Whats in the Night Sky This month





January 2023



JANUARY NIGHT SKY 9pm


PLANETS

All planets are visible in the sky except Mercury which is lost in the Twighlight.

Jupiter and Mars dominate the sky in January.


Jupiter is the brightest star like object high in the northwest in the constellation Pisces.

It is close to the crescent Moon on the 26th.

Through a telescope the disk is about 75% the size it was back in October as it starts to move to the other side of the Sun. The 2 cloud bands are visible through a atelescope.

Up to 4 of its Moons are visible, Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa. Watch the night to night through a pair of binoculars or telescope and you will see the Moons swap positions.

Occasionally you can see one or more moons shadows transit Jupiter's disk.

Europa transits on Jan 2nd & 9th

Io transits on the 15th, 22nd.


Mars appears as a bright orange star like object in the constellation Taurus in the northern sky.

It is close to the gibbous Moon on the 3rd, 4th, 30th, and 31st.

It is in retrograde motion up to the 12th as Earth passes Mars on the inside orbit. Watch it night to night to see its change in position through Taurus.

Through a telescope it appears as a pale orange disk about 75% the size it was in early December as it starts to move away from the Earth. Unfortunately, at a mid low altitude above the horizon which makes it a bit fuzzy through a telescope unless there are excellent seeing conditions. Planets and stars are sharper, the higher in the sky they are. No icecaps are visible nut some slightly brighter and darker areas are visible.


Saturn is located in Capricorn in the Western sky.

Best viewed in a telescope as early as possible in the evening in the first half of January. The ring and 4 moons are visible in a telescope. As the month progresses, Saturn gets low in in the western sky and is affected by a thicker atmosphere to view through make it a bit blurrier each day.


Neptune and Uranus are also in the Sky though you need a least a pair of binoculars for Uranus, and a telescope for Neptune.


You will notice the planets all in a line across the sky, the same line the Sun follows and is called the ecliptic.


CONSTELLATIONS


Capricorn is low in the west and looks like a backwards D shape of faint stars or an arrowhead. Saturn is visible as a bright yellow star in Capricorn.


Aquarius is the next one along the ecliptic with Picses just to the north with the Square of Pegasus lower in the north. Pisces is very faint but has a noticeable pentagon shape of stars called The Circlet. Jupiter is nearby and can help you locate it.


Aries is low in the northwest and appears as 3 stars in the shape of a boomerang.


Taurus is in the north and is recognizable as an upside-down V pattern with a bright red star called Aldebaran. A bright Mars is also visible in Taurus.


Though not a constellation, but the 7 Sisters (Pleiades) is in the north. A very recognizable group of stars. A pair of binoculars shows many more stars. These are the stars on the Subaru car emblem.


Gemini rises in the Northeast and appears as 2 equally bright stars called Castor and Pollux.


Orion is prominent high in the Easter sky. The belt and sword are commonly known as 'The Saucepan' in Australia. Betelguese, the shoulder of Orion, is a red supergiant is prominent as well as Rigel, the foot of Orion is a blue supergiant. The middle star in the sword is the Orion Nebula and its nebulosity can be viewed through a pair of binoculars and more impressive through a telescope.


Canis Major is also high in the Eastern Sky. Sirius or 'the Dog Star' is the brightest star in the sky and 2nd closest viewed to the naked eye at 8.5 light years away. The Little Beehive is an open cluster that can be viewed through binoculars and NGC 2362 is a nice cluster to view through a telescope. A striking double star called 145 CMa is adjacent to NGC 2362 and has an orange and a white star making a pretty pair.


Canis Minor is lower in the sky. It has a prominent nearby star called Procyon at 11 light years away.


Southern Cross and the pointers, are low in the South Eastern sky. Acrux the brightest star appears as a triple star through a telescope, and Gacrux appears as a double. Adjacent to Becrux is a beautiful open cluster called The Jewel Box 6000 light years away.


