Get ready for the Transit of Venus on the 6th!
Useful info for visitors from New Zealand, South Africa and South America.
June 1; nearly full Moon forms a triangle with the bright star Spica and Saturn . June 4, Partial eclipse of the Moon. June 6; Transit of Venus (last until 2117). June 17; morning, Jupiter close to the crescent Moon. June 18, morning, Venus close to the crescent Moon and Aldebaran. June 21; thin crescent Moon close to Mercury. June 26; Waxing Moon close to Mars. June 28; Waxing Moon close to Spica and Saturn again. .
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.
[Astroblog Updated astronews and images at Astroblog!] [Weekly Sky ] [Astronomy Media Player] [Aurora Alert! Updated 12/3/12] [Coming events and Updates updated for 2012] [Out in Space ] [ The Moon] [Planets] [Meteors] [ Comets ] [ Occultations ] [Partial Lunar Eclipse June 4] [Stars] [Star Maps] [Using the Maps] [Iridium Flares and the International Space Station pass predictions (via Heavens Above)] [Links ] [Charts, Books and Software for Astronomy] [Celestia scripts and add-ons Gliese 581] [Previous Months] [Feedback] [Ian's Astrophotography gallery Animation of Jupiter] [Email alert service] [Images of past aurora]
Autumn has arrived again, and the nights are getting longer. People are dusting off the various spheriods of their preferred football code. Anyone at night time practice can take some time off to stare up at the Autumn skies and see the Milky Way, and the constelations of Carina, Puppis and Vela, blaze across our night sky. Orion the Hunter and his dog Canis major are also magnificent. You don't have to practice a football code to look at the stars, of course. Nights are often cool now, so don't forget a footy jumper before doing any extended star watching.
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.
Return to Menu
Aurora Alert UPDATED 12/03/12: The strongest solar storm since 2005 triggered intense aurora in the Northern hemisphere, and some modest aurora in Southern Australia. The Sun is still active, so we may see more auroa in the near future.
Auroral images and descriptions from past geomagnetic storms are now at the auroral image web page.
We are slowly climbing out of solar minimum, 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.
Return to Menu
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.
Return to Menu
2 January 2012; Moon Near Jupiter
14 January 2012; Moon Near Mars
17 January 2012; Moon Near Saturn and Spica
27 January 2012; Crescent Moon Near Venus
10 February 2012; Moon close to Mars
12 February 2012; Moon close to Spica and Saturn
26 February 2012; Crescent Moon close to Venus
27 February 2012; Crescent Moon close to Jupiter
4 March 2012; Mars is at Opposition
8 March 2012; Moon close to Mars
11 March 2012; Moon close to Saturn
14 March 2012; Jupiter and Venus close together
26 March 2012; Crescent Moon close to Jupiter and Venus
3 April 2012, Moon close to Mars
7 April 2012, Moon close to Spica and Saturn
16 April 2012, Saturn at opposition
19 April 2012, Mercury and Crescent Moon close
23 April 2012, Jupiter close to crescent Moon
25 April 2012, Venus close to crescent Moon
1 May 2012, Moon and Mars close together.
4 May 2012, Moon, Spica and Saturn close together.
5 May 2012 Eta Aquarid meter shower.
23 May 2012, Venus and crescent Moon close together.
1 June 2012, Moon, Spica and Saturn close together.
4 June 2012, Partial Eclipse of the Moon.
6 June 2012, Transit of Venus.
17-18 June 2012, Jupiter and Venus close to thin crescent Moon, Venus forms an "eye" of the constellation of Taurus.
21 June 2012, Mercury and Crescent Moon close.
26 June 2012, Mars close to the Moon.
28 June 2012, Spica and Saturn close to Moon.
1-9 July 2012, Venus and Jupiter close to Aldebaran.
2-4 July 2012, Mercury close to Beehive cluster.
