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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

 

Venus and Jupiter close together under the Scorpion (Wednesday 23 January 2019)

Venus and Jupiter close together under Scorpius the Scorpion and the bright Star Antares. Venus is the brightest object at the bottom, Jupiter is the next brightest above it and Antares is the next brightest above the pair.Looking east from Adelaide, Wednesday January 23, 5:22 am ACDST. Canon IXUS 800 ASA, 10x 2 second exposures stacked in DeepSky Stacker then contrast adjusted in Gimp. Click to embiggenClose up of Venus and Jupiter close together under Scorpius the Scorpion and the bright Star Antares. Wednesday January 23, 5:25 am ACDST. Canon IXUS 800 ASA, 10x 2 second exposures 3 x Zoom. Stacked in DeepSky Stacker then contrast adjusted in Gimp. Click to embiggen

Venus and Jupiter have been slowly edging towards each other in the morning. This morning they were at there closest, nestling underneath the curl of the Scorpion. The pair looke beautiful in the morning twilight. Don't worry if you missed it, the pair will say close over the next couple of days.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday January 24 to Thursday January 31

The last Quarter Moon is Monday, January 28. Mars is visible low in the evening skies. With the Moon rsisng later this is an excellent time to view the summer constellations. Venus is bright in the morning sky with Jupiter above moving away from it. The crescent Moon is close to Jupiter on the 31st. Saturn climbs higher in the morning sky.

The last Quarter Moon is Monday, January 28. 


Morning twilight sky on Thursday, January 31 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:40 ACDST (60 minutes before sunrise). Venus is bright and is at its  closest to Jupiter.  Saturn is low to the horizon. The left upper insert inset shows the telescopic view of Venus at this time. the lower left insert shows the telescopic view of Jupiter at the same scale and the lower right that of Saturn.

Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise)

Evening sky on  Saturday, January 26 as seen looking west from Adelaide at 22:06 ACDST (90 minutes after sunset). Mars is the brightest object above the western horizon.

 Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).










Evening sky on  Saturday, January 26 as seen looking north from Adelaide at 22:06 ACDST (90 minutes after sunset). The constellation of Orion dominates the northern sky, closer to the horizon, just to the west of Aldebaran and the A shape of the Hyades is the delightful Pleiades cluster.

Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).








 Venus climbs higher in the morning skies and moves away from Jupiter.

Mercury  is lost in the twilight

Jupiter  climbs higher in the morning sky heading away from Venus. Jupiter and the crescent Moon are close on the 31st.

Mars is in Pisces and is readily seen as the brightest object in the western evening sky. Mars sets just before midnight.

Saturn is climbs higher in the morning sky.

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, January 21, 2019

 

Photographing the Perigee ("Super") Moon of January 21, 2019

Comparison of this months Perigee Full Moon with the apogee full Moon on September 13A selection of different adapters, from left to right camera adapter, mobile phone adapter and a 25 mm lens

There has been a lot of excitement on the internet of tonight's "Super Moon" because from the US and Europe it occurs at the same time as a total Lunar Eclipse (Getting it called a "Super Blood Wolf Moon"). We won't see the eclipse in Australia, we had our "Super Blue Moon" eclipse last year, but we will get to see the Perigee Syzygy Moon in all its glory.

So what will you see? While the Moon's size is really obvious in a telescope, visually it is very hard to see the difference between this Full Moon and the one before even if you have fantastic eyesight. Indeed telling the difference between this perigee Moon and the following apogee Moon on 13 September will be very difficult.

In both cases, the Moon is around half the width of your finger, and a mere 4' (that's minutes of arc, about 4 human hairs in width) different in size. This is around the limit of what humans can distinguish. If you have great eyesight and a great memory you will be able to distinguish between the January and August full Moons, but otherwise, no.

