Southern Sky Watch

September Skies

This month the planetary action is mostly in the evening skies, with 4 bright planets visible after the sky is fully dark, with the pair of Venus and Mercury in the east and the pair of Saturn and Jupiter (just after opposition) in the west, the Moon meets Mercury and bright Venus. Mercury is at its best this month. For most of September Mercury, Venus and Spica make a nice line in the late evening twilight.

Useful info for visitors from New Zealand, South Africa and South America.

September 6; Venus and the bright star Spica close. September 7; New Moon. September 9; thin crescent Moon and Mercury close. September 10; thin crescent Moon and Venus close. September 11; perigee Moon. September 14; First Quarter Moon, September 16; the Moon close to Saturn. September 17; the Moon between Saturn and Jupiter. September 18; the waxing moon is near Jupiter. September 21; Full Moon. September 21; Mercury near Spica. September 23; Earth at Equinox. September 24; Venus near Zubenelgenubi. September 27; apogee Moon. September 29; Last Quarter Moon.


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 unaided 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 28/11/20: The new solar cycle (25) has started, and we may expect to see more auroral displays. During solar minimum, we were still getting occasional good auroral displays. August 26th 2018 saw an impressive display visible from NZ and Tasmania despite the full Moon. The last week of March 2017 saw some impressive aurora displays from Tasmania, Victoria, SA and WA. October 2016 saw a series of good but transient aurora in Tasmania and southern Victoria. July 2015 saw a massive storm seen as far north as mid NSW, again clouded out for large parts of Australia. 17-19/3/2015, the St. Patrick's Day aurora, massive storm seen as far north as Southern Queensland. Unfortunately clouded out for large parts of Australia. 26/2/2015, yet another good set of aurora were seen from Tasmania. 9/2/2015 There was a series of very good auroral events during February, some were seen in NSW, Victoria, SA and WA as well as Tasmania. Last year saw some nice events and a coronal mass ejection from an M class flare hit us square on on March 17 2013. 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 now climbing out of solar minimum, but is still rather quiet 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.

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 (and solar cycle 25 should peak around 2024-2025), 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 minimum occurred 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 reynella@mira.net 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 reynella@internode.on.net with "subscribe aurora alert" as the subject. This is the old aurora alert list, but with auroras rare even though we are at solar maximum (except for the occasional humdinger, like the September 2005 auroral event), it is doing double duty. I am running the list via MailChimp, and no personal data is harvested or passed on to third parties. Astroblog will have images when possible of these events soon after.

