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Friday, January 20, 2017

 

Seeing the Opposition of Vesta in Binoculars (January 2017)

The north-east horizon as seen in South Australia at 22:10 pm ACDST (astronomical twilight, an hour and a half after sunset) showing the location of Vesta on Saturday January 21 (similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time, and hour and a half after sunset, click to embiggen).Higher power view of the region near Vesta which is approximately a binoculars field of vision (see b&w map below. Use the wide field map to the left for orientation.

Tonight is the opposition of the asteroid Vesta. Remember, an opposition is any time we are directly between an astronomical object and the Earth. Oppositions of Mars and Jupiter can be spectacular, but even humble chunks of rock can have oppositions. We generally don’t notice them, because they are invisible to the unaided eye.

Vesta is unusual in that sometimes it reaches unaided eye visibility, although this year is is just on the threshold  for only a couple of days.  Vesta is visible from astronomical twilight (an hour and a half after sunset, when the sky is fully dark) until early morning and is highest just after midnight. 

While Vesta is at opposition tonight, it will be closest to Earth on Jan 21st at 00:42 AEDST, when it is 1.5198 AU from Earth.

Currently around magnitude 6.2, it is readily visible in binoculars. Theoretically, someone with very good eyesight under dark skies away from the city could (just see it).

Vesta is relatively easy to find. It is above the north-eastern horizon at astronomical twilight, and nearly due north at midnight. The bright stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, point to it, with Vesta being almost the distance between Castor and Pollux from Pollux (see charts, sweep your binoculars up from Castor to Pollux and around a binocular width beyond Pollux). You may need to watch night to night as the asteroid moves to be sure of its identity.

Black and white binocular chart suitable for printing (click to embiggen and print). The large circle represents the field of view of 10x50 binoculars. The small that of a 4" Newtonian telescope with a 24 mm eyepiece.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday January 19 to Thursday January 26

The Last Quarter Moon is Friday January 20.  Venus is prominent in the evening sky in the star poor regions of Aquarius. Mars is just above Venus. Jupiter and the bright star Spica are close in the morning skies with Saturn and Mercury close to the horizon below. The waning Moon is close to Jupiter on the 19th, Saturn on the 25th and Mercuty on the 26th. Asteroid Vesta visible in binoculars.

The Last Quarter Moon is Friday January 20.  The Moon is at apogee, when it is furthest from the Earth, on the 22nd.

Evening sky on Saturday January 21 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:33 ACDST (60 minutes after sunset). Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line. The inset is a simulation of the telescopic view of Venus.

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

Venus  is high in the dusk sky and intensely bright. It can be seen easily from somewhat before half an hour after sunset to two hours after sunset. It stays dazzlingly brilliant above the horizon in truly dark skies well into the evening. Venus has been mistaken for flares or landing aeroplanes it is so bright now.

Venus is in a very star poor field in Aquarius. Venus is a distinct "half Moon" shape in telescopes.

Mars is in the western evening skies in  Aquarius, close to the Aquarius/Pisces border. Mars remains in a star poor area.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  and is still visibly dimming. While still brighter than any of the nearby stars, it is much faded and not immediately obvious, It is no longer a modest telescope object. Mars is visible most of the evening setting before midnight. In small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but tiny, gibbous disk, however you are unlikely to  see its markings.


The North-east horizon as seen in Australia at 22:10 pm ACDST (an hour and a half after sunset) showing the location of Vesta on Saturday January 21 (similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time, and hour and a half after sunset, click to embiggen). The inset shows the binocular view of Vesta near Castor and Pollux.

The asteroid Vesta is just past opposition, and this is a excellent time to see one of the biggest asteroids in the solar system. At magnitude 6.4 it is easily viewable in binoculars, now that the Moon is rising later. It is above the north-eastern horizon, and the bright stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, point to it, with Vesta being almost the distance between Castor and Pollux from Pollux. You may need to watch night to night as the asteroid moves to be sure of its identity.


Morning  sky on  Thursday January 19 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 4:34 ACDST (90 minutes before sunrise).  Jupiter is now high above the horizon and is in dark skies well before dawn. It is close to the bright star Spica and the waning Moon. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter rises even  higher into the morning skies this week. It is now well above the eastern horizon and is easy to see as the brightest object above the eastern horizon from around an hour and a half before sunrise. It is close to the bright star Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. Jupiter is now high enough to be a good telescopic target, and the dance of its Moons is visible even in binoculars.

