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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

 

Globe at Night Light Pollution Campaign (May 25 - June 3, 2019)

The southern evening sky 18:44pm ACST (90 minutes after sunset) on 25 March as as seen from Adelaide. Similar views will be seen in the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).

The Globe at Night world light pollution survey runs each year now and are collecting observations during all 12 months of the year. The next survey period is May 25 - June 3 (starting Saturday).

Everyone can be involved, hopefully students and teachers too. Basically, after astronomical twilight (90 minutes after sunset ( best from 9-10 pm) head out, look to the north-west to find Bootes, (if you are in the northern hemisphere) or south to find Crux (for us southern hemisphere types) then check how many stars are visible for Bootes and Crux, and report your observations. It's a great excuse to get outdoors and look at the sky. You might even see the International Space Station.

This year you can submit your results a smart phone or tablet. To do this, you can use the web application at www.globeatnight.org/webapp/. Globe at Night is also on Facebook and Twitter.

There is a pod-cast on light pollution and a powerpoint presentation that explains about light pollution and how to do the sky survey, and special activities for kids. So go on, get out and have a go!

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Daylight Occulation of Saturn, morning May 23, 2019

Map of the Occultation path of the Moon and Saturn. The occultaion id on the 22nd UT, which is the morning of the 23rd in Australia after sunrise.The Moon at 8:40 am ACST in Adelaide on Thursday 23 May just as Saturn disappears behind the Moon. The insets shows the binocular view of Saturn going behind the Moon (left) and emerging from behind the Moon at 9:40 am (right)

On the morning of Thursday 23 May Saturn is occulted by the waning Moon as seen from most of Australia (see table below for exact timings). This is a daytime occultation, which will require telescopes. Although the Moon will be in the west, well away from the Sun, it would be best for experienced amateurs only to attempt this so no accidental sun exposure is possible.

As well, even though Saturn will be visible in telescopes, it will be very pale and difficult to see.

The Moon, low above the western horizon, is a very obvious signpost for where to look with Saturn close to the bright Limd. You may need some patience to see Saturn pale against the brightness of the Sky. For Brisbane,  Townsville, Rockhampton and Sydney the Moon sets before the occultation ends. 

Start watching about half an hour beforehand to get set up and familiar with the sky. Saturn will pale close to the bright limb of the Moon. Reappearance will be hard to see as you have to be looking just at the right moment and the Moon is closer to the horizon.

PlaceDisappears Bright Limb Reappears Dark Limb
Adelaide ACST8:409:40
Brisbane AEST9:21-
Canberra AEST9:1110:07
Darwin ACST--
Hobart AEST9:029:56
Melbourne AEST9:0810:05
Perth AWST7:218:00
Rockhampton AEST9:37-
Townsville AEST9:27-
Sydney AEST9:13-


More cities in Australia and also New Zealand can be found at the IOTA site (UT times only).

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Monday, May 20, 2019

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday May 23 to Thursday May 30

The Last Quarter Moon is Monday May 27. Mars is visible low in the evening twilight. Jupiter is easily visible in the evening skies. The dwarf planet Ceres is at opposition, when it is easily visible in binoculars, on the 29th. Saturn climbs higher in the late evening skies and is very close to the Moon on morning of the 23rd.  The morning skies feature three bright planets Jupiter, Saturn and bright Venus. Venus is closing in on the horizon.

The Last Quarter Moon is Monday May 27. The Moon is at apogee, when it is furthest from the Earth, on the 26th.

Morning  sky on Saturday, May 25 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:11 ACST (60 minutes before sunrise).  Three bright planets can be seen. Jupiter and Saturn are high above the north-western and northern horizon forming a line with the Moon. Venus is low above the eastern horizon.



 Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise, click to embiggen).


Morning sky on Thursday, May 23 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 6:10 ACST (60 minutes before sunrise).  Saturn is very close the the waning Moon. There is a daytime occultation of Saturn (as seen in the inset at 8:38 ACST), this will be telescope only and should only be attempted by experienced amateurs.



 Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise, click to embiggen).


