Southern Sky Watch

October Skies

This month the planetary action is in the evening skies, Jupiter and Saturn are joined by Mercury and Venus. This month is the best for viewing Mercury in the evening. Venus comes close to Mercury at the beginning and ending of the month. Jupiter is still bright and obvious and Saturn is still high in the evening sky. Mars enters the morning sky at the end of the month.

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

Venus comes close to the bright star Spica on the 4th, forming a triangle with Mercury. October 4; Jupiter near the nearly first quarter Moon. October 5; International Observe the Moon night. October 6; Moon close to Saturn, . October 11; Moon at Apogee. October 26; Moon at perigee. October 29, thin crescent Moon close to Venus and Mercury. October 31, Moon and Jupiter 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.


[updatedAstroblog Updated astronews and images at Astroblog!] [Weekly Sky ] [Astronomy Media Player] [Aurora Alert! Updated 28/8/18] [Coming events and Updates updated updated for 2019] [Out in Space ] [ The Moon] [Planets] [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 ] [updatedCharts, 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]

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.

Return to Menu

Aurora Alert UPDATED 28/08/18: Despite solar maximum having passed, we are 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 at solar minimum,and is rather quiet we June 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 deep in solar minimum, and we can expect to see few aurora. There have been some good displays in Tasmania in the recent past (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 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.

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 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. Astroblog will have images when possible of these events soon after.

Return to Menu

Coming events

2 January 2019; Venus close to crescent Moon in morning.

3-4 January 2019; Crescent Moon and Jupiter close

4 January 2019; Crescent Moon near Mercury

12-13 January 2019; waxing Moon and Mars close

14 January 2019; Mercury a bit over a finger-width from Saturn low in the morning twilight

21 January 2019; Perigee Full Moon ("super" Moon, strictly at its biggest on the morning of the 22nd)

23 January 2019; Venus and Jupiter close in the morning

31 January 2019; Crescent Moon and Jupiter close again

1 February 2019; Crescent Moon close to Venus in the morning sky

2-3 February 2019; Crescent Moon close to Saturn in the morning

10 February 2019; Waxing Moon close to Mars

12-13 February 2019; Uranus close to Mars (binocular viewing)

20 February 2019; Perigee Full Moon ("super" Moon, strictly at its biggest on the evening of the 19th)

28 February 2019; Waning Moon close to Jupiter

2 March 2019; Crescent Moon close to Saturn in the morning

3 March 2019; Crescent Moon close to Venus in the morning sky

11 March 2019; Crescent Moon close to Mars

30 March 2019; Waning Moon close to Saturn

2-3 April 2019; Crescent Moon close to Venus in the morning sky

3 April 2019; Crescent Moon close to Mercury in the morning sky

9 April 2019; Moon close to Mars in evening sky

23 April 2019; waning Moon close to Jupiter in the evening sky

25 April 2019; Occultation of Saturn by the Moon, very low on horizon

4-25 May 2019; Asteroid Ceres visible in binoculars (opposition on 28th)

3 May 2019; Crescent Moon close to Venus in the morning sky

6 May 2019; Eta Aquariid meteor shower

8 May 2019; Crescent Moon close to Mars

19 May 2019; Venus and Uranus a finger-width apart in the morning twilight (binoculars)

20 May 2019; Jupiter near waning Moon

22 May 2019; Waning Moon close to Saturn

1-29 June 2019; Asteroid Ceres visible in binoculars 2 June 2019; Crescent Moon and Venus close in twilight

4 June 2019; Crescent Moon and Mercury close

5 June 2019; Crescent Moon and Mars close

11 June 2019; Jupiter at Opposition

16 June 2019; Jupiter and Full Moon close

19 June 2019; Moon and Saturn close

4 July 2019; Mercury close to Crescent Moon and Mars in the twilight

10 July 2019; Saturn at Opposition

13-14 July 2019; Moon and Jupiter close

16 July 2019; Moon and Saturn close

16-17 July 2019; Partial Lunar Eclipse, early morning, really only visible from WA and a bit in the Central states

