Southern Skywatch has been online for 15 years; I feel a competition coming on! (it's still coming)
Useful info for visitors from New Zealand, South Africa and South America.
November 1; comets ISON and 2013 R3 Lovejoy visible in binoculars, Venus at greatest distance from the Sun. November 2; Venus close to the Galactic Centre. November 3-8; Venus close to Triffid Nebula. November 6, Moon at Perigee. November 7; crescent Moon close to Venus. November 7-8, Comet Lovejoy close to the Beehive cluster. November 17; Leonid meteor shower. November 18-19; Comet ISON close to Spica. November 19; Venus close to Nunki, sigma Sagittarii. November 21-22; crescent Moon close to Jupiter. November 22; Moon at Apogee. November 28; crescent Moon close to Mars. November 28; comet ISON closest to the Sun.
Looking up at the stars is still a rewarding pursuit, despite the increasing light pollution in our major cities. The southern sky is full of interesting objects, many of which go unseen in the northern hemisphere. All you need for a good nights viewing is yourself, a good idea of where south and east are, and your hands. Optional extras are a small pair of binoculars, a torch with red cellophane taped over the business end and a note book. A great many tips for backyard astronomy may be found here, although many of them are more relevant to the northern hemisphere. A general article on amateur astronomy from New Scientist is here (May require subscription otherwise see the TASS site.).
This page is designed to give people a simple guide to the naked eye sky. In the descriptions of planet and star positions, distances in the sky are given as "fingers width" and "hand span". This is the width of your hand (with all the fingers together as in making a "stop" sign, not bunched as a fist) or finger when extended a full arms length from you.
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Spring is here! Spring brings the wattle flowers and a new round of interesting objects into view in the heavens. Scorpio and Sagittarius slowly leave our night skies to be replaced by Orion and its nebulae, and bright Sirius. The Southern Cross grazes the southern horizon before rising again in summer. It still gets very cold at night, so don't forget to rug up before doing any extended star watching. A blanket or rug to sit on is a good idea, as well as a thermos of your favorite hot beverage.
While these pages are primarily intended for the use of people observing in Australia, non-Australian Southern Hemisphere observers will find most of the information here applies to them. The star information will be most helpful, when you correct your location for latitude (see the Stars section for appropriate location information). Most Moon phase, planet, comet and asteroid information will be very similar to what will be seen in New Zealand, South Africa and South America. Countries close to the equator (eg Indonesia) will have somewhat different southern and northern views, but the eastern and western views should be similar enough to get a good idea of what is going on.
Occultations, eclipses and aurora are highly location dependent, and it would be best to get a local almanac for these events. If there is no local almanac available, email me and I might be able to help you. I do try and give general info for occultations and eclipses in the Oceania area of the Southern Hemisphere.
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Aurora Alert UPDATED 30/06/13: There was a very good auroral event on 29 June, seen in Victoria, SA and WA as well as Tasmania, image links soon. Before that, a coronal mass ejection from an M class flare hit us square on on March 17. Aurora were detected as far north as the QLD border, with some really nice events in Tasmania, and here are some images from that event. The Sun is still climbing towards solar maximum, but has been rather dissapointing so far apart from the odd event like the 17 March one. We may see more aurora in the near future.
Auroral images and descriptions from past geomagnetic storms are now at the auroral image web page.
We are slowly heading towards solar maxmum in mid 2013, and we can expect to see an increasing frequency of aurora. Tasmania, King Island and Southern Victoria are the most likely places to see aurora. However, on August 24, 2005 there was a massive auroral storm seen as far as northern NSW. Naturally, the best views of any aurora will be away from the city and bright lights. Aurora occur when charged particles from the solar wind enter Earths outer atmosphere and interact with the oxygen and nitrogen atoms producing eerie displays of coloured lights. During solar maximum, which occurs every 11 years, the number and speed of the particles are higher, allowing them to penetrate the Earth's magnetic field at lower latitudes than normal. Observers in Tasmania are likely to see green glows or sheets of light in the southern sky. Observers in Southern Victoria are more likely to see a red glow in the southern sky, although more spectacular displays are possible.
The Astronomical Society of Tasmania has a webpage devoted to this phenomenon. The Australian IPS radio and space services covers Aurora and related phenomena in very great detail (too much if you don't know much about them) but has a nice education page. Flinders Uni also has real time magnetometer readings, however, this will probably not mean much to most people.
Aurora will generally follow solar flares by about 2 days, and a number of instruments are watching the sun for these outbursts. The solar miniumin occured in 2006 and persisted for some time. While sunspot numbers, and hence flare rates are increasing, sometimes months will go by without an alert, then you have three in a week. The space weather site at http://www.spaceweather.com gives notice of when solar winds likely to cause aurora will arrive. Alternatively, send an email to email@example.com with "subscribe aurora alert" as the subject and I will send you an email alert of any likely auroral event (or other interesting sky phenomena). However, even a strong solar flare is no guarantee that you will be able to see aurora, but it does increase the probability. Still more alternatively, there are the facebook pages Aurora Australis Tasmania, Aurora Australis Tasmania NOW! and Aurora Australis all do discussions and alerts.
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Email alerts I try to update this page fairly regularly outside of the monthly postings. However sometimes things happen which I can't get in fast enough, or you forget to mark your calendar. If you would like to be alerted to or reminded of interesting astronomical or sky phenomena, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with "subscribe aurora alert" as the subject. This is the old aurora alert list, but with auroras rare as we climb out solar minimum (except for the occasional humdinger, like the August 2005 auroral event), it is doing double duty. Astroblog will have images when possible of these events soon after.