Sky at 22:00 ACST on Saturday, May 25  looking east as seen from Adelaide. Ceres is below Antares and bright eogh to be easily seen in binoculars. Jupiter is high above the eastern horizon with Saturn below. The left upper insert inset shows the telescopic view of Jupiter at this time, the left lower insert that of Saturn. Io is just emerging after transiting the face of Jupiter.




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



Sky at 22:00 ACST on Saturday, May 25  looking east as seen from Adelaide. This is a higer magnification spotters map to find the dwarf planet Ceres.

While ceres is at its brightest on the 29th, it is easily visible before and after the 29th, and is moving reasonably slowly. It  is below and to the north of Antares with easily visible guide stars.


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



Evening sky on Saturday, May 25  as seen looking north-west from Adelaide at 18:14ACST (60 minutes after sunset). Mars is in the constellation of Gemini forming a triangle with eta and mu Geminorum.





Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).





Venus is still bright in the morning twilight althouigh it is coming closer to the horizon.

Mercury  is now lost in the twilight.

Jupiter  Jupiter is now visible in the mid evening sky. Although is now a good telescope target it is still at its best in the morning.

Mars continues leaves Taurus and enters Gemini. Mars forms a triangle with eta and mu Geminorum early in the week, then heads towards epsilon Geminorum. Mars sets around 7:30pm.

Saturn  climbs higher in the evening sky but it still best for telescopic viewing in the early morning. The Moon is very close to Saturn on the morning of the 23rd, with a daytime occultation seen from most of Australia. This will be telescope only and should only be attempted by experienced amateurs. Later in the evening the Moon is still near Saturn.

 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.

Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday May 16 to Thursday May 23

The Full Moon is Sunday May 19. Saturn climbs higher in the late evening skies and is visited by the Moon on the 22nd and 23rd. Mars is visible low in the evening twilight.  Jupiter is easily visible in the evening skies and is visited by the Moon on the 20th. The morning skies feature three bright planets Jupiter, Saturn and bright Venus. Venus is close to Uranus on Monday the 19th.

The Full Moon is Sunday May 19.


Morning  sky on Saturday, May 18 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:07 ACST (60 minutes before sunrise).  Three bright planets can be seen. Jupiter and Saturn are high above the north-western and northern horizon. Venus is low above the eastern horizon.



 Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise).






Morning sky on Sunday, May 19 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:07 ACST (60 minutes before sunrise).  Venus is low above the eastern horizon and at its closest to Mercury. The inset shows the binocular view of the pair at this time.



 Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise).









Sky at 22:00 ACST on Monday, May 20  looking east as seen from Adelaide. Jupiter is above the eastern horizon close to the Moon. The left upper insert inset shows the telescopic view of Jupiter at this time, the left lower insert that of Saturn. 




Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time.


Evening sky on Saturday, May 18  as seen looking north-west from Adelaide at 18:17 ACST (60 minutes after sunset). Mars is about the enter the constellation of Gemini.







Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).

Venus is still bright in the morning twilight. On the 19th it is one finger-width from Uranus, but you will need binoculars to see Uranus in the twilight.

Mercury  is now lost in the twilight.

Jupiter  Jupiter is now visible in the mid evening sky. Although is now a good telescope target it is still at its best in the morning. The Moon is close e to Jupiter on the 20th.

Mars continues leaves Taurus and enters Gemini. Mars sets around 7:30pm.

Saturn  climbs higher in the evening sky but it still best for telescopic viewing in the early morning. The Moon is close to Saturn on the 22nd and 23rd.

 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.

Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

 

[Aurora Alert] Geomagnetic warning and Aurora Watch (14-17 May 2019)

The SWS has issued an aurora and geomagnetic alert for now (G1 storm in progress) and aurora watch for 14-17 May (UT) due to impacts from slow moving coronal mass ejections. Currently the local Kindex is 5, and if it persists aurora may be seen in Southern Australia under dark sky conditions. No aurora have been reported form Australia yet, but reports from New Zealand are coming in.

The Moon is waxing and will interfere a bit with seeing aurora. Be patient, as the activity may rise and fall of the magnetic polarity of the wind may fluctuate significantly.

It is hard to predict how any aurora will look, but still worth a look as viewing conditions are good (the Full Moon aurora on August 26 was good for those with clear skies despite the Moonlight, as was very active despite initial predictions of not much happening).

