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NightSky Secrets Blog

  • April-May Skies - Jupiter, Saturn, Meteors & More

    April Skies - Jupiter - Meteors - Neptune Disappearing Act !

    April should see the skies in FNQ begin to clear somewhat and just in time for the Opposition of Jupiter on Saturday the 8th. This means Jupiter will be rising in the E/SE as the sun sets on the opposite Horizon. What this means for you is that its possible to watch Jupiter ALL night long :-)

    A rare triple Transit A rare triple Transit

    What you will get to see is a complete rotation of Jupiter on its Axis throughout the night, In fact on the 8th the Great Red Spot will be most prominent at 3am that morning and again just before midnight. Jupiter will also be at its biggest and brightest at this time. Even a small telescope will show you Jupiters Cloud Bands & moons. Night Sky secrets will certainly do a viewing night around this time to show Jupiter at its best !

    The Lyrids Meteor shower is one worth watching out for this month from the 16th to the 25th with its peak on the 22nd when up to 18 meteors per hour originating in the vicinity of the Bright Star Vega will grace the morning sky low in the Pre Dawn hours in the NE. There is an Aboriginal significance to this meteor shower for the Boorong People:

    For the Boorong, the bright star Vega was prominently known as Neilloan, the Mallee fowl. Neilloan is seen in autumn coinciding with the time the Mallee fowl start to build their elaborate nests.The meteor shower is described as Neilloan kicking up the shooting stars in the same way that the earth-bound Mallee fowl are digging out their nesting mounds and kicking up sand and dirt. (1)

    The other significant event in in the night sky across eastern and central Australia is the occultation of Neptune by the moon. There is a great difference in brightness between the moon and Neptune, so the published time to look is at 4:58am on the 23rd of April in the eastern states when Neptune remerges from the dark limb of the moon. The exact time of reappearance will vary a little depending on your Latitude so allow a bit of extra time. For Cairns FNQ it is 4:35am.

    May Skies - More Meteors - Saturn & The Moon

    One of the best meteor showers of the Year happens this month with the Eta Aquarids reaching their peak in the Predawn hours high in the NE Sky on Friday the 5th of May. The shower has an active period from the 19th of April to the 28th of May. This is a shower doubly as active (40/hr) as the Lyrids and with a connection to that most famous of comets “Haley’s Comet” The Eta Aquarids, like their sister shower the Orionids in October (also from Comet Haley), are one of the better annual showers to observe.

    Finally we have Saturn just 3 degrees south of the moon on Saturday the 13th of May just 2 days past the full moon in the early evening. The moon is at Apogee on this day (furtherest from earth)

    For the meteor showers you just need your eyes and a dark location, for the other events you will need a telescope.

    1. Dr Tanya Hill in “The Conversation”  22nd April 2014
  • New Year Skies - Jupiter returns !

    Carina, The Cross & Gemini

    February sees the return of the "Other Cross" to our skies. Carina is best known as the false cross and precedes the arrival of the actual cross or "Crux" as it is correctly known in our southern sky. The false cross does have the distinguishing feature of a fine bright naked eye star cluster at its base, C86 . The fact that this beautiful cluster has just a designation, shows just how northern hemisphere centric the naming of the sky was ! Aboriginal Australians though had names for the Stars and clusters. Especially the desert people who navigated by the stars when they traveled at night. As we move into the eastern Sky Gemini is rising with the legendary twins, Castor and Pollux are in fact two bright and nearby stars at 51 & 33 light years away respectively. Through a good pair of binoculars you will see a number of open star clusters at the feet of the twins. Orion, Canis major & Taurus that we discussed last addition are now high overhead in the early evening and make a fine sight.

    As we move into March Crux is now rising higher in the the southern in the early evening and is a clearly seen constellation we should all know (it's on the flag after all!) Crux has many delights even with a small telescope. Next to Beta Crux (2nd from the base clockwise) is the delightful jewel box cluster right next door & each of the stars of Crux are doubles (binary) stars or more ! The cross has great significance to Torres Strait people forming the left hand of the constellation  of Tagai the fisherman & when his hand dips into the sea as it does at this time of the year, it heralds the onset of the wet season.