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Coming events

Date Event
January
2 January 2021 Earth at Perihelion
12 January 2021 Crescent Moon and Venus close low in the morning twilight
14 January 2021 Crescent Moon, Mercury and Jupiter close low in the morning twilight
21 January 2021 Mars and waxing Moon close
21 January 2021 Uranus between Mars and the waxing Moon
February
6-7 February 2021 Venus close to Saturn low in the twilight
11 February 2021 Venus close to Jupiter and the crescent moon low in the twilight
19 February 2021Mars near first Quarter Moon
20-28 February 2021 Mercury between Jupiter and Saturn in the twilight
28 February 2021 Mars within binocular distance of the Pleiades cluster
March
1-9 March 2021 Mars within binocular distance of the Pleiades cluster, closest on the 4th
4 March 2021 Asteroid Vesta at opposition, just visible to the unaided eye, best in binoculars
5 March 2021 Mercury very close to Jupiter below Saturn in the morning
10 March 2021 Saturn close to the crescent Moon in the morning
11 March 2021Mercury close to Jupiter and the crescent Moon
in the morning
19 March 2021 Mars near waxing Moon
20 March 2021Earth at Equinox
April
7 April 2021 Saturn near to the waning Moon in the morning sky
8 April 2021 Jupiter near to the crescent Moon in the morning sky
11 April 2021 Mercury close to the crescent Moon in the morning twilight
17 April 2021 Mars close to the crescent Moon
27 April 2021 Mars on outskirts of open cluster M35 (binoculars best)
28 April 2021 Perigee Full Moon ("super" Moon), 1:00 am
May
4  May 2021 Saturn close to waning Moon in the morning sky
5 May 2021 Jupiter near to the waning Moon in the morning sky
6-7 May 2021Eta Aquariid meteor shower
13 May 2021Thin crescent Moon above Mercury in morning sky
26 May 2021Total eclipse Perigee Full Moon ("super" Moon), 12:00 pm (eclipse from 8 pm)
29 May 2021 Mercury and Venus close low in the twilight (binoculars best)
June
1 June 2021 waning Moon near Jupiter
12 June 2021 Venus near thin crescent Moon low in the evening sky
14 June 2021 Waxing crescent Moon and Mars near in evening sky
21 June 2021 Earth at solstice
23-24 June 2021 Mars crosses beehive cluster (binoculars best)
27 June 2021 Waning Moon close to Saturn
28 June 2021 waning Moon near Jupiter
July
3 July 2021 Venus at the edge of the beehive cluster, best in binoculars
6 July 2021 Earth at aphelion
8 July 2021Mercury close to the thin crescent Moon in the morning
12 July 2021Crescent Moon, Venus and Mars close in the evening
13 July 2021Venus and Mars very close in the evening sky
22 July 2021 Venus very close to bright star Regulus
24 July 2021 Saturn near Moon
26 July 2021 Jupiter near Moon
29-30 July 2021 Southern Delta Aquarids meteor shower
30 July 2021 Mars very close to Regulus
August
2 August 2021 Saturn at opposition
10 August 2021 Mars near thin crescent Moon
11 August 2021 Venus close to crescent Moon
18 August 2021 Variable star Mira predicted to peak in brightness
19 August 2021 Jupiter at opposition
17-21 August 2021 Mercury close to Mars, closest on the 19th
20 August 20 Saturn near Moon
22 August 2021 Jupiter near Moon
September
6 September 2021 Venus close to bright star Spica
9 September 2021 Mercury and crescent Moon close in the evening sky
10 September 2021 Crescent Moon and Venus nearby forming triangle with Spica
17 September 2021 Waxing Moon near Saturn
18 September 2021 Waxing Moon near Jupiter
23 September 2021 Earth at Equinox
21 September 2021 Mercury close to bright star Spica
24 September 2021 Venus close to moderately bright star alpha2 Librae, below Scorpius and above the pair of Mercury and Spica
October
1 October 2021 Mercury and bright star Spica still close
10 October 2021 Venus, the crescent Moon and the bright star Antares form a triangle
14 October 2021 Saturn and the waxing Moon close
15 October 2021 Jupiter and the waxing Moon close
17 October 2021 Venus and the bright star Antares at their closest
21-22 October 2021 Orionid meteor shower
23-24 October 2021 Venus close to globular cluster M19 (binocular or telescope)
November
4 November 2021 Thin crescent Moon close to Mercury low in the twilight
8 November 2021Venus close to thin crescent Moon below the teapot of Sagittarius
8-24 November 2021 Venus crosses the teapot of Sagittarius
10-11 November 2021 Waxing Moon near Saturn
11-12 November 2021Waxing Moon near Saturn
18 November 2021 Leonid Meteor Shower
19 November 2021 Partial Lunar eclipse, difficult with mid eclipse in the twilight
December
3 December 2021 Mars and thin crescent Moon close low in the morning twilight
7-10 December 2021 Three bright planets form a line in the evening with the thin crescent. moon joining them, Venus and Moon close on the 7th
8 December 2021 Saturn and crescent Moon close
10 December 2021 Jupiter and crescent Moon close
14 December 2021 Geminid Meteor shower in the morning (waxing Moon sets before best rates)
18 December 2021 Apogee Full Moon (12:00 pm)
21 December 2021 Earth is at Solstice
23-30 December 2021 four bight planets, Mercury, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter line up in the evening twilight, on the 29th Venus and Mercury are at their closest.
1 January 2022 Thin crescent Moon very close to Mars low in the morning sky. Occultation seen in south eastern and south central Australia

Out in Space

Mars Curiosity Rover explores a changing landscape.

Mars Express helps explain Earth's atmospheric chemistry.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter helps show that Small dust storms dry out Mars.

The newest rover, Perseverance is guided by the helicopter ingenuity.

