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What’s in the Sky in January

January

  • At this time of the year the Great Orion Nebula is rising in the East. The Boorong call this constellation Kulkunbulla, a number of young men dancing. Just East of Orion is the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, Alpha Canis major, which also forms the body of Warepil, the Wedge-tailed Eagle, Australia’s largest bird.
  • 2nd Lunar Perigee, closest approach for the month 09:55hr AEDT, Dist. 352,904km.
  • 3rd Perihelion of C/2021 A1 (Leonard) reaches periapse, the point in it’s orbit nearest to the focus of gravitational attraction, the Sun. Image:JBailey Comet Leonard 20 sec.f/2.8 50 mm ISO 3200 Canon EOS 5D Mark lll 21:27hrs AEDT
  • Leonard
  • 4rd Earth is at Perihelion, closest approach to the Sun at 147.1 million km, peri means close, apo means far, and helios means the Sun. Currently occurring about 2 weeks after the December Solstice, the furthest the Sun travels South, the Tropic of Capricorn. In 1246, the December Solstice was on the same day as the Earth reached its perihelion. Since then, the perihelion and aphelion dates have drifted by a day every 58 years. The dates can vary by up to 2 days each year.
  • 4th the waning gibbous Moon will be good for the expected Quadrantid meteor shower (QUA) active December 28th to Januaray 12th, maximum on January 3rd 20h40m UT – (4th Jan 07:40hrs AEDT), expected ZHR = 120 (can vary ≈ 60–200).  Here in Ballarat the Radiant point doesn’t rise until after 10:30hrs AEDT and so the meteor shower is below the NE-N horizon but it maybe possible to see the end of bright meteors coming from north of Arcturus,below the horizon.
  • 7th Latest sunset of the Year 21:49:25hrs AEDT at the Observatory.
  • 7th Mercury at greatest elongation East 19Degrees East of the Sun, Saturn, Jupiter and distant Pluto are setting just after the Sun.
  • 6th Saturn Setting at 22:23hrs AEDT, dist 1,614,066,381km, mag. 0.7.
  • 6th Jupiter 4 degrees Nth of the Moon, distance 842, 258,288km, mag. -2.1.
  • 14th Luna Apogee, furthest distance from Earth for the month 20:26hr AEDT 405,804.5km.
  • 18th Asteroid (7482) 1994  PC1 was discovered by Robert H. McNaught  on 9th August 1994. 7482 is more than twice the size of the Empire State Building and will come within 1.98 million kilometers of the Earth on January 18, according to NASA. At between 1 and 1.3 kilometers wide, NASA considers asteroid 7482 ‘potentially hazardous,’ with the Davidson Institute of Science calculating asteroids over 140 meters would release at least a thousand times more energy than the first atomic bomb on impact with Earth, while an asteroid over 300 meters could destroy an entire continent. Of course, any chances of such an impact are entirely unlikely, as the closest 7482 is likely to come to Earth is more than five times the distance of that between the Earth and the Moon, and it is also not alone in being a potentially hazardous asteroid passing by this month. Asteroid 2013 YD48 will fly past Earth January 12 around 5.59 million kilometers away, and asteroid 2017 XC62 will pass around 7.2 million kilometers away on January 24. NASA Link to Video about potentially hazardous asteroids)
  • 30th Lunar Perigee, 2nd for the month, and 2nd closest 18:11hr AEDT, Dist. 362,252.4km