Above the Southern Cross is the False Cross and the Diamond Cross. View this region through a pair of binoculars and you can view several open clusters including The Pincushion Cluster, Southern Beehive Cluster, NGC 3114, Southern Pleiades, and the Gem Cluster. The Eta Carina Nebula is also visible just to the naked eye but better observed through a telescope.


GALAXIES

The Magellanic clouds are visible in the southern sky on moonless nights. These are 2 satellite galaxies of The Milky Way Galaxy. They appear as faint clouds and best viewed with averted vision. With a pair of binoculars, you can see the globular cluster 47 Tucanae as a fuzzy ball. A telescope brings this up as a large ball of stars, 1 million in fact. Binoculars also brings up the Tarantula Nebula as a faint small hazy patch just below the Large Magellanic Cloud.


You will need a telescope for the Silvercoin Galaxy which is high in the sky in the constellation Sculptor.


METEOR SHOWERS

The Quantranids are visible in the north up until the 12th but are hindered by a bright Moon during this time.





Whats in the Night Sky This month





November 2022



NOVEMBER NIGHT SKY 9pm


LUNAR ECLIPSE

The highlight for November is a Lunar Eclipse on November 8th.

The Moon orbits the Earth every 27 days with its orbit inclined at 5 degrees.

The Sun shines on the Earth and the Moon with each object casting a shadow behind it.

Occasionally the Full Moon passes through the Earth's shadow and out the other side.

The process starts at 7:03pm in Dubbo with the penumbral phase of the eclipse however the Moon is below the horizon at that time. The Moon rises at 7:33pm. The Moon will start to visibly disappear in the umbral eclipse phase starting at 8:05pm. The Moon will be half covered by 8:45pm and the sky will appear much darker with the Moon appearing gradually redder. The eclipse will be total at 9:22pm and stay that way until 10:43pm and the sky will be very dark with more stars visible. The Moon will progressively reappear and be full again with the penumbral phase concluding at 12:53am. Fingers crossed for a clear night!


PLANETS

Jupiter and Saturn are the planets to dominate the sky in November in the early evening.


Saturn is located overhead and appears as a bright yellow star in the constellation Capricorn.

Through a telescope, the rings are clearly visible and its largest moon Titan. If you look carefully, you may spot 3 pinpricks of light close to the rings. These are the moons, Rhea, Tethys, & Dione.


Jupiter is high in the northeast in the constellation Pisces, just to the east of the fish's head (the circlet). It appears as the brightest star in the sky so can't be missed. A pair of binoculars will show 4 of the largest Moons, the Galilean Moons Io, Europa, Ganymede, & Callisto all in a straight line. A telescope will show Jupiter as a white disk with 2 parallel lines across it. These are lines of storms above and below Jupiter's equator, equivalent to where the tropics are on Earth. Jupiter rotates on its axis every 10 hours. If you are lucky the Great Red Spot can rotate into view.


Neptune and Uranus are also in the Sky though you need a least a pair of binoculars for Uranus, and a telescope for Neptune.


Mars rises in the northeast at 11pm at the start of the month in Taurus and just after 9pm by the end of the month. It appears as a very bright red star. Don't confuse it with 2 other red stars, Aldebaran in Tauris and Betelguese in Orion. Mars makes it close approach November/December which happens every 26 months. It appears at its largest in a telescope and appears as a pale orange disk.


You will notice the planets all in a line across the sky, the same line the Sun follows and is called the ecliptic.


CONSTELLATIONS

In the early evening, Scorpio is setting in the west and appears as a large fish hook pattern. A bright red supergiant star is noticeable at its heart.


Sagittarius is just above Scorpio located in the Milky Way. It looks like an upside-down teapot. Just to the left you will see an arc of stars this is called Corona Australis or more commonly as The Southern Crown. To the right you will see small diamond shape of stars. This is Delphinus, the dolphin.


Capricorn is high in the Sky and looks like a backwards D shape of faint stars or an arrowhead. Saturn is visible as a bright yellow star in Capricorn.


