Southern Sky Watch

March Skies

The planetary action is in the morning sky with five bright planets, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Saturn (and then Jupiter) in the morning sky. .

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

March 1; the thin crescent Moon, Mercury, and Saturn form a triangle in the eastern sky below the pair of Mars and Venus in the morning twilight. March 3; New Moon. March 3; Saturn and Mercury very close. March 10; First Quarter Moon. March 11; apogee Moon. March 16; Mars and Venus at their closest. March 18; Full Moon. March 21; Earth at Equinox. March 25; Last Quarter Moon. March 24; perigee Moon. March 28; Planetary massing of the thin crescent moon, Mars, and Venus form a line, with Saturn to the side of Venus in the morning twilight. March 29; Planetary massing, Saturn and Venus are at their closest and the thin crescent moon, Mars, Venus and Saturn form a triangle.


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

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


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


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

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

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Aurora Alert UPDATED 28/11/22: The new solar cycle (25) has started, and we may expect to see more auroral displays. As the Sun is now climbing out of solar minimum, but is still rather quiet we have had some impressive flares and coronal holes and may see more aurora in the near future. During solar minimum, we were still getting occasional good auroral displays. August 26th 2018 saw an impressive display visible from NZ and Tasmania despite the full Moon. The last week of March 2017 saw some impressive aurora displays from Tasmania, Victoria, SA and WA. October 2016 saw a series of good but transient aurora in Tasmania and southern Victoria. July 2015 saw a massive storm seen as far north as mid NSW, again clouded out for large parts of Australia. 17-19/3/2015, the St. Patrick's Day aurora, massive storm seen as far north as Southern Queensland. Unfortunately clouded out for large parts of Australia. 26/2/2015, yet another good set of aurora were seen from Tasmania. 9/2/2015 There was a series of very good auroral events during February, some were seen in NSW, Victoria, SA and WA as well as Tasmania. Last year saw some nice events and a coronal mass ejection from an M class flare hit us square on on March 17 2013. Aurora were detected as far north as the QLD border, with some really nice events in Tasmania, and here are some images from that event.

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

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

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

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

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

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Coming events

Special events are bolded

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

Out in Space

Mars Curiosity Rover finds an intriguing carbon signature on Mars.

Mars Express sees the Martian wind at work.

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

The newest rover, Perseverance makes some surprising discoveries.

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

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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 17th
D Last quarter on the 24th

March 1; the thin crescent Moon, Mercury, and Saturn form a triangle in the eastern sky below the pair of Mars and Venus in the morning twilight. March 3; New Moon. March 10; First Quarter Moon. March 11; apogee Moon. March 18; Full Moon. March 21; Earth at Equinox. March 25; Last Quarter Moon. March 24; perigee Moon. March 28; Planetary massing of the thin crescent moon, Mars, and Venus form a line, with Saturn to the side of Venus in the morning twilight. March 29; Planetary massing, Saturn and Venus are at their closest and the thin crescent moon, Mars, Venus and Saturn form a triangle.

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 on Tuesday March 1 as seen from Adelaide at 6:06 am

Morning sky on Tuesday March 1 as seen from Adelaide at 6:06 am ACDST (60 minutes before sunrise). The thin crescent Moon forms a triangle with Mercury and Saturn, with Venus and Mars above.Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise, click to embiggen).

Morning sky on Thursday March 3 as seen from Adelaide at 6:08 am

Morning sky on Thursday March 3 as seen from Adelaide at 6:08 am ACDST (60 minutes before sunrise). Mercury and Saturn are at their closest, the inset shpows the binocular view of Mercury and Saturn. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise), click to embiggen.

Morning sky on Tuesday March 29 showing the eastern morning sky as seen from Adelaide at 6:02 am

Morning sky on Tuesday March 29 showing the eastern morning sky as seen from Adelaide at 6:02 am ACDST (90 minutes before sunrise). Saturn and Venus are at their closest and the thin crescent moon, Mars, Venus and Saturn form a triangle. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes before sunrise), click to embiggen.

Mercury is in the morning sky, and is readily visible in the eastern morning twilight in the first half of the month then, about an hour before sunrise. Then it rapidly sinks towards the horizon. Mercury starts the month below the pair of Venus and Mars, just above Saturn. On the 1st, the thin crescent Moon, Mercury, and Saturn form a triangle in the eastern sky an hour before sunrise below the pair of Mars and Venus. On the 3rd Saturn and Mercury are very close (0.7 degrees apart) and can be seen together in medium power telescope eye pieces.

Mercury sinks lower as the month progresses, and on the 21st and 22nd Mercury and Jupiter are close low in the twilight, within a binocular field of each other.

On the 1st Mercury is just under two hand-spans from from the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. On the 15th Mercury is just over a hand-span from the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. By the 30th Mercury is lost in the twilight.

Venus starts the month high in the eastern morning twilight and is readily visible an hour before sunrise below Mars. Venus and Mars form a pair which slowly come closer over the Month, the pair are closest on the 16th at about 4 degrees, then they draw apart again.