    For planetary conjunctions you can't go past the conjunction of Mars, Venus & the Moon on the 1st of February in the western sky after sunset. Then on the 15th of February we have Jupiter in the eastern sky along with the moon and the bright star Spica in Virgo at 10pm (EST)  I hope our wonderful Wet Season skies still provide you with some great viewing opportunities if your in northern Australia like me, or some great summertime viewing in the southern parts of our great green land !

    You can keep up with all the happenings in the Night Sky with an Astronomy Calendar, or Astronomy 2017 yearbook & I have just a few of each left !

  • Christmas Holiday's Dec-Jan Skies

    As we start December the planets have had their turn and now is the time, not only for the bright constellations of the eastern skies, but for the Galaxies of the deep sky to feature, especially the 3 you can see with the naked eye, the Large and small Magellanic clouds (galaxies) in the south and Andromeda in the north. And beyond that into deep space for showpiece Galaxies like NGC1365 an iconic Bared Spiral that I was delighted to show to guests on our last Astronomy tour.

    We now get to see some of our favourite and most familiar constellations return to the evening sky. One of the sparkling jewels of this group first seen in the east is the delightful Pleiades star cluster. Best seen in a large pair of binoculars or at low Magnification through a good quality refracting Telescope, this young (circa 100 million y.o) star cluster features in the mythology of many cultures from antiquity to the present day. Usually depicted as Seven beautiful sisters running across the sky to escape the unwanted and infatuated attention of a man ! Orion is usually the culprit, but we will talk more about him soon. Commonly called the seven sisters, it takes a keen Eye and a dark sky to see more than 6 of the 1000+ stars in this cluster that is nearby at just 400 or so light years away.pleiades-hubble

    Following the Seven sisters into the sky is the heart of the constellation where they reside, Taurus. The head of the Bull, known as the bright and obvious Triangle of the "Hyades" features the massive red giant star Aldebaran or the Eye of the bull. When we look at this star we see a Red Giant that is 40 times bigger than our sun & closer than the seven sisters at just 60 light years away.

    Close behind the the bull (and hunting him) is our afore mentioned & infatuated hunter/god, Orion. Next to the southern cross Orion is the best know constellation thanks to the "Asterism" of the Saucepan! The handle of that saucepan is Orion's Sword & the middle star of that Sword is the stunning Orion Nebula, one of the biggest in apparent size and brightness. So much so that even binoculars will reveal otherwise hidden details. 

    As mentioned earlier The planets have had their turn as they are mostly absent from our evening sky, except for the bright and obvious Venus in the west & the ever shrinking mars, high above Sagittarius. If you are an early riser however, Jupiter is now bright and clear in the more stable air of the morning sky.

    The Geminids Meteor shower is usually the highlight in December on the 13-14 with over 120 meteors per hour, however this year it will be interfered with by the bright full moon.

    We are coming into the build up and I think we all hope a good wet season (our forests & wildlife sure need it). So At NightSkySecrets we wrap up our tours for the year to return again in April when we hope the skies are clear and the land is green.

    To Keep up with all the latest in the Night Sky in 2017, Astronomy 2017 is now available from NightSkySecrets.

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  • The Sky in Oct/Nov

    The Sky in Oct/Nov

    In the gathering build up October and November give us our last 2 months of somewhat reliable observing conditions, so make the most of it !

    The Visible Planets

    Mercury in its fleet footed fashion has now disappeared from our view and is in conjunction with the sun in October. Come November it will make its return to the evening sky. In November on the 22nd it comes within 4 degree’s of the much brighter Saturn.

    Venus is always a special sight in the night or morning sky alike. In October Venus begins the month high in the western sky, setting 2 hours after the Sun, in its journey through Scorpius where by the end of the end of the month is will be just to the south of our favourite king of the planets Saturn. In November Venus will have a lovely close encounter with the 3 day old moon on the 2nd off the Month.

