Southern Sky Watch

July Skies

What happened to June skies? My mum was sick, so I spent a large chunk of June in Brisbane being her carer with only intermittent internet access. hence I was unable to complete and upload the June edition.

This month sees Saturn in an excellent position for observation, and Mercury at its best in the evening.

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

July 1; Last Quarter Moon close to Jupiter. July 6; Moon at Apogee. July 7; waxing Moon close to Saturn. July 20; Crescent Moon in the Hyades, close to Aldebaran and aboive Venus. July 21; crescent Moon close to Venus. July 22; Moon at Perigee. July 25; crescent Moon close to Mercury and Regulus. July 29; waxing Moon close to Jupiter. July 31st "Blue" First Quarter Moon.


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

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


[updatedAstroblog Updated astronews and images at Astroblog!] [Weekly Sky ] [Astronomy Media Player] [Aurora Alert! Updated 3/4/17] [Coming events and Updates updated updated for 2017] [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]

Clear crisp Winter nights are often the best for star gazing, with the broad sweep of the Milky Way arching across the sky. However, it gets very cold, so don't forget to rug up before doing any extended star watching. Dew formation can also mean some dampness, so a blanket or rug to sit on is a good idea, as well as a thermos of your favorite hot beverage. Winter sees our night skies dominated by the Southern Cross, sprawling Scorpio and Sagittarius, in which the heart of our galaxy hides, so it's well worth stepping out into the chill for an astronomical thrill.


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

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

Return to Menu

Aurora Alert UPDATED 03/04/17: Despite solar maximum having passed, we are still getting occasional good auroral displays. The last week of March 2017 saw some impressive aurora displays from Tasmania, Victoria, SA and WA. September 2016 saw a series of good but transient aurora in Tasmania and southern Victoria. July 2015 saw a massive storm seen as far north as mid NSW, again clouded out for large parts of Australia. 17-19/3/2015, the St. Patrick's Day aurora, massive storm seen as far north as Southern Queensland. Unfortunately clouded out for large parts of Australia. 26/2/2015, yet another good set of aurora were seen from Tasmania. 9/2/2015 There was a series of very good auroral events during January, some were seen in NSW, Victoria, SA and WA as well as Tasmania. Last year saw some nice events and a coronal mass ejection from an M class flare hit us square on on March 17 2013. Aurora were detected as far north as the QLD border, with some really nice events in Tasmania, and here are some images from that event. The Sun is now at solar maximum, but has been rather quite so far apart from the odd event like the 17 March 2013 one and the 22 February 2014 and the January 2015 events (and of course the St. Patrick's Day Storm). Although we should be exiting solar maximum in 2016 we may see more aurora in the near future.

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

We are now at the tail end of solar maximum in 2016, and we can expect to see a reducing frequency of aurora. There have been some good displays in Tasmania recently (the St. Patrick's Day storm was a beauty, see as far north as NSW). Tasmania, King Island and Southern Victoria are the most likely places to see aurora. However, on September 24, 2005 there was a massive auroral storm seen as far as northern NSW (and the 22 February 2014 one was seen as far north as southern NSW). Naturally, the best views of any aurora will be away from the city and bright lights. Aurora occur when charged particles from the solar wind enter Earths outer atmosphere and interact with the oxygen and nitrogen atoms producing eerie displays of coloured lights. During solar maximum, which occurs every 11 years, the number and speed of the particles are higher, allowing them to penetrate the Earth's magnetic field at lower latitudes than normal. Observers in Tasmania are likely to see green glows or sheets of light in the southern sky. Observers in Southern Victoria are more likely to see a red glow in the southern sky, although more spectacular displays are possible.

