This Weeks Predictable Sky and Space Events (8 – 14 August 2010)

August 7, 2010 | By | 1 Comment
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These notes are intended to provide a casual skywatcher or someone already into amateur astronomy living in the Australian Capital Territory or in South East Queensland (Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast) with a short summary of what is happening in the night sky this week. Most of the information and finder charts will also be useful for observers elsewhere in Eastern Australia. Finally, instructions on how to obtain customised satellite viewing information for your location can be found here.

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Predictable Sky and Space Events

All week

The planets Mercury, Venus, Mars and Saturn are easily visible to the unaided eye in the evening twilight and early evening sky all week.  The below chart is for Thursday 12 August 2010 near the end of evening twilight but is useful for the whole week to show where the four planets are located in the early evening sky. A similiar gathering (where these four planets plus the Earth’s Moon will be within 18.5 degrees of each other) won’t be visible until September 2040.

Finder chart for Thursday 12 August 2010. Look above the Western horizon as evening twilight ends.

If you are new to astronomy, one of the first questions you are likely to ask at the moment is “What is that bright flickering star I can see above the Western horizon in the early evening sky?”. That is Venus. The reason for it flickering has to do with the light from it being ‘bent’ or broken into the individual colours of the rainbow/spectrum by the Earth’s atmosphere as it starts to set. The lower down an object is the more atmosphere the light has to travel through. Add in a bit of wind in the upper atmosphere and you start to get a ‘star’ which can change colour and make people wonder if they are seeing a UFO. They aren’t. It is just Venus.

Jupiter can easily visible as a bright star above the Eastern horizon from around 9.30 pm onwards. With binoculars (at least 10 by 50’s), and a bit of patience you will be able to locate the planet Uranus. In spite of it’s significant size, Uranus is not very impressive – even in a large amateur telescope. It is just too far away.

Sunday 8 August 2010

Mercury at aphelion

Monday 9 August 2010

Look around 9.30 pm all week above the Eastern horizon to locate Jupiter. It appears to the unaided eye as a very bright star. If you have patience and a better finder chart, you can also find the planet Uranus with only a pair of binoculars. It will take a telescope however to resolve Uranus’s disc.

Look above the Eastern horizon around 9.30pm all week to find Jupiter and Uranus (if you have a better finder chart and at least a pair of binoculars).

Tuesday 10 August 2010

New Moon

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Moon at perigee (4am AEST)

Thursday 12 August 2010

Perseids Meteor Shower Peak. This gets a lot of media attention given that it occurs during the Northern hemisphere Summer when it can easily be observed. From most of Australia, the radiant (the point from which meteors appear to come from) is below our local horizon and therefore we miss out on most of the meteors.

If you want to find out more about the Perseid Meteor Shower from a Northern hemisphere perspective, NASA Science News has an interesting story about it here.

Friday 13 August 2010

Moon located 8 degrees North of Saturn (5pm)

Moon located 5 degrees North of the Venus (10pm)

Tonight will be the highlight of this weeks planetary gathering - with a crescent Moon temporarily joining the planets Venus, Mars and Saturn.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Moon 6 degrees North of Mars

For Further Information

Planet and Moon Rise/Set Times

Planet and Moon rise/set times for 2010 can be found here on this website.

Customised Astronomy & Satellite Viewing information

Information on how to obtain customised astronomy & satellite viewing information for your location can be found here on this website.

Great Red Spot (Jupiter) viewing times

Information on when to see the Great Red Spot on Jupiter in 2010 can be found here on this website. Keep in mind that Jupiter is currently only visible in the morning sky.

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