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NightSky Secrets Blog

  • Choosing and Using Binoculars

    When you want to get up close to the world around you for things beyond your “Naked Eye” vision, binoculars are usually the 1st optic of choice. However what is a good binocular, what sort of binoculars suit different applications ?

    There are few binoculars that work well in ALL situations. So we hope this will help guide you in finding the binoculars that suits you and your circumstances.

     

    Factors that determine which binoculars will work best for you:

    1. Purpose - No one binocular does everything in all circumstances, so decide what their primary use is going to be.
    2. Magnification – How much detail do you need to see? For example, reading small writing at a distance requires a larger magnification.
    3. Aperture- Or, the size of the lens at the front of the binoculars, which determines the amount of light gathered by the binoculars.
    4. Image Quality- this will be largely determined by lens and prism quality
    5. Binocular type - The 2 main types being Porro Prism and Roof Prism Design’s.
    6. Build quality- this will affect both the functionality & longevity of your binoculars
    7. Budget- What is your realistic budget as this will determine the compromises you may need to make.
    8. Portability- The size and compactness of the binoculars. This also affects budget as more compact binoculars are generally more expensive.
    9. Warranty and serviceability
    10. Functionality - How they feel in the hand (comfort) and how they look.

    Quick Start Guide

     

    Birdwatching and nature observing (Quality entry level)
    8x42 FMC Roof Prism Binoculars
    Birdwatching and nature observing
    
    (Advanced)
    8x42 phase coated or ED Roof Prism Binoculars
    Distance or Astronomy
    10x50 or 15x70 Porro Prism Binoculars
    Hiking and Adventure
     

    10x25 Compact Roof Prism ED glass binoculars

    Warning - Binoculars to avoid !

    Binoculars with "Ruby coated" lenses, no stated prism type (usually inferior glass) & zoom binoculars (EG: 6 to 25x) magnification. The build quality will usually be poor, the views terrible, especially at high zoom. these are the type you will usually see at your local discount store and seem like a bargain at under $50. However just like cheap telescopes are "worse than nothing at all" what we like to call "Hobby Killers", bad binoculars are just the same.

    Magnification and Aperture:

    This is represented by the stated size of the binoculars. Eg: 8x42 (see figure 1)

    The first number represents magnification (8). This determines how much detail you can see, especially at mid to long distances. Magnification can range between 6 and 25. With 15x bringing the highest practical magnification that can be handheld (under the right circumstances). Any more than 15x magnification is too difficult to hold steady without mechanical support (e.g. a tripod or Monopod)

    The last number represents Aperture (42) which is the diameter of the lens. This determine how much light reaches your eyes. This can be anywhere between 20mm and 150mm. Larger aperture such as 50 or 70mm are great for astronomy or long distance viewing. 

    BOTH numbers will determine what application the Binocular is best suited to.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Figure 1-8x42mm Kson TK-214-0842 Waterproof Roof Prism Binoculars (below)

    (Find here)

    Image quality:

    The quality of the image, that is to say the colour correctness, image sharpness across the field of view, contrast between dark and light, depth perception & field of view width are your main considerations.

    This is determined by a number of factors, the first and most important being the prism glass material, separating cheap and ineffective binoculars from those of higher quality. BK4 glass is needed to provide clear and sharp images across the field of view. BK7 is the inferior quality glass used in cheap binoculars (usually under $100).

    Roof prisms are a compound design, coated with Aluminium, Silver or Dielectric coatings, each giving successively greater light transmission.

    Beyond this, the prime and objective lens coating is of great interest. Binoculars should fully multicoated (FMC) as a minimum. Beyond this, ED (extra low dispersion) glass prime lenses are the best, often having hydrophobic (water repelling) coatings (see figure 2 below).

    Figure 2- ED glass

    Bushnell ED 10x42 L Series Binoculars

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Binocular Type:

    The two main types of Binoculars are Porro Prism (full size) and Roof Prism (compact)(see figure 3 above).