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

Aurora will generally follow solar flares by about 2 days, and a number of instruments are watching the sun for these outbursts. The solar minimum occurred in 2006 and persisted for some time. While sunspot numbers, and hence flare rates are increasing, sometimes months will go by without an alert, then you have three in a week. The space weather site at http://www.spaceweather.com gives notice of when solar winds likely to cause aurora will arrive. Alternatively, send an email to 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 2017; crescent Moon Near Venus

3 January 2017; crescent Moon near Mars

18 January 2017; opposition of Vesta

19 January 2017; Moon near Jupiter

25 January 2017; Moon close to Saturn

26 January 2017; Moon close to Mercury

31 January 2017; Moon close to Venus, forming line with Mars

1 February 2017; Moon close to Mars, forming line with Venus

11 February 2017; Comet 45P closest to Earth, possibly visible in binoculars

15 February 2017; Moon close to Jupiter

21 February 2017; Moon near Saturn

23 February 2017; Variable star Mira at its brightest

1 March 2017; Moon close to Mars and Venus, making a triangle

2 March 2017; Moon close to Mars, making a line with Venus

14-15 March 2017; Moon close to Jupiter

20 March 2017; Moon close to Saturn

29 March 2017; Moon close to Mercury

30-31 March 2017; Moon close to Mars

8 April 2017; opposition of Jupiter

10-11 April 2017; Moon close to Jupiter

16 April 2017; Moon close to Saturn

24 April 2017; crescent Moon close to Venus in morning sky

1-15 May 2017; Comet 41P visible in the morning sky in binoculars

6 May 2017; Eta Aquariid meteor shower.

7-8 May 2017; Moon near Jupiter.

13 May 2017; Moon close to Saturn.

23 May 2017; crescent Mon close to Venus.

4 June 2017; Moon and Jupiter close.

1-25 June 2017; Comet C/2015 V2 Johnson potentially visible in binoculars.

9-10 June 2017; Moon near Saturn.

15 June 2017; Opposition of Saturn.

21 June 2017; crescent Moon and Venus close.

1 July 2017; Jupiter and Moon close.

7 July 2017; Saturn and Moon close.

21 July 2017; crescent Moon and Venus close.

25 July 2017; thin crescent Moon and Mercury very close, low in the twilight.

29 July 2017; Moon and Jupiter close.

30 July 2017; Southern Delta Aquarids meteor shower.

3 August 2017; Moon close to Saturn.

8 August 2017; Partial eclipse of the Moon in the early morning.

19 August 2017; Crescent Moon close to Venus.

25 August 2017; Jupiter and Crescent Moon close, forming a shallow triangle with Spica.

5-16 September 2017; Jupiter and Spica close.

15 September 2017; Crescent Moon close to Venus.

19 September 2017; crescent Moon forms triangle with Mars and Mercury low in the twilight.

22 September 2017; Moon close to Jupiter, forming triangle with Spica.

27 September 2017; Moon and Saturn close.

30 September 2017; Moon and Mars close.

6 October 2017; Venus and Mars very close low in the twilight.

17 October 2017; Mars close to crescent Moon. Forms line with Venus

18 October 2017; Venus close to crescent Moon, forming triangle with Mars.

22 October 2017; Orionid meteor shower.

24 October 2017; crescent Moon close to Saturn.

13 November 2017; Venus and Jupiter very close in the twilight.

13 November 2017; Mercury and Antares close in the twilight.

15 November 2017; crescent Moon close to Mars.

17 November 2017; Leonid Meteor Shower.

17 November 2017; crescent Moon close to Venus and Jupiter in the twilight.

21 November 2017; Crescent Moon close to Saturn.

28 November 2017; Mercury close to Saturn.

14 December 2017; Crescent Moon close to Mars.

15 December 2017; Geminid Meteor shower.

15 December 2017; Crescent Moon close to Jupiter.

31 December 2017; Mars and Jupiter close.

31 December 2017; asteroid Ceres potentially visible in binoculars.


Out in Space

Cassini has a gallery of weird Moons.

Mars Curiosity Rover peels back the layers of Mars.

Mars Express has a window on Mar's watery past.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter views a rover climbing mount Sharp.

Dawn makes a movie of Ceres's at opposition.

