Southern Sky Watch

August Skies

This month the planetary action is mostly in the evening skies, with only Jupiter and Saturn visible for mots of the month. Jupiter is still bright and obvious and Saturn is just past opposition. Saturn is occulted as seen from the eastern seaboard early in the month. Venus is lost in the twilight. Lonely Mars is low in the western evening and is lost in the twilight early in the month. Mercury returns to the morning sky late in the month.

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

August 2; crescent Moon close to Mars low in twilight. August 2; Moon at perigee. August 10; Jupiter near the waxing Moon. August 12; Moon close to Saturn, occultation in Eastern states. August 17; Moon at Apogee.


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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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.

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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. 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 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

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

3-4 January 2019; Crescent Moon and Jupiter close

4 January 2019; Crescent Moon near Mercury

12-13 January 2019; waxing Moon and Mars close

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

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

23 January 2019; Venus and Jupiter close in the morning

31 January 2019; Crescent Moon and Jupiter close again

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

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

10 February 2019; Waxing Moon close to Mars

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

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

28 February 2019; Waning Moon close to Jupiter

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

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

11 March 2019; Crescent Moon close to Mars

30 March 2019; Waning Moon close to Saturn

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

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

9 April 2019; Moon close to Mars in evening sky

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

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

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

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

6 May 2019; Eta Aquariid meteor shower

8 May 2019; Crescent Moon close to Mars

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

20 May 2019; Jupiter near waning Moon

22 May 2019; Waning Moon close to Saturn

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

4 June 2019; Crescent Moon and Mercury close

5 June 2019; Crescent Moon and Mars close

11 June 2019; Jupiter at Opposition

16 June 2019; Jupiter and Full Moon close

19 June 2019; Moon and Saturn close

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

10 July 2019; Saturn at Opposition

13-14 July 2019; Moon and Jupiter close

16 July 2019; Moon and Saturn close

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

30 July 2019; Southern Delta Aquarids meteor shower

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

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

10 August 2019; Moon close to Jupiter

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

6 September 2019; Waxing Moon and Jupiter close

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

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

29 September 2019; Mercury close to bright star Spica

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

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

4 October 2019; Jupiter and waxing Moon close

6 October 2019; Saturn and waxing Moon close

22 October 2019; Orionid meteor shower

24 October 2019; Variable star Mira at its brightest

29 October 2019; Mercury, Venus and Crescent Moon close

31 October 2019; Jupiter and waxing Moon close

2 November 2019; waxing Moon close to Saturn

9 November 2019; Jupiter crescent Moon close

11 November 2019; Crescent Moon and Saturn close

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

17 November 2019; Leonid Meteor Shower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Out in Space

Mars Curiosity Rover finds more methane on Mars .

Mars Express explores Chaotic terrains .

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter confirms liquid water flows on Mars today.

The Juno mission finds changes in Jupiter's magnetic field.

more exciting images from an Asteroid. including getting ready to explore the new crater

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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.

O New Moon is on the 1st
C| First quarter on the 8th
O Full moon on the 15th
D Last quarter on the 24th

August 2; crescent Moon close to Mars low in twilight. August 2; Moon at perigee. August 10; Jupiter near the waxing Moon. August 12; Moon close to Saturn, occultation in Eastern states. August 17; Moon at Apogee.

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, 6:02 am

The the morning sky on Tuesday August 2 facing east as seen from Adelaide at 6:02 ACST (30 minutes before sunrise), Mars is close to the crescent Moon low above the horizon. (similar views will be seen Australia wide 30 minutes minutes before sunrise).

evening sky, 19:06 pm

The evening sky facing west on Saturday August 10 as seen from Adelaide at 19:06 ACST 90 minutes after sunset, the waxing Moon is close to Jupiter. (similar views will be seen Australia wide 90 minutes minutes after sunset).

mevening sky, 19:06 pm

The the evening sky facing east in Adelaide on August 12 at 19:06 ACST (90 minutes after sunset), Saturn and the Moon are close, in many parts of Australia there is an occultation. (similar views will be seen similar views will be seen Australia wide 90 minutes minutes after sunset).

Mercury returns to the morning sky mid month month in the month but is difficult to see in the twilight glow. On the 10th when Mercury is highest above the horizon this month, it is but one hand-span above the eastern horizon half an hour before sunrise, and will need a clare level horizon to see it in the twilight. Therafter mercury is lost in the twilight again, to reenter the morning sky next month.

Venus is lost in the the twilight this month and will return to the evening skies in September.

