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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

 

Thursday May 23 to Thursday May 30

The Full Moon is Thursday, May 23. Comet 12P Pons-Brooks is now visible when the sky is fully dark but remains a binocular only object. The comet starts the week close to the iconic Orion constellation and is within a binocular field of the bright star Rigel. As the Moon passes from the evening sky the comet becomes easier to see. In the morning the lineup of Saturn, Mars and Mercury makes for nice viewing. By the end of the week the waning Moon joins the lineup.

The Full Moon is Thursday, May 23. 

Evening sky on Thursday, May 23 as seen from Adelaide at 18:44 ACST (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).   Comet 12P is now beside Orion when the sky is fully dark.

While the comet is a reasonable magnitude 5.5, you will still need binoculars. Especially with the Full Moon making it harder to see. Nonetheless the binocular view with the comet near Orion's belt is nice.

 

Over the week the comet will climb higher into darker skies past the bright stars of Orion towards the constellation of Lepus the hare. Updated spotters charts are here.




Similar views will be seen from the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset).

Evening sky on Sunday, May 26 as seen from Adelaide at 18:43 ACST (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).   Comet 12P is now just below the bright star Arneb in Lepus when the sky is fully dark. The inset shows the binocular view at this time.

The comet has faded to magnitude 6, and you need binoculars. With the waning Moon rising later the comet is easier to see now. Over the week the comet will climb higher into darker skies coming closer to the bright star Arneb. Updated spotters charts are here.




Similar views will be seen from the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset).

Morning sky on Thursday, May 30  as seen from Adelaide at 06:15 ACST, (60 minutes before sunrise, click to embiggen). The waning Moon, Saturn, Mars and Mercury make an attractive lineup.The inset is the telescopic view of Saturn at this time.


 



 

Similar views will be seen from the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise).
 
Whole sky on Saturday, May 25 as seen from Adelaide at 18:44 ACST, 90 minutes after sunset (click to embiggen).


Orion is low in the north-west. Bright Sirius is still dominant in  the north-western sky. Scorpius is rising in the East. Between the bright star Canopus and the Southern Cross are a wealth of binocular objects to discover. The fainter clusters will be be better as the Moon fades.

 

 

   

 Elsewhere in Australia will see a similar view at the equivalent time (90 minutes after sunset).

 

 

Mercury begins to sink into the twilight but still remains bright in the morning twilight.

Venus is lost in the morning twilight.

Mars is rising in the morning twilight. 

Jupiter is lost in the twilight sky.

Saturn climbs higher in the morning twilight.

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.


 

Star Map via Virtual sky. Use your mouse to scroll around and press 8 when your pointer is in the map to set to the current time.

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, May 14, 2024

 

Thursday May 16 to Thursday May 23

The Full Moon is Thursday, May 23.  Comet 12P Pons-Brooks is now visible when the sky is fully dark but is still a binocular only object. The waxing Moon may make it harder to see. The comet is close to the iconic Orion constellation and is within a binocular field of the bright star Rigel. In the morning the lineup of Saturn, Mars and Mercury makes for nice viewing.

The Full Moon is Thursday, May 23.  The Moon is at apogee, when it is furthest from the Earth, on the 18th.

Evening sky on Sunday, May 19 as seen from Adelaide at 18:46 ACST (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).   Comet 12P is now just below Orion when the sky is fully dark. The inset shows the binocular view at this time.

While the comet is a reasonable magnitude 5.5, you will still need binoculars. Especially with he waxing Moon making it harder to see. Over the week the comet will climb higher into darker skies past the bright stars of Orion. but will remain within a binocular field of the bright star Rigel. Updated spotters charts are here.




Similar views will be seen from the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset).

Morning sky on Saturday, May 18  as seen from Adelaide at 06:08ACST, (60 minutes before sunrise, click to embiggen). Saturn, Mars and Mercury make an attractive lineup.The inset is the telescopic view of Saturn at this time.


 



 

Similar views will be seen from the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise).
 
Whole sky on Saturday, May 18 as seen from Adelaide at 18:47 ACST, 90 minutes after sunset (click to embiggen).


Orion is low in the north-west. Bright Sirius is still dominant in  the north-western sky. Scorpius is rising in the East. Between the bright star Canopus and the Southern Cross are a wealth of binocular objects to discover. The fainter clusters will be washed out by the light of the waxing, then full Moon.