Dark sky sites have the best chance of seeing anything, and always allow around 5 minutes for your eyes to become dark adapted.
As always look to the south for shifting red/green glows, beams have been reported consistently over the last few aurora, as well as bright proton arcs and "picket fences". A double arc,  blobs, and curtains were seen in Septembers aurora  last despite the moonlight.

Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds http://satview.bom.gov.au/
Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.  

A new aurora camera is being installed at Campania, Tasmania. A live feed of the images from this camera is still not available.

INCREASED GEOMAGNETIC ACTIVITY EXPECTED
DUE TO CORONAL MASS EJECTION
FROM 14-17 MAY 2019
_____________________________________________________________

GEOMAGNETIC ACTIVITY FORECAST
14 May:  Unsettled to Active
15 May:  Active to Minor Storm
16 May:  Minor Storm
17 May:  Initially at Minor storm, then Quiet

=========================================================

SUBJ: SWS AURORA WATCH
ISSUED AT 0617 UT ON 14 May 2019 by Space Weather Services
FROM THE AUSTRALIAN SPACE FORECAST CENTRE

Solar wind parameters suggest that the Earth may be currently under
the influence of unanticipated CME. There is a chance aurora may be
visible tonight (14 May) over southern Australian regions,
particularly for Tasmania. The previous two slow moving CMEs
originating from disappearing solar filaments are still expected to
impact the Earth around 05UT on 15 May and 09UT on 16 May,
respectively. Should periods of sustained southward IMF occur, auroral
displays over southern Australian regions are likely to continue on
the local nights of 15 and 16 May. Further Warnings and/or alerts will
follow if a geoeffective CME is observed and/or significant
geomagnetic activity actually occurs.



Visit the SWS Aurora webpage http://www.sws.bom.gov.au/Aurora for current
aurora viewing conditions.

Our Aurora forecasting tool, located at
http://www.sws.bom.gov.au/Aurora/3/1, may help to estimate regions
from where aurora would be visible.

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Saturday, May 11, 2019

 

some Early Evening Bright International Space Sation Passes 11-16 May 2019)

The ISS passes close to the bright star Canopus as seen from Sydney on the evening of Monday 13 May at 18:26 AEST. Simulated in Stellarium (the ISS will actually be a bright dot), click to embiggen.The ISS passes near the Southern Cross, as seen from Adelaide on the  evening of Saturday 11 May at 18:41 ACST. Simulated in Stellarium (the ISS will actually be a bright dot), click to embiggen.The ISS passes between the Pointers, as seen from Perth on the  evening of Saturday 11 May at 18:48 AWST. Simulated in Stellarium (the ISS will actually be a bright dot), the inset shows the binocular view of the close pass.click to embiggen.
All sky chart showing local times from Heavens Above for Monday 13 May for Sydney.All sky chart showing local  times from Heavens Above for Saturday 11 May for Adelaide.All sky chart showing local times from Heavens Above for Saturday 11 Mayh for Perth.

Over the next few days there are a series of very bright ISS passes in the early evening or twilight where the ISS passes close to Canopus, the Southern Cross  or the Pointers and some other iconic stars and constellations). The ones deep in twilight may be hard to find guide stars for but some of the passes are very bright and will be well worth watching for. There are a number of other relatively bright satellites about at this time which you amy see close to the ISS.

The following tables are from data provided from Heavens Above.

Passes from Adelaide (ACDST)

Date Brightness Start Highest point End Pass type
(mag) Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az.
10 May-1.717:57:1710°S17:59:1514°SSE18:01:1210°ESEvisible
10 May-1.319:32:4910°SW19:34:0020°SW19:34:0020°SWvisible
11 May-3.718:41:5810°SW18:45:1755°SE18:45:5346°Evisible
12 May-2.817:51:1810°SSW17:54:1829°SE17:57:1710°Evisible
12 May-1.519:28:0410°WSW19:30:4622°NW19:30:5022°NWvisible
13 May-2.818:36:4510°WSW18:39:5946°NW18:43:1110°NNEvisible
14 May-3.817:45:4510°SW17:49:0781°SE17:52:2710°NEvisible
15 May-0.718:32:2110°W18:34:2816°NW18:36:3410°NNWvisible