On the 19th the waning Moon is close to Jupiter, forming a triangle with it and Spica. On the morning of the 21st  there is a dual transit of the shadows of Io and Io itself staring at 1:10 am AEDST.

Morning  sky on Thursday January 21 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:30 ACDST (50 minutes before sunrise). Saturn is reasonably high above the horizon with Mercury just below it  with the thin crescent Moon neaby. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (50 minutes before sunrise). (click to embiggen).

 Saturn rises higher in darker morning skiesthis week. Saturn is now high enough above eastern horizon to see easily. It continues to climb into darker skies as the week progresses.

The constellation of Scorpio is a good guide to locating Saturn and Mercury. The distinctive curl of Scorpio is easy to see above the eastern horizon, locate the bright red star, Antares, and the look below that towards the horizon, the next bright object is Saturn, followed by Mercury. On the 25th the crescent Moon is close to Saturn, on the 26th it is close to Mercury.

Mercury is at its highest above the horizon  this week. It is now easy to see below Saturn from nautical twilight twilight. At the beginning of the week Mercury is at its closest to Saturn and is at its highest above the horizon, making it much easier to see, it will slowly return towards the horizon after this.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

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

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday January 12 to Thursday January 19

The Full Moon is Thursday January 12.  Venus is prominent in the evening sky in the star poor regions of Aquarius, and is close to Neptune on the 12th and 13th. Mars is just above Venus. There is a series of bright ISSS passes with some that come close to Venus and Mars. Jupiter and the bright star Spica are close in the morning skies with Saturn is low to the horizon below.

The Full Moon is Thursday January 12.

Evening sky on Saturday January 14 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:54 ACDST (80 minutes after sunset). Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line with Neptune (visible in binoculars and telescopes). Neptune is closest to Venus on the 12th and 13th. The inset is a simulation of the telescopic view of Venus. The line shows the path of the ISS above Venus and Mars at this time.

Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (that is 80 minutes after local sunset), except for the ISS which is highly location dependent, for ISS pass predictions see this post. (click to embiggen).

The International Space Station make a series of bright passes  seen from most of Australia in the evening. Some come very close to Venus and Mars, for more details, charts, timings and links to specific prediction sites see this post.

Venus  is high in the dusk sky and intensely bright. It can be seen easily from somewhat before half an hour after sunset to two hours after sunset. It stays dazzlingly brilliant above the horizon in truly dark skies well into the evening. Venus has been mistaken for flares or landing aeroplanes it is so bright now.

Venus is in a very star poor field in Aquarius. On January 12 and 13  it is close to Neptune. The Full Moon, and the big difference in brightness between Venus and dim Neptune means that its close approach is really only visible in wide field telescope eye pieces. Venus is a distinct "half Moon" shape in telescopes.

Black and white binocular chart suitable for printing, showing a higher power view of the area around Venus and Neptune on 12 January. Use in conjunction with the sky chart above. The circle is the field of view of 10x50 binoculars. Click to embiggen and print. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia.
 

Mars is in the western evening skies in  Aquarius, close to the Aquarius/Pisces border. Mars remains in a star poor area.On the 12th it is a finger width from the dim star Phi (ϕ) Aquarii.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  and is still visibly dimming. While still brighter than any of the nearby stars, it is much faded and not immediately obvious, It is no longer a modest telescope object. Mars is visible most of the evening setting before midnight. In small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but tiny, gibbous disk, however you are unlikely to  see its markings.

Morning  sky on  Thursday January 19 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 4:34 ACDST (90 minutes before sunrise).  Jupiter is now high above the horizon and is in dark skies well before dawn. It is close to the bright star Spica and the waning Moon. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter rises even  higher into the morning skies this week. It is now well above the eastern horizon and is easy to see as the brightest object above the eastern horizon from around an hour and a half before sunrise. It is close to the bright star Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. Jupiter is now high enough to be a good telescopic target, and the dance of its Moons is visible even in binoculars.

On the morning of the 12th there is a dual transit of the shadows of Io and Europa staring at 4:48 am AEDST. On the 19th the waning Moon is close to Jupiter.

Morning  sky on  Saturday January 14 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:30 ACDST (just 40 minutes before sunrise). Saturn is reasonably high above the horizon with Mercury just below it. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (40 minutes before sunrise). (click to embiggen).

 Saturn rises higher in the morning twilight this week. Saturn is now high enough above eastern horizon to see reasonably easily. It continues to climb into darker skies as the week progresses.

