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Tuesday, August 05, 2014


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

The Full Moon is Monday August 11. This is a perigee Moon (a so-called "super Moon"). Mars and Saturn are prominent in the evening sky. Venus is low in the twilight. Perseid meteor shower August 12-13.

The Full Moon is Monday August 11. This is a perigee Moon, when the Moon is closest to the Earth. Perigee Full Moons have been called a "Super Moons".

Comparison of the January 16 mini Moon and the August 11 "Super" Moon simulated in Stellarium.

While a perigee Full Moon is bigger and brighter than the average Full Moon, this is imperceptible to the unaided eye (and even with a telescope you will need a good memory or photographic evidence to see the difference.

On Jan 16th, the Moon was 406536 Km from Earth at furthest remove, while on August 11 it will be 356896 Km away at closest approach. See here and here for more information.

Evening sky on Saturday August 9 looking north-west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 (10:00 pm) ACST in South Australia. Spica, Mars and Saturn form a line pointing at Scorpious. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen). The inset shows the telescopic view of Saturn at this time,

Mars  is easily seen in the north-western evening sky. It is highest in the sky around 17:30, setting after midnight. Mars was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest, on the 9th of April, and is still  readily distinguishable as the bright red/orange object above the north-western horizon in the early evening. Mars is in the constellation of Virgo in between the bright star Spica and Saturn. Over the week it draws away from Spica heading towards Saturn. 

Saturn is high in the early north-western evening sky, and was at opposition on June 11th. Saturn is visible most of the evening. Saturn is high enough from around 7 pm for decent telescopic observation and sets around 1:00 am.  Saturn is in Libra near the head of the constellation of the Scorpion and forms a line with the two brightest stars of Libra. It also forms a line with Spica and Mars, which points to the head of Scorpius, the Scorpion. On the 10th Saturn will be excellent in telescopes as it has a prominent ring shadow across its surface.

Morning sky on Sunday August 10 looking north-east as seen from Adelaide at 6:30 am ACST.  Venus is low above the horizon. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at equivalent local times. (click to embiggen).

Venus is in the morning sky, above the north-eastern horizon.  The brightest object in the early morning sky, it is rapidly heading towards horizon, and becomes more difficult to see the twilight.

Venus was at its furthest distance from the Sun on the 23rd of March, and is now rapidly sinking towards the horizon.  Venus forms a triangle bright red star Betelgeuse and the bright star Procyon. During the week Venus comes closer to the horizon, although still readily visible in the twilight.

Jupiter is lost in the twilight. Towards the end of the week it rises higher in the morning twilight, but will be near impossible to see without a clear level horizon

Mercury is lost in the twilight.

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

The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks on the morning of Wednesday August 13 between 11 am-2:00 pm AEST (00h to 03h on August 13 UT).

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 the Full Moon so close to the peak, and the peak occurring during local daylight hours,  the chance of anywhere in Australia seeing decent Perseids is negligible.
Meteor rates for your location can be checked with the Meteor Flux Estimator

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Mars and  Saturn so prominent 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 AEST. 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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