Passes from Brisbane (AEST)
Date Brightness Start Highest point End Pass type
(mag) Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az.
10 May-1.218:30:5910°S18:31:1411°S18:31:1411°Svisible
11 May-0.619:15:4210°SW19:15:5311°SW19:15:5311°SWvisible
12 May-3.518:24:5410°SSW18:28:0146°SE18:28:0146°SEvisible
13 May-2.517:34:2610°SSW17:37:1123°SE17:39:5310°Evisible
13 May-1.119:11:0610°WSW19:13:2320°WNW19:13:2320°WNWvisible
14 May-2.718:19:3710°SW18:22:5044°NW18:26:0010°NNEvisible
15 May-3.817:28:3710°SW17:31:5874°SE17:35:1610°NEvisible
16 May-0.518:15:3610°W18:17:1713°NW18:18:5810°NNWvisible


Passes from Darwin (ACST)
Date Brightness Start Highest point End Pass type
(mag) Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az.
14 May-3.219:25:4710°SSW19:28:5134°SE19:29:2331°ESEvisible
15 May-1.020:11:5310°WSW20:14:1819°NW20:16:1512°NNWvisible
16 May-2.819:20:1510°SW19:23:2748°NW19:26:3810°NNEvisible
18 May-0.319:16:3310°W19:17:5512°WNW19:19:1910°NNWvisible


Passes from Hobart (AEST)

Date Brightness Start Highest point End Pass type
(mag) Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az.
10 May-3.818:26:2010°WSW18:29:4487°NNW18:31:1430°NEvisible
11 May-3.617:35:2810°SW17:38:4956°SSE17:42:0710°ENEvisible
11 May-1.419:12:3510°W19:15:0920°NW19:15:5319°NNWvisible
12 May-2.218:21:1810°WSW18:24:2535°NW18:27:3010°NNEvisible
13 May-3.317:30:1410°WSW17:33:3565°NW17:36:5410°NEvisible
14 May-0.718:16:5210°W18:18:5215°NW18:20:5210°NNWvisible
15 May-1.317:25:1510°WSW17:28:0826°NW17:30:5910°NNEvisible

Passes from Melbourne (AEST)
Date Brightness Start Highest point End Pass type
(mag) Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az.
10 May-3.018:26:5810°SW18:30:0533°SSE18:31:1426°ESEvisible
10 May-0.320:03:4710°WSW20:04:0111°WSW20:04:0111°WSWvisible
11 May-2.919:12:3210°WSW19:15:4747°NW19:15:5346°NWvisible
12 May-3.918:21:3310°SW18:24:5685°SE18:28:0112°NEvisible
13 May-0.919:08:0310°W19:10:1917°NW19:12:3410°Nvisible
14 May-1.918:16:3010°WSW18:19:3332°NW18:22:3510°NNEvisible
16 May-0.318:12:3310°WNW18:13:5812°NW18:15:2110°NNWvisible


Passes from Perth (AWST)   
Date Brightness Start Highest point End Pass type
(mag) Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az.
10 May-1.418:02:0710°SSE18:02:3010°SSE18:02:5310°SEvisible
10 May-1.019:36:1010°SW19:36:4815°SW19:36:4815°SWvisible
11 May-3.318:45:2610°SSW18:48:3739°SE18:48:4139°SEvisible
12 May-2.317:54:5710°SSW17:57:3721°SE18:00:1610°Evisible
12 May-1.619:31:1610°WSW19:33:4026°WNW19:33:4026°WNWvisible
13 May-3.318:40:0310°SW18:43:2262°NW18:46:1413°NNEvisible
14 May-3.717:49:0910°SW17:52:2858°SE17:55:4510°ENEvisible
15 May-0.818:35:2610°W18:37:5319°NW18:40:1910°Nvisible


