Tuesday, April 22, 2014
The Sky This Week - Thursday April 24 to Thursday May 1
The New Moon is Tuesday April 29. There is a partial solar eclipse visible on the afternoon of the 29th.
This will be visible from all of Australia, although the best views will be from Southern Australia. The eclipse occurs in the late afternoon, with the sun setting at maximum eclipse in places like Brisbane and Sydney. Eclipse timings and viewing guides can be found at my eclipse site.
Jupiter is in the constellation Gemini and is the brightest object in the early evening sky. Jupiter is becoming harder and harder to observe as it sets earlier.
Jupiter is high enough to begin observing telescopically when twilight ends. Jupiter sets around 10:00, so there is only a few hours for good telescopic observation now.
In the early evening it is above the north-western horizon between the bright stars Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini, and the bright red star Betelgeuse. Jupiter is quite easy to see as the brightest object in the entire sky, in the evening the sight of bright Jupiter sinking to the west, and bright Mars (still not as bright as Jupiter though) rising in the east is quite beautiful.
Jupiter's Moons are readily visible in binoculars.
Mars is easily seen in the evening, rising as Jupiter is setting. It is highest in the sky around 23:00. Mars was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest, on the 9th, and is readily distinguishable as the bright red/orange object above the evening horizon. Mars is in the constellation of Virgo near the bright star Spica (see below). Mars is well worthwhile looking at in a telescope now, although you will need a decent one to see any detail.
Saturn is rising higher in the evening sky. Saturn is high enough around midnight for decent telescopic observation (see below). Saturn is in Libra near the head of the constellation of the Scorpion. Saturn forms a triangle with the two brightest stars of Libra, its apex pointing towards the head of the Scorpion.
The morning sky is quite impressive at the moment, with Mars, Saturn, Venus and Mercury strung out across the sky.
Venus is in the morning sky, above the eastern horizon. The brightest object in the morning sky, it is now easy to see and although it is past maximum brightness, it will dominate the morning sky for some months to come. Venus was at its furthest distance from the Sun on the 23rd of March, and now will begin to slowly sink towards the horizon. Venus is now a clear gibbous Moon shape. The crescent Moon is near Venus on the 26th.
Mercury is lost in the twilight.
The asteroids Vesta and Ceres are just below Mars, and easily visible in binoculars. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).
Two bright asteroids are now visible in binoculars in the evening sky. 1 Ceres and 4 Vesta. Vesta is now bright enough to be just visible to the unaided eye in dark sky locations.Unfortunately the waxing Moon means that it will not be visible to the unaided eye this week. While Vesta is easily seen in binoculars, you will need to watch the same patch of sky in binoculars for a couple of nights to identify it by its movement. Ceres never gets brighter than magnitude 7, but is easily in the range of 10x50 binoculars. See here for a printable black and white map suitable for seeing seeing Vesta and Ceres.
There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Jupiter, Mars and Venus so prominent in the sky, and Saturn coming into view. 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 AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.
Labels: weekly sky