    Mars is fading from its peak but is still high in the western sky in October in the constellation

    Sagittarius and again this month has a couple of close encounters with Globular clusters including M28 on the 6th. It then spends the rest of the month crossing the rich star fields of this star rich constellation. In November Mars crosses over into Capricornus the “Sea Goat” just after it has a close encounter with yet another globular cluster, this time M75.

    Jupiter is lost to the sun for most of October before making an appearance in the morning sky late in the month just before sunrise. In November Jupiter will become a worthwhile observing

    target again in the early morning sky.

    Saturn in Scorpius is now offering the last opportunity for a good view of its glorious rings in October as it gets closer to the sun in November.

     

    Meteor Showers: October see’s the return of the reliable Orionid’s Meteor shower. They are reliable, as the source of these Meteors is the best known of all comets the massive “Haley”. The peak occurs on mornings of the 21st and 22nd of October where you may see 10 to 20 meteors per hour. The meteors are fast moving and bright and the hour or 2 before first light is the best time to catch this meteor shower. The Taurid Meteor shower is also worth a mention as although not high in number (7 per hour at peak) they are often bright are slow and the peak extends over many days from the 30th of October to the 7th of November with the 4th to the 7th seeing both the Southern and Northern Taurids having a combined peak.

    Other Activities: Keep an eye on the Facebook page of “FNQ astronomers” set up by NightSkySecrets as a community observing group and to notify residents of FNQ of the big events in our night & daytime sky. There are many other deep sky delights to be seen if you have binocular s or a telescope and if your keen, come and see us at The Pier at the NightSkySecrets store, where we can fill you in on the hidden secrets of the Night Sky.

    Astronomy is - looking Up !

    Observing Equipment Advice

    Naked Eye Viewing: This is the best way to see Meteor Showers, the board sweep of the Milky Way & track satellites across the night sky. Choose as dark site and a comfortable reclining position. This is FREE and just takes a bit of effort :-)

    Big Star clusters: we are talking about groupings of stars that are beyond a fuzzy blob, these are things like the clouds of Magellan, the Pleiades & a few selected nebulous regions. These are best seen with a pair of 7x to 10x Magnification binoculars with a 50mm lens. Prices start from around $100.

    Fuzzy Blobs: You can’t make out what they are but you think they might be interesting ? These are best seen with a wide field telescope, starting price is around $250. These scopes gives you a nice contrast against the blackness of space.

    The Invisible: Galaxies, faint nebula & planetary details, this is where scopes 6” in aperture and  above come into play, these start at around $400 and how big you go is only limited by portability and budget (The biggest have 48” or 1.2m mirrors !)

  • The Sky in Aug/Sept

    The Planets

    Mercury In August is now visible in the evening sky all month reaching its greatest eastern elongation at 27 deg to the east of the sun on the 13th, and on the 21st is in close conjunction with Jupiter. By mid September it has again returned to conjunction with the sun and is no longer visible. It is worth taking a look at Mercury in August through a Telescope as it displays “phases” in the same fashion as the moon and Venus.

    Venus makes a spectacular return to our western Sky in August and on the 4th makes a close apparition with the 1 day old moon and the bright star Regulus in Leo. Again on the 27th and 28th it is  very close to Jupiter at just 1/2 a degree (one full moon width) apart. The conjunctions continue into early September with a close encounter with the slender 2 day old cresent moon on the 3rd & on the 16th is just a few degree’s from the bright star Spica in Virgo.

    Mars leaves Libra in early August and passes through the claws of the scorpion before entering into Ophiuchus for the first 3 weeks & then Sagittarius in the later part of the month. It has a couple of very pleasing apparitions visible through a telescope on the 6th & 7th with the Globular Cluster M19 & the impressive double star 36 Ophiuchi on the 11th and 12th.

    Jupiter makes its last big bold statement with the aforementioned conjunction with Venus, appearing like a bright set of “eyes” in the western sky on the 27th and 28th of August. In September it is lost to conjunction with the sun on the 26th.