 

 

   

 Elsewhere in Australia will see a similar view at the equivalent time (90 minutes after sunset).

 

 

Mercury begins to sink into the twilight.

Venus is lost in the morning twilight.

Mars is rising in the morning twilight. 

Jupiter is lost in the twilight sky.

Saturn climbs higher in the morning twilight.

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.


 

Star Map via Virtual sky. Use your mouse to scroll around and press 8 when your pointer is in the map to set to the current time.

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 06, 2024

 

Thursday May 9 to Thursday May 16

The First Quarter Moon is Wednesday, May 15.  Comet 12P Pons-Brooks is now visible when the sky is fully dark but is still a binocular only object. The comet will progressively climb higher and is near the iconic Orion constellation. In the morning the lineup of Saturn, Mars and Mercury makes for nice viewing.

The First Quarter Moon is Wednesday, May 15. 

Evening sky on Thursday, May 9 as seen from Adelaide at 18:52 ACST (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen). Comet 12P is below Orion close to the star nu Eridanus in the constellation of the river.

While the comet is a modestly bright magnitude 5, despite now being visible when the sky is fully dark, you will still need binoculars. Over the week the comet will climb towards Orion and into darker skies, but becomes dimmer as it rises. Updated spotters charts are here.




Similar views will be seen from the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset).

Evening sky on Thursday, May 16 as seen from Adelaide at 18:52 ACST (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).   Comet 12P is now just below Orion when the sky is fully dark. The inset shows the binocular view at this time.

While the comet is a reasonable bright magnitude 5.4, you will still need binoculars. Over the week the comet will climb higher into darker skies and closer to the bright stars of Orion. Updated spotters charts are here.




Similar views will be seen from the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset).

Morning sky on Saturday, May 11  as seen from Adelaide at 06:03 ACST, (60 minutes before sunrise, click to embiggen). Saturn, Mars and Mercury make an attractive lineup.


 



 

Similar views will be seen from the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise).

Whole sky on Saturday, May 11 as seen from Adelaide at 18:51 ACST, 90 minutes after sunset (click to embiggen).


Orion is low in the north-west. Bright Sirius is still dominant in  the north-western sky. Scorpius is rising in the East. Between the bright star Canopus and the Southern Cross are a wealth of binocular objects to discover. This is a good time to see fainter clusters.

 

 

   

 Elsewhere in Australia will see a similar view at the equivalent time (90 minutes after sunset).

 

 

Mercury begins to sink into the twilight.

Venus is lost in the morning twilight.

Mars is rising in the morning twilight. 

Jupiter is lost in the twilight sky.

Saturn climbs higher in the morning twilight.

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.


 

Star Map via Virtual sky. Use your mouse to scroll around and press 8 when your pointer is in the map to set to the current time.

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, May 01, 2024

 

Thursday May 2 to Thursday May 9

The New Moon is Wednesday, May 8.  Comet 12P Pons-Brooks is visible in binoculars and will progressively climb higher over the week heading for the iconic Orion constellation. Between 3 and 6 May the waning Moon joins the lineup of Saturn, Mars and Mercury. On the 4th there is a spectacular close approach of the Moon to Saturn, with a daytime occultation in the eastern states. On the 5th The Moon is close to Mars and on the 6th it is close to Mercury. On the 6th-8th the eta Aquariid meteor shower is visible in the morning sky.

The New Moon is Wednesday, May 8. The Moon is at perigee, when it is closest to Earth, on the 6th.

Evening sky on Saturday, May 4 as seen from Adelaide at 18:27 ACST (60 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).   Comet 12P is rising higher in the evening twilight.

While the comet is a reasonable bright magnitude 4.7, it is still not too far from the horizon. You will definitely need binoculars. Over the week the comet will climb higher into darker skies and. Updated spotters charts are here.




Similar views will be seen from the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes after sunset).

Evening sky on Thursday, May 9 as seen from Adelaide at 18:52 ACST (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen). Comet 12P is below Orion close to the star nu Eridanus in the constellation of the river.