The constellation of Scorpio is a good guide to locating Saturn and Mercury. The distinctive curl of Scorpio is easy to see above the eastern horizon, locate the bright red star, Antares, and the look below that towards thr horizon, the next bright object is Saturn, followed by Mercury.

Mercury climbs out of the twilight this week. It is now easy to see below Saturn before the start of civil twilight. By the end of the week rapidly brightening Mercury is at its closest to Saturn and is at its higest above the horizon, making it much easier to see.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

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

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

 

The ISS Passes Over Venus and Mars (10-19 January)

The ISS passes almost over Venus amd Mars as seen from Adelaide on the evening of Saturday 14 January at 21:54 ACDST. Simulated in Stellarium (the ISS will actually be a bright dot), click to embiggen.The ISS passes near Venus and Mars as seen from Brisbane on the evening of Sunday 15 January at 20:35 AEST. Simulated in Stellarium (the ISS will actually be a bright dot), click to embiggen.The ISS passes above Venus and Mars as seen from Perth on the evening of Saturday 14 January at 20:57 AWST. Simulated in Stellarium (the ISS will actually be a bright dot), click to embiggen.
All sky chart showing local  times from Heavens Above for Saturday 14 January for Adelaide.All sky chart showing local  times from Heavens Above for Sunday 15 January for Brisbane.All sky chart showing local times from Heavens Above for Saturday 14 January for Perth.

The International Space Station returns to our evening skies from tonight (Tuesday 10 January) for a series of bright passes seen by most of Australia. Many of these are close to interesting objects like the bright star Sirius and the constellation of Orion, but the outstanding passes are close to Venus and Mars.

Most of the major cites see the ISS pass above or below Venus and Mars in the evening at the following days and times:
Adelaide 14th 21:54 ACDST, 15th 21:03 ACDST;
Brisbane 15th 20:35 AEST;
Sydney 13th 21:42 AEDST, 15th 21:34 AEDST;
Melbourne 22:00:15 AEDST;
Perth 14th 20:57 AWST;
Hobart 11th 21:48 AEDST, 13th 21:39 AEDST.
The pass for Hobart on the 13th is almost on top of Venus.

Other notable passes are close to the bright star Sirius (Adelaide 13th, Brisbane 14th, Darwin 19th, Melbourne 11th), Aldebaran (Perth 15th) and the constellation of Orion (Adelaide 12th, Sydney 15th).

There are also some nice passes to other stars and constellation to numerous to mention, check them out for your site at Heavens Above or CalSky.

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

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Saturday, January 07, 2017

 

Comet 45P in Outburst Close to the Horizon.

Location of comet 45P. Evening sky on Saturday January 7 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:38 ACDST (60 minutes after sunset). Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line with (binocular only) comet 45P and Neptune. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).Evening sky on Saturday January 7 looking west as seen from Brisbane at 19:45 AEST (60 minutes after sunset). Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line with (binocular only) comet 45P and Neptune. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen)Evening sky on Saturday January 7 looking west as seen from Darwin at 20:07 ACST (60 minutes after sunset). Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line with (binocular only) comet 45P and Neptune. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen)


Comet 45P is comfirmed to be in out burst, and is reported by multiple observers to be around magnitude 6.5, at least half a magnitude brighter than predicted.

The bad news is though the comet is bright enough to be theoretically seen easily in binoculars, it is very low to the horizon at nautical twilight an hour after sunset, from just a hand span (six degrees) in southern states to two hand-spans in Darwin and Cairns.

It is even lower at the full dark of astronomical twilight There is a very narrow window for observing it before it is too low to image or see through the horizon murk. It will look like a fuzzy dot in binoculars and small telescopes.

However, it is close to some good celestial landmarks. So if you have a flat, unobstructed western horizon (like the ocean) it is well worth going out and looking.

Black and white binocular chart suitable for printing, showing a higher power view of the area around comet 45P from 7 January  to 16 January at nautical twilight (60 minutes after sunset).

Use in conjunction with the sky chart above. The large circle is the field of view of 10x50 binoculars. The small that of a 24 mm eyepiece with a 114 mm Newtonian scope. The grey band represents the horizon. Click to embiggen and print.

The comet is almost next to theta (ϴ) Capricornii at the moment, a line drawn through Venus and Mars  points to it (see printable chart above), but with star hopping you can find 45P easily.

