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Tuesday, July 28, 2015


The Sky This Week - Thursday July 30 to Thursday August 6

The Full Moon is Friday July 31. This is a Blue Moon. Venus is brilliant low in the twilight evening sky with bright Jupiter below it. Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS is visible in binoculars above Venus. Mercury Joins Venus and Jupiter late in the week. Saturn is in the head of the Scorpion and is easily visible in the evening.

The Full Moon is Friday July 31. This is a Blue Moon, the second full Moon in a month (the previous was July 2). The Moon is at perigee (closest to Earth) on August 2.

Early evening sky on Wednesday August 5 looking north-west as seen from Adelaide at 18:15 ACST showing Venus, the star Regulus,  Jupiter and Mercury forming a triangle. Comet C/2012 Q1 PanSTARRS is visible in binoculars above. The inset shows the telescope view of Venus and Jupiter  at this time.

Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mercury climbs from the twilight into the evening sky, heading for Jupiter. Early next week the pair and Regulus will be less than a finger-width apart. However, you will need a fairly level, unobstructed horizon to see them.

Mars  is lost in the twilight but will return to the morning skies in the coming weeks.

Venus is becoming harder to see above the western horizon in the twilight as it rapidly falls towards the horizon. At nautical twilight, an hour after sunset, it is around a hand-spans above the horizon, although still visible at civil twilight, half an hour after sunset. Venus is a distinct thin crescent shape in  small telescopes and even strong binoculars.

Venus and the bright star Regulus are drawing apart, with Jupiter below making a triangle in the sky. At the end of the week they are joined by Mercury.

The evening sky at 7:00 pm ACST looking west as seen from Adelaide from 30 July to 6 August.  The circles show successive positions of Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS every two days. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at equivalent local times. (click on image to embiggen).

Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS is now visible in the evening high in the twilight. Although much faded it is still sporting a nice double tail http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap150721.html.

 If you try looking an hour and a half after sunset you will see it low above the horizon. It is only visible in good binoculars or a telescope. It is now around magnitude 7 and  looks like a faint fuzzy ball of light in binoculars. At the beginning of the week sweeping up from Venus by about three binocular fields should bring you to the comet (there are no other  fuzzy blobs about).

As the week progresses, the comet rides higher in the sky so you will need to sweep further up from Venus (see diagram above), but the comet also dims and increasing Moonlight will make it harder to find.

More details and a printable black and white map are here.

Jupiter  is also becoming harder to see in the early evening twilight sky below Venus in the north-western sky. It is also near the bright star Regulus in Leo. Jupiter and Venus  move further apart as the week goes on while Jupiter moves closer to Regulus.

Jupiter is no longer high enough for telescopic observation once twilight is over. Jupiter's Moons are still putting on a good display in  binoculars.

Evening sky on Saturday August 1 looking at the zenith while facing west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST.  Saturn is  easily visible high above the western horizon near the zenith near the head of the Scorpion. The inset shows the telescopic view of Saturn at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Saturn is now easily visible from 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 across the zenith, with bright Saturn close to its head, is very nice indeed.

While Saturn is  readily visible from the end of twilight, it is best for telescope observation from around 20:00 into the early morning hours. At 20:00 it is at it's highest above the northern horizon near the zenith (with Saturn facing west). By 22:00 Saturn is high above the western horizon. This is also a good time to scan Scorpius and Sagittarius with binoculars to reveal the clusters in and around the Scorpions tail.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Jupiter, Venus and Saturn in the sky. 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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