Southern Sky Watch

April Skies

This month the planetary action is mostly in the morning skies. Venus is prominent in the evening skies, encountering the crescent Moon. Four bright planets form a line in the morning sky until mid-month. Jupiter climbs higher in the morning sky as does Saturn. Mercury leaves the dawn sky later in the month. There are several attractive massings with the waning Moon in the morning.

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

Betelgeuse brightens. April 1, Mars and Saturn close. April 3,4, Venus crosses the Pleiades star cluster. April 8, Moon at perigee (8 hours before Full Moon,this is a perigee Syzygy "super" Moon). April 15, Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars aligned in the morning sky. April 16; Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the waning Moon close. April 21; Moon at Apogee. April 22, Mercury and the thin crescent Moon close low in the morning twilight. April 26-27; crescent Moon and Venus near. April 28; Venus at maximum brilliance.


Looking up at the stars is still a rewarding pursuit, despite the increasing light pollution in our major cities. The southern sky is full of interesting objects, many of which go unseen in the northern hemisphere. All you need for a good nights viewing is yourself, a good idea of where south and east are, and your hands. Optional extras are a small pair of binoculars, a torch with red cellophane taped over the business end and a note book. A great many tips for backyard astronomy may be found here, although many of them are more relevant to the northern hemisphere. A general article on amateur astronomy from New Scientist is here (may require subscription otherwise see the TASS site.).

This page is designed to give people a simple guide to the unaided eye sky. In the descriptions of planet and star positions, distances in the sky are given as "fingers width" and "hand span". This is the width of your hand (with all the fingers together as in making a "stop" sign, not bunched as a fist) or finger when extended a full arms length from you.


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Autumn has arrived again, and the nights are getting longer. People are dusting off the various spheroids of their preferred football code. Anyone at night time practice can take some time off to stare up at the Autumn skies and see the Milky Way, and the constellations of Carina, Puppis and Vela, blaze across our night sky. Orion the Hunter and his dog Canis major are also magnificent. You don't have to practice a football code to look at the stars, of course. Nights are often cool now, so don't forget a footy jumper before doing any extended star watching.


While these pages are primarily intended for the use of people observing in Australia, non-Australian Southern Hemisphere observers will find most of the information here applies to them. The star information will be most helpful, when you correct your location for latitude (see the Stars section for appropriate location information). Most Moon phase, planet, comet and asteroid information will be very similar to what will be seen in New Zealand, South Africa and South America. Countries close to the equator (eg Indonesia) will have somewhat different southern and northern views, but the eastern and western views should be similar enough to get a good idea of what is going on.

Occultations, eclipses and aurora are highly location dependent, and it would be best to get a local almanac for these events. If there is no local almanac available, email me and I might be able to help you. I do try and give general info for occultations and eclipses in the Oceania area of the Southern Hemisphere.

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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.

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Email alerts I try to update this page fairly regularly outside of the monthly postings. However sometimes things happen which I can't get in fast enough, or you forget to mark your calendar. If you would like to be alerted to or reminded of interesting astronomical or sky phenomena, send an email to reynella@internode.on.net with "subscribe aurora alert" as the subject. This is the old aurora alert list, but with auroras rare even though we are at solar maximum (except for the occasional humdinger, like the September 2005 auroral event), it is doing double duty. Astroblog will have images when possible of these events soon after.