What’s in the Sky in May

Image: Looking East, 6th May 04:00hrs AEST

May

  • 6-7th Eta Aquarid Meteor shower peaks on the afternoon of the 6th at 13:00hrs AEST,  ~50 meteors /hour, travelling at 65.9km/sec.  This meteor shower is active from April 29th – May 28th and is visible as the Earth is passing through the debris left by Comet Halley as it orbits the Sun every 76 years. Start looking on the 6th from 4.00 am and come out again on the 7th same time, either side of the peak. Recent peak ZHRs were ~2008 -85, 2009-70, 2017-75, 2018-60, 2019-50, 2020-55 (preliminary), this might indicate rather a trend to lower ZHRs, but observations are needed to find out whether this is the case, or if the rates change in another way. The radiant (point from which they appear to come from) is just below and to the West of Jupiter. Rug up well with a thermos nearby to keep warm.
  • 12th Moon at Apogee, furthest from Earth for the month, 7:54hrs AEST, 406,509.8km.
  • 26th Moon at Perigee 11:49hrs AEST, 357,311.7 km. The Moon will be the closest for some time and if clear, a magnificent sight in the evening. A Total Eclipse of the Moon – Viewing at the Observatory will begin from 19:00hrs AEST.
  • Ballarat Local Time for Eclipse

    Penumbra entered 26 May 2021 18:47 AEST
    Umbra entered 26 May 2021 19:44 AEST
    Totality begins 26 May 2021 21:06 AEST
    Totality ends 26 May 2021 21:31 AEST
    Umbra left 26 May 2021 22:54 AEST
    Penumbra left 26 May 2021 23:51 AEST

What’s in the Sky in July

Image: Looking towards the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy.  Credit: Mark Justice

July

At this time of the Year the spectacular heart of our Milky Way Galaxy is rising in the East.

  • 1st  Saturn is rising at 7.45pm AEST and is at a distance 1358.8 million km, magnitude +0.4.
  • 6th Moon at Apogee, furthest from Earth for the month 00:46hrs AEST, 405, 340.1km.
  • 21st Moon at Perigee, closest to Earth for the month, 20:27hrs, 364,517.9km.
  • 31st Saturn is rising at 5:37pm AEST and is at Opposition on Monday August 2nd at 3:57:12pm AEST, closest approach to Earth, magnitude +0.2, distance 1336.8 million km..

 

 

What’s in the Sky in September

September all times AEST

  • 1st Mars is setting just after the Sun now on it’s was to conjunction, on the opposite side of the Sun to Earth  in Early October.
  • 7th Saturn is Mag.o.3 rising at 14:54hr  and transiting at 21:59hrs   setting at 05:04hrs  on the 8th, distance from Earth is 1,364,628.100km and is moving away from the Earth. The tilt of the North Pole towards Earth is 19.1114 degrees
  • 7th Venus is an evening object setting at  morning object rising at 04:54hr, mag. -4.0, Dist. 190,299,434km. 81.44% illuminated.
  • 7th Jupiter is rising at 14:19hrs, transiting at 23:08hrs, setting at 05:56hrs on the 8th. Mag. -2.8 and moving away from Earth now. Distance from Earth is 607,636,986km. The surface gravity on Jupiter is 2.53  x Earth’s gravity. Orbital Period is 11.86 years. Rotaion Period is 9hrs 55m 41s. Tilt of Nth Pole towards Earth is 0.6904 degrees.

 

 

 

  • 10th Mercury followed by Spica,Venus and a 3.5 day old Moon set together about 9pm.
  • 11th Moon at Perigee 20:02hrs  distance from Earth 368,465.0km.
  • 23rd Southward Equinox 05:22hrs AEST The Sun is now heading into the Southern Hemisphere and for a point time, The Sun crosses the Celestial Equator which is directly above the Equator on the surface of Earth.  The length of day from sunset to sunrise is ~ 12 hours sunrise 06:11hrs sunset 18:23hrs today.
    The Parker Solar Probe Team Sheds New Light on Structure, Behavior of Inner Solar System Dust. The best time to observe this dust known as the Zodiacal Light for here in the Southern Hemisphere, is around the Spring Equinox which falls this year on 23rd September at 5.22am AEST. So a couple of days either side you can look for it.
    You do need a dark sky to see the zodiacal light so head to the darkest sky you can reach and look just after sunset. Turn off unnecessary lighting to help keep the night dark.
  • 26th Daylight Savings begins. AEDT Time.
  • 27th  Moon at Apogee  08:45hrs AEDT distance from Earth 404,640.1km.