While the comet is a modestly bright magnitude 5, despite now being visible when the sky is fully dark, you will still need binoculars. Over the week the comet will climb towards Orion and into darker skies, but becomes dimmer as it rises. Updated spotters charts are here.




Similar views will be seen from the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset).

Morning sky on Saturday, May 4  as seen from Adelaide at 05:57ACST, (60 minutes before sunrise, click to embiggen). The Moon is very close to Saturn with Mars and Mercury below. The eastern states see a daytime occultation of Saturn in the morning.


 



 

Similar views will be seen from the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise).
 
The Moon at 9:03 am AEST in Sydney on Saturday 4 May just as Saturn disappears behind the Moon. The insets shows the telescope view of Saturn going behind the Moon (left) and emerging from behind the Moon at 9:22 am AEST (right)
 



 

For detailed times and observing hints see the occultation page.  
 
Morning sky on Sunday, May 5  as seen from Adelaide at 05:59ACST, (60 minutes before sunrise, click to embiggen). The Moon is very close to Mars  with Saturn above and Mercury below.


 



 

Similar views will be seen from the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise).
 
 
The north-eastern horizon as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 am ACST on 7 May, the eta Aquariid radiant is marked with a starburst. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen). 

The eta Aquariid meteor shower, which is produced by the debris from Halley’s Comet, will peak on May 6 (strictly speaking May 5, 21UT). 
 
Detailed times and charts are at the eta Aquariid meteor page.  
 
 
 
Whole sky on Saturday, May 4 as seen from Adelaide at 18:56 ACST, 90 minutes after sunset (click to embiggen).


Orion is low in the north-west. Bright Sirius is still dominant in  the north-western sky. Scorpius is rising in the East. Between the bright star Canopus and the Southern Cross are a wealth of binocular objects to discover. As the Moon wanes , the fainter clusters will be visible again.

 

 

   

 Elsewhere in Australia will see a similar view at the equivalent time (90 minutes after sunset).

 

 

Mercury climbs higher into the twilight. On the 6th the Moon is close to Mercury.

Venus is lost in the morning twilight.

Mars is rising in the morning twilight.  On the 5th The Moon is close to Mars.

Jupiter is lost in the twilight sky.

Saturn climbs higher in the morning twilight. On the 4th there is a spectacular close approach of the Moon to Saturn, with a daytime occultation in the eastern states.

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.


 

Star Map via Virtual sky. Use your mouse to scroll around and press 8 when your pointer is in the map to set to the current time.

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 30, 2024

 

Daylight Occulation of Saturn, morning Saturday May 4, 2024


Map of the Occultation path of the Moon and Saturn. The occultaion is on the 3rd UT, which is the morning of the 4th in Australia after sunrise.The Moon at 9:03 am AEST in Sydney on Saturday 4 May just as Saturn disappears behind the Moon. The insets shows the telescope view of Saturn going behind the Moon (left) and emerging from behind the Moon at 9:22 am AEST (right)

On the morning of Saturday 4 May Saturn is occulted by the waning Moon as seen from eastern Australia (see table below for exact timings), from Brisbane south. This is a daytime occultation, which will require telescopes. At this time the Moon and Saturn will be around 56 ° from the sun above the north eastern horizon. This is a binocular and telescope event only and extra special care must be taken to avoid accidentally exposing your eyes to the Sun, make sure the sun is hidden by a building or something.  It would be best for experienced amateurs only to attempt this so no accidental sun exposure is possible.

As well, even though Saturn will be visible in telescopes, it will be very pale and difficult to see.

The Moon, well above the north-eastern horizon, is a very obvious signpost for where to look with Saturn close to the bright limb. You may need some patience to see Saturn pale against the brightness of the sky. Brisbane and Melbourne only see a grazing occultation. 

Start watching about half an hour beforehand to get set up and familiar with the sky. Saturn will be pale close to the bright limb of the Moon. Reappearance will be hard to see as you have to be looking just at the right moment.

PlaceDisappears Bright Limb Reappears Dark Limb
Adelaide ACST--
Brisbane AEST9:27 (graze)
-
Canberra AEST9:019:12
Darwin ACST--
Hobart AEST8:249:16
Melbourne AEST8:56 (graze)
-
Perth AWST--
Sydney AEST9:039:22




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Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower 5-9 May, 2024


The north-eastern horizon as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 am ACST, the eta Aquariid radiant is marked with a starburst. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen). 

