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Thursday, March 26, 2015

 

Total Lunar Eclipse, April 4, 2015

Eastern horizon as seen from Sydney on  4 April at 9:15 pm AEDST. The eclipse is just about to begin. Click to embiggenEastern horizon as seen from Adelaide on  4 April at 8:45 pm ACDST . The eclipse is just starting. Click to embiggenEastern horizon as seen from Perth on  4 April at 6:15 pm AWST. The eclipse is about to start. Click to embiggen
Above the North-Eastern horizon as seen from Sydney on  4 April at 10:54 pm AEDST. The total eclipse has just begun . Click to embiggenNorth-Eastern horizon as seen from Adelaide on  4 April at 10:24 pm ACDST. The total eclipse has just begun . Click to embiggenEastern horizon as seen from Perth on  4 April at 8:00 pm AWST. The total eclipse is just about midway. Click to embiggen

On the evening of 4 April there there be a total eclipse of the Moon, the only Lunar eclipse seen from Australia, and the last we will see until 2018. The 4 April eclipse starts after twilight has ended in the eastern and central states. In Western Australia the partial phase occurs shortly after sunset, and totality starts when the sky is fully dark. Totality is short, only 12 minutes long for this eclipse. See timings table below.

You don't need special filters or fancy equipment to watch the lunar eclipse, you just need your eyes and somewhere comfortable to sit and watch. Binoculars or a telescope are a plus, but not necessary.
A guide to taking photos of the eclipse is here.

On the East coast, the eclipse starts after when the sky is quite dark at 8:15 pm AEST (9:15 pm AEDST) and Totality is at 9:54 pm AEST (10:54 pm AEDST), so the Moon will appear to be a burnished copper disk in a dark sky full of stars. As totality fades you will see the stars extinguish.

In the central states the eclipse starts just after Astronomical twilight at 7:45 pm ACST (8:45 pm ACDST) and Totality begins at 9:24 pm ACST (10:24 pm ACDST). Central states will also see the eclipsed Moon in all its coppery glory and the stars fade as the Moon returns.

In WA, the eclipse starts in the just after sunset, but totality will occur when the sky is fully dark. The eclipse starts at 6:15 pm AWST and Totality begins at 7:54 pm AWST.

The eclipse occurs reasonably high in the sky and is good viewing from almost anywhere. It finishes a bit late for the kids though.

New Zealand sees the eclipse late in the evening and the early morning of the following day.

See here for a map and contact timings in UT for sites outside Australia.

City Moonrise Eclipse Start Totality Start Maximum Eclipse Totality End Eclipse End
Adelaide (ACDST) 7:00 pm 8:45 pm 10:24 pm 10:30 pm 10:36 pm 00:15 am
Alice Springs (ACST) 6:25  pm 7:45 pm 9:24 pm 9:33 pm 9:36 pm 10:15 pm
Auckland (NZT) 6:00 pm 10:15 pm 11:53 pm 12:00 am 12:06 am 01:44 am
Brisbane (AEST) 5:34 pm 8:15 pm 9:54 pm 10:00 pm 10:06 pm 11:45 pm
Cairns (AEST) 6:06 pm 8:15 pm 9:54 pm 10:00 pm 10:06 pm 11:45 pm
Canberra (AEDST) 7:47 pm 9:15 pm 10:54 pm 11:00 pm 11:06  pm 00:45  am
Christchurch (NZT) 6:06 pm 10:15 pm 11:53 pm 12:00 am 12:06 am 01:44 am
Darwin (ACST) 6:42 pm 7:45 pm 9:24 pm 9:33 pm 9:36 pm 10:15 pm
Hobart (AEDST) 6:51 pm 9:15 pm 10:54 pm 11:00 pm 11:06 pm 00:45  am
Melbourne (AEDST) 7:02 pm 9:15 pm 10:54 pm 11:00 pm 11:06 pm 00:45  am
Perth (AWST) 6:05 pm 6:15 pm 7:54 pm 8:00 pm 8:06 pm 9:45 pm
Rockhampton (AEST) 5:46 pm 8:15 pm 9:54 pm 10:00 pm 10:06 pm 11:45 pm
Sydney (AEDST) 6:39 pm 9:15 pm 10:54 pm 11:00 pm 11:06 pm 00:45  am
Townsville (AEST) 6:03 pm 8:15 pm 9:54 pm 10:00 pm 10:06 pm 11:45 pm

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday March 26 to Thursday April 2

The First Quarter Moon is Friday March 27. Venus is prominent in the twilight evening sky. Mars is lost in the twilight. Jupiter is the brightest object in the evening sky once Venus has set. Jupiter is visited by the Moon on the 30th. Saturn is in the head of the Scorpion and now visible in the evening. Mercury is lost to view.