Saturn comes closer to Venus during the month. On the 28th the thin crescent moon, Mars, and Venus form a line, with Saturn to the side of Venus. On the 29th, Saturn and Venus are at their closest and the thin crescent moon, Mars, Venus and Saturn form a triangle. Venus is a crescent/First quarter shape in telescopes at the beginning of the month and will wax as the month progresses to a half moon shape by the end of the month.

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

Earth is at equinox on Monday, 21 March. At this time day and night are roughly equal in duration.

Mars is high the morning sky in March, Mars makes an attractive triangle with Venus and Mercury at the beginning of the month, and is readily visible an hour before sunrise, above bright Venus. Venus and Mars form a pair which slowly come closer over the month, the pair are closest on the 16th at about 4 degrees, then they draw apart again. Mars slowly brightens but is outshone by brilliant Venus. Later in the month Mars, Venus and Saturn form a triangle. On the 28th and then the 29th the sight of the pair of Venus and Mars, the thin crescent Moon, and Saturn in the eastern sky an hour before sunrise will be impressive.

On the 1st Mars is five hand-spans from the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise, above bright Venus. By the 15th Mars is just under five hand-spans from the eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise. On the 30th Mars is just over five hand-spans from the eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise, forming a triangle with Venus and Saturn.

Jupiter returns to the morning sky from mid month but is really only visible in the twilight glow in the last part of the month. On the 21st and 22nd Mercury and Jupiter are close low in the twilight, within a binocular field of each other, and you may need binoculars to see them clearly. on the 31st the thin crescent Moon is close to Jupiter low in the twilight.

On the 15th Jupiter is just over a finger-width from the eastern horizon half an hour before sunrise. By the 30th it a hand-span from the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise.

In either binoculars or a telescope Jupiter's Moons are always interesting, but there are few opportunities for seeing them this month.



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

Jupiter Events from 01 March 2022 to 31 March 2022

Date   Time (LMT)  Sat Event 
19-03, 05:46:00 AM, I, Shadow transit end
26-03, 05:20:00 AM, n/a, Great Red Spot transit
26-03, 05:25:00 AM, I, Shadow transit start
26-03, 05:35:00 AM, II, Eclipse disappearance
27-03, 05:18:00 AM, I, Occultation reappearance



Saturn climbs higher in the morning sky in March, first climbing towards Mercury tehn Venus. On the 3rd Saturn and Mercury are very close (0.7 degrees apart) and can be seen together in medium power telescope eye pieces. Saturn comes closer to Venus during the month. On the 28th the thin crescent moon, Mars, and Venus form a line, with Saturn to the side of Venus. On the 29th, Saturn and Venus are at their closest and the thin crescent moon, Mars, Venus and Saturn form a triangle.

s just a hand-span above the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. On the 1st Saturn is just a hand-span above the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. At this time it just under a handspan from Mercury. On the 15th Saturn is just over two hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise. On the 30th Saturn is just under 5 hand-spans above the eastern horizon an hour and a half before sunrise.

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Iridium Flares, the International Space Station and other satellites

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

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


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

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

Date        	Meteor Shower       ZHR  Illumination 

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.

There are no significant showers this month.

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

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

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

Learn how to take a meteor shower photograph.

A Cool Fact about meteor speeds

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

 

 

 

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Comets:

There are no unaided eye comets visible at the moment.

A list of current comet ephemerides is at the MPC.

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Occultations:

No interesting naked-eye occultations this month.

 


Eclipse:

No significant eclipses this month.

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

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

Latitude: Longitude: City Time Zone:

 


Variable Stars:

While most stars seem to shine with a constant brightness, there are some that undergo regular, dramatic change in brightness. The classic variables are Mira and Algol. Algol is currently not visible. Mira no longer visible to the unaided eye.

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Stars:

evening sky, 10:00 pm

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

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

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

Facing west, Cetus, the whale, lies on the horizon.

The mid sky is dominated by the rambling constellation Eridanus, the river, and bright Achernar, alpha Eridanus. Achernar is the 9th brightest star in the sky, and is a blue supergiant. Epsilon Eridani is notable for being the 10th closest star to our solar system. A sun-like star, Epsilon Eridani has recently been discovered to have a dust disk which may indicate the presence of planets.

Directly on the eastern horizon is the constellation of Virgo, this will become clearer during the month.

Directly above Virgo is the long rambling constellation Hydra, and crater the cup with its distinct, but upside down, cup shape.

Five hand-spans to left of Virgo, and up by five hand-spans is Leo, with the sickle of Leo being quite clear. Cancer, which contains the attractive "Beehive" cluster, is 3 hand-spans above and 5 hand-spans to the left of the sickle of Leo.

The rectangle of Gemini is 6 hand-spans to the left of Regulus and two hand-spans up. The bright stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux form an attractive pair less than a hand-span apart.

The constellations of Taurus, the bull, Orion the hunter and Canis Major, Orion's hunting dog, are now in the mid-north western sky.

