This month most of the planetary action is the evening skies with 4 bright planets visible. Mercury returns to the morning sky mid-month but never gets very high. Venus bright in the west, Jupiter, Saturn past Opposition, and Mars just past the best opposition since 2003.
Useful info for visitors from New Zealand, South Africa and South America.
August; Saturn, and the Trifid and Lagoon Nebulae are within a binocular field of view, by the 31st Saturn is within two finger-widths of the Trifid and Lagoon nebula. August 14-15; Venus and the crescent Moon close. August 11; Moon at perigee. August 15-19; Jupiter a finger-width from alpha Librae. August 17; waxing Moon close to Jupiter. August 21; Saturn close to the waxing Moon. August 23; Moon at Apogee. August 23; Moon and Mars close. August 31; Venus and bright star Spica close.
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.
[Astroblog Updated astronews and images at Astroblog!] [Weekly Sky ] [Astronomy Media Player] [Aurora Alert! Updated 1/5/18] [Coming events and Updates updated for 2018] [Out in Space ] [ The Moon] [Planets] [Mars Opposition] [Meteors] [ Comets ] [ Occultations ] [Eclipse] [Variable Stars ] [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]
Clear crisp Winter nights are often the best for star gazing, with the broad sweep of the Milky Way arching across the sky. However, it gets very cold, so don't forget to rug up before doing any extended star watching. Dew formation can also mean some dampness, so a blanket or rug to sit on is a good idea, as well as a thermos of your favorite hot beverage. Winter sees our night skies dominated by the Southern Cross, sprawling Scorpio and Sagittarius, in which the heart of our galaxy hides, so it's well worth stepping out into the chill for an astronomical thrill.
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 01/05/18: Despite solar maximum having passed, we are still getting occasional good auroral displays. April 20th 2018 saw an impressive display visible from NZ and Tasmania. The last week of March 2017 saw some impressive aurora displays from Tasmania, Victoria, SA and WA. September 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 January, 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 at solar maximum, but has been rather quite so far apart from the odd event like the 17 March 2013 one and the 22 February 2014 and the January 2015 events (and of course the St. Patrick's Day Storm). Although we should be exiting solar maximum in 2016 we may see more aurora in the near future.
Auroral images and descriptions from past geomagnetic storms are now at the auroral image web page.
We are now at the tail end of solar maximum in 2016, and we can expect to see a reducing frequency of aurora. There have been some good displays in Tasmania recently (the St. Patrick's Day storm was a beauty, see as far north as NSW). Tasmania, King Island and Southern Victoria are the most likely places to see aurora. However, on September 24, 2005 there was a massive auroral storm seen as far as northern NSW (and the 22 February 2014 one was seen as far north as southern 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 email@example.com 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. Astroblog will have images when possible of these events soon after.
Return to Menu
1 January 2018; Mars three finger-widths from Jupiter in the morning skies
2 January 2018; Perigee ("Super") Moon
7 January 2018; Mars and Jupiter closest at 0.25 degrees.
12 January 2018; Crescent Moon, Mars and Jupiter form a triangle
13 January 2018; Mercury less than a finger-width from Saturn in the morning sky
15 January 2018; thin crescent Moon near Mercury and Saturn
27-31 January 2018; Asteroid Ceres visible in binoculars
31 January 2018; Blue Moon, Total Lunar Eclipse ~11pm AEST
8 February 2018; Waning Moon close to Jupiter in Morning sky
10 February 2018; Waning Moon close to Mars
13 February 2018; Crescent Moon close to Saturn
4 March 2018; Venus and Mercury very close, low in the evening twilight
7 March 2018; Moon close to Jupiter
10-11 March 2018; Moon close to Mars
11-12 March 2018; Moon close to Saturn
19 March 2018; thin crescent Moon close to Mercury and Venus in evening twilight
20 March 2018; Mars close to Triffid Nebula
1-3 April 2018; Mars and globular cluster M22 less than a finger-width apart in morning sky
2 April 2018; Mars and Saturn close, a finger-width apart
3 April 2018; Moon close to Jupiter in evening sky
15 April 2018; thin crescent Moon close to Mercury in morning twilight
18 April 2018; crescent Moon close to Venus in evening sky
30 April 2018; Moon close to Jupiter in evening sky
1-30 May 2018; Saturn within 2finger-widths of globular cluster M22, closest on the 15th