    Saturn is well placed for early evening viewing in August, transiting the meridian (highest point) at around 7pm mid month where forms a wide triangle with Mars and the bright star Antares. Saturn moves into the north western sky in September.

    Uranus is now rising in the eastern sky in the late evening in Pieces in August & is just visible to the keen eyed observer with the Naked Eye under clear moonless skies at Magnitude 5.7. So if you have ever wanted to see Uranus with the naked eye * Please no uranus jokes :-) * now is the time, with the aid of a finder chart. (In astronomy circles we pronounce the name UR-UN-US, just to avoid any confusion !)

    Neptune is at Opposition in Aquarius on the 3rd of September & is still too feint to be seen with the naked eye by more than one full magnitude at mag: 7.8, if you have a telescope though, you should look for it at least once !

     

    Meteor Showers: August sees the very reliable, and one of my Favourite meteor showers the Perseids, grace the early morning skies. This reliable shower has records of it dating back 1000’s of years and usually produces about 60 meteors per hour for those of us in far northern Australia.

    The peak day is the 13th of August and with the moon setting around 2:30 am the shower is well placed for great views. It always pays to look one night before and after the peak as the actual peak time can vary by a day either way. Find a comfortable position facing NE, relax, recline and look up from 3:30am (this is one for the early risers)

    Other Activities: Keep an eye on the Facebook page of “FNQ astronomers” set up by NightSkySecrets as a community observing group and to notify residents of FNQ of the big events in our night & daytime sky. There are many other deep sky delights to be seen if you have binocular or a telescope and if your keen, come and see us at The Pier at the NightSkySecrets store, where we can fill you in on the hidden secrets of the Night Sky.

    Astronomy is - looking Up !

    Observing Equipment Advice

    Naked Eye Viewing: This is the best way to see Meteor Showers, the board sweep of the Milky Way & track satellites across the night sky. Choose as dark site and a comfortable reclining position. This is FREE and just takes a bit of effort :-)

    Big Star clusters: we are talking about groupings of stars that are beyond a fuzzy blob, these are things like the clouds of Magellan, the Pleiades & a few selected nebulous regions. These are best seen with a pair of 7x to 10x Magnification binoculars with a 50mm lens. Prices start from around $100.

    Fuzzy Blobs: You can’t make out what they are but you think they might be interesting ? These are best seen with a wide field telescope, starting price is around $250. These scopes gives you a nice contrast against the blackness of space.

    The Invisible: Galaxies, faint nebula & planetary details, this is where Telescopes 6” in aperture and  above come into play, these start at around $400 and how big you go is only limited by portability and budget (The biggest have 48” or 1.2m mirrors !)

  • The Sky in June/July

    The Planets

    Mercury returns to our morning skies rising 2 hours ahead of the sun in June. It presents a large (for Mercury) bright crescent to observe at this time making it one of the best times of the year to check it out ! However fleet footed Mercury has Shrunk to almost 1/2 the size of it’s June appearance when it reappears in the Evening sky in Mid July along with Venus as you shall soon see.

    Venus is entirely lost from our view in June & is in fact in conjunction with the sun. However in July it returns mid month & has a close conjunction at just 0.5 Deg Apart on the 17th of July with the aforementioned Mercury. However at only 2deg above the western Horizon , you will need a sharp eye and a clear western Horizon.

    Mars is still the star of the show this month having just been at its closest point in Late May. It’s still at magnitude -2. Features like the massive Hellas Basin at 2300km across & Syrtis Major should be easily visible even with a small telescope. Mars is also within 0.5 Deg (less than a finger width) of Globular cluster NGC 5897 from the 25th for 10 days. Make sure you check out Mars as it will be another 2 years until you get another chance to see Mars this well. As we move into July, this is your last chance to see Mars as a reasonable sized disk. This month however is a great time to see the South Polar Cap of Mars at its best.

