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Thursday, February 23, 2017

 

Astrophiz Podcast 28 is Out

Astrophiz Podcast 28 is out now. 

Our feature interview is with Fiona Panther who is a PhD student and the Joan Duffield Scholar at the Australian National University's Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Canberra, Australia. Fiona is using computational astrophysics and working on using peculiar supernova to try and understand how positions are created in excess in our Galaxy. Fiona also explains Fermi Bubbles

In ‘What’s up Doc?’ I tell you what to look for in the night sky this week using naked eye, binoculars or telescopes, and all the action is currently down near the horizon.

In the news:
NASA, working with Spitzer, Hubble and the ESO’s VLT, have just announced that 7 exoplanets have been discovered, three of them in the habitable zone around TRAPPIST-1, a dwarf star only 39 light years away.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday February 23 to Thursday March 2

The New Moon is Monday February 27.  Venus is bright low in the twilight sky. Mars is just above Venus. Mars is close to Uranus on the 27th. The Moon forms a triangle with Mars and Venus on March 1. Jupiter and the bright star Spica are close in the late evening skies. Saturn is high in the morning sky.

The New Moon is Monday February 27.

Evening sky on Wednesday March 1 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 20:18 ACDST (30 minutes after sunset). Venus, Mars and the crescent Moon form a triangle . The inset shows the telescopic view of Venus at this time.

 Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (that is 30 minutes after local sunset, click to embiggen).

Venus  is low in the dusk sky although intensely bright. After being a feature of the evening sky for so long, it is now rapidly heading towards the horizon and will soon be lost in the twilight.

It can be seen easily from somewhat before half an hour after sunset to just after half an hour after sunset. It is dazzlingly brilliant above the horizon in the early twilight and is a distinct crescent shape.

On the 28th the thin crescent Moon is nearby Venus, but will be hard to see in the twilight.  The Moon forms a triangle with Mars and Venus on March 1. and the Moon is above Mars forming a line with Venus and Mars on the 2nd.

Mars is in the western evening skies in  Pisces. Mars remains in a star poor area but on the 26th and 27th Mars and Uranus are closer than a finger-with apart and easily seen together in binoculars and in medium power telescope eye-pieces. Unfortunately Mars and Uranus are getting close to the horiozn, so you will need to look around an hour after sunset, before the sky is fully dark. Still, Uranus is bright enough to spot as a dot in binoculars, although you will really need a telescope to bring out the blue-green colour of Uranus next to the red of Mars.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  2016 and is still visibly dimming. While still brighter than any of the nearby stars, it is much faded and not immediately obvious, It is no longer a modest telescope object. Mars is visible most of the evening setting before midnight. In small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but tiny, gibbous disk, however you are unlikely to  see its markings.

Late evening sky on Saturday February 25 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 23:30 ACDST.  Jupiter is now rising before midnight. It is close to the bright star Spica. The inset shows the telescopic view of Jupiter at 1:12 am as Europa is about to disappear nto eclipse. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter is rising just before midnight, but remains low to the horizon this week and is still better in the early morning. It is close to the bright star Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. Jupiter is a good telescopic target from around 1 am, and the dance of its Moons is visible even in binoculars. The following Jupiter events are in AEDST.

Thu 23 Feb 2:41 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Thu 23 Feb 6:03 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Thu 23 Feb 22:32 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Fri 24 Feb 5:43 Gan: Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Sat 25 Feb 1:12 Eur: Disappears into Eclipse 
Sat 25 Feb 4:19 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Sat 25 Feb 5:23 Eur: Reappears from Occultation 
Sun 26 Feb 0:10 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Sun 26 Feb 23:29 Eur: Transit Ends 
Mon 27 Feb 5:05 Io : Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Mon 27 Feb 5:57 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Mon 27 Feb 5:57 Io : Transit Begins               ST 
Mon 27 Feb 22:19 Gan: Reappears from Eclipse 
Mon 27 Feb 23:31 Gan: Disappears into Occultation 
Tue 28 Feb 1:27 Gan: Reappears from Occultation 
Tue 28 Feb 1:48 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Tue 28 Feb 2:12 Io : Disappears into Eclipse 
Tue 28 Feb 5:14 Io : Reappears from Occultation 
Tue 28 Feb 23:33 Io : Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Wed  1 Mar  00:23   Io : Transit Begins               ST
Wed  1 Mar  01:45   Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T
Wed  1 Mar  02:33   Io : Transit Ends                 
Wed  1 Mar  23:41   Io : Reappears from Occultation   
Thu  2 Mar  03:26   GRS: Crosses Central Meridian

Morning  sky on Saturday February 25 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:34 ACDST (90 minutes before sunrise). Saturn is reasonably high above the horizon.