The Ozone hole is larger than usual for this time of the year. This years hole is growing quickly and is larger than 75% of ozone holes at this stage in the season since 1979. This hole is similar to the one in 2020 which was one of the longest and deepest since 1979. Special attention is needed to understand why this is happening. The Ozone hole has typically grown to a mximum of 20 million sq km. Over all, the hole is slowly reducing over many years as the damage caused by CFCs which are now banned in 197 countries, is slowly dissipated, probably around 2060-2070’s. 16th September below shows the levels of Ozone for the day. The chart is produced daily on the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service, link on image.

This map is centered on the Antarctic region. Areas coloured yellow, orange and red depict high ozone values, whereas green and blue areas show low values. The solid black line is the 220 DU contour, which is commonly used to define the area of the ozone hole.

 

What’s in the Sky in November

November

  • 6th Moon at Perigee 09:21 AEDT  Perigee distance 358843.4km
  • 8th Mars is an early morning object close to Mercury and is a very distant object Mag. 1.6  Dist. 383,731,208km. Tilt of North pole towards Earth is 18.8823 degrees.
  • 8th Saturn at mag. 0.6 rising 11:49hr AEDT, Dist. 1,500,835,194km. Tilt of Saturn’s North pole towards Earth is 19.2001 degrees.
  • 8th Jupiter is an evening objects during November rising at 13:06AEDT,  mag. -2.4, dist. 798,503.513km, tilt of North Pole towards Earth is 0.5206 degrees.
  • 8th 1 degree South of the Moon, Venus is a bright  evening object rising at 08:47hr AEDT, mag. -4.6, Dist. 88,244km. 44.14% illuminated.
  • 8th Mercury is an early morning object rising at 05:29hr AEDT just before the Sun. Mag. -0.41.5, dist. 137,593,293km. Tilt of North Pole towards earth is 0.3368degrees.
  • 9th Moon at it’s highest altitude 26 Degrees.
  • 17th Leonids Meteor shower peak is 20hr30m AEDT best visibility at predawn.

Leonids (LEO)Active: November 6—30; Z ~ 10; V∞ = 71 km/s.

The last perihelion passage of the Leonid’s parent comet, 55P/Temple-Tuttle, in 1998 is almost two decades ago now. With the knowledge of the dust ejection and trail evolution, variable activity has been modelled and observed in several years. The Leonids occur during a nearly Full Moon and so the shower will no be easy to view this year.  Credit:IMO. Radiant lower middle of image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right: Engraving by Adolf Vollmy (1889)

This famous engraving of the 1833 Leonid meteor shower was produced for the Adventist book Bible Readings for the Home Circle by Adolf Vollmy. It’s based on a painting by Swiss artist Karl Jauslin, which, in turn, was based on a first-person account of the 1833 storm by a minister, Joseph Harvey Waggoner, who saw the 1833 shower on his way from Florida to New Orleans.

In that famous shower, hundreds of thousands of meteors per hour were seen! It was the first recorded meteor storm of modern times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • 19th Partial (Almost Total) Eclipse of the Moon – Visible after sunset as it is moving out of eclipse.
  • 21st Moon at Apogee 13:16hr AEDT, Dist. 406,277.7km.

 

  • 27th Monocerotids Meteor Shower Peak in the evening.

Monocerotids (019 MON) Active: November 27–December 20; Maximum: December 9 ; ZHR = 3; V∞ = 42 km/s.

This minor shower’s details need further improvement by observational data. In most years,

visual data give a maximum ZHR = 3, while the general ZHR level is about 2.

December’s 4 day old Moon creates good conditions for either potential maximum timing, as the radiant area is available virtually all night for much of the globe. Credit IMO.  Radiant of shower below Betelgeuse.

