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Tuesday, August 09, 2016


The Sky This Week - Thursday August 11 to Thursday August 18

The Full Moon is Thursday August 18. Venus and Mercury rise higher in the early evening sky while Jupiter lowers towards them. Mercury and Jupiter are close on the 18th.. Mars and Saturn are visible all evening long. The Moon forms a triangle with Mars, Saturn and Antares on the 12th. The Perseid meteor shower will be visible from northern Australia on the morning of the 13th

The Full Moon is Thursday August 18.

Evening sky on Saturday August 13 looking west at 60 minutes after sunset. Jupiter is above Venus and Mercury.  Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter was at opposition on the March 8th, when it was biggest and brightest as seen from Earth. Jupiter will be an excellent telescopic target but s rapidly coming too close to the horizon.

Jupiter is in the north-western evening sky as the sun sets, and is  good for telescopic observation from around 18:00 on until around 20:00  when it will be a little too close to the horizon. Jupiter's Moons will be an still be excellent sight.

Venus and Mercury continue to rise above the twilight glow this week. They are now sufficiently high in the dusk sky to see easily. From a little after half an hour to an hour after sunset, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter and the bright star Spica make a nice line-up in the dusk sky which if continued on meets up with Mars, Anatres and Saturn.

This week Mercury will be furthest from the Sun (and highest above the horizon) on the 17th. From the 18th to the 21st Mercury is closest to Jupiter.

Evening sky on Friday August 12 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. Mars, Saturn and Antares form a triangle. The Moon makes a larger triangle with them. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is high in the evening skies near the head of the Scorpion.

Mars moves down the body of the Scorpion this week. Mars forms a line with the star Dschubba in the head of the Scorpion and Antares.  Mars draws away from Dschubba heading towards Antares and Saturn during the week.

Mars forms a  (shrinking) triangle with Saturn and the red star Antares. Mars was at opposition on May 22,  and is still visibly dimming, but is still a modest telescope object. It is visible all evening long. In even small telescopes Mars will be a visible disk, and youmay even be able to  see its markings.

 Saturn was at opposition on the 3rd of June. However, Saturn's change in size and brightness is nowhere near as spectacular as Mars's, and Saturn will be a reasonable telescopic object for many weeks. Saturn is reasonably high in the evening sky and is readily visible below Scorpius. Saturn forms a triangle with Mars and the red star Antares. It is now high enough for good telescopic observation in the evening. In even small telescopes its distinctive rings are obvious.

Perseid radiant as seen from Darwin at 5:00 am local time, August the 13th, looking north.

Perseid Meteor Shower runs from July 17–August 24, and peaks on between 11:00 pm Friday August 12 - 1:30 am Saturday August 13 AEST (August 12, 13:00h to 15:30 UT). The best time to observe is on the morning of the 13th between 4:30 am to 5:30 am AEST when the shower radiant is highest above the horizon.

Despite this being a quite reasonable meteor shower in the Northern Hemisphere, for most of Australia and a large chunk of the Southern Hemisphere the radiant is below the horizon, and only the very occasional meteor will be seen shooting up from the northern horizon.

Basically, anywhere south of the latitude of Brisbane (27.3 degrees South) will see few, if any, meteors under ideal conditions. This year, with Moonless skies and a better than normal peak occurring not to too far from radiant rise, northern Australia can expect rates of between 2-4 meteors every minute. For details and more charts and viewing hints see my Perseid 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.


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