The inset shows the telescopic view of Saturn at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes before sunrise). (click to embiggen).

 Saturn rises higher in darker morning skies this week. Saturn is now high enough above eastern horizon to see easily. It continues to climb into darker skies as the week progresses.

The constellation of Scorpio is a good guide to locating Saturn. The distinctive curl of Scorpio is easy to see above the eastern horizon, locate the bright red star, Antares, and the look below that towards the horizon, the next bright object is Saturn.
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, February 16, 2017

 

Mira nears Maximum

Westen horizon at 22:00 ACDST showing Mira and the other bright stars of Cetus. Stack of 9x15 second exposers 400 ASA, Canon IXUS. Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker. Stellaium view of the western horizon at astronomical twilight, the location of Mira is indicated by the circle.


Mira (omicron ceti), a star in the constellation of Cetus the whale, is a long period pulsating red giant and changes brightness from below naked eye visibility to a peak of round magnitude 2 (roughly as bright as beta Crucis in the Southern Cross) in around 330 days. Mira is predicted to peak with maximum of 3.4 around 23 February.

This image is the first time I've been able to capture Mira this cycle.  Mira, bespite being low to the horizon, is already quite bright, around at least magnitude 3.7 (close to the brightness of Baten Kaitos, zeta (ζ) Ceti. Unfortunately, as it approaches peak brightness on the 23rd, it comes closer to the horizon.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

 

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

The Last Quarter Moon is Sunday February 19.  Venus is prominent in the twilight sky in the star poor regions of Pisces. Mars is just above Venus. Jupiter and the bright star Spica are close in the late evening skies. Saturn is high in the morning sky and is close to the crescent Moon on the 21st..

The Last Quarter Moon is Sunday February 19. The Moon is at apogee (when it is furthest from the Earth) at this time.

Evening sky on Saturday February 18 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:09 ACDST (60 minutes after sunset). Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line. The inset shows the telescopic view of Venus at this time.

 Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (that is 60 minutes after local sunset, click to embiggen).

Venus  is high in the dusk sky and intensely bright. After being a feature of the evening sky for so long, it is now rapidly heading towards the horizon.

It can be seen easily from somewhat before half an hour after sunset to an hour after sunset. It is dazzlingly brilliant above the horizon in the late twilight. Venus has been mistaken for flares or landing aeroplanes it is so bright now.

Venus is in a very star poor field in Pisces and is a distinct crescent shape in telescopes.

Mars is in the western evening skies in  Pisces. Mars remains in a star poor area.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  2016 and is still visibly dimming. While still brighter than any of the nearby stars, it is much faded and not immediately obvious, It is no longer a modest telescope object. Mars is visible most of the evening setting before midnight. In small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but tiny, gibbous disk, however you are unlikely to  see its markings.

Sky on Saturday February 18 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 23:30 ACDST.  Jupiter is now rising before midnight. It is close to the bright star Spica. The inset shows the telescopic view of Jupiter at 2:32 am as Erupa appears from behind Jupiter. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter is rising just before midnight, but remains low to the horizon this week and is still better in the early morning. It is close to the bright star Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. Jupiter is a good telescopic target from around 1 am, and the dance of its Moons is visible even in binoculars. The following Jupiter events are in AEDST.