30 July 2019; Southern Delta Aquarids meteor shower

31 July 2019; Mercury close to thin crescent moon low in twilight

2 August 2019; Crescent Moon close to Mars low in the twilight

10 August 2019; Moon close to Jupiter

12 August 2019; Moon close to Saturn, Occultation seen on East coast only

6 September 2019; Waxing Moon and Jupiter close

8-9 September 2019; Saturn close to Moon, Occultation in northern and Western Australia

13 September 2019; Apogee Full Moon (mini-Moon)

29 September 2019; Mercury close to bright star Spica

30 September 2019; Crescent Moon close to Spica and Mercury with Venus below

3-5 October 2019; Venus and the bright star Spica close

4 October 2019; Jupiter and waxing Moon close

6 October 2019; Saturn and waxing Moon close

22 October 2019; Orionid meteor shower

24 October 2019; Variable star Mira at its brightest

29 October 2019; Mercury, Venus and Crescent Moon close

31 October 2019; Jupiter and waxing Moon close

2 November 2019; waxing Moon close to Saturn

9 November 2019; Jupiter crescent Moon close

11 November 2019; Crescent Moon and Saturn close

12 November 2019; Asteroid Vesta at opposition, potentially (just) visible with the unaided eye

17 November 2019; Leonid Meteor Shower

24 November 2019; Jupiter and Venus just two finger-widths apart

25 November 2019; the Crescent Moon, Mars and Mercury form a triangle in the dawn sky

28-29 November 2019; the Crescent Moon, Jupiter and Venus form a line in the evening twilight

2 December 2019; Venus close to the globular cluster M22 in the evening twilight (binocular)

11 December 2019; Venus and Saturn two finger-widths apart

15 December 2019; Geminid Meteor shower (full Moon, poor rates)

23 December 2019; Crescent Moon close to Mars in morning sky

26 December 2019; Partial Eclipse of the Sun, visible only in northern Australia

27 December 2019; Crescent Moon close to Saturn in the evening twilight

29 December 2019; Crescent Moon close to Venus in the evening sky


Out in Space

Mars Curiosity Rover makes new finds seven years after landing on Mars .

Mars Express sees from clouds to craters.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spots the curiosity rover.

The Juno mission watches Io's shadow on Jupiter.

more exciting images from an Asteroid. including images from the second landing

Return to Menu

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.

C| First quarter on the 6th
O Full moon on the 14th
D Last quarter on the 21st
O New Moon is on the 28th

October 4; Jupiter near the nearly first Quarter Moon. October 5; International Observe the Moon night. October 6; Moon close to Saturn, . October 11; Moon at Apogee. October 26; Moon at perigee. October 29, thin crescent Moon close to Venus and Mercury. October 31, Moon and Jupiter 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

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, 19:46 pm

The evening sky facing west on Friday October 4 as seen from Adelaide at 19:46 ACST, 90 minutes after sunset, the waxing Moon is close to Jupiter. (similar views will be seen Australia wide 90 minutes minutes after sunset).

evening sky, 19:46 pm

The the evening sky facing west in Adelaide on Saturday October 5 at 19:46 ACST, 90 minutes after sunset, Saturn and the Moon are close. (similar views will be seen similar views will be seen Australia 90 minutes after sunset).

evening sky, 19:40 pm

The the evening sky facing west in Adelaide on Tuesday October 29 at 19:40 ACST (60 minutes after sunset), Mercury, Venus and the Moon form a triangle. (similar views will be seen similar views will be seen Australia wide 60 minutes minutes after sunset).

Mercury is at its best in the evening sky this month. On the 1st Mercury is two hand-spans above the western horizon half an hour after sunset, close to the bright star Spica and above Venus. By the 15th Mercury is two hand-spans above the western horizon an hour after sunset, just above Venus. On the 29th the thin crescent Moon, Venus and Mercury form a line in the evening twilight. On the 30th Mercury is one and a half hand-spans above the western horizon an hour after sunset, the thin crescent Moon makes a triangle with Venus and Mercury.