Mars is lost in the twilight this month. On August 1 Mars is a under a hand-span above the western horizon half an hour after sunset. On 2 August Mars and the crescent Moon are a hand-span apart. You will need a level unobscured horizon to see this, and probably binoculars to see Mars in the twilight. After this Mars is lost to view

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

Jupiter (still) remains in Ophiuchus this month, underneath the distinctive curl of Scorpio and the bright red star Antares. August 1, Jupiter is over 11 hand-spans above the western horizon at 10 pm local time and Jupiter is highest above the northern horizon at around 8:30 pm local time. On the 10th the waxing Moon is just a hand span from Jupiter, forming a triangle with bright red Antares. On August 15, Jupiter is at its highest above the northern horizon at around 7:30pm local time and is 9 hand-spans above the western horizon at 10 pm local time. By August 30, Jupiter is 9 hand-spans above the western horizon at 10 pm local time.

In either binoculars or a telescope Jupiter's Moons are always interesting. There are some good telescope moon events this month, notably the 2nd, 14th and 25th.

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

Thu	1	Aug	0:44	Io : Transit Begins               T
Thu	1	Aug	1:47	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST
Thu	1	Aug	2:16	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Thu	1	Aug	2:56	Io : Transit Ends                 S
Thu	1	Aug	19:54	Gan: Shadow Transit Ends
Thu	1	Aug	21:51	Io : Disappears into Occultation
Thu	1	Aug	22:08	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Fri	2	Aug	1:07	Io : Reappears from Eclipse
Fri	2	Aug	17:59	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Fri	2	Aug	19:12	Io : Transit Begins               T
Fri	2	Aug	20:16	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST
Fri	2	Aug	21:24	Io : Transit Ends                 S
Fri	2	Aug	22:28	Io : Shadow Transit Ends
Sat	3	Aug	19:36	Io : Reappears from Eclipse
Sat	3	Aug	23:46	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Sun	4	Aug	3:30	Eur: Transit Begins               T
Sun	4	Aug	19:38	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Mon	5	Aug	3:08	Gan: Disappears into Occultation
Mon	5	Aug	22:37	Eur: Disappears into Occultation
Tue	6	Aug	1:25	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Tue	6	Aug	3:19	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse
Tue	6	Aug	21:16	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Wed	7	Aug	18:59	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        ST
Wed	7	Aug	19:11	Eur: Transit Ends                 S
Wed	7	Aug	21:30	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends
Thu	8	Aug	2:34	Io : Transit Begins               T
Thu	8	Aug	3:03	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Thu	8	Aug	19:13	Gan: Transit Ends
Thu	8	Aug	21:24	Gan: Shadow Transit Begins        S
Thu	8	Aug	22:55	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Thu	8	Aug	23:41	Io : Disappears into Occultation  S
Thu	8	Aug	23:54	Gan: Shadow Transit Ends
Fri	9	Aug	3:03	Io : Reappears from Eclipse
Fri	9	Aug	18:46	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Fri	9	Aug	21:02	Io : Transit Begins               T
Fri	9	Aug	22:11	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST
Fri	9	Aug	23:14	Io : Transit Ends                 S
Sat	10	Aug	0:23	Io : Shadow Transit Ends
Sat	10	Aug	18:09	Io : Disappears into Occultation
Sat	10	Aug	21:31	Io : Reappears from Eclipse
Sun	11	Aug	0:33	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Sun	11	Aug	18:52	Io : Shadow Transit Ends
Sun	11	Aug	20:25	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Tue	13	Aug	1:04	Eur: Disappears into Occultation
Tue	13	Aug	2:12	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Tue	13	Aug	22:03	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Wed	14	Aug	17:55	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Wed	14	Aug	19:11	Eur: Transit Begins               T
Wed	14	Aug	21:35	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        ST
Wed	14	Aug	21:40	Eur: Transit Ends                 S
Thu	15	Aug	0:07	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends
Thu	15	Aug	20:33	Gan: Transit Begins               T
Thu	15	Aug	22:56	Gan: Transit Ends
Thu	15	Aug	23:42	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Fri	16	Aug	1:23	Gan: Shadow Transit Begins        S
Fri	16	Aug	1:32	Io : Disappears into Occultation  S
Fri	16	Aug	19:14	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse
Fri	16	Aug	19:34	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Fri	16	Aug	22:53	Io : Transit Begins               T
Sat	17	Aug	0:06	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST
Sat	17	Aug	1:05	Io : Transit Ends                 S
Sat	17	Aug	2:18	Io : Shadow Transit Ends
Sat	17	Aug	20:00	Io : Disappears into Occultation
Sat	17	Aug	23:27	Io : Reappears from Eclipse
Sun	18	Aug	1:21	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Sun	18	Aug	18:34	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST
Sun	18	Aug	19:33	Io : Transit Ends                 S
Sun	18	Aug	20:47	Io : Shadow Transit Ends
Sun	18	Aug	21:12	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Mon	19	Aug	17:56	Io : Reappears from Eclipse
Mon	19	Aug	18:03	Gan: Reappears from Eclipse
Tue	20	Aug	22:51	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Wed	21	Aug	18:42	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Wed	21	Aug	21:42	Eur: Transit Begins               T
Thu	22	Aug	0:11	Eur: Transit Ends
Thu	22	Aug	0:13	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S
Fri	23	Aug	0:20	Gan: Transit Begins               T
Fri	23	Aug	0:30	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Fri	23	Aug	19:17	Eur: Reappears from Occultation
Fri	23	Aug	19:18	Eur: Disappears into Eclipse
Fri	23	Aug	20:21	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Fri	23	Aug	21:49	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse
Sat	24	Aug	0:45	Io : Transit Begins               T
Sat	24	Aug	2:00	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST
Sat	24	Aug	21:53	Io : Disappears into Occultation
Sun	25	Aug	1:22	Io : Reappears from Eclipse
Sun	25	Aug	2:08	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Sun	25	Aug	19:13	Io : Transit Begins               T
Sun	25	Aug	20:29	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST
Sun	25	Aug	21:25	Io : Transit Ends                 S
Sun	25	Aug	22:00	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Sun	25	Aug	22:42	Io : Shadow Transit Ends
Mon	26	Aug	19:30	Gan: Disappears into Eclipse
Mon	26	Aug	19:51	Io : Reappears from Eclipse
Mon	26	Aug	22:03	Gan: Reappears from Eclipse
Tue	27	Aug	23:39	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Wed	28	Aug	19:30	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Thu	29	Aug	0:15	Eur: Transit Begins               T
Fri	30	Aug	1:18	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Fri	30	Aug	19:21	Eur: Disappears into Occultation
Fri	30	Aug	21:09	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Fri	30	Aug	21:50	Eur: Reappears from Occultation
Fri	30	Aug	21:54	Eur: Disappears into Eclipse
Sat	31	Aug	0:25	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse
Sat	31	Aug	23:47	Io : Disappears into Occultation
Saturn climbs higher in the evening sky this month, and was at opposition on the 10th of July. On August 1 Saturn is just under twelve hand-spans above the north-eastern horizon at 10pm local time and highest above the northern horizon around 11pm local time. On August 12 Saturn and the waxing Moon are very close and eastern Australia sees an occultation of Saturn. On August 15, Saturn is just over eleven hand-spans above the eastern horizon at 10pm local time and highest above the northern horizon around midnight. On August 30, Saturn is just over 11 hand-spans above the western horizon at 10pm local time and nighest above the northern horizon around 9pm local time.