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6 January 2013; Occultation of Spica
7 January 2013; Moon Near Saturn
10-11 January 2013; Moon Near Venus
13 January 2013; Moon Near Mars
22 January 2013; Moon Near Jupiter
February 2013; Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon visible to the unaided eye
3 February 2013; Moon near Saturn
9-28 February 2013; Comet PanSTARRS visible in evening twilight
9 February 2013; Venus near moon in morning twilight
14 February 2013; Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon near small Magellanic Cloud
18 February 2013; Occultation of Jupiter
1-14 March 2013; Comet PanSTARRS visible in evening twilight
March 2013; Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon visible to the unaided eye
2 March 2013; Moon close to Saturn
11 March 2013; Moon close to Mercuy
18 March 2013; Moon close to Jupiter
21 March 2013; Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon at peak brightness
29 March 2013; Moon close to Saturn
8 April 2013, Moon close to Mercuury
14 April 2013, Moon close to Jupiter
26 April 2013, Partial Lunar Eclipse
28 April 2013, Saturn at opposition
5 May 2013 Eta Aquarid meter shower.
10 May 2013;Annular eclipse of the Sun
23 May 2013, Moon and Saturn close.
26 May 2013, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter close together.
29 May 2013, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter close together.
7 June 2013, Crescent Moon and Mars close together.
10 June 2013, Crescent Moon, Venus and Mercury close together.
19 June 2013, Moon and Saturn close.
21 June 2013, Mercury and Venus close.
30 June 2013, "Blue" first quarter Moon.
6 July 2013, Crescent Moon and Mars close.
7 July 2013, Crescent Moon and Jupiter close.
10 July 2013, Venus and crescent Moon close.
17 July 2013, Saturn and Moon close.
22 July 2013, Evening, Venus and Regulus closee.
22 July 2013, Morning, Mars and Jupiter close.
4 August 2013, Jupiter and thin crescent Moon close.
5 August 2013, Mars, Mercury and thin crescent Moon close.
10 August 2013, Venus and crescent Moon close.
13 August 2013, Staurn and Moon close.
1 September 2013, Crescent Moon close to Jupiter.
2 September 2013, Crescent Moon close to Mars.
6 September 2013, Crescent Moon close to Mercury.
6 September 2013, Venus and Spica close.
8 September 2013, Crescent Moon close to Venus.
25 September 2013, Mercury and Spica close.
1 October 2013, Crescent Moon and Mars close.
7 October 2013, Mercury, Saturn and Crescent Moon close.
8 October 2013, Venus close to crescent Moon.
16 October 2013, Mars close to Regulus.
17 October 2013, Venus close to Antares.
21 October 2013, Orionid meteor shower.
22 October 2013, Orionid meteor shower.
26 October 2013, Jupiter close to Moon.
7 November 2013, Crescent Moon close to Venus.
10-20 November 2013, Venus crosses Sagittarius.
17 November 2013, Leonid Meteor Shower.
22 November 2013, Moon close to Jupiter.
26 November 2013, Saturn and Mercury close.
28 November 2013, Crescent Moon close to Mars.
1 December 2013, Crescent Moon close to Saturn.
2 December 2013, Crescent Moon close to Mercury.
6 December 2013, Crescent Moon close to Venus.
13 December 2013, Geminid Meteor shower.
26 December 2013, Mars and Moon close.
29 December 2013, Saturn and Crescent Moon close.
Out in Space
Cassini makes an amazing portrait of Saturn from above.
Mars Curiosity Rover heads for Cooperstown on the way to Mount Sharp .
Mars Express images the scars of history.
The Mars Reconaissance Orbiter images an ancient supervolcano.
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New Moon is on the 3rd
Current Phase of the Moon.
First quarter on the 10th
Full moon on the 18th
Last quarter on the 26th
November 6, Moon at Perigee. November 7; crescent Moon close to Venus. November 21-22; crescent Moon close to Jupiter. November 22; Moon at Apogee. November 28; crescent Moon close to Mars.
An interactive calendar of the Moon's phases.
A view of the phase of the Moon for any date from 1800 A.D. to 2199, US based, so that the Moon is upside down with respect to us. The image above is from this source.
The phases of the Moon have been linked in the popular imagination to activities as diverse as madness and menstruation. However, careful study has shown that there are no such links. This web page outlines how the Moon is unconnected with a wide range of human activities.
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Finding planets, even with the directions below, can sometimes be difficult if you are unfamiliar with the sky. However, the Moon is very obvious, and can be a guide to location planets. Not only that, the combination of the Moon and bright planet(s) is often very beautiful. Thus the guide below gives the dates when the planets and the Moon are close together.
The morning sky facing east in Melbourne on November 21 at midnight AEDST showing the the northern horizon with Moon near Jupiter. (similar views will be seen from other cities at the equivalent local time eg 5:30 am ACST Adelaide.
The evening sky facing west in Melbourne on November 7 at 9:00 pm AEDST showing the crescent Moon and Venus close together. (similar views will be seen from other cities at the equivalent local time eg 9:00 pm ACDST Adelaide).
Mercury is lost in the twilight all this month.
Venus is prominent in the evening sky in November. On November 1 Venus is almost seven handspans above the western horizon an hour after sunset. At this time it is a distinct half Moon shape. Venus is at its greatest distance from the Sun as seen from Earth on the 1st, aftrer this, it slowly heads towards the horizon. Venus passes through Ophiuchus then enters Sagittarius this month.It has several close encouners with various clusters and stars in Sagittarius. On the 2nd Venus is two fingerwidths from the galactic centre. Venus passes within binocular distance of the beautiful cluster M21 and the Lagoon and Triffid nebulas between the 3rd-6th. On November 7 Venus is around a handspan from the crescent Moon. On November 11 Venus and the bright star Kaus Borealis are less than 2 fingerwiths apart. On November 11 Venus and the bright globular cluster M22 are within binocular distance of each other. On November 15 Venus is five handspans above the western horizon an hour after sunset. On the 16th Venus is a fingerwidth from the bright star phi Sagittarii. On the 19th Venus is much less than a fingerwidth from the bright star Nunki, they may be hard to tell apart with the unaided eye. On the 30th Venus is four handspans above the western horizon an hour after sunset. At this time it is a distinct crescent shape.