    Jupiter, shrinks somewhat from opposition, but is still just a touch brighter than Mars mid month at Magnitude -2.2 .With its short rotational period of just 9.9 hours and the constant dance of its moons you could watch it all night and see the entire planet & if you are lucky you may even get to see a jovian moon transit !  July is the last chance to see Jupiter for the next couple of months at a good altitude before it moves into conjunction with the sun in September.

    Saturn has its turn to come to opposition in June on the 2nd and at an even Magnitude 0.0 still quite bright and only outshone by the 4 brightest stars in the night sky, 2 of which are easily visible. Alpha Centuri (our closest star) in the southern Sky and Arcturus in the Northern sky. Saturn continues to be a great sight in July as it is only just past opposition and is high in the evening sky in the Constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer, close to the Scorpius border.

    Uranus Is visible in the morning skies, rising in Pisces around 2am, where it remains throughout July.

    Neptune in Aquarius is visible from 11pm and begins its retrograde motion from the 14th. Slow moving Neptune will remain in Aquarius in July.

    Comets: Comet C/2013 X1 will make an appearance in Aquarius as the month of June begins before moving into Pisces Austrinus in the 1st week. I mention this one as it is predicted to be 9th Magnitude, putting it in Reach of even a small aperture scope. By July it has migrated into the constellations Norma then Lupus before entering the constellation of Centaurus where it spends the rest of the month. Who knows, it might even brighten unexpectedly !

    Meteor Showers 

    While there are no major meteor showers in June there is however the Alpha Capricornids in July peaking around the 30th. While not great in number (only 5 / Hour) they are renowned for spectacular long slow meteors with a higher than average number of fireballs. The Southern delta Aquarids peaking on the 28th to the 30th at 15 (mostly Feint) meteors/hr make the 30th a great date to be looking out for meteors !

    Observing Equipment Advice

    Naked Eye Viewing: This is the best way to see Meteor Showers, the board sweep of the Milky Way & track satellites across the night sky. Choose as dark site and a comfortable reclining position. This is FREE and just takes a bit of effort :-)

    Big Star clusters: we are talking about groupings of stars that are beyond a fuzzy blob, these are things like the clouds of Magellan, the Pleiades & a few selected nebulous regions. These are best seen with a pair of 7x to 10x Magnification binoculars with a 50mm lens. Prices start from around $100.

    Fuzzy Blobs: You can’t make out what they are but you think they might be interesting ? These are best seen with a wide field telescope, starting price is around $250. These scopes gives you a nice contrast against the blackness of space.

    The Invisible: Galaxies, faint nebula & planetary details, this is where scopes 6” in aperture and  above come into play, these start at around $400 and how big you go is only limited by portability and budget (The biggest have 48” or 1.2m mirrors !)

    You can find all these scopes and more at NightSkySecrets telescope page.

  • May Skies - Mars Rules & Meteors Abound !

    The Planets

    Venus & Mercury Are both lost to the glare of the morning and evening Sun respectively.

    Mars: This is the “Month of Mars” with Mars coming to opposition on the 22nd and reaching its closest point to the earth at “just” 75 Million Km away on the 30th. If you ever wanted to see Mars and perhaps get a telescope, this will be the best time in the next 2 years. With all the focus on Mars over the past 2 years with the confirmation of transient liquid features on the surface, it is a great time to be looking at Mars.

    Jupiter, always good when it is visible, does not disappoint this month either and has a close conjunction with the moon on the evening of the 15th.

    Saturn is just a month away from opposition and at this time there is a noticeable increase in the brightness of the ring system with the sun almost directly behind the earth from a Saturnian perspective. It’s biggest moon Titan can even be seen with binoculars.

    Uranus returns to the predawn sky in Pisces, but like Neptune is only visible with a telescope.

    Neptune rises around 1am & can be found just 0.5 deg from the 4th magnitude star Lambda Aqurii  in Aquarius & thanks to it’s retrograde motion remains in that position for the next 3 months. If that does not make it easy to find, I don't know what will !