4 May 2018; Moon close to Saturn.
6 May 2018; Moon close to Mars.
6 May 2018; Eta Aquariid meteor shower.
9 May 2018; Jupiter at opposition.
14-15 May 2018; Mars less than half a finger-width from globular cluster M75.
17-18 May 2018; crescent Moon close to Venus.
21 May 2018; Venus close to M35.
27 May 2018; Moon close to Jupiter.
1 June 2018; Moon and Saturn close.
3 June 2018; Moon and Mars close.
16 June 2018; Crescent Moon near Venus.
19 June 2018; Asteroid Vesta at opposition, potentially visible with the unaided eye.
20 June 2018; Venus in the Beehive cluster.
21 June 2018; crescent Moon and Venus close.
23 June 2018; Moon and Jupiter close.
27 June 2018; Saturn at opposition.
28 June 2018; Saturn close to the Moon.
1 July 2018; Mars and Moon close.
4 July 2018; Mercury close to Beehive cluster.
13 July 2018; Partial Eclipse of the sun, visible only southern SA and VIC.
15 July 2018; thin crescent Moon and Mercury close in the twilight.
16 July 2018; crescent Moon and Venus close.
21 July 2018; Moon and Jupiter close.
25 July 2018; Moon and Saturn close.
27 July 2018; Mars at Opposition, the best since 2003.
28 July 2018; Total Lunar Eclipse, early morning.
30 July 2018; Southern Delta Aquarids meteor shower.
14 August 2018; Crescent Moon close to Venus.
17 August 2018; Moon close to Jupiter.
21 August 2018; Moon close to Saturn.
30 August 2018; Saturn close to Triffid Nebula.
1-2 September 2018; Venus and Spica close.
12-13 September 2018; Crescent Moon close to Venus.
14 September 2018; crescent Moon close to Jupiter.
18 September 2018; Moon close to Saturn.
20 September 2018; Moon and Mars close.
10-20 October 2018; All 5 five bright planets visible in early evening sky.
10 October 2018; Mercury and Crescent Moon close.
11 October 2018; crescent Moon near Venus
12 October 2018; crescent Moon close to Jupiter.
15 October 2018; Moon close to Saturn.
16 October 2018; Venus and Mercury close.
18 October 2018; Moon close to Mars.
22 October 2018; Orionid meteor shower.
28 October 2018; Mercury and Jupiter close.
9 November 2018; Jupiter crescent Moon close.
11 November 2018; Crescent Moon and Saturn close.
16 November 2018; Moon close to Mars.
17 November 2018; Leonid Meteor Shower.
26 November 2018; Variable star Mira at its brightest
1-20 December 2018; Comet 46P potentially visible to the unaided eye.
4 December 2018; Crescent Moon close to Venus in morning twilight.
9 December 2018; Crescent Moon close to Saturn in evening twilight.
15 December 2018; Geminid Meteor shower.
14-15 December 2018; Moon close to Mars.
22 December 2018; Jupiter and Mercury very close in dawn sky.
Out in Space
Mars Curiosity Rover searches for dusty secrets.
Mars Express finds hidden water under Mars's South Pole.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter looks at the Phoenix landing site again.
The Juno mission solves the mystery of Jupiter's lightning.
Return to Menu
Last quarter on the 5th
Current Phase of the Moon.
New Moon is on the 11th
First quarter on the 18th
Full moon on the 26th
August 14-15; Venus and the crescent Moon close. August 11; Moon at perigee. August 17; waxing Moon close to Jupiter. August 21; Saturn close to the waxing Moon. August 23; Moon at Apogee. August 23; Moon and Mars close.
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 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.