As well, unless you have a REALLY good memory, you will be comparing it with the full Moon the month beforehand, when it was almost identical in diameter, that is not much different at all.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't look though, Daniel Fischer has been able to see the difference, you can read his account and viewing tips here
http://earthsky.org/space/can-you-discern-supermoons-large-size-with-the-eye-an-observer-says-yes


However, it will be a good photo opportunity, if you have a decent zoom on your DSLR camera or access to a small telescope. If you do have access to a telescope and you take an image on January 21,  then take a photo of the Moon on September 13 you will see a decent difference (you need to use exactly the same zoom enlargement, see Inconstant Moon for general instructions). In the past, I have used a simple point and shoot camera with an adapter for moon imaging as well as a DSLR. But what if you don't have these kinds of cameras? The solution is the mobile phone.

Modern mobile phones have amazing imaging ability. You can get decent images just by holding your mobile phone to the lens of the telescope. But this can be an exercise in frustration as you try and align the mobile phone lens with the telescope lens aperture.

The Mead mobile phone adapterMead mobile phone adapter with 25 mm lens in place

However, if you already have a tripod adapter for the mobile phone, you can use it with a telescope camera adapter (top right image, far left adapter). You can also get a dedicated mobile phone adapter, there are several out there of varying prices (see here, here, here and here). I have a Meade adapter. It is mildly annoying but is good for my phone which has a very off centre lens.

You simply attach the adapter to the lens of your choice. I suggest a wide field lens like a 25 mm. It allows you to fit the whole moon in and is very forgiving if your scope and finder scope are slightly out of alignment.

Assembled with the mobile phone in place, alignment needs to be adjustedAssembled on telescope

One the phone is assembled on the adapter you will need to adjust the alignment so the entire aperture is visible in the phone, then you can pop the assembly on the telescope. If I am doing this at night, I use my red-light torch to set up the alignment before assembly by shining it into the lens (trying to do in on the scope is an exercise in frustration).

Hint: make sure you do this over a soft surface if the phone falls off it won't smash then.

For a full Moon, you shouldn't need to go from manual to auto. But it is more satisfying if you do. Most mobiles now have a full suite of manual settings (the location of the manual controls are very variable between mobile phones, check yours out in advance). Change autofocus to manual and use the landscape/infinity setting. Choose an iso around  400 and a shutter speed as fast as possible the give you a decent image (I use around 1/1000 to 1/2000 sec).

Unless you have a guided scope the Moons image will drift so a rapid shutter speed will reduce the blurring. Even with a guided scope fats shutter speeds will give sharper images due to reduced atmospheric blurring.

"Super Blue Moon" Total Lunar eclipse of 1 February 1:12 am. Sony Xepria 1/500th sec exposure ASA 400. This is a perigee Moon"Mini Moon" Total Lunar Eclipse of 28 July, 4:25 am. Sony Xepria 1/2000th sec exposure ASA 400. This is an apogee Moon. Note the clear difference in size between the two (same image scale and zoom factor)

The images above were taken with my Sony Xperia mobile phone.

Don't worry if you can't nip down to your local astronomy shop today to get an adaptor, try the holding the phone up to the lens arrangement as a practice for the February 19 perigee Moon, and purchase an adapter after you have done a bit of research on prices.

With an adapter, you can  broaden you astrophotography horizons so much (eclipses and some of the brighter clusters are now accessible to you)

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday January 17 to Thursday January 24

The Full Moon is Monday, January 21. This is a perigee full Moon. Mars is visible low in the evening skies. Venus is bright in the morning sky and Jupiter below is closing in on it. The pair are closest on the 23rd. Saturn climbs higher in the morning sky.

The Full Moon is Monday, January 21. This is a perigee full Moon, also called a "super Moon" (although perigee is technically the next day, the full Moon of February  19 is closer to perigee). There is also a total Lunar eclipse, but this will not be seen in Australia.


Morning twilight sky on Wednesday, January 23 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:40 ACDST (40 minutes before sunrise). Venus is bright and is at its  closest to Jupiter.  Saturn is low to the horizon. The left upper insert inset shows the telescopic view of Venus at this time. the lower insert shows the telescopic view of Jupiter at the same scale.

Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (45 minutes before sunrise)

Evening sky on  Saturday, January 19 as seen looking west from Adelaide at 22:12 ACDST (90 minutes after sunset). Mars is the brightest object above the western horizon.

Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).






