Southern Sky Watch

May Skies

The planetary action is in the morning sky with four bright planets, Saturn, Mars, Venus,and Jupiter in the morning sky.

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

May 1; Venus and Jupiter spectacularly close in the morning sky. May 1; New Moon. May 2; Mercury and thin crescent Moon close low above western horizon in the evening. May 5; apogee Moon. 7-8 May; Eta Aquariid meteor shower. May 5-9; Saturn and Asteroid Vesta close. May 9; First Quarter Moon. May 16; Full Moon. May 18; perigee Moon. May 18; Neptune and Mars at their closest. May 23; Last Quarter Moon. May 22-23; the waning Moon is close to Saturn. May 25; the crescent Moon forms a triangle with Mars and Jupiter. May 27; the thin crescent Moon is above Venus. May 28-31; Mars 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 1/04/22] [Coming events and Updates updated updated for 2022] [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]

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, with Scorpius on the rise. 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.

Return to Menu

Aurora Alert UPDATED 01/04/22: The new solar cycle (25) is starting to heat up, with some M and X class flares and some nice auroral displays in Tasmania and Southern Australia. This bodes well for the rest of the soar cycle. During solar minimum, we were still getting occasional good auroral displays. August 26th 2018 saw an impressive display visible from NZ and Tasmania despite the full Moon. The last week of March 2017 saw some impressive aurora displays from Tasmania, Victoria, SA and WA. October 2016 saw a series of good but transient aurora in Tasmania and southern Victoria. July 2015 saw a massive storm seen as far north as mid NSW, again clouded out for large parts of Australia. 17-19/3/2015, the St. Patrick's Day aurora, massive storm seen as far north as Southern Queensland. Unfortunately clouded out for large parts of Australia. 26/2/2015, yet another good set of aurora were seen from Tasmania. 9/2/2015 There was a series of very good auroral events during February, some were seen in NSW, Victoria, SA and WA as well as Tasmania. Last year saw some nice events and a coronal mass ejection from an M class flare hit us square on on March 17 2013. Aurora were detected as far north as the QLD border, with some really nice events in Tasmania, and here are some images from that event.

Auroral images and descriptions from past geomagnetic storms are now at the auroral image web page.

Naturally, the best views of any aurora will be away from the city and bright lights. Aurora occur when charged particles from the solar wind enter Earths outer atmosphere and interact with the oxygen and nitrogen atoms producing eerie displays of coloured lights. During solar maximum, which occurs every 11 years (and solar cycle 25 should peak around 2024-2025), the number and speed of the particles are higher, allowing them to penetrate the Earth's magnetic field at lower latitudes than normal. Observers in Tasmania are likely to see green glows or sheets of light in the southern sky. Observers in Southern Victoria are more likely to see a red glow in the southern sky, although more spectacular displays are possible.

The Astronomical Society of Tasmania has a webpage devoted to this phenomenon. The Australian IPS radio and space services covers Aurora and related phenomena in very great detail (too much if you don't know much about them) but has a nice education page. Flinders Uni also has real time magnetometer readings, however, this will probably not mean much to most people.

Aurora will generally follow solar flares by about 2 days, and a number of instruments are watching the sun for these outbursts. The solar minimum occurred in 2006 and persisted for some time. While sunspot numbers, and hence flare rates are increasing, sometimes months will go by without an alert, then you have three in a week. The space weather site at http://www.spaceweather.com gives notice of when solar winds likely to cause aurora will arrive. Alternatively, send an email to reynella@mira.net with "subscribe aurora alert" as the subject and I will send you an email alert of any likely auroral event (or other interesting sky phenomena). However, even a strong solar flare is no guarantee that you will be able to see aurora, but it does increase the probability. Still more alternatively, there are the facebook pages Aurora Australis Tasmania, Aurora Australis Tasmania NOW! and Aurora Australis all do discussions and alerts.

