at it's brightest over the next few days. The bad news is (apart from most of Australia being hit by severe storms for the next few days) is that it is too close to the Moon until the 24th to be easily seen.

Comet C/2013 X1 seen using the remote iTelescope T12 at Siding Springs Observatory on 13 June.

The most recent reports had it around magnitude 6.2, just below unaided eye visibility and bright enough to be seen readily in binoculars  (10x50's should work well). Over the next three weeks it will fade, and may have fallen to magnitude 7 (still visible in good binoculars) by the middle of July.

Comet C/2013 X1 is showing a nice double tail in deep telescopic imaging, and there was a recent spectacular tail dissociation event as well, but with visual observation the comet is more like a ball of cotton wool with a green tinge. It is at a suitable height for viewing from around 9 pm to astronomical twilight in the morning.


Printable black and white spotters map of the eastern evening sky at 9:00 pm showing the track of comet C/2013 X1 over the next 3 weeks. Click to embiggen and print

Ironically, the comet is currently in the constellation Telescopium (the telescope). Being close to earth (well. 0.64 AU, a little over half the distance from the Earth to the Sun) it is moving rapidly night to night for the next few weeks, passing through Ara the Altar, Norma the compass and Lupus the wolf.

It is close to a number of brightish stars, unfortunately in rather obscure constellations (see above), but not far from some distinctive constellations (Sagittarius and Scorpius), which makes it relatively easy to star hop to for most of June and July.

At 9:00 pm (when the sky is full dark and the comet is well above the horizon). almost directly above the eastern horizon is recognisable "teapot" of Sagittarius, with the curl of Scorpius above it.

From the 24th-27th locate the brightest star in the Teapot (Kaus Australis, epsilon Sag, at the base of the "spout"). With binoculars, sweep to the south a little over two binocular fields, past the curve of stars that is Corona Australis, and within that area the only fuzzy blob will be the comet. On the 26th the comet will be near the brightish star Zeta Telescopii.On the 27th the comet will be next to the brightish star Theta Ara (see the binocular charts).

Black and white binocular chart suitable for printing, showing a higher power view of the area around the comet from 24 June to 1 July. Use in conjunction with the spotters map above. The circle is the field of view of 10x50 binoculars. Click to embiggen and print.

Printable PDF maps of the spotters map, the binocular map  for June 24- July 1 and the binocular map  for July 1 to July 14



From the 28th to the 1st of July sweep south of the tail of Scorpius by about a binocular field. On the 28th and 29th the comet is in the same binocular field as the beautiful and bright globular cluster NGC 6397. There will be two fuzzy blobs on display. On the 29th the comet is close to the bright star Alpha Ara.

From now on the task of finding the comet is more difficult, the comet is fading, there are fewer bright guide stars, and lots of faint clusters that can be confused with the comet, the only real way to tell them apart is to watch for the comet moving night to night (or over the course of the night, if you want to stay up for hours).

Black and white binocular chart suitable for printing,  showing a higher power view of the area around the comet from 1 July to 14 July. Use in conjunction with the spotters map above. The circle is the field of view of 10x50

From the 3rd to the 6th, sweep diagonally up and south from the cluster of stars in the tail of Scorpius call the "false comet" for obvious reasons, or table of Scorpius, by between one to one and a half binocular widths. On the 4th the comet is close to Epsilon Norma, and on the 6th close to Delta Norm.

From the 6th  to the 12th the comet is roughly in the middle between bright red Antares and orange alpha Centauri.

From the 9th to the 12th it will be better to look for the comet later in the night, after the Moon sets. On the 9th and 10th it is close to the brightish star omega Lupi and on the 12th and 13th it is close to the bright star Delta Lupi. From the 14th the combination of waxing Moon and fading comet will mean the comet will be extremely difficult to spot with binoculars, and by the time the Moon is waning the comet is likely to be visible only in telescopes.