Chart comparing the binocular/telescopic appearance of the January 21 2019  Full Perigee Moon with the apogee Moon of  September 13 2019 .This year's perigee Moon on January 21will be slightly smaller than the February one. Click to embiggen.

What can you expect to see with the "Super Moon" of  January 21 ?

Not much really, unless you are a regular observer of the Moon, have good visual acuity and a good memory.

The problem is, while the Moon is close this time around, it doesn't actually translate into something you can easily see with your unaided eye. Mondays Full Moon will be around 14% larger and 30% brighter than September's apogee Full Moon.So unless you have a good memory, you won't wee much (but it will be a good opportunity to photograph the full Moon, then again in September and compare the images.

 Venus climbs higher in the morning skies and Jupiter is heading towards it. The pair are closest on the 23rd.

Mercury  is lost in the twilight

Jupiter  climbs higher in the morning sky heading towards Venus. The pair are closest on the 23rd.


Mars is in Pisces and is readily seen as the brightest object in the western evening sky. Mars sets just before midnight.

Saturn is climbs higher in the morning sky although it is still quite  low.

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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Friday, January 11, 2019

 

100 hours of Astronomy - Morning View (12-13 Jaunary)

Morning sky on Saturday, January 12 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:09 ACDST (60 minutes before sunrise). Venus is bright and is coming close to Jupiter. The left upper insert inset shows the telescopic view of Venus at this time. The lower insert shows the approximate view of Jupiter and its moons at at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise). Venus and Jupiter are to the same scale, click to embiggen.>Morning sky on Sunday, January 13 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:09 ACDST (60 minutes before sunrise). Venus is bright and near to Jupiter (wath them over the coming week as they get closer). The left upper insert inset shows the telescopic view of Venus at this time. The right insert shows the approximate view of Jupiter and its moons at at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise)


I hope you all are enjoying the 100 hours of Astronomy. I've had some clear nights, and done some lunar imaging, but the mornings are nice too, with bright Jupiter and Venus coming closer together, nestled under the body of the Scorpion and the bright red star Antares. So if you are up early, have a look!

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

 

The 100 Hours of Astronomy starts Tonight! (10 January 2019)

The 100 hours of Astronomy is an international astronomical event where amateurs and professionals get to hare their love of and joy in Astronomy in a 100 hour round the world - round the clock celebration from 10 -13 January. This is part of the celebrations for 100 years of the International Astronomical Union.

While there are official events world wide, there seem to be only two official events in Australia. However, if you look up the list of Australian Astronomical Societies at the Quasar Publishing site, you may find a public viewing day near you at this time (eg the South Australian Astronomical society has two, one on the 11th and one on the 12th). Sadly, many others don't as people are away for the holidays.

Even if there are no official events you can enjoy the sky yourself (or with family as friends). If you go out right now the crescent Moon is gracing the evening skies, beautiful in binoculars (and a good telescope target if you have a telescope lying about to dust of), and on the 12th and 13th the waxing but still fairly crescenty Moon is close to Mars.

As well, the southern sky is well worth looking at with either the unaided eye, binoculars or a telescope. The area between the Southern Cross and the False cross is particularly delightful. This is also a good time to view the girls gathering vegetables (Mankamankarranna to the peoples of the Adelaide Plains, or the Pleiades to the Greeks) and Tinniinyarra, the youths hunting kangaroos (Orion to the ancient Greeks).

Evening sky on Thursday, January 10 as seen looking west from Adelaide at 22:13 ACDST (90 minutes after sunset). Mars is the brightest object above the western horizon aside from the crescent Moon. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).Evening sky on Saturday, January 12 as seen looking west from Adelaide at 22:15 ACDST (90 minutes after sunset). Mars is the brightest object above the western horizon and is close to the near First Quarter Moon. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).Evening sky on Sunday, January 13 as seen looking west from Adelaide at 22:15 ACDST (90 minutes after sunset). Mars is the brightest object above the western horizon and is close to the near First Quarter Moon. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).



Evening sky on  Saturday, January 12 as seen looking South-east from Adelaide at 22:15 ACDST (90 minutes after sunset).

Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).

This weekend is a perfect time to observe our wonderful southern sky. The Moon is a waxing crescent so this is still an excellent time to look at the wonderful clusters and nebula of our southern skies with the unaided eye or binoculars.