Passes from Sydney (AEST)
Date Brightness Start Highest point End Pass type
(mag) Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az.
10 May-2.618:28:4510°SSW18:31:1429°SSE18:31:1429°SSEvisible
11 May-2.117:38:1810°SSW17:40:4719°SSE17:43:0511°ESEvisible
11 May-1.419:14:1910°WSW19:15:5323°WSW19:15:5323°WSWvisible
12 May-3.918:23:1710°SW18:26:3987°NW18:28:0133°NEvisible
13 May-3.417:32:3010°SW17:35:4444°SE17:38:5610°ENEvisible
13 May-0.719:10:1810°W19:11:5913°NW19:13:2311°NNWvisible
14 May-1.618:18:2210°WSW18:21:1526°NW18:24:0510°Nvisible
15 May-3.017:27:0710°SW17:30:2657°NW17:33:4110°NNEvisible

  

When and what you will see is VERY location dependent, so you need to use either Heavens Above or CalSky to get site specific predictions for your location, a small difference in location can mean the difference between the ISS passing over a star or missing it completely. As always, start looking several minutes before the pass is going to start to get yourself oriented and your eyes dark adapted. Be patient, there may be slight differences in the time of the ISS appearing due to orbit changes not picked up by the predictions. Use the most recent prediction for your site.

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Tuesday, May 07, 2019

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday May 9 to Thursday May 16

The First Quarter Moon is Sunday May 12. Saturn climbs higher in the late evening skies. Mars is visible low in the evening twilight and forms forms a triangle with the stars that mark the tips of Taurus the Bulls horns.  Jupiter is easily visible in the evening skies. The morning skies feature three bright planets Jupiter, Saturn and bright Venus.

The New Moon is Sunday May 12. The moon is at Perigee, when it is closest to the Earth, on the 14th.

Morning  sky on Saturday, May 11 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:02 ACST (60 minutes before sunrise).  Three bright planets can be seen. Jupiter and Saturn are high above the north-western and northern horizon. Venus is low above the eastern horizon.



 Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise).

Sky at 23:00 ACST on Saturday, May 11  looking east as seen from Adelaide. Jupiter is low above the eastern horizon. The left upper insert inset shows the telescopic view of Jupiter at this time, the left lower insert that of Saturn. 




Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time.


Evening sky on Saturday, May 11  as seen looking north-west from Adelaide at 18:22 ACST (60 minutes after sunset). Mars forms a triangle with the stars Alnath and Zeta Taurii which mark the tips of Taurus the Bulls horns. The crescent Moon is just above Mars.







Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes after sunset, click to embiggen).

Venus is still bright in the morning twilight.

Mercury  is now lost in the twilight.

Jupiter  Jupiter is now visible in the mid evening sky. Although is now a good telescope target it is still at its best in the morning.

Mars continues moving through Taurus heading towards Gemni. At the beginning of the week Mars form a triangle with the stars Alnath and Zeta Taurii which mark the tips of Taurus the Bulls horns. The crescent Moon is just above Mars at this time. Mars sets around 7:30pm.

Saturn  climbs higher in the evening sky but it still best for telescopic viewing in the early morning.

 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.

Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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Sunday, May 05, 2019

 

Reminder: Eta Aqaurid Meteor Shower 7-9 May, 2019

Morning sky on Tuesday, May 7 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 4:00 am local time in South Australia showing the eta Aquariid meteor shower radiant as a star burst. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Just a reminder that the eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks on the late evening/early morning of  6-7 May in Australia, although better rates will be seen on the mornings of the 7th, 8th and 9th. 

There has been some confusing about the actual peak, ads the International Meteor organisations  calendar website says 5-6, while their PDF calendar says peaking on May 6 14:00 UT, and their viewing website says May 7. 

For the purposes of of viewing I will take the PDF calendars reported peak on May 6 14:00 UT, which is  (just) May 7 in eastern Australia as the real peak.  As the meteor radiant does not rise until around 2 am, and is not at a reasonable hight until 3:30 am for Australians our best viewing times are in the mornings after the actual peak.

However, the peak is really broad and viewing from the 6-9 will give you decent rates (see table below). Based on the NASA meteor flux program (see below) and my own excel spreadsheet using the Jennisken's eta Aquarid stream parameters the best rates will be seen from Australia on the mornings of the 8th and 9th (see table below, but the 7th is very worth while too, fiddling with the parameters a bit gives 7th 8th as the best but as you can see the rate difference between the nights is marginal).