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Coming events

Date Event
January
11 January 2020 Penumbral lunar eclipse in the morning, close to dawn.
21 January 2020 Crescent Moon and Mars close in the morning
23 January 2020 Crescent Moon and Jupiter close in the morning
27 January 2020 Venus and Neptune close
26 January 2020 Mercury close to the crescent moon in the evening twilight
28 January 2020 Venus close to the crescent moon in the evening
February
18 February 2020 Mars passes between the triffid and Lagoon Nebulae
19 February 2020 Waxing Moon close to Mars in the morning
20 February 2020 Waxing Moon extremely close to Jupiter in the morning
21 February 2020 Waxing Moon close to Saturn in the morning
27 February 2020 Waning Crescent Moon close to Venus
29 February 2020 Mars close to Globular cluster M22
March
1 March 2020 Mars still close to Globular cluster M22
8-9 March 2020 Venus close to Uranus (binocular only)
18 March 2020 Waning Crescent Moon forms a line with Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in the morning sky
19 March 2020 Crescent Moon between Mars and Jupiter and Saturn
20 March 2020 Earth at Equinox
21 March 2020 Mars very close to Jupiter
22 March 2020 Mercury close to the crescent Moon in the morning
29March 2020 Venus close to the crescent Moon in the evening
April
1 April 2020 Saturn close to Mars in the morning sky
3-4 April 2020 Venus passes through the Pleiades cluster
4 April 2020 Mercury close to Neptune
8 April 2020 Perigee Full Moon ("super" Moon), 3:10 am
15 April 2020 waning Moon close to Jupiter in the morning sky
16 April 2020 waning Moon close to Saturn in the morning sky
22 April 2020 Crescent Moon close to Mercury in the morning sky
26-27 April 2020 Crescent Moon near Venus in the evening sky
May
5 May 2020 Eta Aquariid meteor shower
12 May 2020 Moon between Jupiter and Saturn in evening sky
15-16 May 2020 Mars near the waning Moon
22 May 2020 Mercury and Venus close
24 May 2020 Thin crescent Moon near Venus
June
6 June 2020 Penumbral lunar eclipse early morning near dawn
8 June 2020 Moon and Jupiter close in evening
9 June 2020 waning Moon and Saturn close in evening
13 June 2020 Moon and Mars close in morning
19 June 2020 Thin crescent Moon and Venus close in the morning twilight
July
5 July 2020 Jupiter close to the moon
6 July 2020 Moon and Saturn close
11 July 2020 Moon and Mars close in evening
12 July 2020 Moon close to bright star Aldebaran
14 July 2020 Jupiter at Opposition
17 July 2020 Thin crescent Moon near Venus in the morning
21 July 2020 Saturn at Opposition
29 July 2020 Southern Delta Aquarids meteor shower
August
2 August 2020 Moon between Jupiter and Saturn
9 August 2020 Moon close to Mars
15-16 August 2020 Crescent Moon close to Venus
28 August 20 Asteroid Ceres at opposition (binoculars only)
29 August 2020 Moon between Jupiter and Saturn again
September
5-6 September 2020 Mars close to the Moon
14 September 2020 Venus and crescent Moon close in morning sky
19 September 2020 Crescent Moon and Mercury close forming triangle with Spica
24 September 2020 Variable star Mira at its brightest
22 September 2020 Mercury and bright star Spica very close
22 September 2020 Earth at Equinox
25 September 2020 Waxing Moon, Jupiter form a triangle with Saturn
30 September 2020 Venus close to bright star Regulus
October
2-3 October 2020 Mars and waning Moon close
3 October 2020 Venus and the bright star Regulus very close
14 October 2020 Venus and the crescent Moon close
14 October 2020 Mars at opposition
18 October 2020 Mercury and thin crescent Moon closeish in the evening twilight
21 October 2020 Orionid meteor shower
22 October 2020 Jupiter and waning Moon close
23 October 2020 Saturn and waning Moon close
31 October 2020 Blue Moon in WA.
November
1 November 2020 Apogee Full Moon (mini-Moon). In WA full Moon occurs before midnight but for all states apogee is on the early morning of the 1st.
13 November 2020 Thin crescent Moon close to Venus
14 November 2020 Thin crescent Moon close to Mercury
18 November 2020 Leonid Meteor Shower
19 November 2020 Crescent Moon and Jupiter close forming triangle with Saturn
24-25 November 2020 Waxing Moon close to Mars
30 November 2020 Penumbral Lunar eclipse, only seen from eastern states. Blue Moon of all states except WA. (see above)
December
13 December 2020 Venus and thin crescent Moon close
14 December 2020 Geminid Meteor shower (New Moon, good rates)
17 December 2020 Jupiter and Saturn spectacularly close with the thin crescent Moon close too.
21 December 2020 Jupiter and Saturn even more spectacularly close in a conjunction that will not be repeated for over a decade. The pair will easily be visible together in telescope eye pieces.
21 December 2020 Earth is at Solstice
23-24 December 2020 Waxing Moon close to Mars

Out in Space

Mars Curiosity Rover finds saesonal oxygen changes on Mars .