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 heading towards solar maximum (except for the occasional humdinger, like the September 2005 auroral event), it is doing double duty. I am running the list via MailChimp, and no personal data is harvested or passed on to third parties. Astroblog will have images when possible of these events soon after.

Return to Menu

Coming events

Special events are bolded

Date Event
January
1 January 2022 Occultation of Mars
4 January 2022 Earth at Perihelion
4 January 2022 Crescent Moon, Mercury, and Saturn close low in the evening twilight
6 January 2022 Jupiter and Crescent Moon close
30 January 2022 Crescent Moon forms a triangle with Mars and Venus 
February
2 February 2022 Mars close to M28
3 February 2022 Jupiter close to the thin crescent Moon low in the twilight
6 February 2022Mars near globular cluster M22
13 February 2022 Mercury, Mars and Venus form a triangle in the morning sky.
27-28 February 2022 Crescent Moon, Mars and Venus form a triangle in the morning sky.
March
1 March 2022 Mercury, Saturn and thin crescent Moon form a triangle in the morning twilight
3 March 2022 Mercury very close (0.6 degrees) from Saturn in morning twilight
21 March 2022Earth at Equinox, Five bright planets visible in the morning twilight, Jupiter and Mercury close in the morning twilight.
28 March 2022Crescent Moon, Saturn, Venus and Mars from a close massing in the morning twilight with the Moon above
29 March 2022 Crescent Moon, Saturn, Venus and Mars from a close massing in the morning twilight with the Moon below
31 March 2022Thin crescent Moon close to Jupiter low in the morning twilight
April
All April 2022 Four bright planets in the morning sky Moon in the morning sky
5 April 2022 Saturn and Mars very close (0.3 degrees apart) in the morning sky
13 April 2022 Jupiter close to Neptune in the morning sky
26 April 2022 Mars close to the crescent Moon in the morning sky
27-28 April 2022 Crescent Moon close to Venus and Jupiter in the morning sky
28 April 2022 Venus and Neptune in close conjunction (< 30 arc minutes) in the morning sky
May
1  May 2022 Venus and Jupiter very close in the morning sky (0.2 degrees apart)
6-7 May 2022 Eta Aquariid meteor shower
22 May 2022
Waning Moon above Saturn
25 May 2022Mars, Jupiter and waning Moon form a triangle in morning sky
27 May 2022 Crescent Moon above Venus
30 May 2022 Mars and Jupiter very close in the morning sky (0.6 degrees apart)
June
1 June 2022 Mars and Jupiter very close in the morning sky (1.0 degrees apart)
18 June 2022 Saturn near waning Moon low in the late evening sky
14 June 2022 Perigee Full Moon ("super Moon")
21 June 2022 Earth at solstice
22 June 2022 Mercury in head of Hyades near Aldebaran in morning sky, waning Moon near Jupiter
26 June 2022 Crescent  Moon between Venus and Pleiades in the morning sky
27 June 2022 Crescent  Moon near Mercury in the morning sky
July
1 July 2022 Venus close to Aldebaran in the morning, forming a second eye for Taurus the Bull
4 July 2022 Earth at aphelion
14 July 2022Syzygy Perigee full moon ("super Moon") closest of year
15 July 2022
Moon close to Saturn
19 July
Moon close to Jupiter
22 July 2022 Waning crescent Moon close to Mars (within binocular field)
27 July 2022 Venus near crescent Moon in the morning twilight
29-30 July 2022 Southern Delta Aquarids meteor shower
30 July 2022 Mercury close to crescent moon in western evening twilight
31 July
Mars and Uranus 2 degrees apart (in same binocular filed)
August
1-3 August 2022 Mars and Uranus less than  2 degrees apart (in same binocular filed)
4 August 2022 Mercury very close to Regulus (0.7 degrees) in the evening twilight
12 August 2022 Saturn close to Full Moon (perigee "super" Moon)
15 August 2022 Saturn at opposition
15 August 2022 Jupiter close to Waning Moon (1 degree)
20 August 2022 Mars near Moon in Morning
22 August 2022 Jupiter near Moon
29 August 2022 Mercury near thin crescent Moon in evening sky, Mars between Pleiades and Hyades in the morning sky
September
3 September 2022 Mars forms second "eye" in Taurus the Bull with Aldebaran in morning sky
8 September 2022 Waxing moon close to Saturn in evening sky
11 September 2022 Waning Moon close to Jupiter in evening sky
23 September 2022 Earth at Equinox
27 September 2022 Jupiter at Opposition
October
5 October 2022 Saturn and waxing Moon close in evening sky
8 October 2022 Jupiter and waxing Moon close in evening sky
14 October 2022 Mars and the waxing Moon close in evening sky
21-22 October 2022 Orionid meteor shower
November
2 November 2022 Waxing Moon near Saturn in evening sky
4-5 November 2022Waxing Moon near Jupiter in evening sky
8 November 2022 Total Lunar Eclipse
11 November 2022 Waxing Moon near Mars in evening sky
18 November 2022Leonid Meteor Shower
December
2 December 2022 Jupiter and waxing Moon close
8 December 2022 Mars at opposition and close to Full Moon
14 December 2022
Geminid Meteor shower in the morning (waning Moon close this year)
22 December 2022 Earth is at Solstice
24 December 2022 Venus and Mercury and thin crescent Moon are close in evening twilight.
26 December
Saturn near crescent Moon
28-30 December 2022 Venus and Mercury at their closest in evening twilight.
29 December 2022 Jupiter close (1 degree) from the waning Moon in evening