    Porro prism binoculars are generally less expensive & have full light transmission due to their regular BK4 glass, uncoated prisms.

    Roof prism binoculars are more compact, portable and lighter but require Sophisticated coatings (Aluminium, silver or Dielectric) to make their compound prisms work as well as standard Porro prism binoculars, adding to their cost in the high-performance models.

    Figure 3- Porro vs Roof

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Build Quality

    This will affect the aptitude of the binocular’s focus, smoothness of the eyecup pop-up action, hinge functionality, prism stability, waterproof rating, the ruggedness of the body and the quality of the outer material.

    Budget:

    If you have under $100 to spend you are generally looking at a non-waterproof & optically inferior BK7 prism model. However around $150 will get you a compact, quality BK4 prism waterproof FMC binocular.

    Example:

     

     

     

     

    8x32 Kson roof prism binoculars IPx6 Waterproof

    Price: $149

    Around the $200 - $300 mark, there are a wide variety of quality, full-size (Porro Prism) or entry level roof prism binos available. (see quick start guide)

    $300 to $450 will get you phase corrected roof prism binoculars ideal for the keen observer of the natural world.

    $500 and above, your binoculars should have ED glass lenses & close focus capability (as close as 2m) - great for birdwatching in the Forest.

    Example:

     

     

     

     

    10x42 Bushnell "L" Series Binoculars

    Price: $495

    Beyond that you can expect highly regarded brand names such as Steiner, high end Bushnells, with long warranties and excellent build quality. That’s in addition to all of the top end features previously mentioned such as FMC lens, dielectic prism mirrors, phase corrected, highly shockproof which should be included.

    Over $1000 and brands such as Canon have a range of electronically controlled gyroscope stabilised binoculars capable of delivering high powered clear and sharp views up to 15x.

    Above this price range ($2000+) are some of the most highly regarded brands of uncompromising optical & build quality such as Steiner built to last a lifetime.

    Example:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Steiner Wildlife XP 10x44

    Price: $2749

     

     

    Appearance and Feel

    This is a somewhat more subjective measure. Such as how they balance in your hand, the grip and perhaps even the colour.

    Whatever you need in a pair of binoculars we are here to help you at Nightskysecrets. Looking Up - Looking Out - Looking down.

  • Top 10 Covid19 Self Isolation Activities

    So you have to, or choose to isolate yourself because of the COVID19 Pandemic.

    What do you do with yourself for 2 weeks plus at home, to stay sane and entertain yourself & others in your household ?

    The TV will get pretty depressing in no time at all, so avoid it !

    Seriously, it is important that we all look after our mental health and stay in control of our thoughts, actions & feelings.

    Here are the top 10 activities from all our family at NightSkySecrets.

    We will expand on these ideas over the coming weeks so stay tuned.

    1. Give the garden a makeover. You could even grow some edible plants. It can only improve your health and well-being from both the food you harvest, exercise & performing a calming activity & we have a moon planting guide which 100's of customers swear by  !
      Our organic garden - Fresh beans daily !
      They just work !
    2. Drag out he puzzles, games, science experiments and models, a great way to engage your brain and with others in your household & yes, we have many science gadgets for your brain gym activities at NightSkySecrets
    3. Take up bird watching, it easy to do, changes every day and just needs a pair of binoculars that most households have or we have them at Nightskysecrets. The ideal all round pair is 8x42 Roof prism. Making them portable & light weight.
      Image Stabilised Canon 12x36
      German Quality - 10 yr warranty
    4. Turn your lights out and look to the night sky. It can be a simple as a star disc, a phone App (Stellarium or Star walk) are good ones. Binoculars will give you access to 100’s of otherwise invisible features. A Simple low cost a Telescope will reveal 1000’s of new sights. You know where to come if you need either !
    5. If you have a bit of land take up fossicking. this can be a simple as “Specking” where you look with your eyes for unusual stones (crystals, gems and semiprecious) panning & sieving for precious metals & gems or metal detecting. We are the Garrett agents and issue the DNMR fossicking permits, as well as having lots of simple and inexpensive fossicking accessories like magnifiers.
      Everything you need to start prospecting.
    6. We all have phone cameras, nature photography starts in your garden. From the Mari to the micro there is always something interesting to see & we have great lens and magnifier sets to go with your phone.
    7. Join an online group for your favourite ( or now newly acquired) hobby. Facebook, IceInSpace (astronomy), Birds Australia, Cairns mineral and lapidary club, to name a few. http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/index.php
    8. Have an “Autumn” clean and sort out of your house, it will not only give you more room to move, it will clear your mind and make you feel much better !
    9. Start writing, a short article on a subject you know, a journal or a a poem to express your feelings and document your experience.
    10. Take up a meditation, yoga, Tai Chi or other contemplation practice and make a calm space in your house for this.
  • May & June Skies 2019