The Juno mission celebrates 10 years with new images of Ganymede.

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The Moon:

Current Phase of the Moon.
This is a JavaScript applet kindly supplied by Darren Osbourne. It shows the Moon as Southern Hemisphere viewers see it, and is upside down from the Northern Hemisphere perspective.

O New Moon is on the 7th
C| First quarter on the 14th
O Full Moon on the 21st
D Last quarter on the 29th

September 7; New Moon. September 9; thin crescent Moon and Mercury close. September 10; thin crescent Moon and Venus close. September 11; perigee Moon. September 14; First Quarter Moon, September 16; the Moon close to Saturn. September 17; the Moon between Saturn and Jupiter. September 18; the waxing moon is near Jupiter. September 21; Full Moon. September 27; apogee Moon. September 29; Last Quarter Moon.

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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Planets:

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 of 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.
Evening sky, 18:55 pm

Western evening sky on Thursday, September 11, at 18:55 ACST, 60 minutes after sunset showing showing Venus the bright star Spica with Mercury below. (similar views will be seen from other cities at 60 minutes after sunset).

Evening sky, 18:58

Evening sky on Thursday, September 10 showing the western sky as seen from Adelaide at 18:58 ACST (60 minutes after sunset). Venus is close to the crescent Moon with the Bright star Spica and Mercury below. (similar views will be seen Australia wide at the equivalent local time, 60 minutes after sunset)

Evening sky, 19:31 pm

Evening sky on Wednesday, September 15 showing the whole sky as seen from Adelaide at 19:31 ACST (90 minutes after sunset). Four bright planets are visible when the sky is fully dark. (similar views will be seen Australia wide at the equivalent local time, 90 minutes after sunset)

Evening sky, 19:32 pm

Evening sky on Friday, September 17 showing the north-eastern sky as seen from Adelaide at 19:32 ACST (90 minutes after sunset). Saturn and Jupiter form a line and the Full Moon is between them close to Saturn. (similar views will be seen Australia wide at the equivalent local time, 90 minutes after sunset)

Mercury is readily visible in the early evening and is at its best for 2021 this month. On the 1st Mercury is just under a hand-span from the western horizon an hour and a half after sunset, with Venus and Spica above. During most of the month the three are in a line up, with Venus and Spica changing places. On the 9th Mercury is not far from the thin crescent Moon. On the 15th Mercury is just over a hand-span from the western horizon an hour and a half after sunset. Mercury moves closer to Spica and the pair are just a bit over a finger-width apart apart on the 21st. By the 30th Mercury is just under a hand-span from the western horizon an hour after sunset, not far from Spica with Venus above.

Venus is now easily visible in the evening sky from 30 minutes after sunset (I can see it as early as 5 minutes after sunset) until well after the sky is fully dark. Mercury, Venus and Spica make a nice line in the late evening twilight. At astronomical twilight, we can enjoy the sight the sight of bright Venus in the west mirroring bright Jupiter in the east Venus dominates the evening twilight as it comes closer to, and then passes, the bright star Spica. Venus now a distinct "gibbous Moon" shape. Venus is closest to Spica on the 6th (about one and a half finger widths). On the 10th Venus is close to the thin crescent Moon. The pair fit into the field of view of a 10x50 binoculars. Venus is close to the bright star Zubenelgenubi in Libra on the 24th. The pair fit in a the field of view of 10x50 binoculars. Zubenelgenubi is a double star and both stars will be seen in binoculars. With the pair of Mercury and Spica below, and red Antares above this will be an excellent sight around an hour after sunset.

On the 1st Venus is two hand-spans from the western horizon an hour and a half after sunset. By the 15th Venus is just under three hand-spans from the western horizon an hour and a half after sunset. On the 30th Venus is a three hand-spans from the western horizon an hour and a half after sunset.

Earth is at equinox on Thursday, 23 September when day and night are roughly equal in duration.

Mars Mars is lost in the twilight, and will return to the morning sky in November.