The evening sky on Tuesday August 14 facing west as seen from Adelaide at 19:09 ACST 90 minutes after sunset, Venus and the crescent Moon are close. (The inset shows the telescopic view of Venus at this time, similar views will be seen Australia wide 90 minutes minutes after sunset).
The evening sky facing west on Monday August 17 as seen from Adelaide at 19:11 ACST 90 minutes after sunset showing Jupiter and the waxing Moon close close. Jupiter is close to Alpha Librae and Venus is also visible. (similar views will be seen Australia wide 90 minutes minutes after sunset).
The evening sky facing east in Adelaide on August 23 at 19:14 ACST 90 minutes after sunset showing Mars near the waxing Moon with Saturn above. (similar views will be seen from other cities at the equivalent local time 90 minutes after sunset).
Mercury returns to the morning sky in the latter half of the month. However, Mercury never rises very high from the twilight. On August 1, Mercury is just under a hand-spans above the western horizon an hour after sunset. On August 27th Mercury is at its furthest from the Sun as seen from Earth. On August 14 Venus is a hand-span and a half from the thin crescent Moon. On August 15, Mercury is just over two finger-widths above the eastern horizon half hour before sunrise. On Ausust 18 Venus is at its furthest from the Sun as seen from Earth. On August 30, Mercury is just under a hand-span above the eastern horizon half hour before sunrise.
Venus continues to climbs slowly into the evening sky until mid August and and is prominent after full dark. Venus is now a distinct "last Quarter Moon" shape in telescopes. On August 1 Venus is just under four hand-spans above the horizon 90 minutes after Sunset. Venus is in the constellation of Virgo and is heading towards the bright star Spica. On August 4 Venus is at its closest to the star beta Virginis. On August 15, Venus is just over four hand-spans above the horizon 90 minutes after Sunset and is two handspans from the waxing crescent Moon. On August 16, Venus, and the thin crescent Moon are two finger-widths apart. On August 30, Venus is just over four hand-spans above the horizon 90 minutes after Sunset and two finger-widths from the bright star Spica, the brightest star in Virgo.
Mars Mars was at opposition on July 27, when it was biggest and brightest as seen from Earth, but remains bright and worthy of telescope observation this month. Even small telescopes should reveal the polar cap and some of the more prominent markings, when global dust storm that is obscuring most of the features on Mars finally abates. Watching Mars over the coming days in a telescope you should see Mars visibly decrease in size. Mars remains in Capricornius most of this month before moving into Sagittarius, and will be visible all night long. On August 1 Mars is just above 10 hand-spans above the eastern horizon at 10:00 pm local time, and is highest above the northern horizon at around midnight local time. Mars is a hand-span from the waning Moon. On August 15 Mars is 13 hand-spans above the north-eastern horizon at 10:00 pm local time, and is highest above the northern horizon at around 11:00 pm local time. On the 23th Mars is just over a hand-span from the waxing Moon. More details can be found at my Mars Opposition site. On the 30th Mars is just above 9 hand-spans above the eastern horizon and hour and a half after sunset, and is highest above the northern horizon at around 10 pm local time.
Jupiter, although past opposition, is excellent in the evening sky.
On August 1, Jupiter is nearly 11 hand-spans above the north-western horizon 90 minutes after sunset, and is highest above the northern horizon at around 6:30 pm local time (similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time, eg 6:30 pm AWST). Jupiter is rising before sunset and it is best for telescopic observation in the early-mid evening. Jupiter is in Libra all month and begins the month close to alpha Librae (Zubenelgenubi). On August 15, Jupiter is just over 10 hand-spans above the western horizon 90 minutes after sunset, and is highest above the northern horizon about 5:30 pm local time. On August 15-19; Jupiter a finger-width from alpha Librae. On August 17 the waxing Moon is close to Jupiter. By August 30, Jupiter is nearly 9 hand-spans above the western horizon 90 minutes after sunset and sets around 11:30 pm local time.
