Southern Sky Watch

July Skies

This month all the planetary action is the evening skies with all 5 bright planets visible together around mid-month. Venus and Mercury bright in the west, Jupiter, Saturn just past Opposition, the Asteroid Vesta and Mars at best opposition since 2003.

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

July; Saturn, the globular cluster M22 and the Trifid Nebula are within a binocular field of view. July 1; Mars and waning Moon close. July 4; Mercury close to open cluster M44, the Beehive cluster. July 7; Earth at Perihelion. July 10; Venus and the the bright star Regulus close in the evening sky. July 13; Moon at perigee. July 15; Mercury and the thin crescent Moon close in the evening sky. July 15-25; All 5 bright planets visible in the evening sky. July 16; Venus and the thin crescent Moon close in the evening sky. July 21; waxing Moon close to Jupiter. July 25; Saturn close to the waxing Moon. July 27; Mars Opposition. July 27; Moon at Apogee. July 28; Total Lunar Eclipse in the morning. July 28; Moon and Mars close.


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

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


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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 01/05/18: Despite solar maximum having passed, we are still getting occasional good auroral displays. April 20th 2018 saw an impressive display visible from NZ and Tasmania. 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.

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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

1 January 2018; Mars three finger-widths from Jupiter in the morning skies

2 January 2018; Perigee ("Super") Moon

7 January 2018; Mars and Jupiter closest at 0.25 degrees.

12 January 2018; Crescent Moon, Mars and Jupiter form a triangle

13 January 2018; Mercury less than a finger-width from Saturn in the morning sky

15 January 2018; thin crescent Moon near Mercury and Saturn

27-31 January 2018; Asteroid Ceres visible in binoculars

31 January 2018; Blue Moon, Total Lunar Eclipse ~11pm AEST

8 February 2018; Waning Moon close to Jupiter in Morning sky

10 February 2018; Waning Moon close to Mars

13 February 2018; Crescent Moon close to Saturn

4 March 2018; Venus and Mercury very close, low in the evening twilight

7 March 2018; Moon close to Jupiter

10-11 March 2018; Moon close to Mars

11-12 March 2018; Moon close to Saturn

19 March 2018; thin crescent Moon close to Mercury and Venus in evening twilight

20 March 2018; Mars close to Triffid Nebula

1-3 April 2018; Mars and globular cluster M22 less than a finger-width apart in morning sky

2 April 2018; Mars and Saturn close, a finger-width apart

3 April 2018; Moon close to Jupiter in evening sky

15 April 2018; thin crescent Moon close to Mercury in morning twilight

18 April 2018; crescent Moon close to Venus in evening sky

30 April 2018; Moon close to Jupiter in evening sky

1-30 May 2018; Saturn within 2finger-widths of globular cluster M22, closest on the 15th

4 May 2018; Moon close to Saturn.

6 May 2018; Moon close to Mars.

6 May 2018; Eta Aquariid meteor shower.

9 May 2018; Jupiter at opposition.

14-15 May 2018; Mars less than half a finger-width from globular cluster M75.

17-18 May 2018; crescent Moon close to Venus.

21 May 2018; Venus close to M35.

27 May 2018; Moon close to Jupiter.

1 June 2018; Moon and Saturn close.

3 June 2018; Moon and Mars close.

16 June 2018; Crescent Moon near Venus.

19 June 2018; Asteroid Vesta at opposition, potentially visible with the unaided eye.

20 June 2018; Venus in the Beehive cluster.

21 June 2018; crescent Moon and Venus close.

23 June 2018; Moon and Jupiter close.

27 June 2018; Saturn at opposition.

28 June 2018; Saturn close to the Moon.

1 July 2018; Mars and Moon close.

4 July 2018; Mercury close to Beehive cluster.

13 July 2018; Partial Eclipse of the sun, visible only southern SA and VIC.

15 July 2018; thin crescent Moon and Mercury close in the twilight.

16 July 2018; crescent Moon and Venus close.

21 July 2018; Moon and Jupiter close.

25 July 2018; Moon and Saturn close.

27 July 2018; Mars at Opposition, the best since 2003.

28 July 2018; Total Lunar Eclipse, early morning.

30 July 2018; Southern Delta Aquarids meteor shower.

14 August 2018; Crescent Moon close to Venus.

17 August 2018; Moon close to Jupiter.

21 August 2018; Moon close to Saturn.

30 August 2018; Saturn close to Triffid Nebula.

1-2 September 2018; Venus and Spica close.