Thu 16 Feb 1:56 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Thu 16 Feb 3:28 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Thu 16 Feb 5:35 Eur: Transit Begins               ST 
Thu 16 Feb 5:58 Eur: Shadow Transit Ends          T 
Fri 17 Feb 1:45 Gan: Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Fri 17 Feb 4:18 Gan: Shadow Transit Ends 
Fri 17 Feb 6:05 Gan: Transit Begins               T 
Sat 18 Feb 3:02 Eur: Reappears from Occultation 
Sat 18 Feb 3:34 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Sat 18 Feb 23:25 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Sun 19 Feb 5:50 Io : Disappears into Eclipse 
Mon 20 Feb 3:11 Io : Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Mon 20 Feb 4:10 Io : Transit Begins               ST 
Mon 20 Feb 5:12 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Mon 20 Feb 5:23 Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T 
Mon 20 Feb 6:20 Io : Transit Ends 
Tue 21 Feb 0:19 Io : Disappears into Eclipse 
Tue 21 Feb 1:03 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Tue 21 Feb 3:27 Io : Reappears from Occultation 
Tue 21 Feb 22:37 Io : Transit Begins               ST 
Tue 21 Feb 23:52 Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T 
Wed 22 Feb 0:47 Io : Transit Ends 
Wed 22 Feb 6:50 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Thu 23 Feb 2:41 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Thu 23 Feb 6:03 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Thu 23 Feb 22:32 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 

Morning  sky on Tuesday February 21 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:17 ACDST (90 minutes before sunrise). Saturn is reasonably high above the horizon and close to the Moon. The inset shows the telescopic view of Saturn at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes before sunrise). (click to embiggen).

 Saturn rises higher in darker morning skies this week. Saturn is now high enough above eastern horizon to see easily. It continues to climb into darker skies as the week progresses.

The constellation of Scorpio is a good guide to locating Saturn. The distinctive curl of Scorpio is easy to see above the eastern horizon, locate the bright red star, Antares, and the look below that towards the horizon, the next bright object is Saturn. The crescent Moon is close to Saturn on Tuesday February 21.

Mercury is  lost in the twilight.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

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

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

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Monday, February 13, 2017

 

My Images of the Occultation of Regulus (11 February, 2017)

Occultation of Regulus, showing Regulus getting closer to the Moon from 11:20:44 until 11:42:37 ACSDT, just before disappearance. I had to overexpose the Moon to see image Regulus clearly, and have overlain a normally exposed image of the Moon for reference. Click to embiggen.Animation of the frames in the previous panel, click to embiggen.
The Moon and Regulus at 11:43:20 I have zoomed in compared to the images above (click to embiggen as Regulus is harder to see due to the Moons light)The Moon and Regulus at 11:43:38 with Regulus just touching the Moon's surface. (click to embiggen as Regulus is harder to see due to the Moons light)

After a disappointing morning, where comet 45P was completely clouded out, I was resigned to the occulataion of Regulus being clouded out. With intermittent cloud coming over, I set up the 4" Newtonian with my Canon IXUS in infinity to infinity mode of a 20 mm eyepiece (rather than the 8" with time drive and CCD cam).

Despite the cloud I was able to get images of almost up to Regulus going behind the Moon (it was just touching) before the cloud came over and blocked my view. Given the cloud, I didn't hang around for egress but went to bed. While my recorded almost occulataion time was 11:43:38 and the predicted time was 11:42:40 my camera clock is not accurate enough for this kind of timing.

So a successful occultation campaign. Let's hope the May 4 occultation of Regulus is clear.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

 

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

The Full Moon is Saturday February 11, it occults the bright star Regulus at this time.  Venus is prominent in the twilight and early evening sky in the star poor regions of Pisces. Mars is just above Venus. Jupiter and the bright star Spica are close in the late evening skies. Saturn is high in the morning sky with Mercury close to the horizon below. Comet 45P may be visible in binoculars.


The Full Moon is Saturday February 11, it occults the bright star Regulus at this time.

The North-eastern horizon as seen from Adelaide at 23:00 ACDST, the bright star Regulus is close to the Moon just before it is occuted. Similar views will be seen elswhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen.

On the late evening of Saturday 11 February the bright star Regulus is occulted by the Moon as seen from the most of Australia. This is the first of two occultations of Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation of Leo the lion, this year. The Moon is a very obvious signpost for where to look and Regulus will be the brightest object near the Moon. Further details, viewing hints and timings for major cities can be found here.