Venus climbs higher in the evening sky but is still low in the twilight glow until later in the month. On the 1st Venus is a hand-span above the western horizon half an hour after sunset, below Mercury and Spica. By the 15th Venus is nearly two hand-spans above the western horizon half an hour after sunset, below Mercury. On the 29th the thin crescent Moon, Venus and Mercury form a line in the evening twilight. On the 30th Venus is a hand-span above the western horizon an hour after sunset, below Mercury. At this time the thin crescent Moon makes a triangle with them.

Mars is lost in the twilight most of this month, but returns to the morning sky late in the month. On the 30th Mars is a three finger-widths above the eastern horizon half an hour before sunrise.

Jupiter, was at opposition on the 11th of June, but is still bright and big. It dominates the early evening sky this month and is in an excellent position for telescopic viewing in the early evening.

Jupiter (still) remains in Ophiuchus this month, near the distinctive curl of Scorpio and the bright red star Antares. October 1, Jupiter is 8 hand-spans above the western horizon at astronomical twilight (90 minutes after sunset) and sets around midnight local time. On the 4th the waxing Moon is just a hand-span from Jupiter. On October 15, Jupiter is 6 hand-spans above the western horizon at astronomical twilight (90 minutes after sunset) and sets around 11:30 pm local time. By October 30, Jupiter is 4 hand-spans above the western horizon at astronomical twilight (90 minutes after sunset) and sets around 10:30 pm local time. On October 31 the Moon and Jupiter are two finger-widths apart.

In either binoculars or a telescope Jupiter's Moons are always interesting.

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

Tue	1	Oct	19:09	Eur: Disappears into Occultation	
Tue	1	Oct	23:20	Io : Transit Begins               T	
Wed	2	Oct	0:05	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse       T	
Wed	2	Oct	20:31	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Wed	2	Oct	23:33	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Wed	2	Oct	23:57	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Thu	3	Oct	18:32	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Thu	3	Oct	19:01	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Thu	3	Oct	19:25	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	3	Oct	20:02	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Thu	3	Oct	21:14	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Sat	5	Oct	21:04	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Mon	7	Oct	22:43	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	8	Oct	18:35	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	8	Oct	19:28	Gan: Disappears into Eclipse	
Tue	8	Oct	21:50	Eur: Disappears into Occultation	
Tue	8	Oct	22:08	Gan: Reappears from Eclipse	
Wed	9	Oct	22:29	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Thu	10	Oct	18:35	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Thu	10	Oct	18:48	Eur: Transit Ends                 S	
Thu	10	Oct	19:48	Io : Transit Begins               ST	
Thu	10	Oct	20:14	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	10	Oct	20:56	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        SST	
Thu	10	Oct	21:10	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends          ST	
Thu	10	Oct	22:00	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Thu	10	Oct	23:09	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Fri	11	Oct	20:22	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Sat	12	Oct	21:53	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	15	Oct	19:02	Gan: Disappears into Occultation	
Tue	15	Oct	19:24	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	15	Oct	21:39	Gan: Reappears from Occultation	
Thu	17	Oct	19:01	Eur: Transit Begins               T	
Thu	17	Oct	21:03	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	17	Oct	21:13	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Thu	17	Oct	21:35	Eur: Transit Ends                 S	
Thu	17	Oct	21:46	Io : Transit Begins               ST	
Thu	17	Oct	22:51	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        SST	
Fri	18	Oct	18:59	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Fri	18	Oct	22:17	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Sat	19	Oct	19:32	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Sat	19	Oct	22:42	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	22	Oct	20:13	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	24	Oct	21:49	Eur: Transit Begins               T	
Thu	24	Oct	21:52	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Fri	25	Oct	20:59	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Sat	26	Oct	19:14	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        SST	
Sat	26	Oct	20:00	Gan: Shadow Transit Ends          ST	
Sat	26	Oct	20:28	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Sat	26	Oct	21:08	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse       S	
Sat	26	Oct	21:27	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Sun	27	Oct	19:23	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	29	Oct	21:02	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	

Saturn starts to sink in the western evening sky this month. On October 1 Saturn is 12 hand-spans above the north-western horizon at astronomical twilight (90 minutes after sunset) and sets around 2:00 am local time. On October 5 and 6 Saturn and the waxing Moon are around a handspan apart. On October 15, Saturn is 10 hand-spans above the western horizon at astronomical twilight (90 minutes after sunset) and sets around 1:00 am local time. On October 30, Saturn is 7 hand-spans above the western horizon at astronomical twilight (90 minutes after sunset) and sets around midnight local time.

