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Tuesday, March 26, 2013


The Sky This Week - Thursday March 28 to Thursday April 4

The Last Quarter Moon is Wednesday April 3. Occultation of Spica in Northern Australia 28-29 March. There is a series of bright International Space Station passes form the 28th to the 2nd. Jupiter is prominent in the early evening sky. Saturn is in the late evening sky and is close to the Moon on March 29. Mercury brightens in the morning skies.

Sky on Friday March 29 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 23:00 local daylight saving time in South Australia. The inset shows a telescopic view of Saturn at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

The Last Quarter Moon is Wednesday April 3

Saturn is now visible above the eastern horizon before midnight in the constellation of Libra. Saturn climbs higher in the evening sky during the week, becoming easier to see.

Saturn is still better telescopically in the early morning, but is a worthwhile evening target.

Morning sky on Sunday 31 March showing Mercury, looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:30 am local daylight saving time in South Australia. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Mercury  becomes more prominent in the morning skies this week. It is now easy to see as the brightest object above the eastern twilight sky an hour before dawn.

Bright white Venus  is lost in the twilight.

Mars is lost in the twilight.

Evening sky looking North-west as seen from Adelaide at 20:00 pm local daylight saving time on Saturday March 30. The inset shows Jupiter's Moons at this time. There are a series of transits and an eclipse (see below for details) at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local times indicated here.  Click to embiggen.

Jupiter is visible in the early evening, and is the brightest object in the evening sky.

Jupiter is prominent in the northern early evening sky, being quite visible in the twilight. Jupiter is low in the north-west, setting around 10:30 pm local time. Jupiter is below the Hyades, near the red star Aldebaran.

Jupiter, Aldebaran and the white star Rigel in Orion form a long line in the sky. With the Pleiades cluster and the constellation of Orion close by, this is a beautiful sight.

Now is still a good time to observe Jupiter with a telescope of any size in the evening. Jupiters' Moons are easily seen in binoculars, and can be followed from night to night changing position.

The morning sky facing north-east in Darwin on Thursday March 28 at 23:00 pm ACST showing the waning Moon just about to cover Spica (Alpha virginis,indicated by circle). (similar views will be seen from other locations north of Lismore at a similar local time eg midnight AEST Brisbane. Click to embiggen.

The waning Moon passes in front of the bright star Spica (magnitude 1) in the constellation of the Virgo the virgin on the morning of March 29 (eastern states) or late evening 28 March (central states).

This event is visible from sites north of a line running from Lismore NSW to the Kimberly in WA in Australia.

The bright limb of the Moon covers Spica at 0:52 am AEST Brisbane (29th), 23:09 pm ACST Darwin (28th), 0:11 am AEST Townsville (29th).

The dark limb of the Moon uncovers Spica at 1:22 am AEST Brisbane (29th), 23:56 pm ACST Darwin (28th), 1:17 am AEST Townsville (29th).

With the Moon two days past Full, this event is really best seen with binoculars or a small telescope (especially for the disappearance of the star on the bright limb of the Moon). If you have a tripod or other stand for your binoculars, it will be much easier to observe.

Evening sky looking north-west on Friday 29 March at 20:36 pm ACDST as seen from Adelaide. The ISS is abut to pass over the Star Alnilam. Click to embiggen.

There is a series of bright passes of the International Space Station running from the 28th to the 2nd of April, depending on where you are in Australia.

These occur in the early evening, when they will be great to watch with the family and friends.  Several passes also go by some very nice sky territory.

For example, on the 29th from Adelaide, the ISS shoots through Orion's Belt. In Brisbane, on the 30th the ISS not only shoots through Orion's Belt but it comes close to the bright star Betelgeuse. For pass predictions specific to you site, see the Heavens Above site.

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.


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