Out in Space

Mars Curiosity Rover reroutes away from the gator-back rocks.

Mars Express finds Tantalizing tectonics.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter finds water flowed on Mars longer than previously though.

The newest rover, Perseverance's helecotre Ingenuity finds the wreckage of the landing craft.

The Juno mission sees X-rays in Jupiter's aurora.

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.

O New Moon is on the 1st
C| First quarter on the 9th
O Full Moon on the 16th
D Last quarter on the 23rd

May 1; New Moon. May 2; Mercury and thin crescent Moon close low above western horizon in the evening. May 5; apogee Moon. May 9; First Quarter Moon. May 16; Full Moon. May 18; perigee Moon. May 23; Last Quarter Moon. May 22-23; the waning Moon is close to Saturn. May 25; the crescent Moon forms a triangle with Mars and Jupiter. May 27; the thin crescent Moon is above Venus. May 28-31; Mars 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.
orning sky on Sunday, May 1 as seen from Adelaide at 5:26 am ACST

Morning sky on Sunday, May 1 as seen from Adelaide at 5:26 am ACST (90 minutes before sunrise). Saturn, Mars and Venus form a line with Jupiter. Venus and Jupiter are spectacularly close. The inset shows the telescopic image at this time. Similar views will be seen from the rest of Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes before sunrise, click to embiggen).

Morning sky on Wednesday May 25 as seen from Adelaide at 5:41 am ACST

Morning sky on Wednesday May 25 as seen from Adelaide at 5:41 am ACST (90 minutes before sunrise). Mars, Jupiter and the crescent Moon make an attractive triangle. The inset shows the telescopic view on may 30th, when the pair are closest. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes before sunrise), click to embiggen.

Morning sky on Friday May 27 as seen from Adelaide at 5:42 am ACST

Morning sky on Friday May 27 as seen from Adelaide at 5:42 am ACST (90 minutes before sunrise). Venus and he thin crescent Moon are close. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes before sunrise), click to embiggen.

Mercury is in the evening sky late for most of the month but is barely visible above the horizon deep in the twilight. On May 2 Mercury is near the thin crescent Moon, low in the twilight, you will need binoculars to see Mercury and a low, level horizon like the ocean.

Venus starts the month spectacularly close to Jupiter on the 1st. The pair will be 0.2° apart and will fit into the field of view of medium power telescope eye pieces. The phase of Venus, Jupiter’s bands and its Moons should be visible.