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.

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, 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.

Return to Menu

Meteor showers:

10/10/2019	Southern Taurids		5    0.01
21/10/2019 Orionids            20    0.25   

The figure ZHR is zenithal hourly rate. This is the number of meteors that a single observer would see per hour if the shower's "point of origin", or radiant, were at the zenith and the sky were dark enough for 6.5-magnitude stars to be visible to the naked eye. Illumination gives an idea of how dark the sky is, the lower the figure, the darker the sky.

morning sky, 3:00 pm

Morning sky facing north-east at 3:00 pm AEDST on 22 October, the Orionid radiant is indicated with a star burst.

The Orionids are a worthwhile shower, best seen between 2-4 am, the radiant being just under Betelgueuse, the bright red star in Orion. This year the Last Quarter Moon will reduce rates. The best viewing is the mornings of the 21st and 22nd, when between 3-5 am under dark skies you should see about a meteor every 5 minutes.

Outside of the showers, you can still see sporadic meteors. Rates seen from the Southern Hemisphere are around 4 random meteors being seen per hour during the late morning hours and 1 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.

Return to Menu

Comets:

There are no unaided eye comets visible at the moment. A list of current comet ephemerides is at the MPC.

Return to Menu

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 highest around 3 am in the morning and Mira reaches maximum on October 24.

evening sky, 10:00 pm

Cetus looking north-west at 10:00 pm AEST on 24 October, 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 is predicted to peak with maximum of 3.4 around 24 October. Mira may be seen above the north-eastern horizon from around 10 pm local time. Mira is currently visible just to the unaided eye and will brighten noticeably over October.

Return to Menu

Stars:

evening sky, 10:00 pm

The southern evening sky at 10:00 pm AEST in Melbourne on October 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 October 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?

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 hand-spans above the horizon, the rest of Cetus is relatively faint. Mira, Omicron Ceti (O on the maps) is a variable star with a period of about 332 days.

Cetus also hosts a nearby sun like star. Tau Ceti is 11.4 light years away from earth, looking 10 hand-spans up from east and two to the left is magnitude 2 Deneb Kaitos, beta Ceti. Two hand-spans below and slightly to the left is eta Ceti, two hand-spans to the right of eta Ceti, forming a triangle with eta and beta, is Tau Ceti.

Five hand-spans to the left of Cetus is Pisces, a rather nondescript constellation.

Continuing on to the zenith we find bright Fomalhaut, alpha star of Piscis Austrinus. Next to Fomalhaut is Grus, the crane, with a distinctive, battered cross-like shape.

Looking westward from the zenith, about four hand-spans down and three to the right 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.

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

M24, an open cluster about two finger-widths to the right and slightly down from the "lid" of the teapot should be visible to the naked eye, just above this and slightly to the left by about a hand span is a number of open clusters and a patch of luminosity that marks the lagoon nebula. M22, a globular cluster, is close to the lid (between and about a finger-widths left of the two stars that make the bottom of the lid), should be visible as a dim, fuzzy star on a dark night. Between these clusters and the "lid" itself runs the Great Sagittarius Starcloud. The center of our galaxy lies in Sagittarius, and on a dark night, the traceries of the Milky Way and its dust clouds are particularly beautiful. A high definition map of Sagittarius can be found here.

Continuing on west, the rambling constellation of Ophiuchus occupies the space between Sagittarius and the western horizon.

Directly to the left of Ophiuchus the distinctive "hook" shape of Scorpio, the scorpion, stretches down towards the western horizon. Going up from the south-western horizon by about one and a half hand-spans 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, 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 northern horizon. 6 hand-spans down from the zenith is the faint but rambling constellation of Aquarius.