12-13 September 2018; Crescent Moon close to Venus.

14 September 2018; crescent Moon close to Jupiter.

18 September 2018; Moon close to Saturn.

20 September 2018; Moon and Mars close.

10-20 October 2018; All 5 five bright planets visible in early evening sky.

10 October 2018; Mercury and Crescent Moon close.

11 October 2018; crescent Moon near Venus

12 October 2018; crescent Moon close to Jupiter.

15 October 2018; Moon close to Saturn.

16 October 2018; Venus and Mercury close.

18 October 2018; Moon close to Mars.

22 October 2018; Orionid meteor shower.

28 October 2018; Mercury and Jupiter close.

9 November 2018; Jupiter crescent Moon close.

11 November 2018; Crescent Moon and Saturn close.

16 November 2018; Moon close to Mars.

17 November 2018; Leonid Meteor Shower.

26 November 2018; Variable star Mira at its brightest

1-20 December 2018; Comet 46P potentially visible to the unaided eye.

4 December 2018; Crescent Moon close to Venus in morning twilight.

9 December 2018; Crescent Moon close to Saturn in evening twilight.

15 December 2018; Geminid Meteor shower.

14-15 December 2018; Moon close to Mars.

22 December 2018; Jupiter and Mercury very close in dawn sky.


Out in Space

Mars Curiosity Rover is ready for dust season.

Mars Express sees a possible supervolcano.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter finds Looks at the Phoenix landing site again.

The Juno mission sees the great Red Spot.

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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.

D Last quarter on the 6th
O New Moon is on the 15th
C| First quarter on the 20th
O Full moon on the 28th

This month all the planetary action is the evening skies with Venus bright in the west, Jupiter just past Opposition, Saturn at opposition, the Asteroid Vesta at opposition and Mars, Mercury in the evening skies. This is also a great time to view Mercury in the morning skies.

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

July 1; Mars and waning Moon close.. July 7; Earth at Perihelion. July 12-25; all 5 bright planets visible in evening sky July 13; Moon at perigee. July 15; Mercury and the thin crescent Moon close in the evening sky. July 16; Venus and the thin crescent Moon close in the evening sky. July 21; waxing Moon close to Jupiter. July 25; Saturn close to the waxing Moon. July 27; Moon at Apogee. July 28; Total Lunar Eclipse in the morning. July 28; Moon and Mars close.

An interactive calendar of the Moon's phases.

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

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

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Planets:

Finding planets, even with the directions below, can sometimes be difficult if you are unfamiliar with the sky. However, the Moon is very obvious, and can be a guide to location of planets. Not only that, the combination of the Moon and bright planet(s) is often very beautiful. Thus the guide below gives the dates when the planets and the Moon are close together.
morning sky, 5:00 am

The evening sky on Sunday July 15 as seen from Adelaide at 18:50 ACST 90 minutes after sunset showing all 5 unaided eye planets and the asteroid Vesta. Mercury and the crescent Moon are close. (similar views will be seen Australia wide 90 minutes minutes after sunset).

evening sky, 18:22 pm

The evening twilight sky facing west on Monday July 16 as seen from Adelaide at 18:22 ACST 60 minutes after sunset showing Venus and the crescent Moon close close. (similar views will be seen Australia wide 60 minutes minutes after sunset).

evening sky, 8:16 pm

The evening sky facing east in Adelaide on July 28 at 90 minutes after sunset showing Mars at opposition near the Full Moon. (The inset shows the telescopic view of Mars at this time, similar views will be seen from other cities at the equivalent local time 90 minutes after sunset).