    For those of us in the far North of Australia, this is the beginning of our observing season as the long and sustained wet season comes to an end. With the skies clearing we are treated to many deep sky delights:

    The Southern Sky gives us a rising Southern Cross with the standout Double stars of the cross itself, The stunning Jewel box cluster adjacent to bright Blue/White Beta Crux, along with the contrast of its companion, the deep red Carbon Star “Ruby Crux”

    As we use the guide stars of Alpha and Beta Crux and extend a handspan away from Alpha along this line we find the truly stunning & largest Globular cluster in orbit of our galaxy, Omega Centauri. This Mega Star city of over 1 million stars, is a sight that always brings an exclamation of delight from the 1st time observer & is one I never tire of watching.

    Centaurus-A Galaxy (NGC 5128) by Digital Sky Survey

    A bit of deft star hopping from Omega Centuri will bring you to one of the brightest Galaxies in the southern sky of Centaurus A, a galaxy split by a dark dust lane giving it the nickname of the “Hamburger Galaxy” It is in fact the brightest radio source in the southern sky & well worth tracking down. Moving across and between Crux and the “False Cross” in Carina we find the eyepiece filling Eta Carina Nebula. This massive star forming region is home to the wild child of our Galaxy and the most likely candidate for a Supernova, the Wolf Raylet star Eta Carina, a massive star that throws of 3 times the mass of our sun into the surrounding “Hourglass nebula” every year !

    The Celestial Equator & Beyond:

    Moving up closer to the celestial equator & just out from the wing of “Corvus the Crow” you will find The bright and elongated “Sombrero Galaxy” a bit over 10 million light years away.

    Now if you are really hungry for galaxies and the skies are clear and dark, slip over to the Ecliptic between Leo & Virgo to see the dozens of Galaxies, peppered across the sky there. Including the Massive Elliptical galaxy M87, where the 1st ever composite image of a black hole has been taken at its centre.

    The Planets

    Venus is still in our morning skies during May & June with a close encounter with the moon on the 2nd of June as it slowly descends towards the eastern Horizon.

    Mercury is only visible in the eastern morning sky for the 1st week or so of May, before being lost in the glare of the sun. Then returning to the evening sky later in June.

    Mars is now descending lower in the NW sky each night where it can be seen close to the waxing crescent moon on the 8th of May, then a very close encounter with Mercury on the 18th of June.

    Jupiter reaches opposition on the 11th of June Making these months the best time to watch it all night long. 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 to the moon on May 22nd and June 18th, a very fine view in a telescope.

    Saturn continues to brighten and grow in size as it moves towards its opposition in Early July. and as always is the show pony of the solar system. Encountering the moon on the evenings of May 22nd and June 19th.

    Uranus is 5 degrees North of the moon on the 31st of May.

    Neptune in Aquarius is visible from 3 am at the start of May and by 1am at the end of June.

    Meteor Showers

    This month (May) the major Meteor Shower, the Eta Aquarius will grace our morning skies peaking on the 7th with as many as 20 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 North eastern sky from 3am in the morning local time between the stars Fomalhaut in the east and Altair in the NE. 

    However this year there are a couple of notable further peaks the may add 5 to 10 meteors per hour. These are 8th and 9th with additional streams of material having been mapped by radar !