12 hand-spans down from the Zenith (and six above the northern horizon) is the start of the constellation Pegasus, the winged horse. The distinctive box shape of the main constellation lies around three hand-spans to the right of due north.

At the same level as Pegasus, but seven hand-spans 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 hand-span above the horizon, and three hand-spans to the left of 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 below Grus brings you to the edge of the dim constellation of Tucana, the Toucan. About four hand-spans below the zenith, directly on due north, is Alpha Tucana. Just below Tucana and about a hand-span 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 alpha Tucana by around three hand-spans is Peacock, alpha Pavonis, is a reasonably bright magnitude 2 star that heads the large, but dim, constellation of Pavo the Peacock. Delta Pavonis, about two hand-spans below and one to the left of alpha Pavonis, is one of the handful of sun-like stars within 20 light years of Earth that might have terrestrial planets in its habitable zone.

To the right of and some what below Delta Pavonis by about 4 hand-spans is the boxy shape of Ara, the Altar.

To the left of alpha Tucana by 5 hand-spans is Ankaa, alpha Phoenicis, of the constellation of the Phoenix, another relatively nondescript constellation.

To the left of alpha Tucana by 5 hand-spans and down by about one is bright Achernar, alpha Erandius.

Continuing directly down from alpha Tucana by four hand-spans 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 six hand-spans directly below alpha Tucana, forming the apex of an inverted triangle with two other faint stars (tau and chi Octanis).

Directly below Octans by around three hand-spans is the faint Chameleon, a narrow "kite" of four stars with the long axis parallel to the horizon. To the left of Chameleon by a little over 3 hand-spans is the extended nebulosity of the Large Magellanic cloud, the largest of the dwarf satellite galaxies. Binoculars will reveal a rather attractive nebula near it, the Tarantula nebula.

To the right of Chameleon by around five hand-spans are the bright, distinctive alpha and beta Centauri, the so called "pointers", 4 hand-spans from the south-west horizon, with alpha being the yellow star which is furthest from the horizon, and beta the blue white star below. Between these stars and Chameleon lies the faint constellation Musca the fly. Between the pointers and Pavo lie the dim triangular constellations of Triangulum and Circinus (the compass). Most of the rest of Centarus, the Centaur, is too close to, or below, the Horizon to be seen properly.

Alpha Centauri is the closest star to our sun at around 4 light years. However, recent measurements with the Hippacaros satellite put the system 300 million kilometers further away than previously thought. Alpha centauri is actually a triple star, consisting of two 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 hand-spans below and to the left the pointers (one and a half hand-spans from beta Centauri to beta Crucis) and two hand-spans above the horizon at about the 5 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. However, bright Canopus is now two hand-spans from the south-eastern horizon, almost directly below the large Magellanic cloud, and will continue to rise in the following weeks.

Return to Menu

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 October 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 Maps

A view of the Eastern October sky at 10.00pm AEST on 1 October can be downloaded here (octsky_e.png 30 Kb) and a view of the western October sky can be downloaded here (octsky_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.

Return to Menu

[ December Skies] [ January Skies] [ February Skies] [ March Skies] [ April Skies] [ May Skies] [ June Skies] [ July Skies] [ August Skies] [ September Skies]
Return to Menu

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.

Return to Menu

Links

Societies: Australian Resources: Australian Planetariums: updated Astronomy for Kids International Resources: Stunning sites: Useful programs:
Return to Menu

Charts, Books and Software for Astronomy

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 2019 almanac and SkyMap Pro 11.0 . I highly recommend the Australian Astronomy 2019 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 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 2019 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).

Return to Menu

Link to the Lab's 'In Space' gateway Link to the Lab's home page
Return to Menu

This page is provided by Ian Musgrave and is © copyright 2019 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: Monday, 30 September 2019, 11:30:13 PM


Locations of visitors to this page
Where are visitors to this page?
(Auto-update daily since 27-August-05)
Return to Menu