    The Saturnian Moons

    Saturn’s visible moons Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, Titan & Iapetus form some

    interesting patterns around Saturn on the 4th, 13th, 18th, 26th & 30th

    Meteor Showers

    This month the major Meteor Shower, the Eta Aquarius will grace our morning skies peaking on and around the 5th with as many as 30 meteors per hour. These meteors are the dusty debris of that most famous comet, Hayley. They are noted for their distinct yellowish colour, often leaving persistent streaks (trains) across the sky. Look into the eastern sky from 3am in the morning local time.

    Observing Equipment Advice

    This is what we suggest you consider when setting yourself up to view the many delights of the night sky.

    Naked Eye Viewing: This is the best way to see Meteor Showers, the board sweep of the Milky Way & track satellites across the night sky. Choose as dark site and a comfortable reclining position. This is FREE and just takes a bit of effort.

    Big Star clusters: we are talking about groupings of stars that are beyond a fuzzy blob, these are things like the clouds of Magellan, the Pleiades & a few selected nebulous regions. These are best seen with a pair of 7x to 10x Magnification binoculars with a 50mm lens. Prices start from around $100.

    Fuzzy Blobs: You can’t make out what they are but you think they might be interesting ? These are best seen with a wide field telescope such as the Kson 102mm Tabletop, starting price is $240. These scopes gives you a nice contrast against the blackness of space.

    The Invisible: Galaxies, faint nebula & planetary details, this is where scopes 6” in aperture and  above come into play, these start at around $400 and how big you go is only limited by portability and budget (The biggest have 48” or 1.2m mirrors !)

  • April Skies - Mars Rising !

    The Night Sky in April

    The Planets:

    Venus is now descending into the eastern morning sky and by months end will be lost in the glare of the Sun, where it will remain until July. Not before having a close encounter with the moon on the morning of the 6th, just a few finger widths (2 deg) away.

    Mars begins the month rising in the mid evening sky around 9pm and by 7pm at months end. It has a close encounter with its old stellar rival Antares (Heart of the scorpion) on the 25th where it is joined by the waning moon with Saturn close by. Now is the time to watch Mars at it approaches opposition next month ... stay tuned !

    Jupiter, now past opposition continues to be a fine sight in Leo through a telescope. With its short rotational period of just 9.9 hours and the constant dance of its moons you could watch it all night and see the entire planet ! It will be close (2deg) from the moon on the 18th, very fine in a wide field scope.

    Saturn continues to brighten and grow in size, and as always is the show pony of the solar system. Encountering the moon on the evening 26th.

    Uranus is steadily being lost to the morning glare.

    Neptune in Aquarius is visible from 3am and has an apparent close encounter with the Main belt asteroid 11 Parthenope on the 28th & 29th at just 0.5 Deg separation but you will need a good scope to see Neptune.

    The Jovian Moons:

    Jupiters moons Ganymede, Io, Europa & Callisto have their most interesting encounters with Jupiter on the 3rd, 12th, 19th, 21st & 29th of April. For more detail come and check out the “Astronomers Bible” Astronomy 2016 or at NightSkySecrets store at The Pier with just a few copies left in stock !

    The Deep Sky:

    The Constellations Leo & Cancer are well placed high in the sky & the showpiece constellations Carina and Crux in the southern sky in April mid evening. You can find such delights as the Beehive Cluster  in Cancer, the Leo Galaxy triplet, The Jewel box in Crux & The Eta Carina Nebula in Carina.

    Observing Equipment Advice:

    Naked Eye Viewing: This is the best way to see Meteor Showers, the board sweep of the Milky Way & track satellites across the night sky. Choose as dark site and a comfortable reclining position. This is FREE and just takes a bit of effort :-)

    Big Star clusters: we are talking about groupings of stars that are beyond a fuzzy blob, these are things like the clouds of Magellan, the Pleiades & a few selected nebulous regions. These are best seen with a pair of 7x to 10x Magnification binoculars with a 50mm lens. Prices start from around $100.