Mercury climbs the evening skies in the first half of the month. This is the best time this year to see Mercury in the evening sky this year. On July 1, Mercury is just over two hand-spans above the western horizon half an hour after sunset. On the 4th Mercury is on the outer edge of M44, the beehive cluster. You will need binouclars to see the beehive cluster at its best in the late twilight. On July 12 Mercury is at its furthest from the Sun as seen from Earth. On July 15, Mercury is just over two hand-spans above the western horizon hour after sunset and a hand-span from the thin crescent Moon. On July 30, Mercury is just under a hand-spans above the western horizon an hour after sunset.

Venus continues to climbs slowly into the evening sky during July and and will be prominent after full dark. venus is now a distinct "half Moon" shape in telescopes. On July 1 Venus is just under three hand-spans above the horizon 90 minutes after Sunset, with Mercury below. It is two and a half hand-spans from the bright star Regulus, and over the following weeks it will towards it and into the constellation of Leo. On July 10 Venus is at its closest to the bright star Regulus in Leo. On July 15, Venus is just over under three and a half hand-spans above the horizon 90 minutes after Sunset. On July 16, Venus, and the thin crescent Moon are two finger-widths apart. On July 30, Venus is just under four hand-spans above the horizon 90 minutes after Sunset.

Earth is at aphelion on July 7 when it is furthest from the Sun

Mars climbs still higher in the evening skies this month. Mars is at opposition on July 27, when it is biggest and brightest as seen from Earth. This is the best opposition of Mars since August 2003. Even small telescopes should reveal the polar cap and some of the more prominent markings, however, as I write a global dust storm is obscuring most of the features on Mars, hopefully it will abate soon. However, watching Mars over the coming days in a telescope you should see Mars visibly increase in size. Mars remains in Capricornius this month, and will be visible all night long. On July 1 Mars is just above 5 hand-spans above the eastern horizon at 10:00 pm local time, and is highest above the northern horizon at around 2:30 am local time. Mars is a hand-span from the waning Moon. On July 15 Mars is 7 hand-spans above the eastern horizon at 10:00 pm local time, and is highest above the northern horizon at around 1:30 am local time. On the 27th Mars is at opposition and is just over a hand-span from the full Moon. More details can be found at my Mars Opposition site. On the 30th Mars is just above 10 hand-spans above the eastern horizon at 10:00 pm local time, and is highest above the northern horizon at around midnight local time. Mars is once more a hand-span from the waning Moon.

Jupiter, although past opposition, is excellent in the evening sky.

On July 1, Jupiter is nearly 10 hand-spans above the eastern horizon 90 minutes after sunset, and is highest above the northern horizon at around 8:30 pm local time (similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time, eg 10:30 pm AWST). Jupiter is rising before sunset and it is best for telescopic observation in the early-mid evening. Jupiter is in Libra all month and begins the month close to alpha Librae (Zubenelgenubi). On July 15, Jupiter is just over 11 hand-spans above the north-eastern horizon 90 minutes after sunset, and is highest above the northern horizon about 7:30 pm local time. On July 21 the waxing Moon is close to Jupiter. By July 30, Jupiter is nearly 11 hand-spans above the north-western horizon 90 minutes after sunset, and is highest above the northern horizon at around 6:30 pm local time.

In either binoculars or a telescope Jupiter's Moons are always interesting. There are some nice transits coming up this month.