This year conditions are perfect for seeing the eta Aquarids, with the Moon just after new and in the evening skies. People in the suburbs should see a meteor around once every 6 minutes, and in the country about once every 3 minutes. The radiant of the shower is about five hand-spans up from the eastern horizon, and three hand-spans to the left of due east at 4 am (see spotter chart at 4 am above).

Weather prediction looks good with clear mornings for most of Australia (except the bit where I live)

You may have read that this year the eta Aquariids have a predicted ZHR of 50 meteors. The figure ZHR is zenithal hourly rate. This is the number of meteors that a single observer would see per hour if the shower's "point of origin", or radiant, were at the zenith and the sky was dark enough for 6.5-magnitude stars to be visible to the naked eye.

In practise, you will never see this many meteors as the radiant will be some distance below the zenith. Also, unless you are out deep in the countryside, the darkness will be less than ideal. How many are you likely to see in reality? I discuss this further down, let's talk about when to see them first.

Although as I said above the actual peak is on 6-7th, for Australia the best time to see the eta-Aquarids is in the early morning of the 7th, 8th and 9th, with the best rates between around 4-5 am (see table below).

How many will be seen on the 7th - 9th  is not entirely clear (see predictions below for various towns, but they are only predictions), but good rates were seen in 2016, and dark sky sites may possibly see one meteor every 2-3 minutes or so. There were many bright ones reported with persistent trains in 2014. People in the suburbs may be will see less, but at least one every 6 minutes should be possible. 

Predicted meteor rates for selected towns (taken from NASA shower Flux estimator below)


TownMorning May 7 Morning May 8Morning May 9
Adelaide16 meteors/hr20 meteors/hr18 meteors/hr
Brisbane17 meteors/hr21 meteors/hr19 meteors/hr
Darwin18 meteors/hr22 meteors/hr20 meteors/hr
Perth17 meteors/hr20 meteors/hr18 meteors/hr
Melbourne16 meteors/hr19 meteors/hr17 meteors/hr
Hobart15 meteors/hr18 meteors/hr16 meteors/hr

The radiant of the shower is about five hand-spans up from the eastern horizon and three hand-spans to the left of due east at 4 am (see above for a spotter chart at 5 am). When looking, be sure to let your eyes adjust for at least 5 minutes so your eyes can be properly adapted to the dark.

Don't look directly at the radiant site, because the meteors will often start their "burn" some distance from it, but around a hand-span up or to the side. The best way to watch the Eta Aquariids is to let your eye rove around the entire patch of the sky above the north-east horizon, between the only two obvious bright stars in the north-east, Altair and Fomalhaut.

Be patient, although you should see an average of a meteor every 3 to 6 minutes, a whole stretch of time can go by without a meteor, then a whole bunch turn up one after the other.

Make yourself comfortable, choose an observing site that has little to obstruct the eastern horizon, have a comfortable chair to sit in (a banana lounger is best), or blankets and pillows. Rug up against the cold.  A hot Thermos of something to drink and plenty of mosquito protection will complete your observing preparations. As well as meteors, keep an eye out for satellites (see Heavens Above for predictions from your site).  The Milky way will arch above you, with Jupiter and Saturn to the north and Venus and Mercury will grace the morning skies as twilight begins.



Use the NASA  meteor shower flux estimator for an estimate of what the shower will be like from your location (you may need to enter your longitude and latitude, surprisingly, while Adelaide and Brisbane are hard-wired in, Sydney and Melbourne are not). See the image to the left for typical output. The peak is rather sharp.





Unfortunately, both Chrome and Firefox have changed their security settings to prevent plugins from running, and the flux estimator only runs under Internet Explorer now.

You need to choose 31 Eta Aquariids and remember to set the date to  7-8 or 8-9 May 2019 and turn off daylight saving time. You can follow the progress of the shower at the IMO live Aquariid site.

Guides for taking meteor photos are here and here.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.

Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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Wednesday, May 01, 2019

 

eta Aquarid Meteor Shower 7-9 May, 2019

Morning sky on Tuesday, May 7 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 4:00 am local time in South Australia showing the eta Aquariid meteor shower radiant as a star burst. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

The eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks on the late evening/early morning of  6-7 May in Australia, although better rates will be seen on the mornings of the 7th, 8th and 9th.