The New Moon is Friday March 20. The Moon is at apogee, when it is furthest from the Earth, on April 1st.

Evening sky on Saturday March 28 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 20:00 (8:00 pm) ACDST in South Australia.  Mars is low in the twilight, with Venus above it heading towards the Pleiades. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Venus is easy to see low above the western horizon in the twilight. At civil twilight, half an hour after sunset, it is around one and a half hand-spans above the horizon. On the 22nd the thin crescent Moon is below Venus, and then on the 23rd it is above Venus.

Mars  is low in the western twilight sky and is effectively lost to view.

Evening sky on Monday March 30 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACDST showing Jupiter.  The inset shows Jupiter's Moons at this time. Jupiter is the brightest object above the northern horizon. (click to embiggen).

 Jupiter  is now easily seen  in the evening sky. It is the brightest object above the north-eastern horizon when twilight ends, and continues into the northern sky as the night goes on. It is between the bright star Regulus in the sickle of Leo (this forms the head of the constellation of the  Lion) and Pollux in Cancer. It is also not far from the rather nice Beehive cluster in Cancer, and looks very good in binoculars.

Jupiter was  at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest in our sky, on 7 February, but it will be an excellent object for may weeks to come.  Jupiter is visible all night and is high enough for decent telescopic observation from around 10 pm. Jupiter's Moons will be putting on a good display in both binoculars and small telescopes.

On the 30th, The Moon is close to Jupiter. On April 1st from around 10:00 pm, Io's shadow traverses Jupiter's disk.

Evening sky on Saturday March 28 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 23:00 ACDST .  Saturn is now visible above the horizon. (click to embiggen).

Saturn climbs still higher in the morning sky. It is now easily visible before midnight  near the head of the constellation of the Scorpion not far from the bright red star Antares. The sight of the distinctive constellation of the Scorpion curled above the horizon, with bright Saturn in its head, is very nice indeed.

Saturn is  readily visible from around 23:00, but is still best after midnight.

Mercury is lost in the twilight.
 
There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Jupiter just past opposition and Saturn rising. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

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

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

 

Nova Sagittarii 2015 No. 2 Still Bright

Nova Sagittarii 2015 No. 2 in the lid of the teapot of Sagittarius. This is a stack of 10x15 second exposures, ASA 400, 3x Zoom with my Canon IXUS, taken on 21 March at 5:10 am, click to embiggenChart of the same area showing the reference stars. click to embiggen and compare with the actual image.

PNV J18365700-2855420, is now Nova Sagittarii 2015 No. 2 (because there was an earlier nova in Sagittarius). It is a classic nova based on its spectrum.


Light curve of  Nova Sagittarii 2015 No. 2.

There were reports of it being magnitude 4.4, which makes it one of the brightest nova since nova Centauri 2013. It looks like it is fading now, but still above the unaided eye threshold. It is possible it may flare up again like nova Centauri 2013 and nova Delphinus 2013.

Nova Sagittarii 2015 No. 2 taken with iTelescope T12 on 19 March, single 60 second exposure. click to embiggen. compare with my earlier shot.

Cloud and timing have been my foe for this nova, I caught it once on the 21st at 5:00am, when it was just visible to the averted eye. Lack of decent reference stars at the time suggested it was around magnitude 5. Then on the 22nd I was able to see it only in twilight with binoculars, but it was very distinctive, altering the shape of the teapot asterism.