Aquarius is the next one along the ecliptic with Picses just to the north with the Square of Pegasus lower in the north. Pisces is very faint but has a noticeable pentagon shape of stars called The Circlet. Jupiter is nearby and can help you locate it.


Aries is low in the northeast and appears as 3 stars in the shape of a boomerang.


Taurus rises a bit later in the night and is recognizable as an upside-down V pattern with a bright red star called Aldebaran.


Though not a constellation, but the 7 Sisters (Pleiades) is low in the northeast. A very recognizable group of stars. A pair of binoculars shows many more stars. These are the stars on the Subaru car emblem.


Not a good time of the year for the Southern Cross, as it is setting in the southwestern sky.


GALAXIES

The Magellanic clouds are visible in the southern sky on moonless nights. These are 2 satellite galaxies of The Milky Way Galaxy. They appear as faint clouds and best viewed with averted vision. With a pair of binoculars, you can see the globular cluster 47 Tucanae as a fuzzy ball. A telescope brings this up as a large ball of stars, 1 million in fact. Binoculars also brings up the Tarantula Nebula as a faint small hazy patch just below the Large Magellanic Cloud.


The Andromeda Galaxy appears as a faint cloud the size of the Moon just off the back legs of Pegasus. Better viewed through binoculars or a small telescope.


You will need a telescope for the Silvercoin Galaxy which is high in the sky in the constellation Sculptor.


The Milky Way is low in the western sky as a band of light from the Southern Cross through to Sagittarius and onto Altair a bright star in the northwest.


METEOR SHOWERS

Northern Taurids peaks on the 12th and 13th. View from the direction of Taurus in the northeast after 11pm.

Leonids peaks in the early hours of the 18th. View after 4am in the northeast near the direction of the rising crescent moon.









Whats in the Night Sky This month





20 Oct 2019



OCTOBER NIGHT SKY 8pm - 9:30pm Planetary Alignment


The planets dominate the night sky this week with an alignment of all planets excluding the planet Mars.


If you are in Dubbo on the 25th of October come and out and view the planets as we have an Open Night (Free Entry) weather permitting.


Low in the west just after sunset you will see a brilliant looking star like object. This is the planet Venus or commonly called the evening star. Venus is on the other side of the Sun 225 million km away. It will be too low in the sky to see anything clear, but is close to a full phase like a full moon.


Mercury is higher in the sky appearing as an orangish star like object, fairly bright but no where as bright as Venus. On the 31st they will be the same height above the horizon. Mercury is a planet you do not normally see unless you have a nice flat horizon. It has an elongated orbit about the Sun. This week it is at its greatest distance from the Sun, this means we will see it higher above the horizon than usual. Mercury is the closest planet to us at present at 75 million km distant this week.


Planet Jupiter is higher again, very bright and white. It is about the same altitude as a bright orange star in the sky called Antares, a red supergiant star in Scorpio. Scorpio will appear as a giant fish hook pattern in the sky and is very distinctive. A pair of binoculars will show you the 4 moons of Jupiter and a small telescope will reveal its cloud bands and the Great Red Spot.


Saturn is directly overhead and appears as a bright yellow star in the constellation Sagittarius and also named the teapot. A telescope will show Saturns rings which are a quite wide angle this year, and also its moons, Titan, Rhea, Tethys, and Dione. Saturn has been in the news last week with 20 new Moons discovered giving Saturn a total of 82 moons.


'Neptune is also high in the sky in the constellation Aquarius. You will need a telescope to view Neptune and is a gorgeous blue colour.


Uranus is rising in the east in the constellation Aries. Uranus can be seen with a pair of binoculars and appears as a green star like object. Uranus was originally named George ( named after King George III) by its discoverer William Herschell in 1781. The French wanted it to be named Neptune (before the real Neptune was discovered) but was ultimately called Uranus, the butt of all jokes.


Pluto is high in the sky in Sagittarius but it is even difficult to view in a telescope as its so small (Australia is larger than Pluto) and so distant, out past Neptune. And of course it is no longer considered a planet but I include it as everyone loves Pluto.