At this time the pair form a line with Saturn and Mars, with Jupiter below, easily seen an hour and a half before sunrise. After this spectacular paring, Venus sinks towards the horizon over the month as Jupiter rises towards Mars. On May 27 the thin crescent Moon is above Venus.

On the 1st Venus is just under five hand-spans the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. By the 15th Venus is just over four hand-spans the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. On the 30th Venus is just under four hand-spans the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise.

Mars is high the morning sky in May, Mars makes an attractive line with Saturn, Venus and Jupiter at the beginning of the month, and is readily visible an hour an hour and a half before sunrise, above bright Venus and Jupiter. Over the month Jupiter rises towards Mars. Mars's reddish colour contrasting with the yellowish colour of Jupiter and the bright white of Venus.

On the 18th and 19th Mars passes within 0.7 ° of Neptune, the pair potentially visible in binoculars and medium field telescope eye pieces. From the 28th to the 31st Mars and Jupiter are within 1 ° (around a finger width) of each other. They are closest on the 30th, when at 0.7 ° apart the pair visible in binoculars and medium field telescope eye pieces (Jupiter’s moons will be visible, but details on Jupiter harder to see, Mars will be a featureless disk). On May 25 the crescent Moon forms a triangle with Mars and Jupiter.

On the 1st Mars is just over seven hand-spans from the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise, forming a line with Saturn, Venus and Jupiter. By the 15th Mars is seven hand-spans from the north-eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise. On the 30th Mars is still just over seven hand-spans from the north-eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise, forming a line with Saturn, Venus and Jupiter.

Jupiter continues to rise higher in the morning sky. Jupiter starts the month spectacularly close to Venus on the 1st. The pair will be 0.2° apart and will fit into the field of view of medium power telescope eye pieces. The phase of Venus, Jupiter’s bands and its Moons should be visible. After this spectacular paring, Venus sinks towards the horizon over the month as Jupiter rises towards Mars.

From the 28th to the 31st Mars and Jupiter are within 1 ° (around a finger width) of each other. They are closest on the 29th, when at 0.7 ° apart the pair visible in binoculars and medium field telescope eye pieces (Jupiter’s moons will be visible, but details on Jupiter harder to see, Mars will be a featureless disk).

On the 1st Jupiter is just over four hand-spans from the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. On the 15th Jupiter is just iver five hand-spans from the north-eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise. By the 30th it is just over seven hand-spans from the north-eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise.

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



Times are ACST, add 30 minutes for AEST and 2.5 hours for AWST. adjust for daylight savings as necessary.
Moons, Sat I= Io, II = Europa, III = Ganymede, IV = Callisto