Mars Express tracks rippling ice and storms at Mars's north pole.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spots global dust storms launching towers of dust into the sky.

The Juno mission sees cyclones on the south pole.

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The Moon:

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

C| First quarter on the 1st
O Full moon on the 8th
D Last quarter on the 15th
O New Moon is on the 23rd

April 8, Moon at perigee (8 hours before Full Moon, this is a perigee Syzygy "super" Moon). April 16; Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the waning Moon close. April 21; Moon at Apogee. April 22, Mercury and the thin crescent Moon close low in the morning twilight. April 26-27; crescent Moon and Venus near.

An interactive calendar of the Moon's phases.

A view of the phase of the Moon for any date from 1800 A.D. to 2199, US based, so that the Moon is upside down with respect to us. The image above is from this source.

The phases of the Moon have been linked in the popular imagination to activities as diverse as madness and menstruation. However, careful study has shown that there are no such links. This web page outlines how the Moon is unconnected with a wide range of human activities.

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Planets:

Finding planets, even with the directions below, can sometimes be difficult if you are unfamiliar with the sky. However, the Moon is very obvious, and can be a guide to location of planets. Not only that, the combination of the Moon and bright planet(s) is often very beautiful. Thus the guide below gives the dates when the planets and the Moon are close together.
morning sky, 5:55 am

The evening sky facing west in Adelaide on Friday April 3 at 20:02 ACDST (60 minutes after sunset), Venus is passing through the Pleiades. (similar views will be seen Australia wide 60 minutes minutes after sunset).

morning sky, 5:56 am

The morning sky facing east in Adelaide on on Thursday April 16 as seen from Adelaide at 5:44 ACST, 90 minutes before sunrise, four bright planets are aligned with the Moon between Mars and Saturn. (similar views will be seen Australia wide 90 minutes before sunrise)

evening sky, 22:00 pm

The morning sky facing east in Adelaide on Wednesday April 22 at 6:19 ACST, 30 minutes before sunrise, Mercury is close to the crescent Moon low in the twlight, binoculars may be needed to see the pair. (similar views will be seen Australia wide 30 minutes before sunrise).

Mercury is excellent in the first half of the month, then lowers into the morning twilight. On the 1st Mercury is nearly three hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise, forming a line with Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. By the 15th Mercury is visible just over a hand-span from the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. On the 22nd Mercury and the thin crescent Moon are close around a hand-span from the horizon 30 minutes before sunrise. On the 30th Mercury is lost in the twilight glow.

Venus is readily visible in the evening sky and reaches its greatest brilliance on the 28th. On the 1st Venus is just under two hand-spans above the western horizon an hour after sunset. On the 3rd and 4th Venus passes through the iconic Pleiades cluster (the seven sisters), this will be interesting to see with binoculars. By the 15th Venus is just over one and a half hand-spans above the western horizon an hour after sunset. On the 26th-27th the crescent Moon is a bit over a hand-span from from Venus. On the 30th Venus is just under one and a half hand-spans above the western horizon an hour after sunset.

Mars is high in the early morning sky forming a line Jupiter and Saturn. On the 1st Mars is over eight hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise and less than a finger-width from Saturn. At this time four bright planets, Mars, Jupiter Saturn and Mercury, form a line in the morning sky. On the 15th Mars is just over nine hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise. On the 15th the crescent Moon joins the line-up. On the 16th Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the waning Moon form an attractive massing. On the 30th Mars is still over nine hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise.

Jupiter climbs higher above the eastern horizon in the morning sky. Jupiter is now rising around midnight, but will not be reasonably high in the evening sky until late in the month. Jupiter is still best in the morning.