Mars rises higher in the morning sky. Red (well, sort of orange) Mars moves through the constellation of Leo into Virgo this month. On November 1 Mars is three handspans above the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. By November 15th Mars is over three handspans above the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. The thin crescent Moon is five fingerwidths above Mars on the 28th. By the 30th, Mars is nearly four handspans above the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise.
Jupiter rises higher the morning sky this month. It enters the evening sky later in the month, but remains close to the hroizon around midnight, the best telescopic views are in the morning when it is at its highest. Jupiter spends the month in Gemini. On November 1 Jupiter is nearly five handspans above the northern horizon an hour before sunrise. It is just over a fingerwidth from the moderately bright star Wasat at this time.On November 15 Jupiter is still nearly five handspans above the northern horizon an hour before sunrise. On November 21 and 22 the waning Moon is around a handspan from Jupiter. On November 30 Jupiter remains nearly five handspans above the northern horizon an hour before sunrise. It has returned to being just under a fingerwidth from the moderately bright star Wasat at this time.
In either binoculars or a telescope Jupiters Moons are always interesting, and there are a few interesting transits this month, the 8th, 10th and 17th are particularly good.This table was created using The Planets 2.02 a free program available from http://www.cpac.org.uk Times are AEDST, subtract 30 minutes for ACDST and 3 hours for AWST.Subtract 1 hour for standard time. GRS = Great Red Spot. S = Shadow Transit, T = Transit Fri 1 Nov 2:42 Io : Shadow Transit Begins S Fri 1 Nov 3:29 Eur: Disappears into Eclipse S Fri 1 Nov 3:55 Io : Transit Begins ST Sun 1 Dec 4:43 Io : Shadow Transit Begins S Fri 1 Nov 4:56 Io : Shadow Transit Ends T Fri 1 Nov 5:26 Gan: Shadow Transit Begins ST Sun 1 Dec 5:33 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sun 1 Dec 5:33 Io : Transit Begins ST Fri 1 Nov 6:10 Io : Transit Ends S Sat 2 Nov 3:27 Io : Reappears from Occultation Sun 3 Nov 2:31 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sun 3 Nov 3:23 Eur: Transit Ends Tue 5 Nov 3:21 Gan: Reappears from Occultation Tue 5 Nov 4:09 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Thu 7 Nov 2:16 Cal: Disappears into Occultation Thu 7 Nov 5:40 Cal: Reappears from Occultation Thu 7 Nov 5:48 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Fri 8 Nov 1:39 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Fri 8 Nov 4:35 Io : Shadow Transit Begins S Fri 8 Nov 5:45 Io : Transit Begins ST Fri 8 Nov 6:02 Eur: Disappears into Eclipse ST Sat 9 Nov 1:50 Io : Disappears into Eclipse Sat 9 Nov 5:17 Io : Reappears from Occultation Sun 10 Nov 1:18 Io : Shadow Transit Ends ST Sun 10 Nov 2:27 Io : Transit Ends S Sun 10 Nov 3:09 Eur: Transit Begins ST Sun 10 Nov 3:17 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sun 10 Nov 3:28 Eur: Shadow Transit Ends T Sun 10 Nov 5:51 Eur: Transit Ends Tue 12 Nov 2:21 Gan: Reappears from Eclipse Tue 12 Nov 3:51 Gan: Disappears into Occultation Tue 12 Nov 4:55 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Wed 13 Nov 0:46 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Fri 15 Nov 2:05 Cal: Shadow Transit Begins S Fri 15 Nov 2:24 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Fri 15 Nov 4:58 Cal: Shadow Transit Ends Sat 16 Nov 3:44 Io : Disappears into Eclipse Sun 17 Nov 0:57 Io : Shadow Transit Begins S Sun 17 Nov 2:00 Io : Transit Begins ST Sun 17 Nov 3:11 Io : Shadow Transit Ends T Sun 17 Nov 3:25 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins ST Sun 17 Nov 4:02 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sun 17 Nov 4:15 Io : Transit Ends S Sun 17 Nov 5:35 Eur: Transit Begins ST Sun 17 Nov 6:04 Eur: Shadow Transit Ends T Mon 18 Nov 1:33 Io : Reappears from Occultation Tue 19 Nov 2:36 Eur: Reappears from Occultation Tue 19 Nov 3:17 Gan: Disappears into Eclipse Tue 19 Nov 5:40 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Wed 20 Nov 1:32 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Fri 22 Nov 3:10 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sat 23 Nov 0:27 Gan: Transit Ends Sat 23 Nov 5:38 Io : Disappears into Eclipse Sun 24 Nov 2:50 Io : Shadow Transit Begins S Sun 24 Nov 3:47 Io : Transit Begins ST Sun 24 Nov 4:48 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sun 24 Nov 5:05 Io : Shadow Transit Ends T Sun 24 Nov 6:01 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins ST Sun 24 Nov 6:03 Io : Transit Ends S Mon 25 Nov 0:07 Io : Disappears into Eclipse Mon 25 Nov 0:39 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Mon 25 Nov 3:20 Io : Reappears from Occultation Tue 26 Nov 0:26 Eur: Disappears into Eclipse T Tue 26 Nov 0:29 Io : Transit Ends Tue 26 Nov 4:56 Eur: Reappears from Occultation Wed 27 Nov 2:17 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Wed 27 Nov 23:52 Eur: Transit Ends Fri 29 Nov 3:55 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Fri 29 Nov 23:46 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sat 30 Nov 0:24 Gan: Shadow Transit Ends Sat 30 Nov 0:45 Gan: Transit Begins T Sat 30 Nov 3:56 Gan: Transit EndsSaturn is lost in the twilight this month, and will return to the morning sky in December.
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Iridium Flares, the International Space Station and other satellites
See this amazing site for images of the space station taken through a telescope.