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 1st
O Full moon on the 9th
D Last quarter on the 17th
O New Moon is on the 23rd


C| First quarter on the 31st
July 1; Last Quarter Moon close to Jupiter. July 6; Moon at Apogee. July 7; waxing Moon close to Saturn. July 20; Crescent Moon in the Hyades, close to Aldebaran and aboive Venus. July 21; crescent Moon close to Venus. July 22; Moon at Perigee. July 25; crescent Moon close to Mercury and Regulus. July 29; waxing Moon close to Jupiter. July 31st "Blue" First Quarter Moon.

An interactive calendar of the Moon's phases.

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

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

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, 10:00 pm

The evening sky facing north-west in Melbourne on July 1 at 90 minutes after sunset showing the Moon close to Jupiter. (similar views will be seen from other cities at the equivalent local time eg July 1 at 90 minutes after sunset Adelaide).

evening sky, 9:00 pm

The eastern morning sky on July 20 an hour before sunrise showing Venus, Aldebaran and the Moon. (similar views will be seen Australia wide an hour before sunrise).

morning sky, 5:53 am pm

The western sky on July 25 an hour after sunset showing Mercury, Regulus and the crescent Moon. (similar views will be seen Australia wide an hour after sunset).

Mercury returns to the evening sky in the latter half of the month, and this and early Ausgust is the best evening view we have of the elusive planet this year. By the 7th Mercury is a hand span above the western horizon 30 minutes after sunset and should be reasonably easy to see with an unobscured level horizon. On the 15th Mercury is one and a half hand-spans above the western horizon an hour after sunset. Mercury approaches the bright star Regulus in Leo, on the 25th Mercury, Regulus and the thing crescent Moon lie withing a circle two finger-widths in diameter, and can be seen together in wide field telescope eyepieces. The trio are two hand-spans above the horizon an hour after sunset. By the 30th, Mercury is just over two hand-spans above the horizon an hour after sunset.

Venus dominates the morning sky by the middle of this month. In a telescope Venus is a distinct "half-Moon" shape. On the 1st Venus is six hand spans above the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. Venus moves towards the Hyades cluster and on the 13th forms a second "eye" along with Aldebaran in the head of Taurus the Bull. By July 15 Venus is over three hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. On July 20 the crescent Moon is in the head of tarus, close to Aldebaran and is a hand-span above Venus. On July 21 the crescent Moon is a hand-span below Venus.On the 30th Venus is just under three hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise.

Mars is low above the western horizon this month, difficult to see and not a worthwhile telescopic target. Mars moves from Aries to Taurus this month. It has faded substantially and may be difficult to recognize low in the twilight. However, it is the brightest reddish object almost due west in an area otherwise devoid of bright stars.

On July 1 Mars is just under two hand-spans above the western horizon half an hour after sunset. On July 15 Mars is still just under two hand-spans above the western horizon half an hour after sunset. On July 28 Mars, the thin crescent Moon and Aldebaran form a triangle low in the twilight sky. By the 30th, Mars is one and a half hand-spans above the western horizon half an hour after sunset.

Jupiter was at opposition in May, but is still excellent viewing. It is highest in the sky around an hour after sunset. At the beginning of July Jupiter is is in between the bright stars Porrima (gamma Virginis) and Spica, alpha Virginis, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. Over the Month Jupiter pulls way from Porrima and heads towards Spica, by the end of the Month Jupiter is almost in the middle of the pair.

On July 1, Jupiter is ten hand-spans above the north-west horizon an hour and a half after sunset and is at its highest above the northern horizon around 6:30 pm local time. On July 1 Jupiter is also two finger-widths above the first quarter Moon. On July 15, Jupiter is nine hand-spans above the north-western horizon an hour and a half after sunset. On July 29 Jupiter is a handspan from the waing Moon. On July 30, Jupiter is just over eight hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour and a half after sunset and is highest above the northern horizon around 11 pm local time.

In either binoculars or a telescope Jupiter's Moons are always interesting. Friday 23rd and Sunday 25th are particularly good.