On the 1st Jupiter is just over nine hand-spans above the north-eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise. Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Mercury from a line in the morning sky. On the 15th Jupiter is eleven hand-spans above the northern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise. At this time the waning Moon joins the line-up of the four bright planets in the morning sky. On the 16th Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the waning Moon form an attractive massing. On the 30th Jupiter is twelve hand-spans above the northern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise.

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

Wed	1	Apr	4:57	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	2	Apr	0:49	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	2	Apr	0:50	Eur: Transit Begins               ST	
Thu	2	Apr	1:03	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Thu	2	Apr	3:37	Eur: Transit Ends	
Thu	2	Apr	4:50	Io : Disappears into Eclipse	
Fri	3	Apr	1:58	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Fri	3	Apr	3:15	Io : Transit Begins               ST	
Fri	3	Apr	4:14	Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Fri	3	Apr	5:32	Io : Transit Ends	
Fri	3	Apr	6:36	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	4	Apr	2:27	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	4	Apr	2:50	Io : Reappears from Occultation	
Sun	5	Apr	2:05	Gan: Reappears from Eclipse	
Sun	5	Apr	4:06	Gan: Disappears into Occultation	
Mon	6	Apr	4:06	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	7	Apr	5:51	Eur: Disappears into Eclipse	
Wed	8	Apr	5:44	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	9	Apr	0:53	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Thu	9	Apr	1:36	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	9	Apr	3:23	Cal: Disappears into Occultation  S	
Thu	9	Apr	3:27	Eur: Transit Begins               ST	
Thu	9	Apr	3:37	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Thu	9	Apr	6:13	Eur: Transit Ends	
Thu	9	Apr	6:43	Io : Disappears into Eclipse	
Fri	10	Apr	3:52	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Fri	10	Apr	5:10	Io : Transit Begins               ST	
Fri	10	Apr	6:07	Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Sat	11	Apr	0:36	Eur: Reappears from Occultation	
Sat	11	Apr	1:11	Io : Disappears into Eclipse	
Sat	11	Apr	3:14	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	11	Apr	4:45	Io : Reappears from Occultation	
Sun	12	Apr	0:36	Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Sun	12	Apr	1:56	Io : Transit Ends	
Sun	12	Apr	2:56	Gan: Disappears into Eclipse	
Sun	12	Apr	6:04	Gan: Reappears from Eclipse	
Mon	13	Apr	4:53	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	14	Apr	0:44	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Wed	15	Apr	6:31	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	16	Apr	1:19	Gan: Transit Ends	
Thu	16	Apr	2:22	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	16	Apr	3:27	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Thu	16	Apr	6:01	Eur: Transit Begins               ST	
Thu	16	Apr	6:10	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Fri	17	Apr	1:54	Cal: Shadow Transit Ends	
Fri	17	Apr	5:45	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Sat	18	Apr	3:04	Io : Disappears into Eclipse	
Sat	18	Apr	3:13	Eur: Reappears from Occultation	
Sat	18	Apr	4:01	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	18	Apr	6:38	Io : Reappears from Occultation	
Sat	18	Apr	23:52	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sun	19	Apr	0:14	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Sun	19	Apr	1:33	Io : Transit Begins               ST	
Sun	19	Apr	2:30	Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Sun	19	Apr	3:50	Io : Transit Ends	
Sun	19	Apr	6:55	Gan: Disappears into Eclipse	
Mon	20	Apr	1:07	Io : Reappears from Occultation	
Mon	20	Apr	5:39	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	21	Apr	1:31	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Wed	22	Apr	23:52	Gan: Shadow Transit Ends	
Thu	23	Apr	1:57	Gan: Transit Begins               T	
Thu	23	Apr	3:09	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	23	Apr	5:17	Gan: Transit Ends	
Thu	23	Apr	6:00	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Sat	25	Apr	0:21	Eur: Disappears into Eclipse	
Sat	25	Apr	4:47	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	25	Apr	4:58	Io : Disappears into Eclipse	
Sat	25	Apr	5:48	Eur: Reappears from Occultation	
Sun	26	Apr	0:39	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sun	26	Apr	1:20	Cal: Reappears from Occultation	
Sun	26	Apr	2:07	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Sun	26	Apr	3:26	Io : Transit Begins               ST	
Sun	26	Apr	4:24	Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Sun	26	Apr	5:43	Io : Transit Ends	
Sun	26	Apr	23:26	Io : Disappears into Eclipse      T	
Mon	27	Apr	0:37	Eur: Transit Ends	
Mon	27	Apr	2:59	Io : Reappears from Occultation	
Mon	27	Apr	6:26	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Mon	27	Apr	22:52	Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Tue	28	Apr	0:11	Io : Transit Ends	
Tue	28	Apr	2:17	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	30	Apr	0:41	Gan: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Thu	30	Apr	3:52	Gan: Shadow Transit Ends	
Thu	30	Apr	3:55	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	30	Apr	5:51	Gan: Transit Begins               T	
Thu	30	Apr	23:47	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	