 

What’s in the Sky in December

December

  • 4th Partial Eclipse of the Sun. Just a small arc of the Sun will be covered by the Moon at 20:10AEDT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • 4th Moon at Perigee 21:06 AEDT  Perigee distance 356,793.718km
  • 4th Mars is an early morning object  Mag. 1.6  Dist. 369,833,839 km. Tilt of North pole towards Earth is 12.6106 degrees.
  • 4th Saturn at mag. 0.7 setting at 00:23 AEDT on the 5th, Dist. 1,560,519,261km. Tilt of Saturn’s North pole towards Earth is 18.5672 degrees.
  • 4th Jupiter is an evening object setting at 01:12AEDT on the 5th,  mag. -2.3, dist. 776,514,431km, tilt of North Pole towards Earth is 0.5685 degrees.
  • 4th Mercury is an evening object very close to the Sun.
  • 4th-17th  Geminids Meteor Shower  Maximum: December 14, 07h UT ( 18Hr AEDT);  ZHR = 150; Velocity = 35 km/s. The best and most reliable of the major annual showers presently observable reaches its broad maximum on December 14 centred at 07h UT. Well north of the equator, the radiant rises about sunset, reaching a usable elevation from the local evening hours onwards. In the southern hemisphere, the radiant appears only around local midnight or so. It culminates near 02h
    local time. Even from more southerly sites, this is a splendid stream of often bright, medium-speed meteors, a rewarding event
    for all observers, whatever method they employ.
    The peak has shown little variability in its timing in recent years, with the more reliably-reported maxima during the past two decades  all having occurred around 2021 December 13, 14h to December 14, 12h UT. The peak ZHRs have shown a slight increase over a longer period and reached 140{150 in all recent years. Usually, near-peak Geminid rates persist for several hours, so much of the world has the chance to enjoy something of the shower’s best. Mass-sorting within the stream means fainter meteors should be most abundant almost a day ahead of the visual maximum. The 2021 return occurs only four days before full Moon. Depending on the latitude, the moon sets around 02h local time and leaves about 3{5 hours for observations in a dark sky. Source: IMO
  • 18th Moon at Apogee 13:16hr AEDT, Dist. 406,316.3km.
  • 17th – 24th C/2021  A1 (Leonard) is due in our skies after sunset. All being well, it may even get a little brighter than currently predicted, we will soon find out.
  • 22nd South Solstice  (or Summer Solstice in Southern Hemisphere) 03:00AEDT.  The Sun is at it’s Southern most position, -23  26′ 07.39″

 

Finder maps for C/2021 A1 (Leonard) below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in the Sky in February

February

  • 4th Moon at Perigee 6.07 AEDT, 370119.3 km.
  • 10th The Large Magellanic Cloud  (LMC) reaches highest altitude about 9.30pm AEDT atmgnitude 0.28. The LMC is a spiral galaxy in Dorado at a distance of 160kly and a diameter of 29.7kly in diameter.  The Tarantula Nebula, NGC 2070 is located in this area and is magnitude 5. it is 1,833ly in diameter. The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) located nearby is a spiral Galxy in Tucana and 200kly in distance and 17.5kly in diameter. visual magnitude is 2.29. These two irregular dwarf are members of our local group and are orbiting the Milky Way Galaxy.
  • Kourtchin (Boorong) refer to the Magellanic Clouds as the male (LMC) and female (SMC), brolgas. Each cloud resembles the colour and pitted shell of the brolga egg. Brolgas breed from October to April , when the clouds are at their highest, extending into nearby stars the larger one is trumpeting and the smaller one displaying, but dancing as a pair towards each other.

 

 

  • 11th Saturn, Venus  and Jupiter just North of the Crescent Moon before Sunrise.
  • 18th Mercury has joined Saturn, Venus and Jupiter in a quadruple conjunction in the morningg sky.
  • 18th Luna Apogee, furthest distance from Earth for the month 21:22hr AEDT 404,467.4km.
  • 23rd Moon at it’s lowest altitude , just West of Pollux and Castor close to 22:00hrs AEDT.