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

Slightly to the right of Sirius and below by about four hand-spans is the distinctive saucepan shape of Orion's belt. The handle of the saucepan is Orion's sword, which contains some good naked eye open clusters, and the final star in the handle hosts the famous Orion nebula, which is visible to the naked eye under clear skies. Directly above the handle of the saucepan is bright Rigel (beta Orionis). Directly below the saucepan is the bright reddish Betelgeuse (alpha Orinonis), a red giant star.

To the right of Orion's belt and below by about 4 hand-spans is Aldebaran (alpha Tauri), another red giant which forms the base of the V shaped group of stars called the Hyades, which forms the head of Taurus. Further to the left again is a faint, but pretty, compact cluster of stars called the Pleiades (the seven sisters). The Pleiades are particularly beautiful through binoculars.

Facing directly north, Auriga, the Charioteer is disappearing below the horizon. Four hand-spans up is Gemini, with bright Castor and Pollux just to the right.

Facing due South, five hand-spans to the left and five hand-spans up are Alpha and beta Centauri the so called "pointers", with Alpha being the yellow star which is closest to the horizon, and Beta the blue white star a hand-span above and somewhat to the left. To the left again, and following a line through the "pointers" brings you to the Southern Cross, seven hand-spans above the horizon at about the 9 o'clock position on a clock. A high definition map of Centaurus and Crux is here.

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

Returning to Alpha Centauri, a hand-span from this star to the left and slightly up is a small star, another hand span on is a fuzzy star, this is omega Centauri (5139 on the map), a globular cluster of stars which is quite spectacular in good binoculars, and more spectacular than 47 Tucana (see below). Another hand-span to the left and about two fingers down is Centaurus A, a very radio bright galaxy (5128 on the map). You need a dark night and binoculars (at least 10 x 30) to see it, but it is one of the few galaxies you can see in the southern hemisphere (outside of the small and large Magellanic clouds) without a telescope.

Eight hand-spans straight up, and eight hand-spans to the right of due south (or two hand-spans down and three left of Achernar), 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 twelve hand-spans from due south and five hand-spans to the right is the Large Magellanic cloud, the largest of the dwarf satellite galaxies. Binoculars will reveal a rather attractive nebula near it, the Tarantula nebula.

Above the south-eastern horizon the constellations Vela, Puppis and Carina are now high enough to appreciate their spectacular collections of nebula and clusters. Puppis is nearly at the zenith. A high definition map of this region is here. Looking almost anywhere in the area stretching between Canis major and the Southern Cross will reveal an interesting cluster or star formation. However, the area two hand-spans up from the Southern Cross and two hand-spans to the left is particularly rich. Here you will find the "Southern 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 up from the Southern Cross and one hand-spans to the left 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), the second brightest star in the sky, is 11 hand-spans from the southern horizon above the main band of stars.

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

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

PNG Maps

A view of the Eastern March sky at 10.00pm AEST on 1 March can be downloaded here (marsky_e.png 30 Kb) and a view of the western March sky can be downloaded here (marsky_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] [ February Skies]
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Cheers! And good star gazing!


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Ian's Astrophotography Gallery

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

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Links

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

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

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

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

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

I use a combination of a 1962 star chart, the Australian Astronomy 2022 almanac and SkyMap Pro 11.0 . I highly recommend the Australian Astronomy 2022 almanac. It is more helpful for planetary/comet/asteroidal observations and eclipses than for double stars, clusters galaxies etc, but is an excellent resource for Australian observers and anyone who would like to seriously follow the planets in Australia should have this almanac. It has easy to follow month-by-month summary information, as well as detailed charts, tables and whole sky maps. It is easily navigated. The Almanac is often in big bookstores or optical shops, or email info@quasarastronomy.com.au to purchase a copy directly for those outside major population centres. The Australian Astronomy almanac comes out in around November for the following year, and is now approx $30.

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

For detailed chart drawing and timing of events, as well as satellite track predictions I feed the information from the almanac into the SkyMap Pro 11.0, planetarium program. This is a very handy program which prints maps of every possible orientation and scale. The maps on this page are produced by SkyMap. An update to SkyMap 12.0 which handles Windows 10 is now available, If anyone does still wish to buy a copy of SkyMap Pro 12, please email Chris Marriott at "skymap62@gmail.com".

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

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

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

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

This is not meant to be a product endorsement of any kind (outside of the Australian Astronomy 2022 almanac. For any budding astronomers out there, it is fantastic value and no, I don't have any commercial interest in it, but I did win bronze in their website Olympics).

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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 2022 Ian Musgrave, except the "Southern Sky Watch" logo, as well as any other ABC logo used on this page, is © copyright of the ABC. Sky maps are generated with SkyMap Pro 11.0 .

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

* Email: reynella@internode.on.net e-mail Ian with any suggestions
Created: Wednesday, 1 April 1998, 11:22:13 PM
Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 March, 2022, 11:30:13 PM


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