    Remember to give your eyes time to adjust to the dark (10 minutes) before you can expect to see many meteors & that they usually come in bursts with perhaps a few meteors in 1 minute they perhaps nothing for 10 minutes, so patience is the key !

    Remember to have a comfortable reclining chair or camp chair, to sit out in a dark position away from the lights, relax and enjoy nature's spectacle.

    How to find the Eta Aquarids

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    For those of you who are in or visiting Far North Queensland, our 2019 Astronomy tour season is now under way, with the first tour in April held under stunning clear skies, and the return of some of our deep sky favourites you read about in this newsletter. The link above will give you all the dates available, including an Astrocamp in August !

    Observing Equipment Advice

    Naked Eye Viewing: This is the best way to see Meteor Showers, the broad 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 $200. 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 !)

    Check out our telescopes page for some ideas.

    Clear skies and happy star gazing !

  • March & April Skies 2019

    Hi Star gazers,

    I hope you got some clear skies in January and February. You did not hear much from me these past few month as I have been in such diverse locations as Townsville, Uluru (Ayres Rock) & Cruising the Tasman sea as the resident Astronomer aboard the Viking Orion as seen in the image here with the moon, Venus & Saturn putting on a nice show.

    Meanwhile back here in the Far north of Qld we have the odd clear patch in the evening sky. However from where ever you are in the world there are certain things you will see.

    The Autumn Equinox

    From anywhere in the world the sun will rise in the east and set in the west on the 21st of March (AEST). For those of us in the southern hemisphere it means the sun moving a little further in the north each day. The days will get cooler and the nights longer (great for astronomy).

    The Solar Minimum

    We now find that our sun is at the depth of the solar minimum cycle, which comes around every 11 years and this is certainly a deep solar minimum. For those of you who like to follow the procession of sunspots across the face of the sun, you would have needed to find something else to do in February as not a single sunspot graced the surface of our sun. Only in the last 15 or so years has it really been understood by science, just how much these solar minimums can influence our weather on earth. This is due to the increased bombardment of cosmic rays into our atmosphere. Showing us we are part of a much bigger "Eco System"

    Galaxies on the Ecliptic

    The Leo Triplet

    Wherever you are you will be able to clearly see the constellations of the Ecliptic. While the early evening sky is dominated by Gemini (the Twins) with its many star clusters. One of the most interesting and prominent constellations of the late evening sky this time of year is Leo (The Lion)  I find Leo particularly interesting as, by following along the belly of the lion, towards its legs and beyond into the void towards the bright Star Vindamatrix in Virgo, you find a surprising host of Galaxies.  To the astute astronomer with clear dark skies & a moderate to large telescope will be treated to over 20 bright Galaxies between the belly of Leo and Virgo. Almost all of these Galaxies were catalogued by the 18th Century Astronomer Charles Messier who wanted to plot these fuzzy Nebulae in his telescope of the day. To our larger and higher quality telescopes of today we see structure in these distant Galaxies of the Virgo supercluster. The best examples are probably M65 & M66 above the bright Star Chertan in Leo, visible even with smaller scopes, as seen in the image here. Also know as the Leo "Smiley Face" galaxies :-)

    The Northern and Southern skies

    Northern Skies

    If you are north of Brisbane, the most interesting constellation visible in the lower Northern Sky is Ursa Major "The Big Bear" or as the major asterism (pattern) within the constellation is know as the "Big Dipper" or "The Plough". This will be well know if you hail from or have spent some time in the northern hemisphere. What ever you know it as you will see it rising in the North East around 10pm and most prominent from 12 to 1 am across March and April. There are several Messier Galaxies around the "Dipper" one of the most interesting however is the Whirlpool Galaxy above the bright star Alkaid at he end of the dipper handle, a bright pair of Galaxies in the process of merging. A fate that will one day befall our own Milky Way Galaxy and Andromeda.