Mars spoils the party with it on the opposite side of the Sun so not visible. Mars only comes close once every couple of years (26 months) and comes close again in October 2020.


Ceres, the largest asteroid in the Solar System and now considered a dwarf planet is close to Jupiter in the sky but you will need a pair of binoculars to view it. It was called a planet back in the early 1800s but was kicked off the list just like Pluto was once it was discovered that Ceres was part of an asteroid belt.


Pluto's demise as a planet came to a head when a slightly larger object now named Eris was discovered. The discoverer wanted this to be the tenth planet but now Pluto and Eris are designated as dwarf planets. Eris is too faint to see but I have captured an image of it photographically through the telescope here at Dubbo.


That completes our planetary alignment this week of Venus, Mercury, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, and Eris.







Whats in the Night Sky This month





12 Sept 2019



SEPTEMBER NIGHT SKY 7pm - 8:30pm


The Moon dominates the night sky this week with a Full Moon on Saturday the 14th. With the nked eye you can make out The Rabbit with the dark areas also called Seas or Mare.


This makes it impossible to get a good view of the Milky Way, distant galaxies and most nebulae.


A dark sky will be back by the 17th of September during our 7pm - 8:30pm viewing session where the magnificent Milky Way will span across the sky. It will be stunning with the dark nebulae scattered throughout making the famous Emu constellation. It will be upside down on its head in September. Look for the head next to the Southern Cross, and its neck through the pointer stars and body out to Scorpio.


Planets Jupiter and Saturn are high in the sky in September. Saturn directly overhead as a bright yellowish looking star in Sagittarius. The rings a visible through a telescope as well as some of its moons, Titan, Rhea, Tethys, and Dione.


Jupiter appears as the brightest star (planet of course) in the night sky adjacent to Scorpio to the west of Saturn. Jupiters 4 Gailean Moons (Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa) are visible with a good pair of binoculars and the cloud belts and great red spot is visible through a telescope. On the 20th of September you will see the shadow of Ganymede moving across Jupiter from 9:25pm to 11:30pm.


Close to Jupiter in the sky is a bright orange star name Antares. This is a red supergiant star 400 light years away and the brightest star in the Constellation Scorpio. Scorpio appears a large fish hook looking pattern of stars. Antares is destined to become a bright supernova in our sky sometime in the future getting as bright as the Moon. When? who knows could be tonight or in a hundred years. All we know is that its close to the end of its life.


There are many binocular objects in Scorpio, Ptolemy's Cluster and the Butterfly Cluster are close to Scorpio's tail. There is a another cluster where Scorpio's tail starts to bend, and is called NGC 6231.Look next to Antares and you will see a fuzz ball . This is M4, a globular cluster. Through a small telescope and a large eyepiece you can view Antares and M4 together.


Next to Scorpio higher overhead is Sagittarius, It appears as a teapot structure in the Milky Way. You can find it easily by spotting Saturn as a bright yellow star near the handle of the TeaPot. Sagittarius is home to many emission nebula visible through telescopes. There is the Lagoon, Trifid, and the Swan and Eagle nearby. We can take photpgraphs of these with your DSLR camera if you attend the astrophotography tour or astroexclusive tour.


Underneath the TeaPot you will see a pretty arc of stars called The Southern Crown.

The next one along facing east is Capricorn looking Like a large letter D or arrowhead. Aquarius is lower in the Eastern sky.


Low in the north is a very bright star named Vega. You may have heard of this star before if you watched a movie named Contact with Jody Foster in it. Its a nearby star at 26 light years away. It is part of a small constellation called Lyra. It appears as 4 fainter stars in a rhombus shape next to Vega. Between the 2 top stars in that pattern you will see a doughnut shape through a telescope, this is a dead star called the Ring Nebula.


To the right of Vega is the Constellation Cygnus and also known as the Northern Cross. The head of Cygnus the swan is a beautiful binary star called Albireo, Through a telescope this appears as a gorgeous blue and orange star side by side.