In either binoculars or a telescope Jupiter's Moons are always interesting. There are some nice transits coming up this month.This table was created using The Planets 2.02 a free program available from http://www.cpac.org.uk Times are AEST, subtract 30 minutes for ACST and 3 hours for AWST. Add one hour for Daylight Saving time. GRS = Great Red Spot. S = Shadow Transit, T = Transit Wed 1 Aug 2018 01:22 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Wed 1 Aug 2018 17:34 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Thu 2 Aug 2018 00:55 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Thu 2 Aug 2018 01:18 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Thu 2 Aug 2018 17:35 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Thu 2 Aug 2018 20:46 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Fri 3 Aug 2018 01:15 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Fri 3 Aug 2018 17:36 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Sat 4 Aug 2018 01:11 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Sat 4 Aug 2018 17:37 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Sat 4 Aug 2018 17:44 Gan: Reappears from Occultation Sat 4 Aug 2018 20:56 Eur: Disappears into Occultation Sat 4 Aug 2018 21:05 Gan: Disappears into Eclipse Sat 4 Aug 2018 22:25 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sat 4 Aug 2018 22:49 Gan: Reappears from Eclipse Sat 4 Aug 2018 23:14 Eur: Reappears from Occultation Sat 4 Aug 2018 23:29 Eur: Disappears into Eclipse Sat 4 Aug 2018 23:31 Io : Transit Begins T Sun 5 Aug 2018 00:48 Io : Shadow Transit Begins ST Sun 5 Aug 2018 01:08 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Sun 5 Aug 2018 17:37 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Sun 5 Aug 2018 18:17 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sun 5 Aug 2018 20:42 Io : Disappears into Occultation Mon 6 Aug 2018 00:11 Io : Reappears from Eclipse Mon 6 Aug 2018 01:04 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Mon 6 Aug 2018 17:38 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Mon 6 Aug 2018 17:42 Eur: Transit Ends Mon 6 Aug 2018 18:00 Io : Transit Begins T Mon 6 Aug 2018 18:02 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins ST Mon 6 Aug 2018 19:16 Io : Shadow Transit Begins SST Mon 6 Aug 2018 20:10 Io : Transit Ends SS Mon 6 Aug 2018 20:18 Eur: Shadow Transit Ends S Mon 6 Aug 2018 21:26 Io : Shadow Transit Ends Tue 7 Aug 2018 00:04 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Tue 7 Aug 2018 01:01 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Tue 7 Aug 2018 17:39 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Tue 7 Aug 2018 18:40 Io : Reappears from Eclipse Tue 7 Aug 2018 19:56 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Wed 8 Aug 2018 00:57 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Wed 8 Aug 2018 17:40 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Thu 9 Aug 2018 00:53 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Thu 9 Aug 2018 17:41 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Thu 9 Aug 2018 21:34 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Fri 10 Aug 2018 00:50 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Fri 10 Aug 2018 17:42 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Sat 11 Aug 2018 00:46 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Sat 11 Aug 2018 17:42 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Sat 11 Aug 2018 19:46 Gan: Disappears into Occultation Sat 11 Aug 2018 21:46 Gan: Reappears from Occultation Sat 11 Aug 2018 23:13 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sat 11 Aug 2018 23:31 Eur: Disappears into Occultation Sun 12 Aug 2018 00:43 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Sun 12 Aug 2018 17:43 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Sun 12 Aug 2018 19:05 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sun 12 Aug 2018 22:38 Io : Disappears into Occultation Mon 13 Aug 2018 00:40 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Mon 13 Aug 2018 17:44 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Mon 13 Aug 2018 18:01 Eur: Transit Begins T Mon 13 Aug 2018 19:55 Io : Transit Begins TT Mon 13 Aug 2018 20:21 Eur: Transit Ends T Mon 13 Aug 2018 20:39 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins ST Mon 13 Aug 2018 21:11 Io : Shadow Transit Begins SST Mon 13 Aug 2018 22:05 Io : Transit Ends SS Mon 13 Aug 2018 22:56 Eur: Shadow Transit Ends S Mon 13 Aug 2018 23:20 Io : Shadow Transit Ends Tue 14 Aug 2018 00:36 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Tue 14 