15 July 2012, Jupiter and crescent Moon close.
16 July 2012, Venus and crescent Moon close.
20 July 2012, Mercury and thin crescent Moon close.
24 July 2012, Mars and crescent Moon close.
12 August 2012, Jupiter and thin crescent Moon close.
14 August 2012, Venus and thin crescent Moon close.
14 August 2012, Saturn, Mars and Spica form a line.
16 August 2012, Thin crescent Moon and Mercury close.
22 August 2012, Crescent Moon, Saturn, Spica and Mars close.
31 August 2012, "Blue" Moon.
9 September 2012, Moon close to Jupiter.
13 September 2012, Moon close to Venus.
18 September 2012, Saturn and the thin crescent Moon close.
20 September 2012, Mars and the crescent Moon close.
4 October 2012, Venus and Regulus close.
6 October 2012, (morning) Occultation/Graze of Jupiter and Moon.
13 October 2012, Venus close to crescent Moon.
15-25 October 2012, Mars close to Antares.
17 October 2012, Mercury close to crescent Moon.
18 October 2012, Mars close to crescent Moon.
22 October 2012, Orionid meteor shower.
11 November 2012, Leonid Meteor Shower.
12 November 2012, Crescent Moon close to Venus.
13 November 2012, Crescent Moon close to Saturn.
14 November 2012, Total Solar Eclipse.
18 November 2012, Venus, Spica and Saturn close.
16 November 2012, Crescent Moon close to Mars.
27 November 2012, Saturn close to Venus.
28 November 2012, Moon close to Jupiter.
3 December 2012, Opposition of Jupiter.
11 December 2012, Crescent Moon close to Saturn.
12 December 2012, Crescent Moon close to Venus and Mercury.
14 December 2012, Geminid Meteor shower.
15 December 2012, Mars and Crescent Moon close.
25 December 2012, Jupiter and Moon close.
Out in Space
Cassini sees more plumes from Enceladus.
The Mars Reconaissance Orbiter watches dunes blowing in the wind.
Mercury MESSENGER zooms in on Sullivan's crater.
The Dawn mission reevals the secrets of Vesta.
Return to Menu
Full moon on the 4th
Current Phase of the Moon.
Last quarter on the 11th
New Moon is on the 20th
First quarter on the 27th
June 1; nearly full Moon forms a triangle with the bright star Spica and Saturn. June 4, Partial eclipse of the Moon. June 17; morning, Jupiter close to the crescent Moon. June 18, morning, Venus close to the crescent Moon and Aldebaran. June 21; thin crescent Moon close to Mercury. June 26; Waxing Moon close to Mars. June 28; Waxing Moon close to Spica and Saturn again.
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.
Return to Menu
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 June 17 at 6:30 am AEST showing Jupiter, Venus, the thin Crescent Moon and the Hyades above the eastern horizon. (similar views will be seen from other cities at the equivalent local time eg 6:30 am ACST Adelaide.
The evening sky facing west in Melbourne on June 21 at 5:45 pm AEST showing Mercury and the crescent Moon close to the horizon. (similar views will be seen from other cities at the equivalent local time eg 5:45 pm ACST Adelaide.
Mercury returns to evening sky by mid month. On the 15th, Mercury is over a handspan above the western horizon half an hour after sunset. On the 21st Mercury and the thin Crescent Moon are a handspan apart. On the 30th, Mercury is two handspans above the western horizon half an hour after sunset.
Venus transits the sun on June 6, starting shortly after sunrise and finishing in the early afternoon. It then reappears in the morning sky later in the month. For more deatils of this historic transit, including timings, how to make observation systems, public viewings and webcasts, see my Transit of Venus website.
On June 15 Venus is just under a handspan above the eastern horizon half an hour before sunrise, below Jupiter and the bright star Aldebaran. On June 18 Venus and the Crescent Moon are a handspan apart, and Venus forms a second "eye" of the Bull with red Aldebaran. You will need a fairly clear, level horizon to see this (eg the ocean). Between the 15th and the 30th Venus has several close encounters with the stars of the Hyades cluster. Venus is a distinct crescent shape in even small telescopes. On June 30 Venus is two handspans above the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise, between Jupiter and the bright star Aldebaran.
Earth is at Winter solstice, Thursday, 21 June. At this time the night is longets and the day shortest.