A line drawn from Mars to Venus and continued to the horizon brings first to the star Deneb Algedi (delta Capricornii, δ (43) on the printable map). Downward from that following down the Mars-Venus line is gamma Capricornii (𝛾 (40) on the printable map) close by. Continuing down is iota Capricornii (℩ (32) on the printable map, then theta (ϴ (23)) Capricornii. You may need binoculars to see theta Cap (whats with the (ϴ (23)) the map is showing the greek letter and the Bayer number of the star).

The comet is just above theta Cap. It will be the only dim fuzzy dot in the area. On the 7th it is almost directly between two dimmer stars that form a triangle with theta Cap, on subsequent nights it move closer to the northward star.

the comet will be only high enough above the horizon for observation for a few more nights, so now is our best chance to see it in the evening.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday January 5 to Thursday January 12

The First Quarter Moon is Friday January 6. The Full Moon is Thursday January 12.  Venus is prominent in the evening sky in the star poor regions of Aquarius, and is close to Neptune on the 12th. Mars is just above Venus. Jupiter and the bright star Spica are close in the morning skies with Saturn is low to the horizon below.

The First Quarter Moon is Friday January 6. The Full Moon is Thursday January 12. The Moon is at Perigee (closest to Earth) on the 10th.

Evening sky on Saturday January 7 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:38 ACDST (60 minutes after sunset). Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line with Neptune (visible in binoculars and telescopes). Neptune is closest to Venus on the 12th. The inset is a simulation of the telescopic view of Venus.

Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Venus  is high in the dusk sky and intensely bright. It can be seen easily from somewhat before half an hour after sunset to two hours after sunset. It stays dazzlingly brilliant above the horizon in truly dark skies well into the evening. Venus has been mistaken for flares or landing aeroplanes it is so bright now.

Venus is in a very star poor field in Aquarius. On January 12 it is close to Neptune. The Full Moon, and the big difference in brightness between Venus and dim Neptune means that is close approach is really only visible in wide field telescope eye pieces. Venus is a distinct "half Moon" shape in telescopes.

Black and white binocular chart suitable for printing, showing a higher power view of the area around Venus and Neptune on 12 January. Use in conjunction with the sky chart above. The circle is the field of view of 10x50 binoculars. Click to embiggen and print. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia.
 

Mars is in the western evening skies in  Aquarius. Mars remains in a star poor area.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  and is still visibly dimming. While still brighter than any of the nearby stars, it is much faded and not immediately obvious, It is no longer a modest telescope object. Mars is visible most of the evening setting before midnight. In small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but tiny, gibbous disk, however you are unlikely to  see its markings.

Morning  sky on  Saturday January 7 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:05 ACDST (just an hour before sunrise).  Jupiter is now high above the horizon and is in dark skies well before dawn. It is close to the bright star Spica. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter rises even  higher into the morning skies this week. It is now well above the eastern horizon and is easy to see as the brightest object above the eastern horizon from around an hour and a half before sunrise. It is close to the bright star Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. Jupiter is now high enough to be a good telescopic target, and the dance of its Moons is visible even in binoculars.

On the Morning of the 8th you can see the shadow of Europa cross the face of Jupiter from 2:00 am AEDST, and Eropa itself crosses from 3:50 am AEDST. On the 12th there is a dual transit of the shadows of Io and Europa staring at 4:48 amAEDST.

Morning  sky on  Saturday January 7 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:30 ACDST (just 40 minutes before sunrise). Saturn is reasonably high above the horizon with Mercury just below it. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

 Saturn rises higher in the morning twilight this week. Saturn is now high enough above eastern horizon to see reasonably easily. It continues to climb into darker skies as the week progresses.


Mercury begins to climb out of the twilight this week. It is reasonably easy to see belwo Saturn before the start of civil twilight if you have a clear level eastern horizon by the weekend. By the end of the week rapidly brightening Mercury is moving towards Saturn and is higher above the horizon, making it much easier to see.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

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

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Monday, January 02, 2017

 

Venus and the Moon 2 January 2016

Venus and the crescent Moon in daylight, an hour before sunset. Click to embiggen to see Venus clearlyVenus and the crescent Moon at 9:30 pm ACDST, Mars is at the upper right.Click to embiggen

After being clouded out for the Mars Neptune conjunction, I got to see Venus near the Moon. The pair we very clear in the daytime sky before sunset, and the pair later on, with Earth-shine, we fantastic. I was going to get the scope ourt as well, but watched "Flubber" with SmallestOne instead.

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