Aug 2018 17:45 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Tue 14 Aug 2018 20:35 Io : Reappears from Eclipse Tue 14 Aug 2018 20:44 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Wed 15 Aug 2018 00:33 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Wed 15 Aug 2018 17:46 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Wed 15 Aug 2018 17:49 Io : Shadow Transit Ends Thu 16 Aug 2018 00:29 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Thu 16 Aug 2018 17:46 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Thu 16 Aug 2018 22:23 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Fri 17 Aug 2018 00:26 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Fri 17 Aug 2018 17:47 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Fri 17 Aug 2018 18:15 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sat 18 Aug 2018 00:22 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Sat 18 Aug 2018 17:48 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Sat 18 Aug 2018 23:49 Gan: Disappears into Occultation Sun 19 Aug 2018 00:02 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sun 19 Aug 2018 00:19 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Sun 19 Aug 2018 17:49 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Sun 19 Aug 2018 19:54 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Mon 20 Aug 2018 00:16 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Mon 20 Aug 2018 17:50 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Mon 20 Aug 2018 20:41 Eur: Transit Begins T Mon 20 Aug 2018 21:51 Io : Transit Begins TT Mon 20 Aug 2018 23:01 Eur: Transit Ends T Mon 20 Aug 2018 23:06 Io : Shadow Transit Begins ST Mon 20 Aug 2018 23:17 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins SST Tue 21 Aug 2018 00:01 Io : Transit Ends SS Tue 21 Aug 2018 00:12 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Tue 21 Aug 2018 17:51 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Tue 21 Aug 2018 19:04 Io : Disappears into Occultation Tue 21 Aug 2018 21:33 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Tue 21 Aug 2018 22:30 Io : Reappears from Eclipse Wed 22 Aug 2018 00:09 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Wed 22 Aug 2018 17:51 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Wed 22 Aug 2018 17:56 Eur: Disappears into Eclipse ST Wed 22 Aug 2018 18:30 Io : Transit Ends S Wed 22 Aug 2018 18:51 Gan: Shadow Transit Begins SS Wed 22 Aug 2018 19:44 Io : Shadow Transit Ends S Wed 22 Aug 2018 20:11 Eur: Reappears from Eclipse S Wed 22 Aug 2018 20:36 Gan: Shadow Transit Ends Thu 23 Aug 2018 00:05 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Thu 23 Aug 2018 17:52 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Thu 23 Aug 2018 23:12 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Fri 24 Aug 2018 00:02 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Fri 24 Aug 2018 17:53 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Fri 24 Aug 2018 19:03 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Fri 24 Aug 2018 23:59 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Sat 25 Aug 2018 17:54 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Sat 25 Aug 2018 23:55 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Sun 26 Aug 2018 17:55 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Sun 26 Aug 2018 20:42 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Sun 26 Aug 2018 23:52 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Mon 27 Aug 2018 17:55 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Mon 27 Aug 2018 23:23 Eur: Transit Begins T Mon 27 Aug 2018 23:47 Io : Transit Begins TT Mon 27 Aug 2018 23:49 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Tue 28 Aug 2018 17:56 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Tue 28 Aug 2018 21:01 Io : Disappears into Occultation Tue 28 Aug 2018 22:21 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Tue 28 Aug 2018 23:46 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Wed 29 Aug 2018 17:57 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Wed 29 Aug 2018 18:06 Eur: Disappears into Occultation T Wed 29 Aug 2018 18:13 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian Wed 29 Aug 2018 18:17 Io : Transit Begins TT Wed 29 Aug 2018 19:29 Io : Shadow Transit Begins STT Wed 29 Aug 2018 19:51 Gan: Transit Ends ST Wed 29 Aug 2018 20:25 Eur: Reappears from Occultation ST Wed 29 Aug 2018 20:27 Io : Transit Ends S Wed 29 Aug 2018 20:30 Eur: Disappears into Eclipse S Wed 29 Aug 2018 21:38 Io : Shadow Transit Ends Wed 29 Aug 2018 22:46 Eur: Reappears from