Mars was at opposition on March 4th, when it was at its biggest and brightest as seen from Earth, but is now rather unpreposessing telescopically, but can still be easily seen as the bright red object in Leo. By the end of the Month Mars is in Virgo. On June 1 Mars is around four handspans above the north-western horizon at 10:00 pm (local time). By June 15th Mars is four handspans above the western horizon an horizon at 10:00 pm (local time). On the 26th the waxing Moon is a handspan from Mars. On the 28th Mars is less than a quarter of a fingerwidth from the bright star beta Virginis. By the 30th, Mars is around three handspans above the western horizon at 10:00 pm (local time). Mars is quite small in all but the most serious telescopes, due to this being a poor opposition.
Jupiter is now visible in the morning sky. On June 1 it is a handspan above the eastern horizon half an hour before sunrise. On June 15 Jupiter is over a handspan above the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. On June 17 the crescent Moon and Jupiter are a handspan apart. They form a triangle with the Pleiades cluster, and with Venus, Aldebaran and the Haydes nearby, this makes a wonderful morning sight. On June 30 Jupiter is over two handspans above the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. Jupiter, Venus and the bright star Aldebaran form a line in the morning sky.
In either binoculars or a telescope Jupiters Moons are always interesting, but with Jupiter to the horizon, observing is difficult.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 Sat 2 Jun 2012 6:32 Io : Shadow Transit Begins S Sat 2 Jun 2012 6:52 Io : Transit Begins ST Sat 2 Jun 2012 7:23 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sun 3 Jun 2012 6:33 Gan: Shadow Transit Ends T Thu 7 Jun 2012 6:33 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Thu 7 Jun 2012 7:34 Eur: Disappears into Eclipse Thu 14 Jun 2012 7:22 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sat 16 Jun 2012 6:50 Eur: Shadow Transit Ends T Sun 17 Jun 2012 7:30 Io : Disappears into Eclipse Mon 18 Jun 2012 6:59 Io : Shadow Transit Ends T Mon 18 Jun 2012 7:34 Io : Transit Ends Tue 19 Jun 2012 6:31 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Thu 21 Jun 2012 7:03 Gan: Reappears from Occultation Sat 23 Jun 2012 7:04 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins S Sun 24 Jun 2012 5:41 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Mon 25 Jun 2012 5:48 Eur: Reappears from Occultation Mon 25 Jun 2012 6:43 Io : Shadow Transit Begins S Mon 25 Jun 2012 7:25 Io : Transit Begins ST Tue 26 Jun 2012 6:47 Io : Reappears from Occultation Tue 26 Jun 2012 7:20 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Thu 28 Jun 2012 6:34 Gan: Disappears into EclipseSaturn is well past opposition, when it was biggest and brightest as seen from Earth. It is still quite prominent, and a good telescopic object, this month. Saturn is still close to the bright star Spica. On June 1 Saturn is just under ten handspans above the northern horizon, at 10pm local time, a handspan below Spica. On the evening of June 1 Saturn, Spica and the waxing Moon form an attractive triangle. On June 15 Saturn is just over eight handspans above the north-western horizon at 10pm local time, a handspan below Spica. On June 28 the waxing Moon is very close to Spica, forming a line with Saturn. On June 30th, Saturn is just under seven handspans above the western horizon, at 10pm local time, a handspan to the right of Spica.
Return to Menu
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.
Return to Menu
Date Meteor Shower ZHR Illumination 10/06/2012 Ophiuchids 10 0.5
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.
The Ophiuchids are a weak meteor shower that are best seen between midnight to dawn. At midnight the radiant is four handspans to the right of bright red Antares in Scorpio. This year moonlight will make them difficult to see.
Outside of the showers, you can still see sporadic meteors. Rates seen from the Southern Hemisphere are around 11 random meteors being seen per hour during the late morning hours and 2-4 per hour during the evening. The evening rates will be reduced slightly 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.
Return to Menu
There are currently no comets observable with the unaided eye. C/2009 P1 Garrad is just above the northern horizon for Southern observers. At magnitude 8 it will be a difficult object to observe. A list of current comet ephemerides is at the MPC.
Return to Menu
No interesting naked-eye occultations this month.
Partial Lunar Eclipse June 4, 2012:
North-eastern horizon as seen from Adelaide at 8:33 pm ACST on June 4. The Moon is in mid-eclipse.