Saturn climbs higher in the morning sky this month. On April 1 Saturn is eight hand-spans above the north-eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise, and just under a finger-width below Mars. On April 15, Saturn is just over ten hand-spans above the northern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise. On the 16th Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the waxing Moon form an attractive massing. By April 30, Saturn is eleven hand-spans above the northern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise.

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Iridium Flares, the International Space Station and other satellites

See this amazing site for images of the space station taken through a telescope.

The Iridium satellites have deorbited, However, other satellites do flares as well (bit more rarely) the visibility of Iridium flares is VERY dependent on observer position, so you need a prediction for your spot within about 30 km. Hence I'm referring you to a web site for predictions rather than doing it myself.


See the International Space Station at your Location. Courtesy of Heavens above. Choose your location from the drop down box

Or type in Your Latitude and Longitude in decimal format eg Darwin is -12.461 130.840 , to find your Lat Long go to this site.
Latitude: Longitude: City Time Zone:
Another site, JPASS, 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.

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Meteor showers:

Date        	Meteor Shower       ZHR  Illumination 
22/04/2019  	Lyrids              18  0.95 

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

The Lyrids are a northern shower, but can be observed by most mainland Australians. The best time to observe the Lyrids is in the morning between 2.00-5.00 am. However, the Lyrids low rates, combined with their closeness to the horizon, mean that few meteors are likely to be seen. To see the Lyrids, look to the north in the morning sky. About two hand-spans above the northern horizon is the bright, blue-white star alpha Lyra, the brightest star near the northern horizon. The Lyrid radiant is just above it and to the left by around a hand-span.

Outside of the showers, you can still see sporadic meteors. Rates seen from the Southern Hemisphere are around 10 random meteors being seen per hour during the late morning hours and 2 per hour during the evening. The evening rates will be reduced during the times around the full Moon due to interference by the Moons light.

A good page describing meteor watching is at the Sky Publications site.

The Meteor Section of the Astronomical Society of Victoria has some good information on meteor watching too.

Learn how to take a meteor shower photograph.

A Cool Fact about meteor speeds

A good page on detecting meteors using home made radio-telescopes is here.

A good page describing meteor watching is at the Sky Publications site.

The Meteor Section of the Astronomical Society of Victoria has some good information on meteor watching too.

Learn how to take a meteor shower photograph.

A Cool Fact about meteor speeds

A good page on detecting meteors using home made radio-telescopes is here.

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Comets:

There are no unaided eye comets visible at the moment.

A list of current comet ephemerides is at the MPC.

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Occultations:

No interesting naked-eye occultations this month.

 


Eclipse:

No significant eclipses this month.

Find local sunrise/sunset and twilight times for your city or location (courtesy of Heavens Above).
Use either the drop down box for the listed cities, or type in your latitude, longitude and city in the boxes below.

Type in Your Latitude and Longitude in decimal format eg -12.461 130.840 , to find your Lat Long go to this site.