Iridium flares add a bit of spectacle to the night sky. The Iridium satellite network was set up to give global phone coverage, so an Iridium satellite is almost always over head. Occasionally, one of the antenna of the satellites is aligned so that it reflects the sun towards an observer, giving a brilliant flare, often out-shining Venus. However, the visibility of Iridium flares is VERY dependent on observer position, so you need a prediction for your spot within about 30 km. Hence I'm referring you to a web site for predictions rather than doing it myself.
See an Irridium Flare at your Location. Courtesy of Heavens above. Choose your location from the drop down box
- Heavens above, an excellent site. You need to choose your location or manually enter a longitude and latitude (once done the site remembers this). Predicts Iridium Flare occurrence, and gives the visibility the space shuttle, the International space station and heaps of other satellites. I find this the most useful site.
Or type in Your Latitude and Longitude in decimal format eg Darwin is -12.461 130.840 , to find your Lat Long go to this site.
See the International Space Station at your Location. Courtesy of Heavens above. Choose your location from the drop down box
Or type in Your Latitude and Longitude in decimal format eg Darwin is -12.461 130.840 , to find your Lat Long go to this site.
Another site, JPASS, doesn't do Iridium flares, but is very cool and does the International Space Station, and many other satellites. However, although the output is flashy, it's harder to use than heavens above.
- The JPASS site from NASA.
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Date Meteor Shower ZHR Illumination 5/11/2013 Taurids 5 0.5 17/11/2013 Leonids 15 0.25
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 were dark enough for 6.5-magnitude stars to be visible to the naked eye. Illumination gives an idea of how dark the sky is, the lower the figure, the darker the sky.
Morning sky facing north-east at 3:00 pm AEDST on 18 November, the Leonid radiant is indicated with a cross.
The Taurids are a small shower produced by the debris from comet Enke. The shower originates just above the upturned V of the Hyades (see eastern horizon map). The best time to watch is around midnight.
For this years Leonids the Moon is just past full and Moonlight interfeers substantially. Also, this year there are low rates, so you will be unlikley to see anything substantial (although there may be short bursts of higher rates). The best time to observe in Australia is the morning of the 18th between 3 and 4 am (daylight saving time). The Radiant (where the meteors appear to come from) is in the Sickle of Leo, see the map above. Orion and the Hyades will be visible, with Jupiter high in the north and Mars low in the east. So it will be a quite nice morning, even if there are only a few meteors in the Moonlight.
Outside of the showers, you can still see sporadic meteors. Rates seen from the Southern Hemisphere are around 6 random meteors being seen per hour during the late morning hours and 2 per hour during the evening. The evening rates will be reduced during the times around the full Moon due to interference by the Moons light.
A good page describing meteor watching is at the Sky Publications site.
The Meteor Section of the Astronomical Society of Victoria has some good information on meteor watching too.
Learn how to take a meteor shower photograph.
A Cool Fact about meteor speeds
A good page on detecting meteors using home made radiotelescopes is here.
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Comet C/2012 S1 ISON is expected to become very bright in late November, early December. Currently it is visible in modest amateur instruments and has been reported by European observers using binoculars. While the comet will be around magnitude 8 at the beginning of November and around 7-6 mid November, it is never very high at Astronomical twilight (5 and 7 degrees above the horizon in most of Australia). The horizon murk means that it might be diffcult to see until mid late November, when the comet begins the last phase of its plung2 into the Sun, and may brighten substantially.
The comet is in the eastern morning sky just below and to the right of Mars making finding it relatively easy by star hopping down Leo and Virgo.On the 1st there are no bright stars near the comet to make it easy to find. However, bright Mars is nearby and very obvious. If you start at orange Mars and sweep down diagonally to the right (east) of Mars around a hand span (the distance across the palm of your hand as you hold it out at arm’s length like you are making a stop sign), the first brightish star you come to is Chi (χ) Leo, down another 4 finger widths is the next bright star, Sigma (σ) Leo. The comet is roughly in between them, you may need to hunt back and forth a bit to find it. Over the next few days the comet approaches, then passes, Sigma Leonis. Sweeping down again diagonally a little over a hand span from Sigma Leonis is the bright star Zanijava, Beta (β) Virginis. The comet approaches beta Virginis and is closest on the 7th and 8th of November. The comet should, all things going well, be easily visible in binoculars now. Sweeping diagonally east again about a handspan is the next brightest star Zaniah, eta (η) Virginis. From the 8th the comet heads towards Zaniah, and is closest on the 11th. Between the 8th and the 11th sweeping between and a little above these stars should reveal the comet. Sweeping diagonally down yet again from Zaniah is the bright star Porrima, gamma (γ) Virginis. Between the 11th and the 14th the comet is running several finger widths above an imaginary line joining these stars. On the 14th comet ISON is 4 finger widths above Porrima, and should be (just) visible to the unaided eye and easily visible in binoculars. However, the comet is also sinking towards the horizon, so you will have to wait deeper in the twilight for the comet to get reasonably high above the horizon, as the sky brightens the comet will be more difficult to see, offsetting its own rise in brightness. The comet is also moving much more quickly now, as it begins its final dive into the sun. over the next 4 days the comet quickly approaches the bright star Spica, the obvious and brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. Comet ISON is closest on the 18th and 19th and should be very easy to pick up with this obvious guide post. From now on there are no obvious bright stars to act as guide posts, but the comet is brightening rapidly and should be fairly obvious. Whether it will outpace the rising dawn, and be come easily visible to the unaided eye without binoculars is uncertain at this stage. The comet is sufficiently low that you need to start looking at nautical twilight, and hour before local sunrise. Things start moving even more quickly now. The comet rapidly brightens as it sinks into the brightening dawn sky. It may be that comet ISON will be easily seen, or you might still need binoculars to locate it. At this stage we cannot tell which of these possibilities it might be, but even if only visible clearly in binoculars it should be a very nice sight. On the 28th the comet rounds the Sun, it may be bright enough to be be visible in daylight, but as it will be only a finger width from the Sun, do NOT try and observe it or severe eye damage or blindness may result. After this, if the comet survives its close passge of the Sun, it will only be observable from the Northern Hemisphere (although people in Darwin may see the comets tail poking up above the hroizon at dawn, if it forms a big tail). A PDF spotters map is available here .