Jupiter Events from 01 May 2022 to 31 May 2022

Date   Time (LMT)  Sat Event 
1, May, 04:15:00 AM, n/a,Great Red Spot transit
1, May, 04:28:00 AM, III,Shadow transit end
1, May, 05:02:00 AM, III,Transit start
3, May, 03:33:00 AM, IV,Occultation reappearance
3, May, 05:42:00 AM, I,Eclipse disappearance
3, May, 05:54:00 AM, n/a,Great Red Spot transit
4, May, 03:50:00 AM, I,Transit start
4, May, 05:07:00 AM, I,Shadow transit end
4, May, 06:05:00 AM, I,Transit end
5, May, 03:25:00 AM, I,Occultation reappearance
6, May, 03:24:00 AM, n/a,Great Red Spot transit
6, May, 03:47:00 AM, II,Transit start
6, May, 04:25:00 AM, II,Shadow transit end
6, May, 06:26:00 AM, II,Transit end
8, May, 05:03:00 AM, n/a,Great Red Spot transit
8, May, 05:14:00 AM, III,Shadow transit start
11, May, 03:18:00 AM, IV,Shadow transit end
11, May, 04:46:00 AM, I,Shadow transit start
11, May, 05:50:00 AM, I,Transit start
12, May, 05:25:00 AM, I,Occultation reappearance
13, May, 04:12:00 AM, n/a,Great Red Spot transit
13, May, 04:21:00 AM, II,Shadow transit start
15, May, 03:29:00 AM, II,Occultation reappearance
15, May, 05:51:00 AM, n/a,Great Red Spot transit
18, May, 03:22:00 AM, n/a,Great Red Spot transit
19, May, 03:57:00 AM, III,Occultation disappearance
19, May, 03:58:00 AM, I,Eclipse disappearance
20, May, 03:23:00 AM, I,Shadow transit end
20, May, 04:32:00 AM, I,Transit end
20, May, 05:00:00 AM, n/a,Great Red Spot transit
22, May, 06:13:00 AM, II,Occultation reappearance
22, May, 06:39:00 AM, n/a,Great Red Spot transit
23, May, 02:31:00 AM, n/a,Great Red Spot transit
25, May, 04:09:00 AM, n/a,Great Red Spot transit
26, May, 03:14:00 AM, III,Eclipse disappearance
26, May, 05:53:00 AM, I,Eclipse disappearance
26, May, 06:26:00 AM, III,Eclipse reappearance
27, May, 03:02:00 AM, I,Shadow transit start
27, May, 04:16:00 AM, I,Transit start
27, May, 05:17:00 AM, I,Shadow transit end
27, May, 05:48:00 AM, n/a,Great Red Spot transit
27, May, 06:30:00 AM, I,Transit end
28, May, 03:51:00 AM, I,Occultation reappearance
29, May, 03:49:00 AM, II,Eclipse disappearance
30, May, 03:18:00 AM, n/a,Great Red Spot transit
31, May, 04:05:00 AM, II,Transit end


Saturn climbs higher in the morning sky and is readily visible an hour and a half before sunrise. Saturn is a worthwhile telescope object this month. Between the 5th and 9th Saturn is within 1 ° of the asteroid 4 Vesta, and should be easily seen with binoculars and wide field telescope eye pieces, Saturn’s rings will just be visible, Vesta will be a bright dot that moves night to night.

On the May 22 and 23; the waning Moon is close to Saturn.

On the 1st Saturn is just under ten hand-spans above the north-eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. On the 15th Saturn is just under eleven hand-spans above the norh-eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise. On the 30th Saturn is just over eleven hand-spans above the northern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise.

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:
Return to Menu

Meteor showers:

Date        	Meteor Shower       ZHR  Illumination 
 6/05/2022  eta-Aquariids        50   First Quarter Moon 

morning sky, 5:00 am Morning sky on Wednesday May 8 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 am local time in South Australia showing the eta Aquariid meteor shower radiant. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time

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. In practise, you will never see this many meteors as the radiant will be some distance from the Zenith. Illumination gives an idea of how dark the sky is, the lower the figure, the darker the sky.

Although the actual peak is after sunrise on the morning of the 6th (Australian time), for Australia the best time to see the eta-Aquariids is in the early mornings of May 7, 8 and 9, between around 4 and 5 am, when Aquarius is fairly high above the horizon. You may see between 1 meteor every three minutes at this time. The radiant of the shower is about five hand-spans up from the eastern horizon, and three hand-spans to the left of due east at 4 am. The radiant is near Mars, so will be easy to find. A map of the radiant at 5 am is here (aquarids.gif). The Moon sets before the radiant rises so it is a good year for observing the eta Aquariids.

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.

 

 

 

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 not visible. Mira no longer visible to the unaided eye.

Return to Menu

Stars:

evening sky, 10:00 pm

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

All descriptions here are based on the view from Melbourne at 10.00 pm AEST on 1 May and assumes a fairly level horizon. Starset occurs progressively earlier each day, so these descriptions are valid for 9.00 pm on the 15th and 8.00pm AEST on the 30th Readers from other time zones should see roughly the same views at 10.00 pm local time. Corrections for cities other than Melbourne are given below.

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

During May, the Milky Way is a spectacular sight as it arches across the sky.