    Southern Skies

    Eta Carina Nebula

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Looking to the southern sky, you cant help but for your eye to be drawn to the southern cross and its deceiving companion above "The false Cross". Between the two you will find a fuzzy patch even with the naked eye. It is a collection of star clusters and what must be the best nebula in the southern sky, Eta Carina. Seen easily with binoculars, a telescope reveals dark molecular clouds bright stars & the glowing nebulosity that is the Eta Carina Nebula, a star forming region with one of the most highly unstable stars in our Galaxy at its centre.

    So if your skies are clear there is lots to do in March and April & we have plenty of great telescopes to suit all budgets and circumstances at Night Sky Secrets to help you discover these and more delights.

    Clear Skies

    Ian Maclean

     

  • October to December skies 2018

    With the closing months of 2018 almost upon us, we take a look at what the spring and summer skies have to offer.

    As we watch Mars recede in size and brightness, we see it reveal the last of its surface detail before becoming too small for practical observation, with the dust storm that enveloped the planet at Opposition receding in a race between size and clarity.

    Venus on the other hand will grow to its largest size & most slender phase before it is lost in the suns glare in Mid October, before returning to the morning sky in November. We will also lose Jupiter to its conjunction with the Sun by the end of October.

    Saturn remains a great target for observing though October before diving towards the Sun by the end of November.

    Fleet footed Mercury reaches its greatest height in the evening sky on the 7th of November, as its last apparition in the evening sky of 2018. With Mercury’s return to the evening sky, we have all seven planets visible mid month in October.

    Uranus reaches opposition and it’s brightest in the evening sky on the 24th of October at magnitude 5.7, just above naked eye visibility. Finally Neptune, which came to Opposition in September is at its highest point in the evening sky around 9:30 this in mid October.

    On any given night the diligent observer away from city lights will see around 6 “sporadic” Meteors per hour under dark skies. This number is however increased by many known Meteor showers, usually the debris left behind by the passage of a comet 100’s of years past. We have one of our best meteor showers of the year in December with the arrival of the Geminids. With up to 120 Meteors per hour, this Shower is unusual with the source being the Asteroid 3200 Phaethon. The peak of this display is on the night of Dec 14th & morning of the 15th. While not as numerous, the Taurid Meteor Shower peaking on the 10th of October is noted for the high proportion of bright fireball Meteors which are hard to miss !

    As we turn our attention to deep space in the mid evening, we look first to the southern sky where we we find the familiar southern cross is now absent from our evening skies. However it is replaced by a delight that can only be be easily seen from the Southern Hemisphere. They are the so called Magellanic Clouds, which are in fact our nearest Galaxies, bound in gravitational orbit around our own Milky Way galaxy. Even a pair of binoculars will reveal the many large Nebula associated with our nearest galactic Neighbours.

    Swing across to the northern sky we see the obvious bright stars of Vega, Altair & Deneb making up The Summer Triangle and a host of interesting deep sky targets. As we get closer to December the constellations of Pegasus & Andromeda dominate the northern Sky. In Andromeda we find the mighty Andromeda Galaxy as the other Galaxy Visible to the naked eye and a delight through a pair of large aperture binoculars. While along the path of the ecliptic the constellations of Capricorn, Pisces & Taurus dominate , with Orion the hunter hot on their heals as we move into December.

    There is so much to see even with a good quality pair of Binoculars or a telescope as you delve deeper into the hidden mysteries of the night sky.  At night sky secrets we can help you with all your binocular  & Telescope needs, whatever your budget or experience level.

  • Blood Moon - Mars - Meteors

    Saturday morning the 28th July will be quite the treat !

    We will have a Simultaneous Total Lunar Eclipse, a bright Mars at Opposition & the Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower, together in the morning Sky, thats right.

    This total lunar eclipse is one of our longest an deepest eclipses in many years as the moon passes deep into the earths umbral shadow for over 1 hour from 4:30am (EST)

     

    Mars has just reached opposition the day before and is at its biggest & brightest through almost any good telescope.