The eta Aquariid meteor shower, which is produced by the debris from Halley’s Comet, will peak on May 6 (strictly speaking May 5, 21UT). 
 
The moon is almost new, so the rates will be slightly better away from the nominal peak on the 6th as the Moon wanes. There has been predictions we might have a higher rate this year, so it is worthwhile to look out on the weekend mornings of May 5, May 6, May 7, and May 8 from 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM local time Australia-wide, where people with dark skies should see a meteor around every three to four minutes. 


People in the suburbs should see a meteor around once every 6 minutes, and in the country about once every 3-4 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 5:00 am above). The radiant is close to Saturn, which makes a good reference point.

Weather prediction looks okay.

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 was dark enough for 6.5-magnitude stars to be visible to the naked eye.

In practice, 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? 

The table below gives predictions below for various towns, but they are only predictions and while based on average steam density there may be some differences year to year, but good rates were seen in previous years, and dark sky sites may possibly see one meteor every 3-4 minutes or so. There were many bright ones reported with persistent trains in 2014. People in the suburbs maybe will see less, but at least one every 6 minutes should be possible. 

Predicted meteor rates for selected towns (taken from NASA shower Flux estimator below). If your city is not on the list you can expect a meteor rate similar to the closest city to you in latitude.


TownMorning May 6 Morning May 7Morning May8
Adelaide15 meteors/hr19 meteors/hr18 meteors/hr
Brisbane16 meteors/hr20 meteors/hr20 meteors/hr
Darwin16 meteors/hr21 meteors/hr21 meteors/hr
Perth16 meteors/hr19 meteors/hr19 meteors/hr
Melbourne15 meteors/hr18 meteors/hr18 meteors/hr
Hobart14 meteors/hr17 meteors/hr17 meteors/hr
Sydney15 meteors/hr19 meteors/hr19 meteors/hr

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 hand-span 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 northeast, Altair and Fomalhaut, and Saturn as the center of your field (again, see the spotter chart at 5:00 am above).

Be patient, although you should see an average of a meteor every 6 to 8 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).  The Milky way will arch above you, with Saturn just next to the radiant.


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.
 
Unfortunately, both Chrome and Firefox have changed their security settings to prevent plugins from running, and the flux estimator only runs under Internet Explorer, or the internet explorer tab under Edge, now.

You need to choose 31 Eta Aquariids and remember to set the date to  5-6 or 7-8 May 2024 and turn off daylight saving time. You can follow the progress of the shower at the IMO live Aquariid site.

Guides for taking meteor photos are here and here.

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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Saturday, April 27, 2024

 

The further adventures of Comet 12P-Pons_Brooks 27 April-27 May, 2024.

Printable Black and White chart for locating Comet 12P 27April-27 May. Click to embiggen and print. Use with a red light torch (or a standard torch with red cellophane over it) to preserve your night vision.
Printable Black and White Binocular chart for locating Comet 12P from 27 April to 6 May. The circle represents the approximate field of view of 10x50 binoculars. The comet is within binocular range of nu Taurii until around 2 May. Click to embiggen and print. Use with a red light torch (or a standard torch with red cellophane over it) to preserve your night vision.
Printable Black and White Binocular chart for locating Comet 12P from 6 May to 18 May. The circle represents the approximate field of view of 10x50 binoculars. The comet is within binocular range of nu Eriandus until around 13 May. Click to embiggen and print. Use with a red light torch (or a standard torch with red cellophane over it) to preserve your night vision. Printable Black and White Binocular chart for locating Comet 12P from 18 May to 27 May. The circle represents the approximate field of view of 10x50 binoculars. The comet is within binocular range of Rigel until around 24 May. Click to embiggen and print. Use with a red light torch (or a standard torch with red cellophane over it) to preserve your night vision.
Photo realistic view of the evening sky simulated in Stellarium for Satday, April 27 as seen from Adelaide at 18:33 ACST (60 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen). Comet 12 P is within binocular range of nu Taurii.Photo realistic view of the evening sky on Sunday, May 19 as seen from Adelaide at 18:45 ACST (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen). Comet 12P is close to the bright star Rigel in Orion (the inset is the approximate binocular view of the trio).