On the evening of Monday June 4 there will be a partial eclipse of the Moon. Slightly less than 40% of the Moon is covered by earth's shadow. None the less it will look quite good and occurs at family friendly hours in the early evening.
New Zealanders have to stay up later to see the eclipse.
See here for a map and contact timings in UT for sites outside Australia
The following table shows the time of first contact with the umbra (the inner part of Earths shadow) mid eclipse, and last contact. Local lunar mid-eclipse times will be the same for all east coast locations (9:03 pm) , central locations (8:33 pm), and western locations (7:03 pm).
City Enters Umbra Mid Eclipse Leaves Umbra Auckland 21:59 pm 23:03 pm 00:06 am Christchurch 21:59 pm 23:03 pm 00:06 am Adelaide (ACST) 7:29 pm 8:33 pm 9:37 pm Darwin (ACST) 7:29 pm 8:33 pm 9:37 pm Brisbane (AEST) 7:59 pm 9:03 pm 10:07 pm Sydney (AEST) 7:59 pm 9:03 pm 10:07 pm Melbourne (AEST) 7:59 pm 9:03 pm 10:07 pm Hobart (AEST) 7:59 pm 9:03 pm 10:07 pm Perth (AWST) 5:59 pm 7:03 pm 8:07 pm
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 variables Mira and Algol are currently unobservable.
Return to Menu
The southern evening sky at 10:00 pm AEST in Melbourne on June 1 (similar views will be seen from other cities at the equivalent local time eg 10:00 pm ACST Adelaide).
All descriptions here are based on the view from Melbourne at 10.00 pm AEST (Australian Eastern Daylight Stsaving Time) on 1 June 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 AEST.
- 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.
During June, the Milky Way is still a spectacular sight as it arches across the sky, but it will progressively leave the zenith.
Scorpio is now sufficiently high in the sky (about ten handspans) to be properly appreciated. It is a very distinctive constellation looking somewhat like the hook shown in the "use no hooks" cartoons on boxes. Facing due East, going up about six handspans you will see six bright stars forming a T, with the tail of the "T" nearly parallel to the horizon and a curved "tail" of stars. The bright red giant star Antares (Alpha Scorpius, the middle star in the three stars forming the tail of the T) is quite prominent. The area around Scorpio is quite rewarding in binoculars, and there is a small but pretty globular cluster about one fingerwidth above and to the north of Antares (between Antares and the leading star of the tail of the T). It can be hard to see in city conditions. A high definition map of Scorpio is here.
Just below Scorpio and to the right is the distinctive "teapot" shape of Sagitarius, the archer. This constellation is particularly good for binocular viewing, with numerous globular clusters, open clusters and bright nebula. M24, an open cluster about two fingerwidths from the "lid" of the teapot should be visible to the naked eye, and M22, a globular cluster close to the lid, should be visible as a dim, fury star. The center of our galaxy lies in Sagitarius, and on a dark night, the traceries of the Milky Way and its dust clouds are particularly beautiful. To the right of the teapot by about a handspan, is the a delicate arc of stars, Corona Australis, the Southern Crown.
To the left of the "T" of Scorpio by one handspan and slightly higher is a broad triangle of stars that marks Libra, the balance. To the left of Libra by around three handspans is bright white Spica, the brightest start in the contstellation of Virgo. Spica marks the top righthand corner of a rectangular group of stars that marks out the body of Virgo, the virgin.
Looking now to the right of Scorpio, about a handspan away from the curved tail is a small squarish constellation Ara, another handspan again brings you to the edge of the large, but dim, constellation of Pavo. Delta Pavonis, about another handspan away, is one of the handful of sunlike stars within 20 lightyears of Earth that might have terrestrial planets in its habitable zone.
Directly above Virgo by four handspans is end of the long rambling constellation Hydra which starts near the horizon. Three handspans to the left is crater the cup with its distinct, but upside down, cup shape. Three handspans above and three to the left of Spica is the kite shape of Corvus the crow. Hydra has a nice open cluster, M48, near its head (a distinctive box shaped group of stars about 10 handspans to the right and about 6 below Spica) that is quite attractive in binoculars, four handspans above Spica is a nice globular cluster, just visible to the naked eye, but best in binoculars. About four handspans above Spica and a little to the right is M83, a galaxy which can easily be seen in small binoculars on a dark night.
