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Tuesday, March 05, 2013


The Sky This Week - Thursday March 7 to Thursday March 14

The New Moon is Tuesday March 12. Comet 2011 L4 PanSTARRS is visible to the unaided eye in the evening twilight and will be brightest this week. Jupiter is prominent in the early evening sky. Saturn is in the late evening sky. Comet C/2012 F6 (Lemmon) continues to brighten.

Sky on Saturday March 9 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 New Moon is Tuesday March 12.

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

Saturn is still better telescopically in the early morning. Saturn is in the constellation of Libra.

Mercury  returns to the morning skies at the end of this week. It will be seen low in the twilight sky before dawn.

Bright white Venus  is lost in the twilight.

The evening sky at 8:30 pm ACDST looking west over the ocean as seen from Adelaide from 2 March to 11 March.  The crosses show successive daily positions of Comets C/2011 L4 PanSTARRS and C/2012 F6 Lemmon. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at equivalent local times. (click on image to embiggen).

Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS is now visible in the evening low in the twilight. It is sporting a nice little tail. If you try looking an hour after sunset you will see it very low above the horizon. While it is visible to the unaided eye, it is not very bright, and you may have to sweep the horizon with binoculars to see it first.

The comet is brightening as it comes closer to the Sun than the orbit of Mercury. The comet is closest to the Sun on  March 10, but the comet is lowering in the sky and will become more difficult to see, and will be effectively lost to view around the 13th.On the 13th it will be just a hand-span above the horizon half an hour after sunset, near the thin crescent Moon. It might just be visible in binoculars.

To have a decent chance to see the comet you will need a fairly level, clear horizon like the ocean, and watch carefully as the twilight deepens. Binoculars should pick it up fairly easily (it is quite clear in my 10x50's), whether you can see it with the unaided eye will depend on how murky your local horizon is. Several people have been able to see it with the unaided eye so far. For detailed viewing instructions see here.

Evening sky looking North-west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 pm local daylight saving time on Friday March 8. The inset shows Jupiter's Moons at this time. Io is transiting Jupiter at this time.Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the times indicated here.  Click to embiggen.

Jupiter is visible all 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 highest in the north by 6:30 pm, setting before midnight. Jupiter is below the Hyades, near the red star Aldebaran. Jupiter remains near Aldebaran during the week, making it look as if the Bull has two eyes.

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. On Friday the 8th the Moon Io transit Jupiter from around 8:30

Mars is lost in the twilight.

Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon's location as seen from Adelaide at 21:00 ACDST on Saturday 9 March.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia and New Zealand at equivalent local times.  (click to embiggen).

Comet  C/2012 F6 (Lemmon) is visible to the unaided eye in dark sky sites, and is a nice little binocular comet. In binoculars it is a fuzzy disk a bit smaller than the globular cluster 47 Tucanae showing a small tail. 

You will need to use binoculars in suburban locations  and to see it at its best you need a telescope or binoculars. The comet is coming close to PanSTARRS, and you can photograph them together in the late twilight.

For charts, printable spotters maps and observing hints, see this page.

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 AEDST, 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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