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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 
 30/07/2019  alpha-Capricornids   5   0.05         
12/08/2019  Perseids            150    0.95         
18/08/2019  Kappa-Cygnids        3   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.

Sadly, the Perseids are very low on the horizon in Australia and for all of us south of Brisbane, the radiant (where the meteors appear to originate in the sky) will be below the horizon. While the ZHR is around 150, Australian observers from Brisbane and similar latitudes can expect to see a meteor every 20 minutes of so, at the latitude of Alice Springs a meteor every 6 minutes and at the latitude of Darwin and Cairns a meteor every four minutes under clear conditions away from light pollution. On August the 12th and 13th, between around 3.30 am and 5.30 am (yes, that's right, bleeding cold morning time), go out and face North. The meteor shower will be between two to three hand-spans from the horizon. The best rates will be on the morning of the 13th though. A map showing the location of the meteor radiant as seen facing north from Darwin at 5.00 am is here. (also useful for Alice Springs and Brisbane, Townsville etc. where the radiant is lower). This year the moon is close to full, and Moonlight will significantly interfere.

The Perseids are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which has a 135 year orbit around the sun. The best Perseid showers were in 1991 and 1992, when Swift Tuttle was at perihelion (the closest approach to the sun) at 1 AU from the Sun, around 400 meteors per hour were seen. Swift Tuttle is now much further out.

