Canberra – 20% chance of seeing aurora tomorrow night (Wednesday 13 April 2016)

(Posted 12 April 2016) Spaceweather.com indicates the chance of Canberra viewing an aurora might go as high as 20% tomorrow night. For further south, there will be a 75% of seeing an aurora.

12 April 2016 Spaceweather.com screenshot capture.

12 April 2016 Spaceweather.com screenshot capture.

The below text just arrived via email from the Australian Space Forecast Centre.

SUBJ: IPS AURORA WATCH
ISSUED AT 2335 UT ON 11 Apr 2016 BY IPS RADIO AND SPACE SERVICES
FROM THE AUSTRALIAN SPACE FORECAST CENTRE

Increased geomagnetic activity due to coronal hole influence could produce visible auroras from Tasmania during local nighttime hours 12-13 Apr. Aurora alerts will follow should favourable space weather activity eventuate.

Australian Space Forecast Centre
IPS Radio and Space Services
Bureau of Meteorology

P: +61 2 9213 8010
E: asfc@ips.gov.au
_______________________________________________
ips-aurora-alert mailing list
ips-aurora-alert@listserver.ips.gov.au
http://listserver.ips.gov.au/mailman/listinfo/ips-aurora-alert

Busy sky for Canberra Monday night! Space Station passes over head and Moon near bright Jupiter (inc. finder charts)

(Posted 20 March 2016) It will be a busy night for Canberra Monday night (21 March 2016).

International Space Station finder chart for Monday 21 March 2016 for Canberra, Australia. Chart courtesy Heavens-Above.com site.

International Space Station finder chart for Monday 21 March 2016 for Canberra, Australia. Chart courtesy Heavens-Above.com site.

Firstly, the International Space Station will pass over Canberra tonight (Monday 21 March 2016). It will be easily visible as a bright star moving from the South West to the North East. The easiest way to locate the space station will be to look up to the North West until you see the ‘Saucepan’ group of stars (which is part of the ancient Greek constellation Orion The Hunter) at 8.05 pm Canberra Summer Time. The station will pass slowly from the left to the right just above the Saucepan.

More information about the chart can be found here on the highly recommended Heavens-Above.com site. Remember to hold the chart above your head so it is orientated correctly.

Jupiter and Regulus (the brightest star in the ancient Greek constellation Leo the Lion) finder chart. Look above the North East horizon for a very bright star. That will be Jupiter. Chart prepared for 8 pm AEST / 9 pm AEDT on Tuesday 15 March 2016 for Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (but will be also useful for elsewhere in Eastern Australia). Astronomical twilight has already started. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

Jupiter and Moon finder chart. Chart prepared for 7.05 pm AEST / 8.05 pm AEDT (Canberra Summer Time) on Monday 21 March 2016 for Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (but will be also useful for elsewhere in Eastern Australia). Astronomical twilight has already started. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

By coincidence, the Moon will be located to the left of a dazzlingly bright star. That star is the planet Jupiter. Jupiter is just under two weeks past opposition (the closest point to the Earth in its orbit for the year) and is perfectly placed for viewing. Tomorrow night the Moon’s orbital motion will move it to the right of Jupiter. Three of its four Galilean Moons are visible at the same time as you will be looking for the space station through a large pair of binoculars or a telescope.

Jupiter and Moon finder chart. Chart prepared for 7.05 pm AEST / 8.05 pm AEDT (Canberra Summer Time) on Monday 21 March 2016 for Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (but will be also useful for elsewhere in Eastern Australia). Astronomical twilight has already started. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

Jupiter and three of it’s four largest moons finder chart. Chart prepared for 7.05 pm AEST / 8.05 pm AEDT (Canberra Summer Time) on Monday 21 March 2016 for Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (but will be also useful for elsewhere in Eastern Australia). Astronomical twilight has already started. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

I hope you have clear skies for both events.

All five bright planets come together in the morning sky

All five bright planets come together in the morning sky

Tanya Hill, Museum Victoria

For the first time in more than 10 years, it will be possible to see all five bright planets together in the sky. Around an hour or so before sunrise, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, the five planets that have been observed since ancient times, will appear in a line that stretches from high in the north to low in the east.

The planets are visible from right across Australia in the dawn sky. You can start to look for the lineup from Wednesday, January 20 and it can be seen right through until the end of February.

Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have been in the morning sky since the beginning of the year. Jupiter is bright in the north, next comes reddish Mars, followed by pale Saturn and lastly brilliant Venus, which shines above the eastern horizon. It is the appearance of Mercury that makes the family complete.

Mercury has just transitioned from an evening object to a morning object. At first it will appear quite low to the eastern horizon and of all the planets it is also the faintest, so it will be hard to see to begin with. However, Mercury will continue to rise higher each morning and by early February it will sit just below bright Venus.

Dates with the moon

If you need something a little more to get you leaping out of bed before sunrise, then here are the dates to mark in your calendar. From the end of January, the moon will travel by each planet and can be used as an easy guide for your planet-spotting.

On January 28, the moon will be right next to Jupiter. Come February 1, the moon (in its Last Quarter phase) will be alongside Mars, then on the following morning it’ll sit just below the red planet. On the morning of February 4, the crescent moon will be near Saturn. Then on February 6, the moon will be alongside Venus and on February 7, a thin sliver of moon will sit below Mercury.

From January 28 through to February 7, the waning moon will travel through the line up of planets, passing each one in turn. Museum Victoria/Stellarium

In line with the sun

The line formed by the planets in the sky closely follows the ecliptic, the apparent path of the sun against the background stars. This path marks the plane of our solar system, visual proof that the planets, including Earth, all orbit the sun on roughly the same plane.

The ecliptic is bordered by the constellations of the zodiac and one of the most recognisable zodiac constellations is Scorpius. If you’re awake before the first rays of the sun begin to drown out the stars, then look for the curved outline of the scorpion between Mars and Saturn. In fact, sitting just above Saturn is the red supergiant star Antares, which marks the heart of the scorpion and its reddish colour makes it the perfect rival for Mars.

Rare oddity

It’s been a long time since the orbits of all five planets have brought them together to the same patch of sky. To make the best of the viewing opportunity try and get to a clear open space where you can see from the north all the way across to the eastern horizon.

Position of the planets in their orbits around the sun as of February 2016. from www.theplanetstoday.com

As early February comes around, I also highly recommend checking out the flight path of the International Space Station via websites such as Heavens Above or NASA’s Spot the Station.

The Station will be flying morning passes over Australia during that time and current predictions for each capital city have it travelling right through or near the line of planets, for example: Darwin (February 3), Brisbane (February 5), Perth (February 6), Sydney (February 7), Canberra (February 7), Adelaide (February 8), Melbourne (February 9) and Hobart (February 11). The predictions can change slightly, so best to check the websites closer to the date and be sure to enter your precise location to obtain the most accurate timing for the pass.

Finally, there’s still more to come. This August the five planets will be together again, visible in the evening sky, so stay tuned for more planet watching in 2016.

The Conversation

Tanya Hill, Honorary Fellow of the University of Melbourne and Senior Curator (Astronomy), Museum Victoria

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Jupiter rises!

(Posted 30 December 2015) If you are up late tonight (well late for me as I am now middle aged!), look very low above the Eastern horizon for a bright star. You have spotted the planet Jupiter.

Jupiter and Regulus (the brightest star in the ancient Greek constellation Leo ‘The Lion’) finder chart. Chart prepared for 11:40 pm AEST on Friday 25 December 2015 (12:40 am AEDT 26 December) for Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

Jupiter and Regulus (the brightest star in the ancient Greek constellation Leo ‘The Lion’) finder chart. Chart prepared for 11:40 pm AEST on Friday 25 December 2015 (12:40 am AEDT 26 December) for Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

Jupiter rises at 11:13 pm AEST / 12:13 pm AEDT tomorrow morning. As an aside, there is no other brighter star in that part of the sky that you can mistake Jupiter for.

Christmas night 2015 brings the Full Moon, a lunar occulation and the planet Jupiter to test out your new telescope / binoculars

(Posted 23 December 2015) Getting a new telescope or binoculars on Christmas day and want to know what you can look at that night to test them out? By coincidence, there will be a lunar occulation on Christmas night which you can look at with your new optical instrument. The term occultation refers to the Moon’s orbital motion temporarily blocking an object from view. In this case, it will be a 5th magnitude star 71 Orionis (located in the constellation Orion).