Eclipse Wed 29 Aug 2018 22:50 Gan: Shadow Transit Begins S Wed 29 Aug 2018 23:42 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Thu 30 Aug 2018 17:58 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Thu 30 Aug 2018 18:54 Io : Reappears from Eclipse Thu 30 Aug 2018 23:39 Viewing Suspended - Jupiter Sets Fri 31 Aug 2018 17:59 Viewing Resumed - Sun Sets Fri 31 Aug 2018 19:52 GRS: Crosses Central MeridianSaturn was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest as seen from Earth on June 27. Nonetheless it is a very worthwhile telescopic target in the evening. On August 1 Saturn is over 8 hand-spans above the eastern horizon 90 minutes after sunset, and is highest above the northern horizon at around 10 pm local time. During the the month Saturn and the Trifid and Lagoon nebulae are the same binocular field. On the 15th Saturn is just over 10 hand-spans above the north-eastern horizon 90 minutes after sunset, and is highest above the northern horizon at around 9 pm local time (similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time). On August 21 the waxing Moon is close to Saturn. On the 30th Saturn is over 13 hand-spans above the northern horizon 90 minutes after sunset, and is highest above the northern horizon at around 9 pm local time. By the 31st Saturn is within two finger-widths of the Trifid and Lagoon nebula.
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 Iridium 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 30/07/2018 alpha-Capricornids 5 0.95 12/08/2018 Perseids 150 0.05 18/08/2018 Kappa-Cygnids 3 0.25
The figure ZHR is zenithal hourly rate. This is the number of meteors that a single observer would see per hour if the shower's "point of origin", or radiant, were at the zenith and the sky were dark enough for 6.5-magnitude stars to be visible to the naked eye. Illumination gives an idea of how dark the sky is, the lower the figure, the darker the sky.
Sadly, the Perseids are very low on the horizon in Australia and for all of us south of Brisbane, the radiant (where the meteors appear to originate in the sky) will be below the horizon. While the ZHR is around 150, Australian observers from Brisbane and similar latitudes can expect to see a meteor every 20 minutes of so, at the latitude of Alice Springs a meteor every 6 minutes and at the latitude of Darwin and Cairns a meteor every four minutes under clear conditions away from light pollution. On August the 12th and 13th, between around 3.30 am and 5.30 am (yes, that's right, bleeding cold morning time), go out and face North. The meteor shower will be between two to three hand-spans from the horizon. The best rates will be on the morning of the 13th though. A map showing the location of the meteor radiant as seen facing north from Darwin at 5.00 am is here. (also useful for Alice Springs and Brisbane, Townsville etc. where the radiant is lower). This year the moon is just off new, and Moonlight will not interfere.
The Perseids are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which has a 135 year orbit around the sun. The best Perseid showers were in 1991 and 1992, when Swift Tuttle was at perihelion (the closest approach to the sun) at 1 AU from the Sun, around 400 meteors per hour were seen. Swift Tuttle is now much further out.
Outside of the showers, you can still see sporadic meteors. Rates seen from the Southern Hemisphere are around 12 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 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.
Return to Menu
There are no unaided eye comets visible at the moment.A list of current comet ephemerides is at the MPC.
Return to Menu
No interesting naked-eye occultations this month.
No significant eclipses this month.
Find local sunrise/sunset and twilight times for your city or location (courtesy of Heavens Above).
Use either the drop down box for the listed cities, or type in your latitude, longitude and city in the boxes below.
Type in Your Latitude and Longitude in decimal format eg -12.461 130.840 , to find your Lat Long go to this site.
While most stars seem to shine with a constant brightness, there are some that undergo regular, dramatic change in brightness. The classic variables are Mira and Algol. Algol is currently not visible and Mira is too close to the horizon for easy observation.
Return to Menu
The southern evening sky at 10:00 pm AEST in Melbourne on August 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 Standard Time) on 1 August 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 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?