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

Sat	1	Jul	21:20	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Sun	2	Jul	0:49	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Sun	2	Jul	18:33	Io : Transit Begins               T	
Sun	2	Jul	19:49	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Sun	2	Jul	19:57	Eur: Disappears into Occultation  ST	
Sun	2	Jul	20:45	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Sun	2	Jul	22:00	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Sun	2	Jul	22:26	Eur: Reappears from Occultation	
Sun	2	Jul	22:30	Eur: Disappears into Eclipse	
Sun	2	Jul	22:54	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sun	2	Jul	23:01	Gan: Transit Begins               T	
Mon	3	Jul	18:45	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Mon	3	Jul	19:18	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Tue	4	Jul	17:20	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Tue	4	Jul	19:44	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends	
Wed	5	Jul	0:33	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Wed	5	Jul	20:24	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	6	Jul	18:31	Gan: Disappears into Eclipse	
Thu	6	Jul	20:43	Gan: Reappears from Eclipse	
Fri	7	Jul	22:03	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	8	Jul	17:55	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	8	Jul	23:15	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Sun	9	Jul	20:28	Io : Transit Begins               T	
Sun	9	Jul	21:44	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Sun	9	Jul	22:31	Eur: Disappears into Occultation  ST	
Sun	9	Jul	22:40	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Sun	9	Jul	23:42	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sun	9	Jul	23:55	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Mon	10	Jul	17:44	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Mon	10	Jul	19:34	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Mon	10	Jul	21:13	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Tue	11	Jul	18:23	Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Tue	11	Jul	19:49	Eur: Transit Ends	
Tue	11	Jul	19:57	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Tue	11	Jul	22:21	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends	
Wed	12	Jul	21:13	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	13	Jul	19:46	Gan: Reappears from Occultation	
Thu	13	Jul	22:31	Gan: Disappears into Eclipse	
Fri	14	Jul	22:52	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	15	Jul	18:43	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sun	16	Jul	22:23	Io : Transit Begins               T	
Fri	16	Jun	22:47	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        SS	
Sun	16	Jul	23:39	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Fri	16	Jun	23:42	Io : Shadow Transit Ends          S	
Sat	17	Jun	1:11	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends	
Sat	17	Jun	17:33	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Mon	17	Jul	19:40	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Mon	17	Jul	20:22	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	17	Jun	20:59	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Mon	17	Jul	23:08	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Sun	18	Jun	1:26	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sun	18	Jun	17:47	Gan: Transit Ends                 S	
Tue	18	Jul	18:07	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Sun	18	Jun	18:11	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Tue	18	Jul	19:05	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Sun	18	Jun	19:44	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse	
Tue	18	Jul	19:58	Eur: Transit Begins               ST	
Tue	18	Jul	20:18	Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Sun	18	Jun	20:20	Gan: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Sun	18	Jun	21:18	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	18	Jul	22:29	Eur: Transit Ends	
Sun	18	Jun	22:34	Gan: Shadow Transit Ends	
Tue	18	Jul	22:35	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Wed	19	Jul	17:37	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Wed	19	Jul	22:01	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	20	Jul	17:53	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	20	Jul	19:19	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse	
Thu	20	Jul	21:17	Gan: Disappears into Occultation	
Tue	20	Jun	22:57	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Wed	21	Jun	18:48	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Fri	21	Jul	23:40	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	22	Jul	19:32	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Fri	23	Jun	0:35	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Fri	23	Jun	0:58	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Fri	23	Jun	20:27	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Fri	23	Jun	22:12	Io : Transit Begins               T	
Fri	23	Jun	22:48	Eur: Transit Begins               TT	
Fri	23	Jun	23:26	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        STT	
Sat	24	Jun	0:23	Io : Transit Ends                 ST	
Sat	24	Jun	1:19	Eur: Transit Ends                 S	
Mon	24	Jul	18:26	Gan: Shadow Transit Ends	
Sat	24	Jun	19:26	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Mon	24	Jul	21:11	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Mon	24	Jul	21:37	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Sat	24	Jun	22:54	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Sun	25	Jun	17:24	Eur: Disappears into Occultation  T	
Sun	25	Jun	17:55	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Tue	25	Jul	18:49	Io : Transit Begins               T	
Sun	25	Jun	18:52	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Sun	25	Jun	19:07	Gan: Transit Begins               ST	
Sun	25	Jun	19:53	Eur: Reappears from Occultation   ST	
Sun	25	Jun	19:55	Eur: Disappears into Eclipse      ST	
Tue	25	Jul	20:02	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Sun	25	Jun	20:06	Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Tue	25	Jul	21:01	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Sun	25	Jun	21:39	Gan: Transit Ends	
Sun	25	Jun	22:06	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	25	Jul	22:13	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Sun	25	Jun	22:18	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse	
Tue	25	Jul	22:39	Eur: Transit Begins               T	
Mon	26	Jun	0:20	Gan: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Mon	26	Jun	17:23	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Mon	26	Jun	17:57	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Wed	26	Jul	19:32	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Wed	26	Jul	22:50	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	27	Jul	18:42	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	27	Jul	21:53	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse	
Tue	27	Jun	23:45	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Wed	28	Jun	19:36	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	29	Jul	20:21	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Fri	30	Jun	21:15	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Mon	31	Jul	17:51	Gan: Transit Ends	
Mon	31	Jul	20:16	Gan: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Mon	31	Jul	22:00	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Mon	31	Jul	22:24	Gan: Shadow Transit Ends	
Saturn was at opposition last month, but remains an excellent telescopic object all this month. Saturn is easily recognized as the brightest object below the distinctive side-on "question-mark" of Scorpius the Scorpion in the eastern sky. During July Saturn is Just above the dark dust lanes that mark the heart of the milky way. On July 1 Saturn is just over five hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour and a half after sunset and is highest above the northern horizon at 11 pm local time. On July 7 Saturn is close to the waning Moon. On July 15 Saturn is is just over seven hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour and a half after sunset and is highest above the northern horizon at 10 pm local time. On July 30 Saturn is just under ten hand-spans above the north-eastern horizon an hour and a half after sunset and is highest above the northern horizon at 10 pm 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.