Scorpio is now sufficiently high in the sky to be properly appreciated. It is a very distinctive constellation looking somewhat like the hook shown in the "use no hooks" cartoons on boxes. Facing due East, going up about eight hand-spans you will see six bright stars forming a T, with the tail of the "T" nearly parallel 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.

Just below Scorpio and to the right is Sagittarius, this constellation is particularly good for binocular viewing, but will only be far enough above the horizon later in the month.

To the left by one hand-span and slightly higher is a broad triangle of stars that marks Libra, the balance. 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.

Looking now to the right of Scorpio, about a hand-span away from the curved tail is a small squarish constellation Ara, another hand-span again brings you to the edge of the large, but dim, constellation of Pavo. Delta Pavonis, about another hand-span away, is one of the handful of sun-like stars within 20 light years of Earth that might have terrestrial planets in its habitable zone.

Directly above Virgo by four hand-spans is 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. Hydra has a nice open cluster, M48, near its head (about 6 hand-spans to the right of Spica) that is quite attractive in binoculars, four hand-spans above Spica is a nice globular cluster, just visible to the naked eye, but best in binoculars. About four hand-spans above Spica and about one to the right is M83, a galaxy which can easily be seen in small binoculars on a dark night.

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 4 hand-spans to the left of the sickle of Leo.

3 hand-spans up from the western horizon 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, through which comet H1 Lee is passing. Just below the 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 it's 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.

To the left of Vela, 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 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 to the left of 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 to the right of the Southern Cross 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 8 hand-spans from the south-Western horizon .

Facing due South, three hand-spans to the left and eleven 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. 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.

Slightly to the right again, and following a line through the "pointers" brings you to the Southern Cross, 15 hand-spans above the horizon at about the 12 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 eastern sky 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. Recent evidence suggests that 47 tucana was a dwarf galaxy that was captured by our own and stripped of most of its stars, leaving the current globular core.

Up six hand spans from due south and four 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.

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 May 1 at 10.00 pm, facing south. Both show approximately 30 degrees (5 hand-spans) of sky just above the horizon

The maps look a little busy, as they cover all sky from horizon to zenith. The grid lines are navigational helpers; each horizontal or vertical line covers 30 degrees of arc (the gridlines in the illustration show 15 degrees of arc), which is roughly five hand-spans (where a hand-span is the width of your hand, held flat light a "stop" sign at arms length). As you can see from the way the lines bunch up. The map is a little distorted, due to trying to project a spherical surface on a flat surface. The horizon is the lowest curved line on the map (for technical software reasons I can't block things out below the Horizon). Constellations are linked by lines and their names are in italics. Stars are shown as circles of varying size, the bigger the circle the brighter the star. The stars are named with their Bayer letter (eg a - alpha, the brightest star in a constellation, a Crucis is the brightest star in Crux). Variable stars are shown as hollow circles, double stars are marked with a line (eg a, b and g Crucis are all double stars, that look quite beautiful in a small telescope). Clusters and Nebula brighter than magnitude 6.0 are marked as broken circles (eg. the Jewel box cluster next to b Crucis above which is best viewed in binoculars or a telescope) and squares respectively. To find Crux for example, locate Crux on the appropriate map (eg. see the illustration above). Holding the Map, face either east or west (depending on the map), then use the grid lines to determine how far over and up you should look, then look for the Crux pattern in that part of the Sky.

PNG Maps

A view of the Eastern May sky at 10.00pm AEST on 1 May can be downloaded here (maysky_e.png 30 Kb) and a view of the western May sky can be downloaded here (maysky_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] [ February Skies] [ March Skies] [ April 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

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

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

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

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

I use a combination of a 1962 star chart, the Australian Astronomy 2022 almanac and SkyMap Pro 11.0 . I highly recommend the Australian Astronomy 2022 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 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, If anyone does still wish to buy a copy of SkyMap Pro 12, please email Chris Marriott at "skymap62@gmail.com".

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 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 2022 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 2022 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: Friday, 29 April, 2022, 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