On November 1 the comet is still in the constellation of Leo, and is just crossing Earth's Orbit. On this date, an hour and a half before sunrise, comet ISON is just under a hand span above the horizon as seen from the latitude of Melbourne, just over a hand span as seen from the latitude of Sydney, nearly two hand spans as seen from the latitude of Brisbane and almost 4 hand spans as seen from the latitude of Darwin.
Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy is currently magnitude 7 and easily visible in binoculars. It is a good target if you are up early looking for ISON. The comet should brighten more over the coming weeks, and will be very close to the iconic Beehive cluster on the 7th and 8th of November. This should be a great photo opportunity. The comet has a distinct coma, and a very thin tail which is really only visible on long exposure images with telescopes. In binoculars it will look like a fuzzy blob. This week the comet is to the right of Jupiter between two of the main stars of the constellation Cancer, Beta and Delta Canceri, so sweeping with binoculars or a telescope between these stars should net you the comet. The best time to see it is in the early monring, before Astronomical twilight (90 minutes before local sunrise). As I mentioned above it will be very close to the iconic Beehive cluster on the 7th and 8th of November. A printable PDF chart is here. The comet is closest to Earth on 19 November, but it will be too deep in the twilight to see from Australia. We should see it brighten to unaided eye visibility (magnitude 6) by the middle of November.
A list of current comet ephemerides is at the MPC.
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No interesting naked-eye occultations this month.
No significant eclipses this month.
Find local sunrise/sunset and twilight times for your city or location (courtesy of Heavens Above).
Use either the drop down box for the listed cities, or type in your latitude, longitude and city in the boxes below.
Type in Your Latitude and Longitude in decimal format eg -12.461 130.840 , to find your Lat Long go to this site.
While most stars seem to shine with a constant brightness, there are some that undergo regular, dramatic change in brightness. The classic variable Mira and Algol is currently unobservable, but Algol may be seen between 8:00 pm and 3 am.
Algol at midnight ADST on 1 November.
Algol is another classic variable star, but is usually hard to see from the southern hemisphere. This month we have a couple of chances to see Algol dim and brighten under reasonable circumstances. Algol will be at its dimmest onDimming and brightening takes place over a couple of hours before and after the time of minimum.
13 November 00:20 am ACDST
15 November 09:09 pm ACDST
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The southern evening sky at 10:00 pm AEDST in Melbourne on November 1 (similar views will be seen from other cities at the equivalent local time eg 10:00 pm ACDST Adelaide).
All descriptions here are based on the view from Melbourne at 10.00 pm AEDST (Australian Eastern Standard Time) on 1 November and assumes a fairly level horizon. Starset occurs progressively earlier each day, so these descriptions are valid for 9.00 pm on the 15th and 8.00pm on the 30th. Readers fom other time zones should see roughly the same views at 10.00 pm local time. Corrections for cities other than Melbourne are given below.
How do I find east, west, north and south?
- Readers in Adelaide and Auckland should see roughly the same views at the local equivalent of 10.00 pm AEDST.
- Readers in Hobart and Christchurch must decrease descriptions to the North by about five finger widths and increase those to the south by the same amount.
- Readers in Sydney, Fremantle, Perth, Santiago and Capetown should add 3 finger widths to the northern descriptions, and subtract 3 finger widths to the south.
- Readers in Brisbane, Alice Springs, Rio deJanerio and Johannesburg must adjust North/South descriptions by two hand spans.
- Readers in Darwin, Cairns, Brazilia, La Paz, Lusaka and Lima must adjust North/South descriptions by about 4-5 hand spans.
Facing east, Orion is just begining to rise above the horizon. Above this, the faint constellation of Erandius, the river, stradles the the horizon and meanders upwards and southwards to where brightest star, Achenar, points to the small mangellanic cloud.
Eight hand spans up and four to the left of east Cetus, the whale, with its bottom parts bracketed by Jupiter and Saturn. Beta Ceti is a modestly bright star tweleve hand spans above the horizon, the rest of Cetus is relatively faint. Mira, Omicron Ceti (O on the maps) is a variable star with a period of about 332 days.
Cetus also hosts a nearby sun like star. Tau Ceti is 11.4 light years away from earth, looking 12 hand spans up from east and three to the left is magnitude 2 Deneb Kaitos, beta Ceti. Two hand spans below and slightly to the left is eta Ceti, two hand spans to the right of eta Ceti, forming a triangle with eta and beta, is Tau Ceti.
Five hand spans to the left of Cetus is Pisces, a rather non-descript constellation, despite its importance in the Zodiac.
Continuing on to the zenith we find the faint Sculptor and Phoneix. Slightly to the west of the zenith is bright Fomalhaut, alpha star of Piscis Austrinus. Next to Fomalhaut is Grus, the crane, with a distinctive, battered cross-like shape.
Looking westward from the zenith, about five hand spans down from Fomalhaut is the battered triangle of Capricornius, the Water Goat, currently hosting Neptune. Of interest as well is alpha Capricorni, the brightish star at bottom left hand corner of the triangle that is Capricorn. This is a naked eye double star.
About mid-sky, almost directly west is the distinctive "teapot" shape of Sagittarius, the archer. The "teapot" is upside down, the "spout" is pointing south-west, its "handle" north-east, and its "lid" points down to the right (north-eastern horizon). This constellations panalopy of clusters and nebula are still easily seen.
M24, an open cluster about two finger widths to the right and slightly down from the "lid" of the teapot should be visible to the naked eye, just above this and slightly to the left by about a hand span is a number of open clusters and a patch of luminosity that marks the lagoon nebula. M22, a globular cluster, is close to the lid (between and about a finger widths left of the two stars that make the bottom of the lid), should be visible as a dim, fuzzy star on a dark night. Between these clusters and the "lid" itself runs the Great Sagittarius Starcloud. The center of our galaxy lies in Sagittarius, and on a dark night, the traceries of the Milky Way and its dust clouds are particularly beautiful. A high definition map of Sagittarius can be found here.