The Milky way stretches from the Southern cross (Wilto the Eagle to the people of the Adelaide Plains) in the south to the distinctive constellation of Orion and beyond. The Milky ways' satellite dwarf galaxies, the Magellanic clouds, (between and below the bright stars Canopus and Achernar) are easily seen away from the city lights. This is the last week to get a good look at these wonders before the Moon's light washes them out.

Approximate Binocular view of the area between the Southern Cross and the False cross Saturday, January 12 as seen l at 22:15 ACDST (90 minutes after sunset). The distinctive open cluster, the Southern Pleiades, is seen around theta (θ) Carina (near top center).


Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).





Evening sky on  Saturday, January 12 as seen looking north from Adelaide at 22:15 ACDST (90 minutes after sunset). The constellation of Orion (Tinniinyarra) dominates the northern sky, closer to the horizon, just to the west of the A shape of the Hyades is the delightful Pleiades cluster (Mankamankarranna).

Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).

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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

 

iTelescope ALERT! Asteroid (6478) Gault has a tail!

Asteroid (6478) Gault as seen at 3:36 Local time for Mayhill, New Mexico, when it is at transit. The Comet is near nu (ν) Hydrae not far from Crater . Click to embiggen.Asteroid (6478) Gault as seen at 4:37 Local time for SSO, Siding Spring, when it is at transit (astronomical twilight starts at 4:33). The Comet is near nu (ν) Hydrae not far from Crater . Click to embiggen.

Telescope view of Asteroid (6478) Gault. The large square is the field of View of T30 (SSO) and the small that of T17 (SSO) the medium rectangle is T5 (Mayhill). The orientation is upside down from the spotters maps.

Asteroid (6478) Gault has been reported to have a comet like tail, from CBET 4594 “The tail/trail first appears in individual ATLAS exposures on 2018 Dec. 8, as identified by Denneau, with a median combined 120-s exposure showing a tail 30" long in p.a. 290 degrees. There is no evidence of a tail in previous ATLAS imaging in January 2018. An initial analysis using a cometary Finson-Probstein model (cf. website URL http://comet-toolbox.com/FP.html, as perJ.-B. Vincent) shows that both the Dec. 2018 and Jan. 2019 data are consistent with the ejection of material or commencement of activity in early Nov. 2018”. Previous images from ATLAS and PanSTARRS show no cometary-like activity back to 2010.

It has been suggested a collision or impact is responsible for the tail. Ongoing observation of the phenomenon should be undertaken to understand its nature.

Asteroid (6478) Gault is visible from both Northern and southern scopes from with transit around 3:30 am (northernscopes) and 4:30 am (Southern scopes), however, this is just past astronomical twilight at SSO, so imaging should begin before this. The Southern scopes have the best view with the asteroid potentially visible from 12:30 am local time.

Asteroid (6478) Gault is currently magnitude 18.7, and will need long exposures on narrow field scopes with tracking for the best results.


Image of Asteroid (6478) Gault by Ulrich Eberhard Stickel using iTelesope T30, 300sec BIN2. Please do not use without his permission.

iTelescope users Ulrich Eberhard Stickel and Denis Denisenko have achieved images with T30 from SSO. Denis Denisenko's is at this link: http://scan.sai.msu.ru/~denis/Comet/6478-T30-20190108.jpg










The MPC one line ephemeris is:

06478   14.4   0.15 K194R 289.34905   83.26761  183.55769   22.81135  0.1935870  0.28161558   2.3051451  0 MPO435760  1093  19 1988-2018 0.44 M-v 38h MPC        0000   (6478) Gault              20180209


Example plan for following the asteroid, check filter availability.

;
; Single target image example, adjust filter as necessary for chosen scope. 
; 

#trackon
#count 3
#interval 300
#binning 2
#filter Red
06478   14.4   0.15 K194R 289.34905   83.26761  183.55769   22.81135  0.1935870  0.28161558   2.3051451  0 MPO435760  1093  19 1988-2018 0.44 M-v 38h MPC        0000   (6478) Gault              20180209
#shutdown

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