Monday, June 6, 2011

The Sky This Week - Thursday June 9 to Thursday June 16

The Full Moon is Thursday June 16. On the morning of the 16th there is a total lunar eclipse visible from all of Australia. Venus, Mars and Jupiter form a line in the morning sky. Saturn is closest to the star Porrima, gamma Virginis.

The eclipsed moon near Scorpius at 5:30 am local time as seen from Adelaide, SA. In the eastern states, twilight will be starting, and in WA the eclipse will be ending. Click to embiggen.

The Full Moon is Thursday June 16. On the morning of the 16th there is a total lunar eclipse visible from all of Australia.

The eclipse starts as the Moon begins its descent towards the western horizon. It occurs in the morning before and during twilight, so you have to get out of your comfy bed to see it. It is the longest eclipse since 2000, but only WA gets to see all of it, although all states will see totality.

The Moon enters the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow (the Umbra) at 4:23 am on the east coast, 3:52 am for the central states and 2:23 am in Western Australia. Over the next hour you will see the shadow slowly creep over the Moons face until the Moon is covered by the shadow of the Earth (5:23 am eastern states, 4:52 am central states and 3:23 am WA). You should see the stars becoming more visible as the Moon darkens. The Moon will not be completely dark, but will be a deep red colour. Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are perfectly safe to look at.

You can see a YouTube videocast with additional information featuring a simulation of the eclipse here. You can get more information (eg twilight times) from the eclipse section at Southern Skywatch, and a printable guide suitable for kids and schools.

Morning sky looking north-east as seen from Adelaide at 6:30 am local time on Sunday June 12 showing Jupiter, with Mars and Venus lined up below. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen.

In the morning the bright planets are strung out in a line. Jupiter leads the procession above Mars and Venus. Mars is just above Venus, but is not very spectacular.

Bright white Venus is coming closer to the horizon, but is still readily seen in the late morning sky. Venus is "gibbous" phase, and is nearly "full".

On the 9th and 10th Venus is close to the Pleiades cluster (see image above), this will be difficult to see without a clear, level horizon (although Venus rises higher later in the twilight, the Pleiades will be washed out by the brightness of the sky).

Evening sky on Thursday June 9 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 9:30 pm local time in South Australia showing Saturn very close to Porrima (gamma Virginis). Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen, Porrima is just visible as a dot on the side of Saturn in this image).

Inset, the telescopic view of Saturn on the 9th , you will need a fairly large telescope to see any moon other than Titan. Click to embiggen.

Saturn is readily visible as the bright yellowish object not far from the bright star Spica. It is high enough for telescopic observation in the early evening. On the 9th Saturn is at its closest to the star Porrima (gamma Virginis), being just a quarter of a finger-width apart. They already look beautiful, paired close together. On the 10th the waxing Moon is close to Saturn

The big storm on Saturn is now so large that it is visible in even small telescopes. See here for some stunning amateur images.

Even in small telescopes you can see Saturn's rings and it's moon Titan. Despite being past opposition, when Saturn was at its biggest, being well past, Saturn will be big and beautiful for many weeks to come.

If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

The location of Vesta as seen at 12:30 am on June 9th looking east from Adelaide, similar views will be seen at equivalent local times elsewhere. Click to embiggen,

The asteroid Vesta is becoming brighter and is now readily visible in binoculars (magnitude 6.3), near iota Capricorni, making it very easy to find. Iota Capricorni is the third star up and to the left of the brightest star in Capricornus (see image to left). Vesta moves significantly night to night, so will be easy to follow. A chart showing Vesta's location is here.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm ADST, Western sky at 10 pm ADST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.


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