Continuing on west, the rambling constellation of Ophiucus sits on the western horizon.
Directly to the left the distinctive "hook" shape of Scorpio, the scorpion, stretches down towards the western horizon. Going up from the south-western horizon by about a hand spans you will see three bright stars forming a line nearly perpendicular to the horizon and a curved "tail" of stars. The bright red giant star Antares (Alpha Scorpius, the middle star in the three stars near the horizon) is quite prominent. The area around Scorpio is normally quite rewarding in binoculars, but this close to the horizon it will be difficult to see anything of interest. A high definition map of Scorpio is here. Just before the point where the tail curves around is a series of star clusters that make up the so-called false comet. The illusion of a comet is quite strong in small binoculars as well, but in stronger binoculars the clusters are quite clear.
Returning to the Zenith and working towards the northern horizon. 5 hand spans down from Fomalhaut is the faint but rambling constellation of Aquarius.
10 hand spans down from the Zenith (9 from Fomalhaut and seven above the northern horizon) is the star that forms the upper left hand corner of the "great square" of the constellation Pegasus, the winged horse. The stars that make distinctive box shape of the main constellation lies around three hand spans to the right of and down from (and 4 across from) the top left most star.
Two hand spans below and one hand span to the right of the bottom right hand star of the great square (Alpheratz, alpha Andromedae) is the Andromeda galaxy (also 3 hand spans to the right of due north and two above the horizon), one of the local group of galaxies and very similar to our own, at magnitude 3.2 it should be easily visible to the naked eye under dark skies as a fuzzy star. The binocular view should be excellent.
Three hand spans diagonally down from Alpheratz is beta Andromedae. A hand span to the right and three finger widths up is M33, the pinwheel galaxy, also a member of the local group. At magnitude 5.7 and relatively close to the horizon, this galaxy is a challenge to see with the naked eye, but is easily found in small binoculars.
At almost the same level as Pegasus, but and 9 hand spans to the left of the great square is the three bright stars that mark Aquilla, the Eagle, with the brightest, white Altair, being in the center.
Now return to the zenith and go South. Directly south (a little to the left of Grus and below) brings you to the edge of the dim constellation of Tucana, the Toucan. About three hand spans below the zenith, directly on due south, is gamma Tucana, to the right by one hand span and slightly below is alpha Tucana. Just below gamma Tucana by 3 hand spans and about a hand span to the left is the Small Magellanic cloud, the second largest of the dwarf satellite galaxies to the Milky Way. This feature is best viewed on a dark night, away from the city. In this nebulosity is what looks to be a fuzzy star, this is 47 Tucana (marked 104 on the map), a spectacular globular cluster that is very nice through binoculars.
To the right of alpha Tucana by around three hand spans and slightly below is Peacock, alpha Pavonis, a reasonably bright magnitude 2 star that heads the large, but dim, constellation of Pavo the Peacock. Delta Pavonis, about one and a half hand spans below and one to the left of alpha Pavonis, is one of the handful of sun-like stars within 20 light years of Earth that might have terrestrial planets in its habitable zone.
To the right of and somewhat below Delta Pavonis by about 4 hand spans is the boxy shape of Ara, the Altar.
To the left of alpha Tucana by 5 hand spans and above is Ankaa, alpha Phoenicis, of the constellation of the Phoenix, another relatively non-descript constellation.
To the left of alpha Tucana by 5 hand spans is bright Achenar, alpha Erandius.
Continuing directly down from gamma Tucana by four hand spans is Octans, the octant (a navigating instrument the was the fore runner of the sextant). Octans houses the south cellestial pole, and the faint Sigma Octanis, the South Polar star, which is the southern equivalent of Polaris. At magnitude 5.5 you will be stretched to see it under city conditions, but it is six hand spans directly below gamma Tucana, forming the apex of an inverted triangle with two other faint stars (tau and chi Octanis).
Directly below Octans by around three hand spans and a little to the left is the faint Chameleon, a narrow "kite" of four stars with the long axis parallel to the horizon. To the left of Chameleon by a little over 3 hand spans is the extended nebulosity of the Large Magellanic cloud, the largest of the dwarf satellite galaxies. Binoculars will reveal a rather attractive nebula near it, the Tarantula nebula.
To the right of Chameleon by around four hand spans is Triangulum. Directly below triangulum are the bright, distinctive alpha and beta Centauri, the so called "pointers", three hand spans from the south-west horizon, with alpha being the yellow star which is furthest from the horizon, and beta the blue white star below and to the left. Between these stars and Chameleon lies the faint constellation Musca the fly. Between the pointers and Pavo lie the dim triangular constellations of triangulum and Circinus (the compass). Most of the rest of Centarus, the Centaur, is too close to, or below, the Horizon to be seen properly.
Alpha Centauri is the closest star to our sun at around 4 light years. However, recent measurements with the Hippacaros satellite put the system 300 million kilometers further away than previously thought. Alpha centauri is actually a triple star, consisting of two sunlike stars and a red dwarf, Proxima centauri, which is the closest of the triple stars to Earth.
Returning to alpha Centauri, following a line south through the "pointers" brings you to the Southern Cross, two hand spans below and to the left the pointers (one and a half hand spans from beta Centauri to beta Crucis) and two hand spans above the horizon between the 5 o'clock and 6 o'clock position on a clock. A high definition map of Centaurus and Crux is here.