    Add to this the Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower close to their peak activity (centred just above the moon) with up to 25meteors per hour & which would ordinarily be drowned out by such a bright moon & you have a show not to be missed !

    You need nothing more than your eyes, a dark sky & a pair of binoculars if you have them, for a closer look at the eclipsed moon.

    So rug up, get a comfy chair & head outside to enjoy this celestial display !

  • June & July - Mars returns !

    As we delight in our increasingly dry season skies in June & July, we move through the winter Solstice on the 21st of June.

    This is the day of the year when the daylight hours are the shortest (great for astronomy ) & the sun is at its most northerly position in our morning sky.

    Saturn

    The planets continue their procession across the night sky and in June we are treated to the opposition of what is often called the King of the planets, Saturn. At it's largest and brightest , with the stunning rings at their widest and best, peaking at opposition on the 29th. You can expect great viewing of Saturn right through all of June and July as it slowly moves through Sagittarius. With a moderately large telescope you will see the dance of the Saturnian moons changing from night to night. Some of these moons are worlds in their own right especially Titan, bigger than our own moon and with a thick Atmosphere, mountains of rock hard ice and lakes of liquid methane. Like something straight out of a science fiction movie ! The other moons Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea & iapetus all hold their own secrets with Enceladus being a likely candidate for subsurface life !

    The Planet Vesta

    The big planets don't have it all to themselves though, with the largest of the Minor Planets Vesta reaching a sufficient brightness to be seen as a feint Naked eye object moving against the background stars from night to night.  Formally classified as an Asteroid, Vesta got a promotion to Minor Planet status at the same time Pluto got demoted to the same club. This is the first bright opposition in over 10 years and the next one wont be until 2029.  It will cross through the constellations of Sagittarius (The Archer) & Ophiuchus (The serpent Bearer) peaking in brightness in the last 2 weeks of June as it passes by the Globular cluster NGC 6440 on the 23rd and 24th of June.

    Venus - Goddess of Love

    Speaking of the planets though, we cannot forget the goddess of Love, Venus. Always the brightest in all her glory and is the most obvious sight in the western evening sky outshining all but the moon which she has a close apparent encounter with on the 16th, just a finger width away ! There is not much to see on the surface of Venus, but her changing phases take many people by surprise.

    Mars Returns

    However as we move into July the red planet Mars takes on a staring Role coming to opposition on the 27th. Now Mars does this every 2 years, however this year is special, being the closest opposition since 2003. Mars has captured the collective imagination for Millenia but especially over the past 200 years with a host of movies and theories about what lay on its surface including ideas of canals and seas.

    We now know it to be a Barren world dominated by Iron Oxide. But it was not always so, having had oceans and huge Volcanoes dominating its surface in the distant past. When we look at Mars through our telescopes at close Opposition we can see and photograph The Dark uplands & the shifting polar caps of Carbon dioxide ice.

    Deep Space

    Of course there is more than the planets and if you have a larger telescope and darkish skies the constellations of Virgo & Leo with their treasure trove of galaxies are on show along the ecliptic. While in the Southern Sky, Centaurus, The Southern Cross and Carina are at their best with some of the showpiece deep space delights of Nebula, Globular Clusters & Galaxies visible anywhere, on show.

    These are an exciting couple of months in the night sky that I am certainly looking forward too, as I hope are too. If you want to know more we always love to hear from you at NightSkySecrets here in Cairns at The Pier, or perhaps join us for one of our astronomy dinner tours.

  • March, April & a touch of May Skies

    March

    Is now we’ll underway and the focus up here in Nth Qld has been on the clouds, rain and flooding rivers ! However, as I write it is clearing up and the floods are receding & we hope the skies clearing.

    Venus and Mercury are very low in the western sky at sunset and it will take keen eyes and perhaps a pair of binoculars to Tease them out from the post sunset glow.

    Jupiter rises in Libra around 10pm as the month begins & soon after 8pm at months end. It continues to grow in size as it approaches its May opposition and is always a changing spectacle to behold.