Evening sky on Saturday February 11 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:17 ACDST (60 minutes after sunset). Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line. The inset shows the telescopic view of Venus at this time.

 Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (that is 60 minutes after local sunset, click to embiggen).

Venus  is high in the dusk sky and intensely bright. It can be seen easily from somewhat before half an hour after sunset to two hours after sunset. It stays dazzlingly brilliant above the horizon in truly dark skies well into the evening. Venus has been mistaken for flares or landing aeroplanes it is so bright now.

Venus is in a very star poor field in Pisces. Venus is a distinct "waning Moon" shape in telescopes.

Mars is in the western evening skies in  Pisces. Mars remains in a star poor area.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  2016 and is still visibly dimming. While still brighter than any of the nearby stars, it is much faded and not immediately obvious, It is no longer a modest telescope object. Mars is visible most of the evening setting before midnight. In small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but tiny, gibbous disk, however you are unlikely to  see its markings.

The North-east horizon as seen in Australia at 22:00 pm ACDST (an hour and a half after sunset) showing the location of Vesta on Saturday February 4 (similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time, and hour and a half after sunset, click to embiggen).

The asteroid Vesta is just past opposition, and this is a excellent time to see one of the biggest asteroids in the solar system. At magnitude 6.8 it is easily viewable in binoculars. It is above the north-eastern horizon, and the bright stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, form a triangle with it. Over the next few nights it will be between to kappa (𝛋) Geminorium and upsilon (𝜐) Geminorium making Vesta very easy of find. Kappa (𝛋) Geminorium is the next brightest star in almost a line with Castor and Pollux, which makes it a easy telescopic signpost. You may need to watch night to night as the asteroid moves to be sure of its identity. For more details and a printable map see this page.
Sky on Wednesday February 15 looking east as seen from Adelaide at midnight ACDST.  Jupiter is now rising before midnight. It is close to the bright star Spica and the waning Moon. The inset shows 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 rises even  higher into the morning skies this week. It is now well above the eastern horizon and is easy to see as the brightest object above the northern horizon from around an hour and a half before sunrise. It is also riging just before midnight, but remains low to the horizon this week. It is close to the bright star Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. Jupiter is a good telescopic target from around 1 am, and the dance of its Moons is visible even in binoculars. The following Jupiter events are in AEDST.

Thu 9 Feb 0:54 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Thu 9 Feb 1:10 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Thu 9 Feb 3:10 Eur: Transit Begins               ST 
Thu 9 Feb 3:24 Eur: Shadow Transit Ends          T 
Thu 9 Feb 5:31 Eur: Transit Ends 
Fri 10 Feb 0:22 Gan: Shadow Transit Ends 
Fri 10 Feb 2:27 Gan: Transit Begins               T 
Fri 10 Feb 4:28 Gan: Transit Ends 
Sat 11 Feb 0:38 Eur: Reappears from Occultation 
Sat 11 Feb 2:48 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Sat 11 Feb 6:50 Io : Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Sun 12 Feb 3:57 Io : Disappears into Eclipse 
Mon 13 Feb 1:18 Io : Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Mon 13 Feb 2:22 Io : Transit Begins               ST 
Mon 13 Feb 3:30 Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T 
Mon 13 Feb 4:27 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Mon 13 Feb 4:32 Io : Transit Ends 
Tue 14 Feb 0:18 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Tue 14 Feb 1:39 Io : Reappears from Occultation 
Tue 14 Feb 22:59 Io : Transit Ends 
Wed 15 Feb 6:05 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Thu 16 Feb 1:56 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Thu 16 Feb 3:28 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Thu 16 Feb 5:35 Eur: Transit Begins               ST 
Thu 16 Feb 5:58 Eur: Shadow Transit Ends          T 

Morning  sky on Saturday February 4 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:33 ACDST (60 minutes before sunrise). Saturn is reasonably high above the horizon with Mercury just below it . The inset shows the telescopic view of Saturn at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise). (click to embiggen).