Outside of the showers, you can still see sporadic meteors. Rates seen from the Southern Hemisphere are around 12 random meteors being seen per hour during the late morning hours and 2-4 per hour during the evening. The evening rates will be reduced during the times around the full Moon due to interference by the Moons light.

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

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

Learn how to take a meteor shower photograph.

A Cool Fact about meteor speeds

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

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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:

Occultation of Saturn by the Moon 12 August.

evening sky, 18:16 pm

The Moon at 18:16 pm AEST in Brisbane on Thursday 12 August just as Saturn disappears behind the Moon.

On the evening of Monday 12 August Saturn is occulted by the waxing Moon as seen from eastern Australia north of Canberra. The best views are from New Zealand and Polynesia, everyone else misses out. The Moon, above the eastern horizon, is a very obvious signpost for where to look. From most locations the occultation starts between nautical and astronomical twilight, although Saturn may be harder to spot visually it should be readily visible in telescopes and binoculars. In some locations the Moon titan is occulted first, but will be much harder to see in the twilight (Brisbane 18:08, Canberra 18:32, Sydney, 18:25). Start watching about half an hour beforehand to get set up and familiar with the sky. Saturn will disappear behind the dark limb of the Moon at a reasonable height for telescopic observation. Reappearance will be hard to see as you have to be looking just at the right moment. In southern Australia the Moon and Saturn will be very close and visible together in telescopic eyepieces.


PlaceDisappears Dark LimbReappears Bright Limb
Adelaide ACST - -
Brisbane AEST 18:16 19:43
Carins AEST -twilight 19:13
Canberra AEST 18:41 19:13
Darwin ACST - -
Hobart AEST - -
Melbourne AEST - -
Perth AWST - -
Sydney AEST 18:35 19:23
Rockhampton AEST 18:06 19:28
Townsville AEST - twilight 19:17


More cities in Australia and New Zealand cities can be found at the IOTA site (UT times only).

 


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 is past maximum and is not readily visible.

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Stars:

evening sky, 10:00 pm

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

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

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

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.

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

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

GIF Maps

A view of the Eastern August sky at 10.00pm AEST on 1 August can be downloaded here (augsky_e.png 30 Kb) and a view of the western August sky can be downloaded here (augsky_w.png 30 Kb). These are more compact files but don't have a lot of resolution.

PDF 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] [ April Skies] [ May Skies] [ June Skies] [ July 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

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

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

I use a combination of a 1962 star chart, the Australian Astronomy 2019 almanac and SkyMap Pro 11.0 . I highly recommend the Australian Astronomy 2019 almanac. It is more helpful for planetary/comet/asteroidal observations and eclipses than for double stars, clusters galaxies etc, but is an excellent resource for Australian observers and anyone who would like to seriously follow the planets in Australia should have this almanac. It has easy to follow month-by-month summary information, as well as detailed charts, tables and whole sky maps. It is easily navigated. The Almanac is often in big bookstores or optical shops, or email info@quasarastronomy.com.au to purchase a copy directly for those outside major population centres. The Australian Astronomy almanac comes out in around November for the following year, and is now approx $30.

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

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

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

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

Other highly recommended Sky charting packages (win95/98/2000/XP/Win7-10 sorry) are:
Cartes du Ciel at http://www.stargazing.net/astropc/ (FREE) a bit messy to install but very good.
Stellarium at
http://stellarium.sourceforge.net/ (FREE) stunning photorealistic program, but requires a grunty PC.
TheSkyVarious packages from $49 US to $249 US
Stary Night various versions from $49 US for the basic pack (10 day trial of the basic pack at http://www.siennasoft.com/english/downloads.shtml) up.
Earth Centered Universe $88 AUD (shareware version at http://www.nova-astro.com/)
On the other hand a standard Sky Atlas for serious observing (much handier than carting a computer with you) such as Norton's Star Atlas can range from $35 to $90.

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

This is not meant to be a product endorsement of any kind (outside of the Australian Astronomy 2019 almanac. For any budding astronomers out there, it is fantastic value and no, I don't have any commercial interest in it, but I did win bronze in their website Olympics).

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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 2019 Ian Musgrave, except the "Southern Sky Watch" logo, as well as any other ABC logo used on this page, is © copyright of the ABC. Sky maps are generated with SkyMap Pro 11.0 .

This page can be used freely for any non-commercial purpose but please attribute it correctly. However, see the disclaimer.

* Email: reynella@internode.on.net e-mail Ian with any suggestions
Created: Wednesday, 1 April 1998, 11:22:13 PM
Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 June 2019, 11:30:13 PM


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