Jupiter is readily visible from astronomical twilight and continues to climb into the evening sky. Jupiter was at opposition, when it was biggest and brightest as seen from Earth, on August 19th, but is still bright and an excellent object in even small telescopes. This month at astronomical twilight, we can enjoy the sight the sight of bright Venus in the west mirroring bright Jupiter in the east. Indeed mid month we have the pair of bright Venus and Mercury in the West and the pair of Saturn and Jupiter in the east when the sky is fully dark. Once Venus has set Jupiter dominates the night sky. On the 16th the waxing moon forms a line with Saturn and Jupiter. On the 17st the moon is between Jupiter and Saturn, but close to Saturn. On the 18th the waxing moon is close to Jupiter and the pair fit into the FOV of 10x50 binoculars. Then on the 19th the waxing moon again forms a line with Jupiter and Saturn. Telescopically Jupiter will be best late evening to the early morning when it is highest above the northern horizon.

On the 1st Jupiter is nearly five hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour and a half after after sunset. At this time it is in a line with Saturn. On the 15th Jupiter is just over eight hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour and a half after after sunset. On the 30th Jupiter is nearly 10 hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour and a half after after sunset. At this time it is still in a line with Saturn.

In either binoculars or a telescope Jupiter's Moons are always interesting. Jupiter is now high enough to follow the moons dance. Jupiter’s Moon’s will be excellent viewing on the evenings of the 2nd, 10th and 17th.



Times are ACST, add 30 minutes for AEST and subtract 90 minutes for AWST. 
Satellites I=Io, II=Europa, III= Ganymede, IV=Callisto