- 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.
Facing east, the constellation of Cetus, the Whale, is just coming over the horizon. Five hand-spans up from the eastern horizon and one hand-span to the left is the faint but rambling constellation of Aquarius. Six hand-spans up and one to the right is bright Fomalhaut, Alpha star of Piscis Austrinus.
Eight hand-spans above the horizon and one to the left of east is the battered triangle of Capricornius, the Water Goat, currently hosting Uranus and Neptune. 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.
Straddling the Zenith is the distinctive "teapot" shape of Sagittarius, the archer. The "teapots" spout is pointing east, its handle west, and its lid points to the left (north). This constellations panoply of clusters and nebula reach full prominence. M24, an open cluster about two finger-widths to the right and slightly down from the "lid" of the teapot should be visible to the naked eye, just above this and slightly to the left by about a hand span is a number of open clusters and a patch of luminosity that marks the lagoon nebula. M22, a globular cluster, is close to the lid (between and about a finger-widths left of the two stars that make the bottom of the lid), should be visible as a dim, fuzzy star on a dark night. Between these clusters and the "lid" itself runs the Great Sagittarius 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.
From the Zenith continuing on west, the distinctive "hook" shape of Scorpio, the scorpion, stretches down towards the western horizon. Going up from the western horizon by about twelve hand-spans (or down from the zenith by 5) 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 finger-width 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 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.
Directly below the "T" of Scorpio by one hand-span is a broad triangle of stars that marks Libra, the balance. Alpha Librae (with the amazing name Zubenelgenubi) is the brightest star and apex of the triangle pointed at Spica, is almost midway between Spica and Antares. This star is a wide binary, and those with good eye sight and dark skies can usual see both components. Beta Librae (Zubeneschamali) is the next brightest star in the triangle and closest to the horizon. Four finger-widths to the left of Beta Librae is delta Librae, this dim star (magnitude 4.9) is an eclipsing variable, where a dim star orbiting a brighter star eclipses the brighter star, causing a fall in perceived brightness. Delta Librae dims and brightens by one whole magnitude every 2.3 days, and is a good (if dim) naked eye variable. Libra also hosts the star HD 141569 (roughly a hand-span below beta Librae, but at 7th magnitude invisible to the naked eye), which has a dust disk with dark lanes which may indicate planets.
Underneath alpha Librae by around four hand-spans and to the left by one hand-span 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. Virgo is now grazing the western horizon.
Six hand-spans to the right of spica is bright orange Arcturus, alpha star of the constellation of Bootes, the herdsman.
Directly to the left of Virgo by three hand-spans is the kite shape of Corvus the crow,
Returning to the Zenith and working towards the Northern horizon. Ten hand-spans down from the Zenith (and 8 above the northern horizon) and two to the left is Rasalhague, alpha star of Ophiuchus, a large rambling constellation. A similar distance from the Zenith and 5 hand-spans to the right 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 white Vega, alpha Lyrae (the Lyre), three hand-spans from the horizon. Below and to the right of Vega, just above the horizon is bright Deneb, alpha star of Cygnus, the swan. In the norther hemisphere, Vega, Altair and Deneb make a prominent triangle in the night sky. Here their closeness to the horizon dims the splendor somewhat.
Between Altair, Arcturus, and Spica are a number of dim constellations, including Hercules. Hercules is almost mid way between Altair and Arcturus, and a reasonably prominent box shape just to the left of Vega marks the centre of the constellation.
Now return to the Zenith and go South. Directly south of the teapot of Sagittarius by about two finger-widths, is the a delicate arc of stars, Corona Australis, the Southern Crown. About three hand-spans away from the Zenith and between due south and the curved tail of Scorpio is a small squarish constellation Ara. Another hand-span south again brings you to the edge of the large, but dim, constellation of Pavo the Peacock. Peacock, alpha Pavonis, is a reasonably bright magnitude 2 star and lies three hand-spans left of due south. Delta Pavonis, about two hand-spans below and two hand-spans to the right of alpha Pavonis, is one of the handful of sun-like stars within 20 light-years of Earth that might have terrestrial planets in its habitable zone.