Iridium flares add a bit of spectacle to the night sky. The Iridium satellite network was set up to give global phone coverage, so an Iridium satellite is almost always over head. Occasionally, one of the antenna of the satellites is aligned so that it reflects the sun towards an observer, giving a brilliant flare, often out-shining Venus. However, the visibility of Iridium flares is VERY dependent on observer position, so you need a prediction for your spot within about 30 km. Hence I'm referring you to a web site for predictions rather than doing it myself.

new See an Iridium Flare 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:

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:

Date        	Meteor Shower       ZHR  Illumination 
30/07/2017  delta-Aquarids      16    0.15      
28/07/2017  Piscis Australids    5    0.15      
30/07/2017  Capricornids         5    0.15         

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 delta-Aquarids will appear from 12 July to 23rd August peaking on July the 30th. At 10 pm, face east, and look 4 hand spans and two finger widths above the horizon. One finger width right is the 4th magnitude star delta d Aquarii. The radiant is just above this star, see the map for more detail. This meteor shower should be visible from 10.00 pm until dawn, with better meteor rates after midnight. These showers occur after the Last Quarter Moon this year, so there will be little Moonlight interference. The other meteor showers are weak.

Outside of the showers, you can still see sporadic meteors. Rates seen from the Southern Hemisphere are around 11 random meteors being seen per hour during the late morning hours and 2-4 per hour during the evening. The evening rates will be reduced slightly during the times around the full Moon due to interference by the Moons light.

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

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

Learn how to take a meteor shower photograph.

A Cool Fact about meteor speeds

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

Return to Menu

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. Mira and Algol are currently not visible from Australia.

Return to Menu

Stars:

evening sky, 10:00 pm

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

This is an ideal time to hunt the fainter open clusters in Scorpio with binoculars. Looking East and straight up, the distinctive "hook" shape of Scorpio, the scorpion, now stretches across the zenith. Going up about six 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. A high definition map of Scorpio is here.