Moon, Venus, Saturn and Antares (the brightest star in the ancient Greek constellation Scorpius) finder chart. Chart prepared for 3:30 am AEST / 4:30 am AEDT on Thursday 7 January 2016 for Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (but will be also useful for elsewhere in Eastern Australia). Astronomical twilight has already started. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

71 Orionis finder chart. Chart prepared for 8:19 pm AEST / 9:19 pm AEDT on Friday 25 December 2015 for Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. The chart shows 71 Orionis location just prior to occulatation by the Moon. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

That was the good news. Unfortunately the Moon will be Full on Christmas Day (at 9:11 pm AEST / 10:11 pm AEDT) meaning that watching the occulatation will be like staring into a blinding spotlight which is at it’s brightest.

71 Orionis finder chart. Chart prepared for 8:19 pm AEST / 9:19 pm AEDT on Friday 25 December 2015 for Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. The chart shows 71 Orionis location just prior to occulatation by the Moon. Astronomical twilight has already started. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

71 Orionis finder chart. Chart prepared for 9:36 pm AEST / 10:36 pm AEDT on Friday 25 December 2015 for Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. The chart shows 71 Orionis location just after occulatation by the Moon. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

 

My astronomy program shows that 71 Orionis will disappear behind the Moon at 8:21 pm AEST /9:21 pm AEDT and reappear from behind the Moon at 9:34 pm AEST / 10:34 pm AEST. Use the two charts above to help you know where to look to observe this event.

71 Orionis finder chart. Chart prepared for 9:36 pm AEST / 10:36 pm AEDT on Friday 25 December 2015 for Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. The chart shows 71 Orionis location just after occulatation by the Moon. Astronomical twilight has already started. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

Jupiter and Regulus (the brightest star in the ancient Greek constellation Leo ‘The Lion’) finder chart. Chart prepared for 11:40 pm AEST on Friday 25 December 2015 (12:40 am AEDT 26 December)  for Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

If you are really keen to test out your telescope or binoculars, I would wait until Jupiter rises even later in the evening (after 11:40 pm AEST / 12:40 pm AEDT on 26 December 2015). Just look for a dazzling star low on the Eastern horizon (see above chart). The view will be terrible as you will be looking through lots of atmosphere but will be able to say you have seen your first planet through your new optical equipment.

Three Iridium flares visible in Canberra tonight

(Posted 19 December 2015) If you can pull yourself away from the air conditioner tonight in Canberra, you will can watch three Iridium flares tonight. They occur at 8:15 pm AEDT, 10:51 pm AEDT and 11:00 pm AEDT.

Iridium flare finder chart for 19 December 2015 for Gowrie, Canberra, Australia for 10:51 pm AEDT.

Iridium flare finder chart for 19 December 2015 for Gowrie, Canberra, Australia for 10:51 pm AEDT. Finder chart courtesy Heavens-Above.com

Iridium flares are brief but spectacularly bright flares of light that occur when sunlight reflects off one of the communication antennas of an Iridium satellite. The Iridium satellites are relatively small and usually need binoculars to locate otherwise.

Note that the links (and above chart) are for the Canberra suburb of Gilmore. Go here for a link to your suburb to the highly recommended Heavens-Above.com site. Keep in mind when using the charts the site generates over your head so they are orientated correctly.

Space Station visible in Canberra dawn sky 11 – 19 December 2015

(Posted 10 December 2015) If you are an early riser (and that does mean very early!), you can see the International Space Station from across Canberra over the next nine mornings. A bonus for those getting into astronomy is that the brightness of the space station means that you don’t need any sort of optical aid to watch as it passes overhead. You just have to look for a slow moving very bright star.

The International Space Space Station passes to the North of Canberra in May 2015. Image (c) Paul Floyd 2015.

The International Space Space Station passes to the North of Canberra in May 2015. The camera shutter was let open for a few seconds to capture the station moving across the sky. Image (c) Paul Floyd 2015.

The exact times the station is visible will vary each day. The best thing is to go to the bookmarks I have created for each Canberra suburb at the highly recommended HeavensAbove.com site, select the link for ISS (short for the International Space Station) and then select the day that interests you. The site even generates a finder chart for each day with the path of the station marked on it. One final tip. The charts are designed to be used by holding them over your head and upside down. Look down at them and they will not be orientated correctly.