To the right of Pavo by about 5 hand-spans is alpha and beta Centauri, the so called "pointers", with Alpha being the yellow star which is furthest from the horizon, and Beta the blue white star below and slightly to the right. Between these stars and Pavo lie the dim constellations of trianglum and Circinus (the compass).
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.
Two hand-spans from alpha Centauri to the right and a little down is a small star, about a hand-span to the right again 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 hand-span to the right 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 Magellanic clouds) without a telescope.
Returning to alpha Centauri, following a line south east through the "pointers" brings you to the Southern Cross, two hand-spans below the pointers and 6 hand-spans above the horizon at about the 3 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 (running parallel to the horizon, with bright Acrux on the westerly end of the axis). Beta and delta Crucis, now running north-south, form the cross piece of the cross. Just above and 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 clearly visible in dark skies. The Jewel box in the Cross is a small open cluster just to the left of Beta Crucis, the uppermost bright star in the Cross at the moment. It is quite beautiful, but requires strong binoculars or a small telescope to see properly.
Just below the Southern Cross is Carina (the keel of the former constellation Argo Navis). A high definition map of this region is here. Looking almost anywhere in the area stretching between Sagittarius and Vela/Carina will reveal an interesting cluster or star formation. However, the area two hand-spans below and slightly to the right of the Southern Cross, between it and the false cross, is particularly rich. Here you will find the "Southern Pleiades" surrounding the tail star (Theta Carina) of a prominent kite shaped group of stars in Carina. Smaller and less spectacular than their northern counterparts, they still look very nice in binoculars. Four finger-widths below the Southern Pleiades are two rich open clusters, and the barely visible star Eta Carina. Eta Carina's spectacular nebula is only dimly seen in binoculars. Five hand spans below and two to the left of the Southern Cross is the False Cross, now only two hand-spans from the horizon. Just to the left of the False Cross is a good open cluster, normally just visible to the naked eye but hard to see this close to the horizon. Still very nice in binoculars though. Canopus (alpha Carina) is a bright yellowish star sitting just on the south-eastern horizon .
Just below Carina, sitting on the horizon is Vela, the sail of Argo Navis. When, Argo Navis was broken up into Puppis, Vela and Carina in 1750, they forgot to assign alpha and beta stars to Vela, and its brightest star at magnitude 1.5 is Gamma Velorum, now below the horizon. Most of Vela's best sights are either below the horizon, or too close to be seen well. Kappa and delta Velorum, with iota and epsilon Carina, make the "false cross" (about 2 hand spans above the south-western horizon). A high definition map of Vela is here.
Three hand-spans straight up from south, and just to the left 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.
Six hand-spans up from the southern horizon and three 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, a spectacular globular cluster that is very nice through binoculars.
To the left of the Small Magellanic cloud is the dim, nondescript constellation of Tucana, the Toucan itself, then another 6 hand-spans further left near bright Fomalhaut is the battered cross if Gruss the crane.
Four hand-spans from the south-eastern horizon, in an area otherwise devoid of bright stars is magnitude 0.5 Achenar, alpha Erandi, lead star in the constellation of the river, which will soon ramble across the southern skies.
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 August 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.
GIF MapsA view of the Eastern August sky at 10.00pm AEST on 1 August can be downloaded here (augsky_e.png 30 Kb) and a view of the western August sky can be downloaded here (augsky_w.png 30 Kb). These are more compact files but don't have a lot of resolution.
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 PNG files, but print much better and come with legends.
Return to Menu
[December Skies] [January Skies] [February Skies] [March Skies] [April Skies] [May Skies] [ 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 July 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.
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 2018 almanac and SkyMap Pro 11.0 . I highly recommend the Australian Astronomy 2018 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 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 a grunty PC.
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 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.
This is not meant to be a product endorsement of any kind (outside of the Australian Astronomy 2018 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: Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 11:30:13 PM