Low in the northwest is a bright yellow-orange star name Arcturus, the 4th brightest star there is in the sky and the 2nd brightest at the moment as the first two are not in our skies this time of year. It is a near neighbour at 36 light years distant and with it low in the sky will appear to twinkle a lot and change colours before your eyes. It is a similar mass to our Sun and is evolving into a red giant star. It has expanded to 25 times the size of the Sun and is 170 times brighter than the Sun. Our Sun will do a similar thing in 5 billion years.


In the southern sky we have the southern cross on its side with the 2 pointer stars above it, alpha and beta Centauri. Alpha Centauri is the 3rd brightest star in the sky and appears as 2 stars through a telescope. Just above the top star in the cross is a cluster of stars called the Jewel Box. It can be just seen through binoculars but does look like jewels through a telescope.


To the left of the southern cross is the diamond cross. The right hand star is a cluster of stars called the Southern Pleiades and is a good view through a pair of binoculars.


There are 2 great globular clusters in the sky, Omega Centauri containing 10 million stars, and 47 Tucanae with 1 million stars. Bot appear as faint stars to the naked eye, but are visible with binoculars as fuzzy balls and large balls of stars through a telescope. Omega Centauri is to the upper right of the southern cross, about 2 times the width of the cross. Or draw a line from Beta Centauri down at 45 degrees to the right to Epsilon Centauri and go the same distance again an you are on it. 47 Tucanae appears as a faint star just above the small Magellanic Cloud.


2 galaxies. the Large and Small Magallenic clouds are visible in the south eastern sky. They appear as faint clouds abut are small galaxies about 200,000 light years away and orbit our own Milky Way Galaxy. To the east of this is a constellation called Sculptor. It contains a great telescopic spiral galaxy called the Silvercoin galaxy.


Planet Neptune is low in the Eastern Sky at the bottom of Aquarius. It appears as a blue star through a telescope.


Planets Venus and Mercury are very low in the western sky just after sunset but not up for very long. You will need a flat horizon to see them, but they are quite bright. They set before 7pm so not visible during our show. The crescent moon will be just to the right of Mercury with Venus below.







Whats in the Sky This Week





14 Aug 2019



This week the night sky is dominated by a bright Moon. Particularly bright as its is passing overhead very high in the sky.


This makes it impossible to get a good view of the Milky Way, distant galaxies and most nebulae.


However its great for looking at the Moon. Just use you naked eye and squint your eyes you will notice "The Seas" These are lava plains that formed 4 billion years ago when some asteroids smashed into the Moon, cracked opened its crust and magma came oozing out and filled the low lying areas of the Moon. Viewed through a small telescope you will see they are quite smooth since they were all liquid and set hard billions of years ago. They are easily seen since they are darker in fact darker than an ashphalt road since they are made of basalt. We have a full Moon overhead on the 15th.


Great time for viewing the two largest planets Jupiter and Saturn.

Jupiter is overhead in the early evening in Scorpio and not far from a bright red/orange star named Antares. Jupiter appears as the brightest looking star in the sky, but a planet of course, near the constellation scorpio. A pair of binouculars will show its moons and a telescope will show you Jupiters cloud bands and famous red spot.

Saturn appears as a bright looking yellow star (planet) in Sagittarius. You will need a telescope to view Saturns rings and moons. On the 12th Saturn is obscured by the Moon and appeared coming out from the Moon after 7pm. A great sight for our customers that night.


In the South you will see the 3 crosses, Southern Cross, Diamond Cross, and False Cross. They are setting in the South West. If you have a pair of binoculars check out 'The Southern Pleiades'which appears as a single star to the naked eye in the top right star of the diamond cross. Another cluster appears as a slight fuzzy patch just to the left of the False Cross, NGC 2516. Beautiful in binoculars.


To the West you will see another cross which is Corvus The Crow.


A bright golden star in the northwestern sky is Arcturus, 40 lights years away.


In the north low down is a bright white star called Vega. If you remember a movie 20 years ago called Contact, you will have heard of that star. Another near neighbour at 26 light years away.