Latitude: Longitude: City Time Zone:

 


Variable Stars:

While most stars seem to shine with a constant brightness, there are some that undergo regular, dramatic change in brightness. The classic variables are Mira and Algol. Algol is currently not visible and Mira reached maximum on October 24 2019 and is now fading. However, the bright red star Betelgeuse in Orion has faded dramatically and was at its dimmest for 50 years, the constellation looks quite strange now. Betelgeuse has begun to brighten as predicted so watch it over the coming month to see if it fully recovers.

evening sky, 21:20 pm

Evening sky looking north-east at 20:34 ACDST on Wednesday, April 1 (90 minutes after sunset). Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. Orion is readily visible. Betelgeuse is the bright red star below the "saucepan" of Orion. Red Aldebaran is almost the same height above the horizon as red Betelgeuse, making brightness comparisons easy.

Nearby Aldebaran (magnitude 0.85) also red, is a good comparison star. Bellatrix, the other shoulder star of Orion opposite Betelgeuse is magnitude 1.6. The middle star of Orion's belt, Alnilam is magnitude 1.7 and Adhara in Canis Major is Magnitude 1.5. Wezen, near Adhara, is 1.8 and Saiph in Orion is 2.1.

evening sky, 21:20 pm

Spotters chart of stars suitable for estimating the brightness of Betelgeuse.

In order to avoid the Purkinje effect, where red stars seem to become brighter the longer you stare at them, you need to keep shifting your gaze around. Try bracketing the star with observations of stars brighter and dimmer. to get a good comparison

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Stars:

evening sky, 10:00 pm

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

All descriptions here are based on the view from Melbourne at 10.00 pm AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time, daylight savings finished 5 April) on 1 April 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 97.00pm AEST on the 30th Readers from other time zones should see roughly the same views at 10.00 pm local time. Corrections for cities other than Melbourne are given below.

How do I find east, west, north and south?

At the beginning of April, the Milky Way is a spectacular sight as it arches across the sky.

Just 4 hand-spans above the eastern horizon is the triangle of faint stars that make up Libra, the balance. To the right and closer to the horizon is the distinctive hook shape of Scorpio, the scorpion, which will become prominent in the later months. To the left of Libra and around two hand-spans up and three hand-spans left is bright white Spica, the brightest start in the constellation of Virgo. Spica marks to top right-hand corner of a rectangular group of stars that marks out the body of Virgo, the virgin.

Directly above Virgo by about four hand-spans are the long rambling constellation Hydra, and crater the cup with its distinct,but upside down, cup shape. Three hand-spans above Spica is the kite shape of Corvus the crow.

Five hand-spans to left of Virgo, is Leo, with the sickle of Leo, an upside down question mark with bright Regulus (alpha Leonis) at the end of the "handle", being quite clear. Cancer, which contains the attractive "Beehive" cluster, is 5 hand-spans to the left of the sickle of Leo.

The rectangle of Gemini is 6 hand-spans to the left of Regulus and 4 hand-spans down (just two hand-spans above the horizon). The bright stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux form an attractive pair less than a hand-span apart.

To the left again of Gemini, and just above the western Horizon by two hand-spans is the distinctive saucepan shape of Orions belt. The handle of the saucepan is Orions sword, which contains some good naked eye open clusters, and the final star in the handle hosts the famous Orion nebula, which is visible to the naked eye under clear skies. Directly above the handle of the saucepan is bright Rigel (beta Orionis). Directly below the saucepan is the bright reddish Betelgeuse (alpha Orinonis), a red giant star.

4 hand-spans up from the belt of Orion is Canis major. The bright white star is Sirius (alpha Canis Majoris), the brightest star in the sky. The constellation of Canis Majoris has a number of open clusters that are well worth exploring with binoculars, Most of these lie two hand-spans to the right of Sirius, amongst the V shaped group of stars that marks the tail of Canis Major. Below Sirius by two hand spans, and one hand-span to the right is M47. This cluster is quite nice in binoculars.