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, June 21, 2016

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday June 23 to Thursday June 30

The Last Quarter Moon is Tuesday June 28. Jupiter is visible most of the evening. Mars and Saturn are visible all night long. Saturn is close to the red star Antares and forms a triangle with Mars. Mercury and Venus are lost in the twilight. Comet C/2013 X1 PanSTARRS is visible in binoculars in the evening sky.

The Last Quarter Moon is Tuesday June 28.

Evening sky on Saturday June 25 looking 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. Jupiter will be an excellent telescopic target but s rapidly coming too close to the horizon.

Jupiter is in the north-western evening sky as the sun sets, and is  good for telescopic observation from around 18:00 on until around 10:00 pm when it will be a little too close to the horizon. Jupiter's Moons will be an excellent sight all evening, on the 27th Io crosses Jupiter's face, and on the 28th Ganymede is occulted by Jupiter.

The early evening is also graced by the constellation of  Canis Major with bright Sirius, the dog star, above the western horizon.

Evening sky on Saturday June 25 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. Mars, Saturn and Antares form a triangle. Comet C/2013 X1 is now visible in the evening, close to the tail of the Scorpion. The inset shows telescopic views of Mars and Saturn. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is high in the evening skies near the head of the Scorpion in Libra.

Mars comes to a stand still this week, before reversing direction. Mars forms a line with the star Dschubba in the head of the Scorpion and Anatres.  As well Mars forms a triangle with Saturn and the red star Antares. Mars was at opposition on May 22, but Mars will still  be big and bright for this week. It is visible all night long. In even small telescopes Mars will be a visible disk, and you should see its markings.

Mars is also within half  finger-width from the magnitude 8.4 globular cluster NGC 5897. This is visible in binoculars only under dark sky conditions, but both Mars and the cluster will fit within a telescope eye-piece view and should be interesting together.

 Saturn was at opposition on the 3rd. However, Saturn's change in size and brightness is nowhere near as spectacular as Mars's, and Saturn will be a reasonable telescopic object for many weeks. Saturn is reasonably high in the evening sky and is readily visible below Scorpius. Saturn forms a triangle with Mars and the red star Antares. It is now high enough for good telescopic observation in the evening. In even small telescopes its distinctive rings are obvious.

Comet C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) rises  around 5:00 pm local time, and is clear the of  horizon murk from around 10 pm.  It is currently around magnitude 6.2. From around the 23rd the Moon will no longer interfere with viewing it in the evening. The comet will be close to the tail of the Scorpion for much of this week.

Venus is lost in the twilight.


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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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday June 16 to Thursday June 23

The Full Moon is Monday June 20. Earth is a solstice on June 21. Jupiter is visible most of the evening. Mars and Saturn are visible all night long. Saturn is close to the red star Antares and forms a triangle with Mars. On June 18 Mars, Saturn, Antares and the Moon form a diamond shape. Mercury forms a second eye for Taurus in the morning sky. Venus is lost in the twilight. Comet C/2013 X1 PanSTARRS is visible in binoculars in the morning sky.

The Full Moon is Monday June 20.  Earth is a solstice, when the day is shortest, on June 21.

Evening sky on Saturday June 18 looking 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 is in the north-western evening sky as the sun sets, and is  good for telescopic observation from around 18:00 on until around 10:30 pm when it will be a little too close to the horizon. Jupiter's Moons will be an excellent sight all evening.

The early evening is also graced by the constellation of  Canis Major with bright Sirius, the dog star, above the western horizon.

Evening sky on Saturday June 18 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. Mars, Saturn the Moon and Antares form a diamond. The inset shows telescopic views of Mars and Saturn. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is high in the evening skies near the head of the Scorpion in Libra.

Mars spends the week moving through Libra. Mars forms a line with the star Dschubba in the head of the Scorpion and Anatres.  As well Mars forms a triangle with Saturn and the red star Antares. Mars was at opposition on May 22, but Mars will still  be big and bright for this week. It is visible all night long. In even small telescopes Mars will be a visible disk, and you should see its markings.