Jupiter Events from 01 September 2021 to 31 September 2021
Date		Time				Satelite	event
01-Sep	 01:43:00 AM	 I	 Eclipse reappearance
01-Sep	 03:17:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
01-Sep	 03:33:00 AM	 II	 Eclipse reappearance
01-Sep	 06:32:00 PM	 IV	 Shadow transit end
01-Sep	 08:22:00 PM	 I	 Transit start
01-Sep	 08:42:00 PM	 I	 Shadow transit start
01-Sep	 10:40:00 PM	 I	 Transit end
01-Sep	 11:00:00 PM	 I	 Shadow transit end
01-Sep	 11:08:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
02-Sep	 06:33:00 PM	 II	 Transit start
02-Sep	 06:59:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
02-Sep	 07:14:00 PM	 II	 Shadow transit start
02-Sep	 08:12:00 PM	 I	 Eclipse reappearance
02-Sep	 08:51:00 PM	 III	 Occultation disappearance
02-Sep	 09:22:00 PM	 II	 Transit end
02-Sep	 10:03:00 PM	 II	 Shadow transit end
03-Sep	 01:51:00 AM	 III	 Eclipse reappearance
03-Sep	 04:55:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
04-Sep	 08:37:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
04-Sep	 12:46:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
06-Sep	 02:24:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
06-Sep	 10:15:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
07-Sep	 03:40:00 AM	 I	 Transit start
07-Sep	 04:08:00 AM	 I	 Shadow transit start
07-Sep	 05:58:00 AM	 I	 Transit end
08-Sep	 02:20:00 AM	 II	 Occultation disappearance
08-Sep	 03:38:00 AM	 I	 Eclipse reappearance
08-Sep	 04:02:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
08-Sep	 06:11:00 AM	 II	 Eclipse reappearance
08-Sep	 10:07:00 PM	 I	 Transit start
08-Sep	 10:37:00 PM	 I	 Shadow transit start
08-Sep	 11:54:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
08-Sep	 12:53:00 AM	 I	 Occultation disappearance
09-Sep	 07:18:00 PM	 I	 Occultation disappearance
09-Sep	 07:25:00 PM	 IV	 Occultation disappearance
09-Sep	 07:45:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
09-Sep	 08:48:00 PM	 II	 Transit start
09-Sep	 09:49:00 PM	 II	 Shadow transit start
09-Sep	 10:07:00 PM	 I	 Eclipse reappearance
09-Sep	 11:37:00 PM	 II	 Transit end
09-Sep	 11:52:00 PM	 IV	 Occultation reappearance
09-Sep	 12:25:00 AM	 I	 Transit end
09-Sep	 12:55:00 AM	 I	 Shadow transit end
10-Sep	 04:46:00 AM	 IV	 Eclipse reappearance
10-Sep	 05:40:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
10-Sep	 05:52:00 AM	 III	 Eclipse reappearance
10-Sep	 06:51:00 PM	 I	 Transit end
10-Sep	 07:23:00 PM	 I	 Shadow transit end
10-Sep	 12:09:00 AM	 III	 Occultation disappearance
10-Sep	 12:13:00 AM	 IV	 Eclipse disappearance
10-Sep	 12:39:00 AM	 II	 Shadow transit end
11-Sep	 01:32:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
11-Sep	 07:30:00 PM	 II	 Eclipse reappearance
11-Sep	 09:23:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
13-Sep	 03:10:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
13-Sep	 07:55:00 PM	 III	 Shadow transit end
13-Sep	 11:01:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
14-Sep	 05:26:00 AM	 I	 Transit start
14-Sep	 06:03:00 AM	 I	 Shadow transit start
14-Sep	 06:52:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
15-Sep	 02:37:00 AM	 I	 Occultation disappearance
15-Sep	 04:38:00 AM	 II	 Occultation disappearance
15-Sep	 04:48:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
15-Sep	 05:33:00 AM	 I	 Eclipse reappearance
15-Sep	 11:52:00 PM	 I	 Transit start
16-Sep	 02:10:00 AM	 I	 Transit end
16-Sep	 02:50:00 AM	 I	 Shadow transit end
16-Sep	 08:30:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
16-Sep	 09:04:00 PM	 I	 Occultation disappearance
16-Sep	 11:04:00 PM	 II	 Transit start
16-Sep	 12:32:00 AM	 I	 Shadow transit start
16-Sep	 12:39:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
17-Sep	 01:53:00 AM	 II	 Transit end
17-Sep	 03:14:00 AM	 II	 Shadow transit end
17-Sep	 03:30:00 AM	 III	 Occultation disappearance
17-Sep	 07:01:00 PM	 I	 Shadow transit start
17-Sep	 08:37:00 PM	 I	 Transit end
17-Sep	 09:19:00 PM	 I	 Shadow transit end
17-Sep	 12:02:00 AM	 I	 Eclipse reappearance
17-Sep	 12:24:00 AM	 II	 Shadow transit start
18-Sep	 01:28:00 AM	 IV	 Transit start
18-Sep	 02:17:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
18-Sep	 05:57:00 AM	 IV	 Transit end
18-Sep	 06:30:00 PM	 I	 Eclipse reappearance
18-Sep	 10:08:00 PM	 II	 Eclipse reappearance
18-Sep	 10:09:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
20-Sep	 03:56:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
20-Sep	 08:19:00 PM	 III	 Shadow transit start
20-Sep	 08:50:00 PM	 III	 Transit end
20-Sep	 11:47:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
20-Sep	 11:56:00 PM	 III	 Shadow transit end
21-Sep	 07:38:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
22-Sep	 04:23:00 AM	 I	 Occultation disappearance
22-Sep	 05:34:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
23-Sep	 01:25:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
23-Sep	 01:39:00 AM	 I	 Transit start
23-Sep	 02:28:00 AM	 I	 Shadow transit start
23-Sep	 03:57:00 AM	 I	 Transit end
23-Sep	 04:46:00 AM	 I	 Shadow transit end
23-Sep	 09:16:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
23-Sep	 10:50:00 PM	 I	 Occultation disappearance
24-Sep	 01:22:00 AM	 II	 Transit start
24-Sep	 01:56:00 AM	 I	 Eclipse reappearance
24-Sep	 03:00:00 AM	 II	 Shadow transit start
24-Sep	 04:12:00 AM	 II	 Transit end
24-Sep	 05:50:00 AM	 II	 Shadow transit end
24-Sep	 08:05:00 PM	 I	 Transit start
24-Sep	 08:57:00 PM	 I	 Shadow transit start
24-Sep	 10:23:00 PM	 I	 Transit end
24-Sep	 11:15:00 PM	 I	 Shadow transit end
25-Sep	 03:03:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
25-Sep	 08:08:00 PM	 II	 Occultation disappearance
25-Sep	 08:25:00 PM	 I	 Eclipse reappearance
25-Sep	 10:55:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
26-Sep	 06:27:00 PM	 IV	 Eclipse disappearance
26-Sep	 06:46:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
26-Sep	 10:56:00 PM	 IV	 Eclipse reappearance
26-Sep	 12:46:00 AM	 II	 Eclipse reappearance
27-Sep	 04:42:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
27-Sep	 07:07:00 PM	 II	 Shadow transit end
27-Sep	 08:41:00 PM	 III	 Transit start
28-Sep	 03:57:00 AM	 III	 Shadow transit end
28-Sep	 08:24:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
28-Sep	 12:18:00 AM	 III	 Transit end
28-Sep	 12:21:00 AM	 III	 Shadow transit start
28-Sep	 12:33:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
29-Sep	 06:10:00 AM	 I	 Occultation disappearance
30-Sep	 02:11:00 AM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit
30-Sep	 03:27:00 AM	 I	 Transit start
30-Sep	 04:23:00 AM	 I	 Shadow transit start
30-Sep	 05:45:00 AM	 I	 Transit end
30-Sep	 10:03:00 PM	 n/a	 Great Red Spot transit