Just below Scorpio and slightly to the right is the distinctive "teapot" shape of Sagittarius, the archer. The "teapots" spout is pointing straight up, and its lid points to the left. This constellation is now high enough in the sky for its panoply of clusters and nebula to reach full prominence. M24, an open cluster about two finger-widths to the right and slightly down from the "lid" of the teapot should be visible to the naked eye, just above this and slightly to the left by about a hand span is a number of open clusters and a patch of luminosity that marks the lagoon nebula. M22, a globular cluster, is close to the lid (between and about a finger-widths left of the two stars that make the bottom of the lid), should be visible as a dim, fuzzy star on a dark night. Between these clusters and the "lid" itself runs the Great Sagittarius Star cloud. The centre 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.

To the right of the teapot by about two finger-widths, is the a delicate arc of stars, Corona Australis, the Southern Crown. Just below Sagittarius is the battered triangle of Capricorn, the Goat, and off to the left by about 4 hand-spans is three bright stars that mark Aquilla, the Eagle, with the brightest, white Altair, being in the center.

To the left of the "T" of Scorpio by one hand-span and slightly higher is a broad triangle of stars that marks Libra, the balance. Alpha librae (with the amazing name Zubenelgenubi) is the brightest star and apex of the triangle pointed at Spica, is almost midway between Spica and Antares. This star is a wide binary, and those with good eye sight and dark skies can usual see both components. Beta Librae (Zubeneschamali) is the next brightest star in the triangle and closest to the horizon. Four finger-widths to the left of Beta Librae is delta librae, this dim star (magnitude 4.9) is an eclipsing variable, where a dim star orbiting a brighter star eclipses the brighter star, causing a fall in perceived brightness. Delta librae dims and brightens by one whole magnitude every 2.3 days, and is a good (if dim) naked eye variable. Libra also hosts the star HD 141569 (roughly a hand-span below beta Librae, but at 7th magnitude invisible to the naked eye), which has a dust disk with dark lanes which may indicate planets.

To the left of Libra by around three hand-spans is bright white Spica, the brightest start in the constellation of Virgo. Spica marks the top right-hand corner of a rectangular group of stars that marks out the body of Virgo, the virgin.

Six hand-spans below Spica and three to the right is bright orange Arcturus, alpha star of the constellation of Bootes, the herdsman. Between Altair, Arcturus and Spica are a number of dim constellations, including Hercules. Hercules is almost mid way between Altair and Arcturus, and a reasonably prominent box shape marks the centre of the constellation.

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 to the left of Virgo by four hand-spans is end of the long rambling constellation Hydra which starts below the western the horizon. Three hand-spans to the left is crater the cup with its distinct, but upside down, cup shape. Three hand-spans above and three to the left of Spica is the kite shape of Corvus the crow. 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 and four down from Virgo, is Leo. The sickle of Leo is below the horizon and Regulus is just above the western horizon.

The battered rectangle of stars that forms Puppis, the poop deck of the former constellation Argo Navis, is just on the south-western horizon. Just above this 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" (about 10 hand spans above the southern horizon). 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 Sagittarius and Vela/Carina will reveal an interesting cluster or star formation. However, the area two hand-spans below and slightly to the right of the Southern Cross, between it and the false cross, is particularly rich. Here you will find the "Southern Pleiades" surrounding the tail star (Theta Carina) of a prominent kite shaped group of stars in Carina. Smaller and less spectacular than their northern counterparts, they still look very nice in binoculars. Four finger-widths 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 two hand-spans from the south-western horizon.

Facing due South, one hand-span to the right and twelve 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 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 kilometres 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 to the left of 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 right and a hand-span up is a small star, a half hand span up (and about a hand-span to the right) 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 directly up 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.

Five hand-spans straight up from south, and two to the left 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 four hand spans from due south and two 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 July 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 July sky at 10.00pm AEST on 1 July can be downloaded here (julsky_e.png 30 Kb) and a view of the western July sky can be downloaded here (julsky_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]
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 2017 almanac and SkyMap Pro 11.0 . I highly recommend the Australian Astronomy 2017 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 $28.

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 dowload. 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 2017 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 2017 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, 3 July 2017, 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