The waxing Moon is close to Mars on the 17th and 18th, on the 18th the Moon forms a diamond shape with Mars, Saturn and Antares.

 Saturn was at opposition on the 3rd. However, Saturn's change in size and brightness is nowhere near as spectacular as Mars's, and Saturn will be a reasonable telescopic object for many weeks. Saturn is reasonably high in the evening sky and is readily visible below Scorpius. Saturn forms a triangle with Mars and the red star Antares. It is now high enough for good telescopic observation in the evening. In even small telescopes its distinctive rings are obvious.

Venus is lost in the twilight.

Morning sky at 6:30 ACST facing east as seen from Adelaide on Saturday June 18. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mercury slowly heads towards the horizon this week. On the 18th and 19th Mercury is close to the bright red star Alebaran, forming a second eye the the head of Taurus the Bull.
 
Comet C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) rises  around 8:00 pm local time, but doesn't really clear the horizon murk until around 11 pm, and is still best between 3-4 am.  It is currently around magnitude 6.4. However, the brightening Moon will interfere with seeing it. A guide to seeing it is here.

Eastern morning sky at 11 pm ACST, 18 June as seen from Adelaide showing the location of Comet  C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) . Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (and most of the Southern Hemisphere). Click to embiggen.


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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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday June 9 to Thursday June 16

The First Quarter Moon is Sunday June 12. Jupiter is visible most of the evening and is visited by the Moon on the 11th. Mars is visible all night long. Saturn was at opposition last week but remains bright. It is close to the red star Antares and forms a triangle with Mars. Mercury is high in the morning sky. Venus is lost in the twilight. Comet C/2013 X1 PanSTARRS is visible in binoculars in the morning sky.

The First Quarter Moon is Sunday June 12.  The Moon is at apogee, where it is furthest from the Earth, on June 16.

Evening sky on Saturday June 11 looking 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 is in the north-western evening sky as the sun sets, and is  good for telescopic observation from around 18:00 on until around 11 pm when it will be a little too close to the horizon. Jupiter's Moons will be an excellent sight all evening. On the 11th Io crosses Jupiter's face around 22:00. Io also has a good transit on Monday from around 18:00  and Europa has a nice transit on Wednesday from around 19:00.

The waxing Moon is close to Jupiter on the evening of Saturday the 11th.

The early evening is also graced by the constellation of  Canis Major with bright Sirius, the dog star, above the western horizon.

Evening sky on Saturday June 11 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. Mars, Saturn and Antares form a triangle. The inset shows telescopic views of Mars and Saturn. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is high in the evening skies near the head of the Scorpion in Libra.

Mars spends the week moving through Libra. Mars forms a line with the star Dschubba in the head of the Scorpion and Anatres.  As well Mars forms a triangle with Saturn and the red star Antares. Mars was at opposition on May 22, but Mars will still  be big and bright for this week. It is visible all night long. In even small telescopes Mars will be a visible disk, and you should see its markings.

 Saturn was at opposition on the 3rd. However, Saturn's change in size and brightness is nowhere near as spectacular as Mars's, and Saturn will be a reasonable telescopic object for many weeks. Saturn is reasonably high in the evening sky and is readily visible below Scorpius. Saturn forms a triangle with Mars and the red star Antares. It is now high enough for good telescopic observation in the evening. In even small telescopes its distinctive rings are obvious.

Venus is lost in the twilight.

Morning sky at 6:00 ACST facing east as seen from Adelaide on Sunday June 12. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mercury is high in the morning sky, but slowly heads towards the horizon this week.
 
Comet C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) rises  around 10:30 pm local time, but doesn't really clear the horizon murk until around midnight, and is still best between 3-4 am.  It is currently around magnitude 6.4. A guide to seeing it is here.

Eastern morning sky at midnight ACST, 12 June as seen from Adelaide showing the location of Comet  C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) . Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (and most of the Southern Hemisphere). Click to embiggen.


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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