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

Mon	2	Jul	0:14	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Mon	2	Jul	2:44	Eur: Transit Begins               T	
Mon	2	Jul	20:06	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	3	Jul	21:44	Eur: Disappears into Occultation	
Wed	4	Jul	1:53	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Wed	4	Jul	2:08	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse	
Wed	4	Jul	3:07	Io : Transit Begins               T	
Wed	4	Jul	21:44	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	5	Jul	0:15	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Thu	5	Jul	17:36	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	5	Jul	18:13	Eur: Sh Ends & Tr Begins          S	
Thu	5	Jul	20:28	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends	
Thu	5	Jul	21:34	Io : Transit Begins               T	
Thu	5	Jul	22:40	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Thu	5	Jul	23:44	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Fri	6	Jul	0:50	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Fri	6	Jul	18:43	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Fri	6	Jul	22:01	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Fri	6	Jul	23:23	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	7	Jul	0:34	Gan: Disappears into Occultation	
Sat	7	Jul	2:20	Gan: Reappears from Occultation	
Sat	7	Jul	18:11	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Sat	7	Jul	19:14	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	7	Jul	19:18	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Mon	9	Jul	1:01	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Mon	9	Jul	20:53	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	10	Jul	18:57	Gan: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Tue	10	Jul	20:40	Gan: Shadow Transit Ends	
Wed	11	Jul	0:09	Eur: Disappears into Occultation	
Wed	11	Jul	2:25	Eur: Reappears from Occultation	
Wed	11	Jul	2:28	Eur: Disappears into Eclipse	
Wed	11	Jul	2:40	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Wed	11	Jul	22:31	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	12	Jul	2:06	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Thu	12	Jul	18:23	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	12	Jul	18:25	Eur: Transit Begins               T	
Thu	12	Jul	20:42	Eur: Transit Ends	
Thu	12	Jul	20:50	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Thu	12	Jul	23:06	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends	
Thu	12	Jul	23:25	Io : Transit Begins               T	
Fri	13	Jul	0:35	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Fri	13	Jul	1:34	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Fri	13	Jul	20:34	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Fri	13	Jul	23:56	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Sat	14	Jul	0:10	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	14	Jul	17:52	Io : Transit Begins               T	
Sat	14	Jul	18:00	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse       T	
Sat	14	Jul	19:04	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Sat	14	Jul	20:01	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	14	Jul	20:02	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Sat	14	Jul	21:13	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Sun	15	Jul	18:25	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Mon	16	Jul	1:49	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Mon	16	Jul	21:40	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	17	Jul	17:32	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	17	Jul	17:57	Gan: Transit Begins               T	
Tue	17	Jul	19:49	Gan: Transit Ends	
Tue	17	Jul	22:56	Gan: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Wed	18	Jul	0:40	Gan: Shadow Transit Ends	
Wed	18	Jul	23:19	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	19	Jul	19:10	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	19	Jul	20:56	Eur: Transit Begins               T	
Thu	19	Jul	23:13	Eur: Transit Ends	
Thu	19	Jul	23:27	Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S	
Fri	20	Jul	1:16	Io : Transit Begins               ST	
Fri	20	Jul	1:43	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends          T	
Fri	20	Jul	22:26	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Sat	21	Jul	0:58	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	21	Jul	1:51	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Sat	21	Jul	18:09	Eur: Reappears from Occultation	
Sat	21	Jul	18:20	Eur: Disappears into Eclipse	
Sat	21	Jul	19:44	Io : Transit Begins               T	
Sat	21	Jul	20:35	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse       T	
Sat	21	Jul	20:49	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	21	Jul	20:58	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Sat	21	Jul	21:54	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Sat	21	Jul	23:08	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Sun	22	Jul	20:20	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Mon	23	Jul	17:36	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Mon	23	Jul	22:28	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	24	Jul	18:19	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	24	Jul	21:45	Gan: Transit Begins               T	
Tue	24	Jul	23:40	Gan: Transit Ends	
Thu	26	Jul	0:07	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	26	Jul	19:58	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Thu	26	Jul	23:29	Eur: Transit Begins               T	
Sat	28	Jul	0:19	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Sat	28	Jul	18:23	Eur: Disappears into Occultation	
Sat	28	Jul	18:50	Gan: Reappears from Eclipse	
Sat	28	Jul	20:41	Eur: Reappears from Occultation	
Sat	28	Jul	20:55	Eur: Disappears into Eclipse	
Sat	28	Jul	21:37	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Sat	28	Jul	21:37	Io : Transit Begins               T	
Sat	28	Jul	22:53	Io : Shadow Transit Begins        ST	
Sat	28	Jul	23:10	Eur: Reappears from Eclipse       ST	
Sat	28	Jul	23:47	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Sun	29	Jul	1:02	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Sun	29	Jul	18:48	Io : Disappears into Occultation	
Sun	29	Jul	22:15	Io : Reappears from Eclipse	
Mon	30	Jul	17:40	Eur: Shadow Transit Ends          ST	
Mon	30	Jul	18:15	Io : Transit Ends                 S	
Mon	30	Jul	19:31	Io : Shadow Transit Ends	
Tue	31	Jul	0:16	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	
Tue	31	Jul	20:07	GRS: Crosses Central Meridian	