Saturn can be easily seen from astronomical twilight (an hour and a half after sunset) during September. Saturn was at Opposition, when it was biggest and brightest as seen from Earth, on the 2nd of August. However it will remain great viewing for many weeks to come. On the 16th the waxing moon forms a line with Saturn and Jupiter. On the 17st the moon is between Jupiter and Saturn, but close to Saturn. On the 18th the waxing moon is close to Jupiter and the pair fit into the FOV of 10x50 binoculars. Then on the 19th the waxing moon again forms a line with Jupiter and Saturn. The beginning of the month Saturn should be best for scopes around 9 pm local time (it will be good before then, but it is better when it is highest and in still air). As the month goes on Saturn rises earlier and it and Jupiter are prominent below the teapot of Sagittarius.

On September 1 Saturn is just over seven hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour and a half after after sunset. At this time it is in a line with Jupiter. By September 15, Saturn is 10 hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour and a half after after sunset. On the 30th Saturn is just over twelve hand-spans above the north-eastern horizon an hour and a half after after sunset. At this time it is in still in a line with Jupiter.

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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.

The Iridium satellites have deorbited, However, other satellites do flares as well (bit more rarely) 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 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.
Latitude: Longitude: City Time Zone:
Another site, JPASS, 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.

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Meteor showers:

Date        	Meteor Shower       ZHR  Illumination 
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.

There are no major meteor showers this month.

You can still see sporadic meteors. Rates seen from the Southern Hemisphere are around 5 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 radio-telescopes is here.

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 radio-telescopes is here.

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 radio-telescopes is here.

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Comets:

There are no unaided eye comets visible at the moment.

A list of current comet ephemerides is at the MPC.

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Occultations:

No interesting naked-eye occultations this month.

 


Eclipse:

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.

Latitude: Longitude: City Time Zone:

 


Variable Stars:

While most stars seem to shine with a constant brightness, there are some that undergo regular, dramatic change in brightness. The classic variables are Mira and Algol. Algol is currently not visible. In mid August Mira should have been be close to its maximum around the 18th. However, these predictions are estimates and may not be very accurate. Mira should still be visible to the unaided eye this month. Mira is rising before midnight now.

evening sky, 12:30 am

Cetus 23:00 ACST on 1 September as seen from Adelaide, Mira is indicated by the circle.

Mira (omicron ceti), a star in the constellation of Cetus the whale, is a long period pulsating red giant and changes brightness from below naked eye visibility to a peak of round magnitude 2 (roughly as bright as beta Crucis in the Southern Cross) in around 330 days. Mira should reach this peak in August. Mira may be seen above the eastern horizon after midnight.

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Stars:

evening sky, 10:00 pm

The southern evening sky at 10:00 pm AEST in Melbourne on September 1 (similar views will be seen from other cities at the equivalent local time eg 10:00 pm ACST Adelaide, 9:00 pm AEST Brisbane).

All descriptions here are based on the view from Melbourne at 10.00 pm AEST on 1 September 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 AEST on the 30th Readers from 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?