Five handspans to left of and four down from Virgo, is Leo, with the sickle of Leo, an upside down question mark with bright Regulus (alpha Leonis) at the end of the "handle", being quite clear.
Just above the south western horizon by two handspans is a battered rectangle of stars that forms Puppis, the poop deck of the former constellation Argo Navis. In the mid sky (about 7 handspans up) is Vela, the sail of that same ship. When, Argo Navis was broken up into Puppis, Vela and Carina (the keel) in 1750, they forgot to assign alpha and beta stars to Vela, and it's brightest star is at magnitude 1.5 is Gamma Velorum. Gama Velorum is a double star which may be resolved in good binoculars. The milky way passes through Vela, and there are many open clusters which can be seen with binoculars or the naked eye. One of the best of these is NGC2547, a little below gamma Velorum. Vela is also home to the spectacular Gum nebula (which can only be seen in telescopic photographs), and the second pulsar to be observed optically. Kappa and delta velorum, with iota and epsilon Carina, make the "false cross". A high definition map of Vela is here.
To the left of Vela, is Carina (the keel). A high definition map of this region is here. Looking almost anywhere in the area stretching between Canis major and the Southern Cross will reveal an interesting cluster or star formation. However, the area two handspans to the right of the Southern Cross, between it and the false cross, is particularly rich. Here you will find the "Southern Peliades" 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 fingerwidths to the left of the Southern Peliades 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 right of and three handspans below the Southern Cross is the False Cross, just below the False Cross is a good open cluster, just visible to the naked eye, and very nice in binoculars. One handspan to the left of the False Cross is another rich open cluster, again, very nice in binoculars. Canopus (alpha Carina) is a bright yellowish star three handspans from the south-westen horizon .
Facing due South, eleven handspans up are Alpha and beta Centauri the so called "pointers", with Alpha being the yellow star which is closest to the horizon, and Beta the blue white star a little above and to the right. 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, conssiting of two sunlike stars and a red dwarf, Proxima centauri, which is the closest of the triple stars to earth. Slightly to the right again, and following a line through the "pointers" brings you to the Southern Cross, 12 handspans above the horizon at about the 1 o'clock position on a clock. A high definition map of Centaurus and Crux is here.
Just below the Southern Cross is the coal sack. This dark area against the glow of the milky way represents a large dust cloud and is clearly visible in dark skies. The Jewel box in the Cross is a small open cluster just below Beta Crucis, the second brightest star in the Cross and the one closest to the pointers. It is quite beautiful, but requires strong binoculars or a small telescope to see properly.
Returning to Alpha Centauri, a handspan from this star to the right and a handspan up is a small star, a hand span up (and about a handspan to the right) is a fuzzy star, this is omega Centauri (5139 on the map), a globular cluster of stars which is quite spectacular in good binoculars, and more spectacular than 47 Tucana (see below). Another handspan directly up is Centaurus A, a very radio bright galaxy (5128 on the map). You need a dark night and binoculars (at least 10 x 30) to see it, but it is one of the few galaxies you can see in the southern hemisphere (outside of the small and large Mangellanic clouds) without a telescope.
Three handspans straight up and slightly to the left of south, is the extended nebulosity of the Small Magellanic cloud, one 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, a spectacular globular cluster that is very nice through binoculars.
Up four hand spans from due south and three handspans to the right is the Large Magellanic cloud, the largest of the dwarf satellite galaxies. Binoculars will reveal a rather attractive nebula near it, the Tarantula nebula.
Return to Menu
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 June sky at 10.00pm AEST on 1 June can be downloaded here (junsky_e.gif 30 Kb) and a view of the western June sky can be downloaded here (junsky_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.
Return to Menu
[December Skies] [January Skies] [February Skies] [March Skies] [April Skies] [May 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
Return to Menu
- 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.
Return to Menu
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 2012 almanac and SkyMap Pro 11.0 . I highly recommend the Australian Astronomy 2012 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 2012 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: Tuesday, 1 June 2012, 11:30:13 PM