    Mars and Saturn dominate the morning sky as Mars continues to grow in brilliance & Stature as it moves towards its best opposition since 2003 !

    Saturn maintains a close vigil over the bright globular Cluster M22 in Sagittarius, defiantly worth a look through a wide field telescope. In fact if you have a telescope and especially if it’s 8” (200mm) or over, you may like to trace the movement of asteroid “18 Melpomene” as it tracks past several Galaxies in Virgo. NGC4339 & 4281 on the 12th & NGC4261 on the 14th. This is an observational challenge !

    April

    Mars and Saturn steal the planetary show at the start of the month on the 2nd with the planets being just 1.2 Degree’s apart and close to Globular Cluster M22. This month Jupiter has two close encounters with the moon on the 3rd and 30th,  just in case you were note sure where Jupiter was in the night sky. 

    The meteor showers this month are firstly the Lyrids, peaking on the 22nd in the Northern Sky with the peak rate of around 20 per hour but have been known to give short bursts of 90 for an hour or so !

    The other shower is the Pi- Puppids in the southern sky with low numbers but noted for its bright yellow meteors and occasional fireballs, it is one to watch on the 23rd. For my part I would set the 22nd and 23rd aside for viewing these showers.

    May

    A rare triple Transit

    In May Jupiter is the King of the Planets coming to Opposition  on the 9th and is at its biggest and brightest, rising in the east as the sun sets in the west. Mars has now increased in size to greater than that of Venus and is one to watch as it moves towards its July Opposition.

    ABC Stargazing Live Event on Wednesday the 23rd of May:

    NightSkySecrets will be participating in the ABC Star Stuff event and the World record attempt for the biggest combined observing night ever ! Some of the sights visible on the night include of course Jupiter, only just past opposition and showing us all 4 of her satellite moons. Saturn continues its close encounter with the Globular Cluster M22 and will be a great sight through high powered wide field eyepieces. The 1st 1/4 moon will show off some of its finest craters along the terminator where the dark meets the light. Looking to the Southern Sky, the bright Star Cluster of the Jewel Box in the Southern cross is sure to be one of our many deep sky targets. You can find the Facebook Event Page Here.

    Remember that in any month there are many fine sights in the night sky visible with Binoculars or a simple wide field telescope such as clusters, comets, double stars, the planets and more, so keep looking up !

    As always if you would like to know more, we love hearing from you at NightSkySecrets

  • Christmas & New Year Skies

    December & January Night Skies in 2017/2018

    The Headlines:

    • This year in December we will be treated to a favourable Geminds Meteor shower
    • Saturn is disappearing from view,
    • Jupiter and Mars begin their close encounter in the morning skies.
    • We get a good look at the constellations Perseus, Pegasus & Andromeda in the northern sky.
    • The “Ghoul Star” Algol, a star that we can observe changing colour and brightness over just 10 hours is in prime viewing!
    • In January its all about the Moon, We start the month with a Super moon and end it with a total Lunar eclipse
    • Mars and Saturn are at their closest in the early morning in the 1st week of January

    Geminids Meteor Shower

    The Geminids are one of the most prolific meteor showers of the year with up to 120 Meteors per hour gracing our skies, in a display that peaks on the 14th of December. The shower is active between the 4th and 17th of December. Unlike last year, the Geminids this year coincide with the New Moon giving the opportunity to see the maximum number of Meteors against the dark moonless sky. To see the Geminids, look to the NE from around 9 to 10pm and you may see some rising from the horizon, but they peak in the Northern sky at their highest altitude around 2am, with no moon to interfere.

    Mars, Jupiter, Saturn & others

    The King of the Planets Saturn is lost in the solar glare over December and January, however Jupiter and Mars will have a close pairing that starts on the 31st of December culminating on the 7th of January at just 0.3 deg separation before drifting apart again. For those keen to seek them out, Neptune and Uranus are visible in the evening skies, but you had better bring a telescope as they are just at or below naked eye visibility.