Facing east, the faint constellation of Erandius, the river, straddles the the horizon and meanders upwards and southwards to where brightest star, Achernar, points to the small Magellanic cloud.

To the left is Cetus, the whale. Beta Ceti is a modestly bright star six handspans 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 10 handspans up from east and two to the left is magnitude 2 Deneb Kaitos, beta Ceti. Two handspans below and slightly to the left is eta Ceti, two handspans to the right of eta Ceti, forming a triangle with eta and beta, is Tau Ceti.

Five handspans to the left of Cetus is Pisces, a rather non-descript constellation.

Continuing up from Beta Ceti on towards the zenith we find bright Fomalhaut, alpha star of Piscis Austrinus about 10 handspans above the horizon. Next to Fomalhaut is Grus, the crane, with a distinctive, battered cross-like shape.

just below the zenith, about to the right (north) of Fomalhaut is the battered triangle of Capricornius, the Water Goat. Of interest as well is alpha Capricorni, the brightish star at top left hand corner of the triangle that is Capricorn. This is a naked eye double star.

directly west just below the zenith is the distinctive "teapot" shape of Sagittarius, the archer. The "teapot" is upside down, the "spout" is pointing south-west, its "handle" north, and its "lid" points down to the right (north-western horizon). This constellations panoply of clusters and nebula are still easily seen.

M24, an open cluster about two fingerwidths 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 fingerwidths 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 Star-cloud. 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 occupies the space between Sagitarius and the western horizon.

Directly to the left of Ophiuchus and below Sagittarius is the distinctive "hook" shape of Scorpio, the scorpion, stretches down towards the western horizon. Going up from the south-western horizon by about five handspans you will see six bright stars forming a T, with the tail of the "T" 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 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, and will be especially difficult to see this close to the horizon. 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 north-western horizon. 7 handspans down from the zenith is the faint but rambling constellation of Aquarius, just below the battered triangle of Aquarius.

10 handspans down from the Zenith (and five above the north-western horizon) is the start of the constellation Pegasus, the winged horse. The distinctive box shape of the main constellation lies around six handspans to the right of due north.

At the same level as Pegasus, but seven handspans to the left is the three bright stars that mark Aquila, the Eagle, with the brightest, white Altair, being in the center.

Continuing down towards the northern horizon, the next bright star is just a one and a half handspans above the horizon, and almost due north. This is Deneb, alpha star of Cygnus, the swan. The rest of the constellation forms a wide but distinctive inverted cross above Deneb with the long axis pointing west, almost parallel to the horizon.

Now return to the zenith and go South. Directly south is Peacock, alpha Pavonis, this is a reasonably bright magnitude 2 star that heads the large, but dim, constellation of Pavo the Peacock. Delta Pavonis, about two handspans below and one to the left of alpha Pavonis, is one of the handful of sun-like stars within 20 lightyears of Earth that might have terrestrial planets in its habitable zone. A little to the left and below Peacock by around two handspans brings you to the edge of the dim constellation of Tucana, the Toucan. The first brightish star you enocunter is Alpha Tucana. Just below Tucana and about a handspan and a half 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 and some what below Delta Pavonis by about 4 handspans is the boxy shape of Ara, the Altar.

To the left of alpha Tucana by 5 handspans is Ankaa, alpha Phoenicis, of the constellation of the Phoenix, another relatively non-descript constellation.

To the below alpha Tucana by 5 handspans and left by about one is bright Achernar, alpha Erandius.

Continuing directly down from Peacock by four handspans is Octans, the octant (a navigating instrument the was the forerunner of the sextant). Octans houses the south celestial 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 five handspans directly below Peacock, forming the apex of an inverted triangle with two other faint stars (tau and chi Octanis).

Directly below Octans by around three handspans is the faint Chameleon, a narrow "kite" of four stars with the long axis parrallel to the horizon. To the left of Chameleon by a little over 3 handspans 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 handspans are the bright, distinctive alpha and beta Centauri, the so called "pointers", five handspans from the south-west horizon, with alpha being the yellow star which is furthest from the horizon, and beta the blue white star below. Between these stars and Chameleon lies the faint constellation Musca the fly. Between the pointers and Pavo lie the dim triangular constellations of Trianglum and Circinus (the compass). Most of the rest of Centaurus, 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 sun-like 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 handspans below and to the left the pointers (one and a half handspans from beta Centauri to beta Crucis) and three handspans above the horizon at about the 4 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.