    Fuzzy Blobs: You can’t make out what they are but you think they might be interesting ? These are best seen with a wide field telescope, starting price is $240. These scopes gives you a nice contrast against the blackness of space.

    The Invisible: Galaxies, faint nebula & planetary details, this is where scopes 6” in aperture and  above come into play, these start at around $400 and how big you go is only limited by portability and budget (The biggest have 48” or 1.2m mirrors !)

    Next Month .....

    • Mars comes to opposition
    • The Eta Aquarius Meteor shower

     

  • Asteroid 2013 TX68 - A close call ?

    It looks like we are in for a close call with an Asteroid yet again. This seems to be an increasingly frequent event and shows just how good we are getting at detecting these threats from space. It was only back 3 years ago that we had the unexpected explosion in our atmosphere of the Meteor over Chelyabinsk in Russia which I wrote about back in 2013.

    The impact of the Chelyabinsk meteor was significant and this one is twice the size, so lets hope the scientists have got it right and it does not impact. It has been said though that there is an extremely slim chance that it could impact in 2017 ( 250Million to 1!)

    The image below show the possible pass locations for the asteroid. You can see that the higher probability is that it will be closer, rather than further away.

    asteroid20160202-16 Click to enlarge.

    To Quote JPL:

    A small asteroid that two years ago flew past Earth at a comfortable distance of about 1.3 million miles (2 million kilometers) will safely fly by our planet again in a few weeks, though this time it may be much closer.

    During the upcoming March 5 flyby, asteroid 2013 TX68 could fly past Earth as far out as 9 million miles (14 million kilometers) or as close as 11,000 miles (17,000 kilometers). The variation in possible closest approach distances is due to the wide range of possible trajectories for this object, since it was tracked for only a short time after discovery.

    What I really hope is that the orbit will be further refined and with a bit of luck it will be visible in our night skies !

    Stay tuned to NightSkySecrets for updates.

     

  • The Sky In Feburary 2016

    As they have in January, the planets continue their dance with the moon in February. Beginning on the morning of Feb 1st and 2nd the moon is close to Mars in Libra, just a few finger widths away. It is worth noting that Mars is returning to bright prominence again now as it approaches Opposition in May. Mars Also reaches “Western Quadrature” being at a 90deg angle between the Earth and Sun. At this point Mars displays its minimum 90 % Phase, a factor noticeable through a telescope. On the 4th it is Saturn's turn to be close to the Waning crescent moon at Aprox. 3 finger widths away. The dance continues with Mercury and Venus having their turn on the 7th just 4 Degrees or a hand width away from the moon.

    Jupiter has well and truly returned to our evening sky in February rising around 9pm in Leo, at the beginning of the month and soon after 7 pm at months end, moving in its slow retrograde motion. If you have a telescope (even a small one) you will be able to see Jupiter's moons. If you have a larger scope you can watch the moons themselves and their shadows transit Jupiter.

    A rare triple Transit A rare triple Transit

    This Month we get a meteor shower that is only seen in the southern Hemisphere. The Alpha Centaurids have an apparent radiant point near our nearest visible star Alpha Centauri. Typical rates are low at Aprox 6/hr, however outbursts have been known to occur of up to 30 per hour. What is stunning about this shower is the high number of bright "Fireballs" it produces. With some leaving persistent “trains”,  a trail of vaporised rock that can last from several seconds to a few minutes. The shower is active from February 2 to February 25. Peak in activity is around Feb 8th with the constellation rising at approximately 10pm but at its best (highest in the sky) in the hours before dawn.

    Finally, make sure you mark your diary for March the 9th for the partial SOLAR eclipse visible in a line north from Perth to Rockhampton, (or Total if you want to fly to Indonesia !) but more on that next newsletter !

    You can find out more about the night sky with your own Copy of Astronomy 2016 (The Astronomers essential handbook for over 25 years), see a Planetarium Show (Sundays) , look through telescopes & Binoculars or just have a chat about all things astronomical at Night Sky Secrets store in The Pier-Cairns Far North Qld, 7 days a week.

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