The eta Aquariids meteor shower, the debris from Halleys comet, will peak on May 6 14:00 UT, which is  May 7 in eastern Australia.  However, the best rates will be seen from Australia on the mornings of the 8th and 9th.

This year conditions are perfect for seeing the eta Aquarids, with the Moon just after new and in the evening skies. People in the suburbs should see a meteor around once every 6 minutes, and in the country about once every 3 minutes. The radiant of the shower is about five hand-spans up from the eastern horizon, and three hand-spans to the left of due east at 4 am (see spotter chart at 4 am above).

You may have read that this year the eta Aquariids have a predicted ZHR of 50 meteors. The figure ZHR is zenithal hourly rate. This is the number of meteors that a single observer would see per hour if the shower's "point of origin", or radiant, were at the zenith and the sky was dark enough for 6.5-magnitude stars to be visible to the naked eye.

In practise, you will never see this many meteors as the radiant will be some distance below the zenith. Also, unless you are out deep in the countryside, the darkness will be less than ideal. How many are you likely to see in reality? I discuss this further down, let's talk about when to see them first.

Although as I said above the actual peak is on 6-7th, for Australia the best time to see the eta-Aquarids is in the early morning of the 7th, 8th and 9th, with the best rates between around 4-5 am.

How many will be seen on the 7th - 9th  is not entirely clear (see predictions below for various towns, but they are only predictions), but good rates were seen in 2016, and dark sky sites may possibly see one meteor every 2-3 minutes or so. There were many bright ones reported with persistent trains in 2014. People in the suburbs may be will see less, but at least one every 6 minutes should be possible. 

Predicted meteor rates for selected towns


TownMorning May 7 Morning May 8Morning May 9
Adelaide16 meteors/hr20 meteors/hr18 meteors/hr
Brisbane17 meteors/hr21 meteors/hr19 meteors/hr
Darwin18 meteors/hr22 meteors/hr20 meteors/hr
Perth17 meteors/hr20 meteors/hr18 meteors/hr
Melbourne16 meteors/hr19 meteors/hr17 meteors/hr
Hobart15 meteors/hr18 meteors/hr16 meteors/hr

The radiant of the shower is about five hand-spans up from the eastern horizon and three hand-spans to the left of due east at 4 am (see above for a spotter chart at 5 am). When looking, be sure to let your eyes adjust for at least 5 minutes so your eyes can be properly adapted to the dark. Don't look directly at the radiant site, because the meteors will often start their "burn" some distance from it, but around a hand-span up or to the side. The best way to watch the Eta Aquariids is to let your eye rove around the entire patch of the sky above the north-east horizon, between the only two obvious bright stars in the north-east, Altair and Fomalhaut.

Be patient, although you should see an average of a meteor every 3 to 6 minutes, a whole stretch of time can go by without a meteor, then a whole bunch turn up one after the other.

Make yourself comfortable, choose an observing site that has little to obstruct the eastern horizon, have a comfortable chair to sit in (a banana lounger is best), or blankets and pillows. Rug up against the cold.  A hot Thermos of something to drink and plenty of mosquito protection will complete your observing preparations. As well as meteors, keep an eye out for satellites (see Heavens Above for predictions from your site).  The Milky way will arch above you, with Jupiter and Saturn to the north and Venus and Mercury will grace the morning skies as twilight begins.


Use the NASA  meteor shower flux estimator for an estimate of what the shower will be like from your location (you may need to enter your longitude and latitude, surprisingly, while Adelaide and Brisbane are hard-wired in, Sydney and Melbourne are not). See the image to the left for typical output. The peak is rather sharp.





Unfortunately, both Chrome and Firefox have changed their security settings to prevent plugins from running, and the flux estimator only runs under Internet Explorer now.

You need to choose 31 Eta Aquariids and remember to set the date to  7-8 or 8-9 May 2019 and turn off daylight saving time. You can follow the progress of the shower at the IMO live Aquariid site.

Guides for taking meteor photos are here and here.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.

Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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