While it is still bright it is worth getting up in the morning for a look. Observing charts are here.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

 

Aurora Watch and Geomagnetic Alert (22-23 March)

After 2 nights of aurora (with some activity seen by die-hard observers on the 19th) we have yet another Aurora Watch issued by the Australian IPS for the  22nd (yes tonight) and the 23rd due to increased solar wind speed from a Coronal Hole. Geomagnetic activity is rate at only "unsettled to active" rather than storm levels, and aurora, if they occur, are likely to be seen only in Tasmania.

Aurora can occur at any time after nightfall (although around midnight or just after seems to be common). Dark sky sites have the best chance of seeing anything, and always allow around 5 minutes for your eyes to become dark adapted.

As always look to the south for shifting red/green glows, beams have been reported too. In the last display proton arcs were seen to the west of the main display.

The all sky aurora camera in Southern Tasmania at Cressy may be helpful),
http://www.ips.gov.au/Geophysical/4/2
SUBJ: IPS AURORA WATCH
ISSUED AT 2305 UT ON 21 Mar 2015 BY IPS RADIO AND SPACE SERVICES
FROM THE AUSTRALIAN SPACE FORECAST CENTRE

Geomagnetic activity could result in auroras visible from Tasmania
during local nighttime hours 22-23 Mar. Aurora alerts will follow
should favourable space weather activity eventuate.

Due to elevated solar wind speed and increased IMF magnitude,
there is the possibility of minor storm periods 22-23 Mar if
IMF Bz turns southward.

INCREASED GEOMAGNETIC ACTIVITY EXPECTED
DUE TO CORONAL HOLE HIGH SPEED WIND STREAM
FROM 22-23 MARCH 2015
 GEOMAGNETIC ACTIVITY FORECAST
22 Mar:  Unsettled to Active
23 Mar:  Unsettled to Active

http://www.ips.gov.au

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Friday, March 20, 2015

 

Viewing Today's Solar Eclipse (20 March 2015)

The total Solar Eclipse of 20 March in the Northern Hemisphere is a long one, due to the perigee full Moon. Unfortunately the track of totality largely misses land. It is effectively only visible in the Fareo Islands and Svalbard Islands. A lot of the Northern Hemisphere sees a decent partial eclipse though.

While we in the Southen Hemisphere don't see any of this, there are a couple of live webcasts of the eclipse to help us enjoy it vicariously.

SLOOH observatory webcast (starts 8:30 UT, 19:30 AEDST, 19:00 ACDST, 18:30 AEST and 16:30 AWST) http://live.slooh.com/stadium/live/the-total-solar-eclipse-of-2015

Space.com webcast (starts same time as SLOOH) http://www.space.com/19195-night-sky-planets-asteroids-webcasts.html

Virtual telescope webcast (starts 8:00 UT) http://www.virtualtelescope.eu/



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

 

Aurora Happening NOW (9:14 pm 18 March)

Last night was the most spectacular auroral display we have seen for probably 10 years, despite most of Southern Australia being clouded out, aurora were seen in Vic, SA, WA, NSW and even (faintly) Southern QLD.

Tonight is unlikely to repeat this experience, but there is an aurora watch from the IPS and reports of aurora are trickling in.

Aurora have been reported in Invercargil NZ, Tasmania (Howden, Mobray, visible to the unaided eye), Victor Harbour (SA, ?camera only) and possibly Swan Hill (Vic). The Kp index is currently 3 Australia wide and 4 in Tasmania, so aurora may be decent tonight but unlikely to repeat last nights spectacle (Bz isn't negative at the moment, so unlikely to reach QLD this time or NSW).

Dark sky sites have the best chance of seeing aurora, and always allow around 5 minutes for your eyes to become dark adapted. As always look to the south for shifting red/green glows. The aurora may come and go as the night goes on, so keep looking.

The all sky aurora camera in Southern Tasmania at Cressy is still playing up http://www.ips.gov.au/Geophysical/4/2SUBJ: IPS AURORA WATCH
ISSUED AT 0100 UT ON 18 Mar 2015 BY IPS RADIO AND SPACE SERVICES
FROM THE AUSTRALIAN SPACE FORECAST CENTRE

A recent Coronal Mass Ejection impact resulted in significant space
weather activity and visible auroras during local nighttime hours on
17-Mar. Further aurora sightings during local nighttime hours on
18-Mar are possible.