Just above Canis Major is a battered group of stars that forms Puppis, the poop deck of the former constellation Argo Navis. At the very Zenith is Vela, the sail of that same ship. When, Argo Navis was broken up into Puppis, Vela and Carina (the keel) in 1750, they forgot to assign alpha and beta stars to Vela, and its brightest star is at magnitude 1.5 is Gamma Velorum. Gama Velorum is a double star which may be resolved in good binoculars. The Milky Way passes through Vela, and there are many open clusters which can be seen with binoculars or the naked eye. One of the best of these is NGC2547, a little below gamma Velorum. Vela is also home to the spectacular Gum nebula (which can only be seen in telescopic photographs), and the second pulsar to be observed optically. Kappa and delta velorum, with iota and epsilon Carina, make the "false cross". A high definition map of Vela is here.

Just below Vela, to the south, is Carina (the keel). A high definition map of this region is here. Looking almost anywhere in the area stretching between Canis major and the Southern Cross will reveal an interesting cluster or star formation. However, the area two hand-spans up from the Southern Cross and two hand-spans to the left is particularly rich. Here you will find the "Southern Peliades" surrounding the tail star (Theta Carina) of a prominent kite shaped group of stars in Carina. Smaller and less spectacular than their northern counterparts, they still look very nice in binoculars. Four finger-widths to the left of the Southern Peliades are two rich open clusters, and the barely visible star Eta Carina. Eta Carina's spectacular nebula is only dimly seen in binoculars. Two hand-spans below the zenith to the south is the False Cross, just below the False Cross is a good open cluster, just visible to the naked eye, and very nice in binoculars. One hand-span to the left of the False Cross is another rich open cluster, again, very nice in binoculars. Canopus (alpha Carina) is a bright yellowish star 9 hand-spans from the south-western horizon.

Facing due South, five hand-spans to the left and ten hand-spans up are Alpha and beta Centauri the so called "pointers", with Alpha being the yellow star which is closest to the horizon, and Beta the blue white star a hand-span above and a little to the right. Slightly to the right again, and following a line through the "pointers" brings you to the Southern Cross, twelve hand-spans above the horizon at about the 11 o'clock position on a clock. A high definition map of Centaurus and Crux is here.

Just below the Southern Cross is the coal sack. This dark area against the glow of the milky way represents a large dust cloud and is clearly visible in dark skies. The Jewel box in the Cross is a small open cluster just below Beta Crucis, the southernmost bright star in the Cross at the moment. It is quite beautiful, but requires strong binoculars or a small telescope to see properly.

Returning to Alpha Centauri, a hand-span from this star to the left and a hand-span up is a small star, half a hand span up (and about a hand-span to the left) 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 left and about two fingers down 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.

Four hand-spans straight up from south, and half a hand-span to the right of due south, is the extended nebulosity of the Small Magellanic cloud, one of the dwarf satellite galaxies to the Milky Way. This feature is best viewed on a dark night, away from the city. In this nebulosity is what looks to be a fuzzy star, this is 47 Tucana, a spectacular globular cluster that is very nice through binoculars.

Up ten hand spans from due south and five hand-spans to the right is the Large Magellanic cloud, the largest of the dwarf satellite galaxies. Binoculars will reveal a rather attractive nebula near it, the Tarantula nebula.

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Sky Maps

How to use the maps

      map viewsky view

Comparison of a section of a skymap showing the Southern Cross (Crux) and pointers, with the appearance of the night sky. The map and sky are for April 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 April sky at 10.00pm AEST on 1 April can be downloaded here (aprsky_e.png 30 Kb) and a view of the western April sky can be downloaded here (aprsky_w.png 30 Kb). These are more compact files but don't have a lot of resolution.

PDF Maps

High Resolution PDF files can be obtained for the eastern (110 Kb) and the western (110 Kb) horizon maps.

The Zenith Map (110 Kb) shows you the whole sky. You will need to face the one of the compass points, then hold the map with the appropriate compass point on the map at the bottom of the page.

You will need a PDF viewer such as Adobe Acrobat or GhostView to view and print them. They look slightly worse on-screen than the PNG files, but print much better and come with legends.