    Perseus, Pegasus, Andromeda & the Demon Star

    Early evening in December see’s the constellations Pegasus, Andromeda & Perseus dominating the Northern sky. These constellations are notonly the scene for ancient tales of Heroes, Monsters and maidens in distress. They are the home of 2 Galaxies that can be seen with binoculars or even the naked eye (Triangulum & Andromeda Galaxies)

    It is also the home of the bright star Algol or Beta Perseus from the Arabic “Head of the Ghoul”, this star was endowed with a tag of being “Evil” as the ancients could not explain its habit of changing in brightness and colour over a short 10 hour period. We now know that it is an  eclipsing binary pair with the fainter orange dwarf eclipsing the hot blue primary star every 2.9 days.

    Super moon, Total Lunar Eclipse & Blue Moon !

    January is dominated by the apparitions of The Moon.The month starts with a so called “Supermoon” on the 2nd of January, this is where the full moon coincides with the moon at Perigee (closest to earth). At this time the moon can appear to be 14% bigger and 10% brighter than the smallest (Apogee) full moon. Then at the end of the month the moon makes its Blue Moon Appearance (2nd full moon in 1 calendar month) with a Total Lunar eclipse, the eclipse begins at 9:45pm with totality beginning at 9 minutes to midnight and ending at 7 minutes past midnight. A total lunar eclipse is an event worth seeing with the moon going blood red to black as it passes into the earths deep (umbral) shadow.

    Keeping up with the night Sky in 2018

    We have a couple of great tools to help you get out under the night sky in 2018 & all of them are under $30.

    The Star Disc, the essential tool for navigating the constellations, anywhere in the southern hemisphere at just $22.50

    The Astronomy 2018 Calendar gives you a month by month and day to day account of all the best things to see in the night sky at just $20

    Astronomy 2018 is the definitive guide to astronomy in 2018 with maps charts, meteor showers, comets & much more

    We stock an extensive range of Telescopes, Binoculars and all your astronomy accessories, as well as servicing Telescopes and Binoculars !

    Night Sky Secrets are located at The Pier shopping centre and open 7 days or online at www.nightskysecrets.com.au or call us on 07 4000 4091.

  • Aug / Sept Skies 2017

    August  Skies

    When it comes to the planets, Saturn rules the August skies as Jupiter sinks into the north west. Shrinking just a little in size from its June opposition Saturn is still the finest sight in the night sky. Comet Johnson 2015 V2 however, is fading from magnitude 8 to 9 as it passes through the constellation Centaurus but is still the best comet around and can be found with a finder chart , good Binoculars & some persistence! When it comes to the constellations in the northern skies Cygnus the swan, makes its presence known with the showpiece binary star Albiro at the head of the swan. In the southern sky the aboriginal figure of the Emu is clear and prominent, The Emu stretches from the southern cross through Centaurus, Scorpius and into Sagittarius, as seen here from our clear tablelands skies on one of NightSkySecrets tours, as photographed by Michael Radov.

    September Skies

    As we move into September we have a number of close encounters between the planets and the Moon. On the 18th the Moon and Venus are close in the predawn sky, then on the 22nd Jupiter and the thin crescent moon are nearby in the twilight. Finally on the 27th around 8pm you will see Saturn in the western sky in the constellation of Scorpius with the moon. In the Northern Sky, The Andromeda Galaxy makes it’s return to our evening skies. Andromeda is a great one to observe as it can be seen well with a high powered pair of Binoculars or a low power wide field telescope. It can be found by projecting west from the bright star Mirach in the constellation of Andromeda.  One of only 3 Galaxies visible to the naked eye and “Just” 2 million light years away from our own Milky Way Galaxy. Finally the so called “Summer Triangle” now high in the Northern sky is in fact our winter or Dry Season delight here in Northern Australia, encompassing as it does the 3 mighty constellations of Cygus “The Swan”, Lyra “The Harp” & Aquila “The Eagle”. These constellation are packed with deep sky delights of Star clusters, planetary Nebula & even supernova remnants. So get out and enjoy the delights of our dry season skies while the going is good !

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