Saturn was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest as seen from Earth lats month. Nonetheless it is a very worthwhile telescopic target in the evening. On July 1 Saturn is over 3 hand-spans above the eastern horizon 90 minutes after sunset, and is highest above the northern horizon at around midnight local time. During the the month Saturn and the globular cluster M22 are visible together in binoculars, sweeping up with binoculars reveals Saturn and the Trifid nebula is the same binocular field. On the 15th Saturn is a 5 hand-spans above the eastern horizon 90 minutes after sunset, and is highest above the northern horizon at around 11 pm local time (similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time). On July 27 Saturn is at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest as seen from Earth. On July 25 the waxing Moon is close to Saturn. On the 30th Saturn is over 8 hand-spans above the eastern horizon 90 minutes after sunset, and is highest above the northern horizon at around 10 pm 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.

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.

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Meteor showers:

Date        	Meteor Shower       ZHR  Illumination 
30/07/2018  delta-Aquarids      25    0.95      
28/07/2018  Piscis Australids    5    0.95      
30/07/2018  Capricornids         5    0.95         

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

The 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 near the Full Moon this year, so there will be significant 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.

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. The asteroid 4 Vesta, which was visited by the Dawn spacecraft, is visible in binoculars and may be visible to the unaided eye around mid month.

evening sky, 00.00 pm

Eastern Sky at 21:00 on July 20, the asteroid Vesta is visible in binoculars not far from Saturn and the "lid" of the "teapot" of sagittarius.

Black and white PDF binocular chart suitable for printing. The large circle represents the field of view of 10x50 binoculars. Use the horizon chart above for orientation first.

The asteroid 4 Vesta is relatively easily visible in binoculars, although fading from its brightest on June 20th. Currently magnitude 5.6 it fade below magnitude 6.0 by mid month (the limit for the unaided eye under dark sky condition is magnitude 6.0). There is significant interference from Moonlight at the beginning of the month but the asteroid soon finds itself in dark skies.

Vesta is relatively easy to find. It two a binocular fields north of the brightish star that forms the "lid" of the teapot of Sagittarius, Mu Sag and the Trifid nebula. You may need to watch night to night as the asteroid moves to be sure of its identity. 4 Vesta is is currently the brightest object in its part of the sky.

A list of current comet ephemerides is at the MPC.

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Occultations:

No interesting naked-eye occultations this month.


 


Eclipse:


Total Lunar Eclipse July 28, 2018:

Lunar Eclipse, 5:00 am

Morning sky on July 28 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 04:30 ACST, about half way to totality. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen). The darkening of the Moon will be readily visible.

On the morning of July 28, there is a total eclipse of the Moon, the second this year. This is a nice deep eclipse and long eclipse, and though you have to get up early in the morning to see it, it is well worth it. It is weekend, so rouse the kids out of bed (well rugged up) to watch. This also occurs a day after apogee, so make a nice contrast to the earlier total lunar eclipse which occurred near perigee.

All of Australia will see this Total eclipse, although the west coast gets to see it all.

For the East Coast Moon the eclipse begins at 4:24 am AEST , maximum eclipse is at 5:30 am AEST, the eclipse ends at after Moonset.

For the Central states the eclipse begins at 3:54 am ACST , maximum eclipse is at 5:00 am ACST , the total eclipse ends at 6:44 am ACST.

For Western Australia the eclipse begins at 2:24 am AWST, maximum eclipse is at 4:22 am AWST , the total eclipse ends at 5:14 am AWST.

See here for a map and contact timings in UT for sites outside Australia

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 too close to the horizon for easy observation.

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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.

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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 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.

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[December Skies] [January Skies] [February Skies] [March Skies] [April Skies] [May Skies] [ 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 2018 almanac and SkyMap Pro 11.0 . I highly recommend the Australian Astronomy 2018 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 2018 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 2018 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, 3 July 2018, 11:30:13 PM


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