Comet 12P Pons-Brooks hype continues (the "once in a life-time" comet, which is true for most comets).  As the comet climbs of of the horizon murk, it remains binocular only, but we have been getting some nice images of it with a stubby tail.

While the comet is still reasonably bright magnitude at 4.5, it remains low to the horizon over the next week or so. While it is slowly climbing above the horizon into darker skies, it is also slowly fading. You will definitely need binoculars, unless you are in a dark sky location, and then it will look like a fuzzy dot.

From the 27th April to the 3rd May  the comet will be within binocular distance of star nu Taurii (see charts, sweep west of Aldebaran for around two binocular widths). Although the comet is magnitude 4.5 -  4.6  at this time and theoretically dimly visible to the unaided eye, atmospheric extinction will mean it is more like magnitude 5. The comet will still look like a faint fuzzy dot.

At nautical twilight (and hour after sunset) on the 27th, it is almost 2 hand-spans above the horizon and the darkening twilight skies should help you spot it.  At astronomical twilight (an hour and a half after sunset) it will be a hand-span above the horizon (and you will need a level, unobstructed horizon to see it.

Using an ordinary camera, try zooming in around 3x and using multiple 1 second ISO 3200 exposures, but nothing below ISO 1600. (I was success full with 1 second 3200 ISO, I have also done 2 and 4 second exposures, but I have an S24, so that’s cheating). I have yet to try stacking, there may be too few stars visible to stack reliably until later in the week.

There there are no good guide stars until 9-12 May when it is close to nu Eridanus (sweep west from Bellatrix), when it is around magnitude 5, and then it passes by Orion, and is with binocular distance of bright Rigel from the 18th-24th. Although 12P will be approaching magnitude 6, this should be an excellent opportunity for wide field astrophotography with the comet almost 3 hand-spans from the horizon at astronomical twilight, when the sky is fully dark, near the iconic Orion constellation, with the first quarter Moon not interfering too much.

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Thursday, April 25, 2024

 

Occultation of Sigma Scorpii, morning, April 27, 2024

North-west morning sky on Saturday, April 27 as seen from Adelaide at 02:01 ACST. The Moon is just about to cover (occult) the bright star Sigma Scorpii. The inset shows the moon at 3:32 ACST as the moon moves off Sigma Scorpii. Click to embiggenNorth-west morning sky on Saturday, April 27 as seen from Melbourne at 02:48 AEST. The Moon is just about to cover (occult) the bright star Sigma Scorpii.The inset shows the moon at 4:15 AEST as the moon moves off Sigma Scorpii. Click to embiggenNorth-east evening sky on Friday, April 26 as seen from Perth at 23:49 AWST. The Moon is just about to cover (occult) the bright star Sigma Scorpii. The inset shows the moon at 1:06 AWST on the 27th as the moon moves off Sigma Scorpii. Click to embiggen


On the morning of Saturday,  April 27, the bright star Sigma Scorpii (Alniyat) in the head of the Scorpion is occulted by the Moon. Sigma Scorpii is one of the two bright stars flanking the bright red star Antares.

The occultation occurs with the Moon high above the north-western horizon at the start for the eastern and central states. Perth sees the occultation start just before midnight above the north eastern horizon. Darwin misses out although Sigma Scorpii will be seen very near to the Moon. Disappearance and appearance times are given in the table below. Other locations will see the occultation at a similar time for cities at a similar latitude.

While the occultation is visible to the unaided eye, the sight will be better in binoculars or a small telescope. Set up ahead of time so that you can be sure everything is working well and you can watch the entire event comfortably. Sigma Scorpii will be clearly visible to the unaided eye near the Moon.

To the east, Saturn will rise while the occultation is ongoing, followed by Mars. Around dawn the lineup Of Saturn, Mars and Mercury will be seen.

PlaceDisappears Bright Limb Reappears Dark Limb Astronomical Twilight
Adelaide ACST02:0103:3205:23
Brisbane AEST03:1204:2704:52
Canberra AEST02:5504:2405:11
Darwin ACST-05:41
Hobart AEST02:5804:1504:51
Melbourne AEST02:4804:1505:29
Perth AWST23:49 (26th)
01:0605:23
Sydney AEST03:0104:2805:03


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