Further monitoring at
http://www.ips.gov.au

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

 

My First Image of Nova Sagittarius

PNV J18365700-2855420, now confirmed to be a nova, imaged at around 4:00 am this morning (17-03-15) with iTelescope T12. Cropped down from the original file. Click to embiggen

 The image didn't have good comparison stars, all I can say is that it is brighter than magnitude 6.3. It will be interesting to watch it develop over the next few days.

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The Sky This Week - Thursday March 19 to Thursday March 26

The New Moon is Friday March 20. Venus is prominent in the twilight evening sky and is visited by the Moon on the 22nd and 23rd. Mars is lost in the twilight. Jupiter is the brightest object in the late evening sky. Saturn is in the head of the Scorpion. Mercury is getting lower in the morning sky and is visited by the Moon on the 19th. Unaided-eye nova in morning sky. Globe at Night light pollution survey concludes.

The New Moon is Friday March 20. The Moon is at perigee, when it is closest to the Earth on the 20th. Earth is at equinox on the 21st, when day and night are roughly equal in length.

Evening sky on Monday March 23 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 20:00 (8:00 pm) ACDST in South Australia.  Mars is low in the twilight, with Venus above it and the crescent Moon above Venus. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Venus is easy to see low above the western horizon in the twilight. At civil twilight, half an hour after sunset, it is around one and a half hand-spans above the horizon. On the 22nd the thin crescent Moon is below Venus, and then on the 23rd it is above Venus.

Mars  is low in the western twilight sky and is effectively lost to view.

Evening sky on Saturday March 21 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACDST showing Jupiter.  The inset shows Jupiter's Moons at 01:00 on the 24th. Jupiter is the brightest object above the north-eastern to northern horizon. (click to embiggen).

 Jupiter  is now easily seen  in the evening sky. It is the brightest object above the north-eastern horizon when twilight ends, and continues into the northern sky as the night goes on. It is between the bright star Regulus in the sickle of Leo (this forms the head of the constellation of the  Lion) and Pollux in Cancer. It is also not far from the rather nice Beehive cluster in Cancer, and looks very good in binoculars.

Jupiter was  at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest in our sky, on 7 February, but it will be an excellent object for may weeks to come.  Jupiter is visible all night and is high enough for decent telescopic observation from around 10 pm. Jupiter's Moons will be putting on a good display in both binoculars and small telescopes.

On the 24th from around midnight, Callisto comes out of eclipse, Io traverses Jupiter's disk as does Ganymede's shadow.

Morning sky on Thursday March 19 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:30 am ACDST .  Mercury is reasonably high above the horizon and close to the crescent Moon. (click to embiggen).

Saturn climbs still higher in the morning sky. It is now easily visible well before twilight near the head of the constellation of the Scorpion not far from the bright red star Antares. The sight of the distinctive constellation of the Scorpion curled above the horizon, with bright Saturn in its head, is very nice indeed.

Saturn is now rising  before midnight, but is still best after midnight.

Mercury is lowering in the morning twilight and and this week is the last where it is  reasonably easy to see at around a hand-span above the horizon an hour before sunrise. On the 19th it is visited by the crescent Moon.

A new bright nova has been detected in Sagittarius. Visible only in the early morning, it is just on the threshold of unaided eye visibility, and may get brighter, but is easy to see in  binoculars. Detailed instructions and charts for viewing are here.

The Globe at Night light pollution survey for March will finish on the 20th. 
 
There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Jupiter just past opposition. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

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

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.

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Aurora Happening NOW (8:22 pm 17 March)

Hobart
 K-Index plot diagramSignificant unaided eye aurora have been reported in New Zealand and Goulburn NSW (!!!!!). A large part of Southern Australia is currently under cloud, however, the Kp index is currently 6 (very good for aurora), if this lasts, SA and WA have a chance of seeing aurora. Dark sky sites have the best chance of seeing aurora, and always allow around 5 minutes for your eyes to become dark adapted. As always look to the south for shifting red/green glows. The aurora may come and go as the night goes on, so keep looking.

The all sky aurora camera in Tasmania at Cressy is playing up, the green is not aurora,
<http://www.ips.gov.au/Geophysical/4/2> http://www.ips.gov.au/Geophysical/4/2Further monitoring at
http://www.ips.gov.au

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