 Saturn rises higher in darker morning skies this week. Saturn is now high enough above eastern horizon to see easily. It continues to climb into darker skies as the week progresses.

The constellation of Scorpio is a good guide to locating Saturn and Mercury. The distinctive curl of Scorpio is easy to see above the eastern horizon, locate the bright red star, Antares, and the look below that towards the horizon, the next bright object is Saturn, followed by Mercury.

Mercury is slowly returning towards the horizon, this week is the last that it will be easily visible, by the end of the week it will be lost in the twilight.

Comet 45P on February 11 facing north-east at astronomical twilight in the morning as seen for most of Australia. Click to embiggen.



Comet 45P is around magnitude 6.5 and is visible in binoculars and small telescopes in the early morning sky.  It is currently showing as a small fuzzy patch with no hint of a tail.

On February 11 the comet will be closest to Earth and the comet may be seen to move visibly during the morning skies.


For more details and printable charts see here.

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, February 07, 2017

 

Comet 45P is closest to Earth of February 11, 2017

Comet 45P on February 11 facing north-east at astronomical twilight in the morning as seen for most of Australia. Click to embiggen.

Comet 45P is around magnitude 6.5 and is visible in binoculars and small telescopes in the early morning sky.

It is currently showing as a small fuzzy patch with no hint of a tail.

On February 11 the comet will be closest to Earth and the comet may be seen to move visibly during the morning skies. The comet will be in between the bright star Arcturus and the bright planet Saturn close to the north-eastern horizon just a binocular field below the brightish star ß Herculis (see chart below). On the 13th it will almost be in the centre of the distinctive curved constellation of Corona Borealis

Chart of the track of 45P,  the large circle is the approximate field of view of 10x50 binoculars. Click to embiggen.

It rapidly fades after the 11th and by the end of February it is visible in telescopes only.

A B&W printable spotters map is available here . A B&W printable map suitable for binoculars is available here, the large circle is the approximate field of view of 10x50 binoculars.

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The Moon Occults Regulus (11 February-12 February 2017)

The North-eastern horizon as seen from Adelaide at 23:00 ACDST, the bright star Regulus is close to the Moon just before it os occuted. Similar views will be seen elswhere is Australia at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen. The Moon at 23:43 pm ACDST in Adelaide on Saturday 11 February just before the Moon covers Regulus.


On the late evening of Saturday 11 February the bright star Regulus is occulted by the Moon as seen from the most of Australia. This is the first of two occultations of Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation of Leo the lion, this year. The Moon is a very obvious signpost for where to look and Regulus will be the brightest object near the Moon. Start watching about half an hour before hand to get set up and become familiar with the sky. Although this event is easily seen with the unaided eye, given the brightness of the Moon the occultation is best seen  in a small telescope or binoculars.

Regulus will appear to "wink out" as it goes behind the bright limb of the Moon, reappearance will be harder to see as you have to be looking just at the right moment. The "Dark" limb of the Moon isn't particularly dark as the Moon is full.

The occultation occurs in the late evening 11th/just past midnight into the 12th (see table below), the Moon will be reasonably high above the north-eastern horizon. The Moon is easily visible and a ready signpost to Regulus.

If using a telescope, it is advisable to set up and practise on the Moon a day or so before the event, so you are familiar with your telescope set-up. Set up at least half an hour ahead of time so that you can be sure everything is working well and you can watch the entire event comfortably (trying to focus your telescope moments before the occultation will cause a lot of unnecessary stress). Regulus will be clearly visible with the unaided eye, binoculars or in a telescope near the Moon before the occultataion. Here's some images from an occultation of Spica back in 2013, so you know what to expect.

PlaceDisappears Bright Limb Reappears Dark Limb
Adelaide ACDST23:43 01:05 (12th)
Brisbane AEST23:4100:50 (12th)
Canberra AEDST00:34 (12th)01:50 (12th)
Darwin ACST22:40 (graze)-
Hobart AEDST00:37 (12th)01:58(12th)
Melbourne AEDST00:28 (12th)01:51(12th)
Perth AWST20:3921:50
Sydney AEDST00:37 (12th)01:58 (12th)

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