Just on the southern horizon, almost due south is Carina (the keel of the former constellation Argo Navis). Its position makes viewing the many spectacular clusters in this constellation difficult or impossible. Bright Canopus is barely the south-eastern horizon, almost directly below the large Magellanic cloud, and will rise in the following weeks.

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Sky Maps

How to use the maps

      map viewsky view

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 May 1 at 10.00 pm, facing south. Both show approximately 30 degrees (5 hand-spans) 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 hand-spans (where a hand-span 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.

PNG Maps

A view of the Eastern September sky at 10.00pm AEST on 1 September can be downloaded here (sepsky_e.png 30 Kb) and a view of the western September sky can be downloaded here (sepsky_w.png 30 Kb). These are more compact files but don't have a lot of resolution.

PDF Maps

High 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 PNG files, but print much better and come with legends.

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[ December Skies] [ January Skies] [ February Skies] [ March Skies] [ April Skies] [ May Skies] [ June Skies] [ July Skies] [ August Skies]
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Cheers! And good star gazing!


updated

Ian's Astrophotography Gallery

Some of the photographs/images I have taken in recent years of astronomical phenomena that may be of interest.

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Links

Societies: Australian Resources: Australian Planetariums: updated Astronomy for Kids International Resources: Stunning sites: Useful programs:
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Charts, Books and Software for Astronomy

Stellarium, the free photorealistic sky chart that I use for my general charts, is now available in a web version, it is not as versatile as the desktop version, but handy if you are out and about. it Runs under a variety of browsers on standard PC's, Chromebooks and iPads. https://stellarium-web.org/

The is also a mobile Stellarium version, but it costs money (around $13, not much, but still).

If 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.

Touring the Universe through Binoculars Atlas is now freeware http://www.philharrington.net/tuba.htm it can print observing charts, but has a few annoying quirks. These include having no horizon line, and moving about is a bit irritating.

I use a combination of a 1962 star chart, the Australian Astronomy 2021 almanac and SkyMap Pro 11.0 . I highly recommend the Australian Astronomy 2021 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 info@quasarastronomy.com.au 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 $30.

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. An update to SkyMap 12.0 which handles Windows 10 is now available.

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/Win7-10 sorry) are:
Cartes du Ciel at https://www.ap-i.net/skychart//en/start (FREE) a bit messy to install but very good.
Stellarium at
http://stellarium.sourceforge.net/ (FREE) stunning photorealistic program, but requires a grunty PC.
Celestron Sky Portal https://www.celestron.com/pages/skyportal-mobile-app is a good free mobile phone/tablet app
Sky Safari https://skysafariastronomy.com/ is another nice mobile astronomy app, but the Apple app store want to sell me Skysafari 6 rather than the freeware Sky Safari 5 (currently available on Google play).
TheSkyVarious packages from $49 US to $249 US
Stary Night various versions from $50 US for the basic pack (10 day trial of the basic pack at http://www.siennasoft.com/english/downloads.shtml) up to eye watering $250 USD versions.
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 hand-held 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 hand-held 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 download. Celestron has a great free planetarium app (although big at 154 Mb) for Android, iPhone and iPad, SkyPortal (see links above).

This is not meant to be a product endorsement of any kind (outside of the Australian Astronomy 2021 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).

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Link to the Lab's 'In Space' gateway Link to the Lab's home page
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This page is provided by Ian Musgrave and is © copyright 2021 Ian Musgrave, except the "Southern Sky Watch" logo, as well as any other ABC logo used on this page, is © copyright of the ABC. Sky maps are generated with SkyMap Pro 11.0 .

This page can be used freely for any non-commercial purpose but please attribute it correctly. However, see the disclaimer.

* Email: reynella@internode.on.net e-mail Ian with any suggestions
Created: Wednesday, 1 April 1998, 11:22:13 PM
Last Updated: Ruesday, 31 August, 2021, 11:30:13 PM


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