The Southern Cross is, as expected, a cross shaped formation with Acrux (alpha Crucis) and gamma Crucis forming the long axis of the cross (pointing down to the south-west, with bright Acrux on the end of the axis away from the horizon). Beta and delta Crucis, now nearly horizontal, form the cross piece of the cross. Just to the right Acrux is the coal sack. This dark area against the glow of the milky way represents a large dust cloud and is usually clearly visible in dark skies, but will be hard to see this close to the horizon. The Jewel box in the Cross is a small open cluster just above Beta Crucis. It is quite beautiful, but requires strong binoculars or a small telescope to see properly, and is unlikely to be good viewing this close to the horizon.
Just above the southern horizon, to the left of due south is Carina (the keel of the former constellation Argo Navis). A high definition map of this region is here. Although close to the horizon, with many faint objects obscured, looking almost anywhere in the area of Carina will reveal an interesting cluster or star formation. However, the area between the Southern Cross and the false cross (which is just above the south-eastern horizon), is particularly rich. Here you will find the "Southern Pleiades" surrounding the tail star (Theta Carina) of a prominent kite shaped group of stars in Carina. Smaller and less spectacular than their northern counterparts, they still look very nice in binoculars. Four finger widths below the Southern Pleiades are two rich open clusters, and the barely visible star Eta Carina. Eta Carina's spectacular nebula is only dimly seen in binoculars. Five hand spans to the left of the Southern Cross is the False Cross, two hand spans from the southern horizon. Just to the left of the False Cross is a good open cluster, normally just visible to the naked eye but hard to see this close to the horizon. Still very nice in binoculars though. Canopus (alpha Carina) is a bright yellowish star sitting just four hand spans above the south-eastern horizon .
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How to use the maps
Comparison of a section of a skymap showing the Southern Cross (Crux) and pointers, with the appearance of the night sky. The map and sky are for September 1 at 10.00 pm, facing south. Both show approximately 30 degrees (5 handspans) of sky just above the horizon
The maps look a little busy, as they cover all sky from horizon to zenith. The grid lines are navigational helpers; each horizontal or vertical line covers 30 degrees of arc (the gridlines in the illustration show 15 degrees of arc), which is roughly five handspans (where a handspan is the width of your hand, held flat light a "stop" sign at arms length). As you can see from the way the lines bunch up. The map is a little distorted, due to trying to project a spherical surface on a flat surface. The horizon is the lowest curved line on the map (for technical software reasons I can't block things out below the Horizon). Constellations are linked by lines and their names are in italics. Stars are shown as circles of varying size, the bigger the circle the brighter the star. The stars are named with their Bayer letter (eg a - alpha, the brightest star in a constellation, a Crucis is the brightest star in Crux). Variable stars are shown as hollow circles, double stars are marked with a line (eg a, b and g Crucis are all double stars, that look quite beautiful in a small telescope). Clusters and Nebula brighter than magnitude 6.0 are marked as broken circles (eg the Jewel box cluster next to b Crucis above which is best viewed in binoculars or a telescope) and squares respectively. To find Crux for example, locate Crux on the appropriate map (eg see the illustration above). Holding the Map, face either east or west (depending on the map), then use the grid lines to determine how far over and up you should look, then look for the Crux pattern in that part of the Sky.
GIF MapsA view of the Eastern November sky at 10.00pm AEDST on 1 November can be downloaded here (novsky_e.gif 30 Kb) and a view of the western November sky can be downloaded here (novsky_w.gif 30 Kb). These are more compact files but don't have a lot of resolution.
If you wish to print the GIF maps directly from Netscape you must set the printer in landscape mode and you must set the margins to 0 cm (yes, that's right, 0 cm) or the maps will not print correctly.
PDF MapsHigh Resolution PDF files can be obtained for the eastern (110 Kb) and the western (110 Kb) horizon maps.
The Zenith Map (110 Kb) shows you the whole sky. You will need to face the one of the compass points, then hold the map with the appropriate compass point on the map at the bottom of the page.
You will need a PDF viewer such as Adobe Acrobat or GhostView to view and print them. They look slightly worse on-screen than the GIF files, especially as Acrobat 3.0-4.0 can only display them side on, but print much better and come with legends. However, Acrobat 4.05 and higher can display them in the proper orientation.
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[December Skies] [January Skies] [February Skies] [March Skies] [April Skies] [May Skies] [June Skies] [July Skies] [August Skies] [September Skies] [October Skies] Return to Menu
Cheers! And good star gazing!
Ian's Astrophotography GallerySome of the photographs/images I have taken in recent years of astronomical phenomena that may be of interest.
- Partial Lunar eclipse. Partial Lunar eclipse, July 5, 2001
- My Solar eclipse report. Pictures from the Dec 4, 2002 solar eclipse in South Australia
- Transit of Mercury pictures! 7 May 2003
- Images of the partial solar eclipse 24 Nov 2003
- Transit of Venus June 8 2004 report
- Images of Jupiter, taken, after an enormous struggle, with my webcam, April 2005
- Mosaics of the Moon, more fun with my webcam, April-May 2005
- Animation of Sunrise on the Moon November 2006
- Animation of A shadow Transit on Jupiter May 2007
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- OnLine Astronomical Societies in Australia, from the Astronomical Society of New South Wales Inc.
- Astronomical Society of Australia
- Mornington Peninsula Astronomy Society
- Astronomy Guild of Australia
- Ice in Space
- A clickable star map for Victoria
- Monthly free Star maps. High quality, monthly maps for Southern and Northern Skies, has lists of interesting objects. Requires Adobe Acrobat to print.
- Gordon Garradd's Astronomy Page
- Peter Enzerinks Astronomy page - Web based telescope/eyepiece calculator and other southern sky tidbits.
- Buying a telescope in Australia, lots of helpful hints.
- Anglo-Australian Observatory
- MSSSO - Mt Stromlo and Siding Springs Observatory
- ATNF - Australian Telescope National Facility
- Parks Radio telescope facility
- Spaceguard Australia the proposed search for Near Earth Objects including meteroids.
- Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex
- Star Class, Astronomy Education
- Information about Aboriginal astronomy.
- Australian weather forecasts
- Sky and Space, Australia's Astronomy magazine.