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[ December Skies] [ January Skies] [ February Skies [ March Skies]]
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Cheers! And good star gazing!


updated

Ian's Astrophotography Gallery

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

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Links

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

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

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

If you would like to have charts available all the time, rather than relying on mine, for between $2-$20 you can pick up a planisphere from a newsagent or bookshop (or for a bit more you can get fancy ones from Australian Geographic, the ABC shop or the other Australian Geographic look alike shop, or the Wilderness Society, or even a binocular/ optical store). The planisphere won't give you position of the planets, so you will need to get the planet rise/set times. These can be found in most serious newspapers (the Age, the Australian, SMH etc. The Australian is probably the best bet for budding amateurs). The combination of planisphere and rise/set times is the best value for beginners though, if you are not too worried about identifying star clusters in your binoculars.

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

I use a combination of a 1962 star chart, the Australian Astronomy 2020 almanac and SkyMap Pro 11.0 . I highly recommend the Australian Astronomy 2020 almanac. It is more helpful for planetary/comet/asteroidal observations and eclipses than for double stars, clusters galaxies etc, but is an excellent resource for Australian observers and anyone who would like to seriously follow the planets in Australia should have this almanac. It has easy to follow month-by-month summary information, as well as detailed charts, tables and whole sky maps. It is easily navigated. The Almanac is often in big bookstores or optical shops, or email info@quasarastronomy.com.au to purchase a copy directly for those outside major population centres. The Australian Astronomy almanac comes out in around November for the following year, and is now approx $30.

Sky and Telescope now also do an Australian version of their magazine.

For detailed chart drawing and timing of events, as well as satellite track predictions I feed the information from the almanac into the $150 AUD SkyMap Pro 11.0 , planetarium program. This is a very handy program which prints maps of every possible orientation and scale. The maps on this page are produced by SkyMap. An update to SkyMap 12.0 which handles Windows 10 is now available.

A shareware version of SkyMap that runs on windows 3.x, and win95 can be found here http://www.winsite.com/info/pc/win3/desktop/skymp21a.zip this is approximately 640 Kb zipped.

A shareware version of the win95 only version 5.0 is here http://www.download.net.au/cgi-bin/dl?13607

Other highly recommended Sky charting packages (win95/98/2000/XP/Win7-10 sorry) are:
Cartes du Ciel at https://www.ap-i.net/skychart//en/start (FREE) a bit messy to install but very good.
Stellarium at
http://stellarium.sourceforge.net/ (FREE) stunning photorealistic program, but requires a grunty PC.
Celestron Sky Portal https://www.celestron.com/pages/skyportal-mobile-app is a good free mobile phone/tablet app
Sky Safari https://skysafariastronomy.com/ is another nice mobile astronomy app, but the Apple app store want to sell me Skysafari 6 rather than the freeware Sky Safari 5 (currently available on Google play).
TheSkyVarious packages from $49 US to $249 US
Stary Night various versions from $50 US for the basic pack (10 day trial of the basic pack at http://www.siennasoft.com/english/downloads.shtml) up to eye watering $250 USD versions.
Earth Centered Universe $88 AUD (shareware version at http://www.nova-astro.com/)
On the other hand a standard Sky Atlas for serious observing (much handier than carting a computer with you) such as Norton's Star Atlas can range from $35 to $90.

In these days of hand-held devices (smart phones and tablets), there is a plethora of sky charting apps you can take into the field with you. I use GoogleSky for android and a cut down version of Stellarium for iPad, my most used hand-held app is Heavens Above for Android, for watching Iridium flares and ISS passes. This is one app that has changed my astronomical life. There are many more, many free or less than 1 AUD to download. Celestron has a great free planetarium app (although big at 154 Mb) for Android, iPhone and iPad, SkyPortal (see links above).

This is not meant to be a product endorsement of any kind (outside of the Australian Astronomy 2020 almanac. For any budding astronomers out there, it is fantastic value and no, I don't have any commercial interest in it, but I did win bronze in their website Olympics).

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Link to the Lab's 'In Space' gateway Link to the Lab's home page
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This page is provided by Ian Musgrave and is © copyright 2020 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, 2 April 2020, 11:30:13 PM


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