- Planetary Society, Australian Volunteers events diary.
- Australian Astronomy
Astronomy for Kids
- Adelaide Planetarium
- Canberra Planetarium and Observatory
- Launceston Planetarium
- Science Centre and Planetarium (Wollongong)
- Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium
- Perth Observatory and Planetarium
- Museum of Victoria Planetarium, Skynotes Index
- The Cosmos Centre in Charleville
- ABC Space for Kids, Games, information and more.
- Star Child NASA space information for kis 5-13.
- Interactive site on the Sun, good kids resources
- ABC Space for Kids, Games, information and more.
- Astronomy for Kids
- Astronomy for Kids (different site to the one above, and a bit simple, but lots of good images).
- Kids astronomy information from Astronomy Magazine
- SEDS, home of the Nine Planets Tour, and much much more
- The Planetary Society
- Center for Backyard Astrophysics
- Amateur Radio Telescopes
- International Occulation Timing Society
- Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy pages (very educational)
- SKY Online - Your Astronomy Source on the World Wide Web
- Astronomy Magazine
- Stellar distances
- Space Weather site (with Meteor counts)
- Near Earth Object home page (also follows comets, including LINEAR S4 and meteor showers)
- A 3D map of satellites orbiting the Earth in real time! Simply amazing!
- The Anglo Australian Observatories 3D virtual tour through a 3D map of the Cosmos. Mind Blowing!
- Views of extrasolar planets seen from the Southern sky, stunning Java-driven map with heaps of (complex) info.
- Stellarium, free (but large) photorealistic sky charting software. What I use for the horizon views.
- Celestia, free 3D space travel software, see the Earth from Mars, see the Moon of EL62, see Saturn rise on Titan.
- Ian's Celestia resources. Save these files into the "Extras" directory
- Script to show Conjunctions of Earth from Mars.
- Definition File for asteroid 87 Sylvia and her two moons (see story here).
- Definition File for Pluto's two new Moons P1 and P2.
- Definition file for three Neptunian extrasolar planets of HD 69830.
- Asteroid 2004 VD17, which will not hit the Earth.
- Definition file for Comet 2006/P1 McNaught
- Definition file for for the Gliese 581 system that contains the most Earth-like world yet.
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Charts, Books and Software for AstronomyIf you would like to have charts available all the time, rather than relying on mine, for between $2-$20 you can pick up a planisphere from a newsagent or bookshop (or for a bit more you can get fancy ones from Australian Geographic, the ABC shop or the other Australian Geographic look alike shop, or the Wilderness Society, or even a binocular/ optical store). The planisphere won't give you position of the planets, so you will need to get the planet rise/set times. These can be found in most serious newspapers (the Age, the Australian, SMH etc. The Australian is probably the best bet for budding amateurs). The combination of planisphere and rise/set times is the best value for beginners though, if you are not too worried about identifying star clusters in your binoculars.
Or, for $19.95 US, you can have the Touring the Universe through Binoculars Atlas http://www.philharrington.net/tuba.htm which can print observing charts, but has a few annoying quirks. These include having no horizon line, and the planets are shown in the wrong places.
I use a combination of a 1962 star chart, the Australian Astronomy 2013 almanac and SkyMap Pro 11.0 . I highly recommend the Australian Astronomy 2013 almanac. It is more helpful for planetary/comet/asteroidal observations and eclipses than for double stars, clusters galaxies etc, but is an excellent resource for Australian observers and anyone who would like to seriously follow the planets in Australia should have this almanac. It has easy to follow month-by-month summary information, as well as detailed charts, tables and whole sky maps. It is easily navigated. The Almanac is often in big bookstores or optical shops, or email email@example.com to purchase a copy directly for those outside major population centres. The Australian Astronomy almanac comes out in around November for the following year, and is now approx $28.
Sky and Telescope now also do an Australian version of their magazine.
For detailed chart drawing and timing of events, as well as satellite track predictions I feed the information from the almanac into the $150 AUD SkyMap Pro 11.0 , planetarium program. This is a very handy program which prints maps of every possible orientation and scale. The maps on this page are produced by SkyMap.
A shareware version of SkyMap that runs on windows 3.x, and win95 can be found here http://www.winsite.com/info/pc/win3/desktop/skymp21a.zip this is approximately 640 Kb zipped.
A shareware version of the win95 only version 5.0 is here http://www.download.net.au/cgi-bin/dl?13607
Other highly recommended Sky charting packages (win95/98/2000/XP sorry) are:
Cartes du Ciel at http://www.stargazing.net/astropc/ (FREE) a bit messy to install but very good.
Stellarium at http://stellarium.sourceforge.net/ (FREE) stunning photorealistic program, but requires grunty PC and OpenGL.
TheSkyVarious packages from $49 US to $249 US
Stary Night various versions from $49 us for the basic pack (10 day trial of the basic pack at http://www.siennasoft.com/english/downloads.shtml) up.
Earth Centered Universe $88 AUD (shareware version at http://www.nova-astro.com/)
On the other hand a standard Sky Atlas for serious observing (much handier than carting a computer with you) such as Norton's Star Atlas can range from $35 to $90.
In these days of Handheld devices (smart phones and tablets), there is a plethora of sky charting apps you can take into the field with you. I use GoogleSky for android and a cut down version of Stellarium for iPad, my most used handheld app is heavens Above for Android, for watching Iridium flares and ISS passes. This is one app that has changed my astronomical life. There are many more, many free or less than 1 AUD to dowload.
This is not meant to be a product endorsement of any kind (outside of the Australian Astronomy 2013 almanac. For any budding astronomers out there, it is fantastic value and no, I don't have any commercial interest in it, but I did win bronze in their website Olympics).
This page can be used freely for any non-commercial purpose but please attribute it correctly. However, see the disclaimer.
Ian with any suggestions
Created: Wednesday, 1 April 1998, 11:22:13 PM
Last Updated: Saturday, 2 November 2013, 11:30:13 PM