Watch out for the magnificent conjunction Venus-Jupiter, March 2012

This is the best rendezvous of Venus and Jupiter in years.  You’ll need clear westerly views. Due to their magnitude the two brightest Planets are already visible when the light of the Sun still lingers. They have been moving toward each others for a while now. The conjunction will be exact on March 15, but the two will remain visually close for the whole month of March. It would be worth your while to look them up every evening for the next week or so. It should be easy to recognize Venus because she is the brightest amongst the two (approx. magnitude -4.18 versus magnitude -1.96).

Astrologically this is considered a fortunate conjunction, Venus and Jupiter being known as the two most fortunate planets, one fostering cooperation, love and artistic creativity (Venus), the other optimism, expansion and improvement at all levels (Jupiter). This is a positive aspect for relationships, travel, business, artistic expression,  fun, financial gain and all sorts of opportunities. In direct line with this transit are Pisces born between the 12 and 16 of March, Taurus born between April 28 and May 2, and all those born with the Sun, Moon, any Planet, Lunar Node, or Angle between the 8th and 12th degrees of Taurus, Pisces, Virgo, Capricorn and Cancer. Scorpio, Leo and Aquarius are also aligned to this transit , but, being connected with it via opposition and squares respectively, they could experience some difficulties in enjoying its full benefits.

I have to apologize for an error in an earlier version of this post (now corrected), if you happen to have read it before this editing, where I stated that Jupiter was Retrograded at this time. He is not, while Mars and Mercury are. A Retro Mercury’s trick?

For more on this transit and others active in March 2012 please check my recent Venus in Taurus post, HERE.

Below is a sky-scape of this event, taken on March 15, around 7.40 pm, looking North-West, low on the horizon (in mid-latitude in the Southern Hemisphere). Note Aldebaran, alpha star of Taurus, and the Pleiades, Seven Sisters, above, and beautiful Capella, alpha star of Auriga, the Charioteer, parallel and north of the conjunction, and finally Hamal, alpha of Aries, the Ram, below the conjunction. Looking up you will also see the great sky Hunter, Orion, and west of it the two main stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux.

March is in fact a great month for naked eye observation of the planets, with Mars at his brightest after his opposition to the Sun, on March 5, and Saturn visible east of Mars, still close to Spica, the brightest star of Virgo.

click to view larger image ~ created with Stellarium, free and wonderful software

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November 2011, Stars over Wollumbin, our Southern Skies

November is a great month for observing the evening and night skies.

King Jupiter is the brightest, visible for great part of the night

Venus sets later every evening in the West, becoming more brilliant

Mercury remains visible the whole month, setting after the Sun in the West

Red Mars is up a few hours before sunrise

Saturn will make his first appearance at the end of November in the pre dawn sky

Other events

~ a close encounter with Asteroid Lutetia (a once in 30 years event), coming our way on November 8 ~

~ a massive Sun Spot ~ Meteors Showers ~ a Partial Solar Eclipse ~


I haven’t been able to update the Stars over Wollumbin page and the skyscapes of observable events (right sidebar’s link) since September. I am still keen on these regular features. I’ll try my best to continue updating them. Writing these posts help me, and hopefully my readers too, to stay in touch with the ‘real’ celestial bodies, getting a sense of their visible, tangible magic.

*MERCURY: transiting Tropical Sagittarius this month Mercury can be observed, with Venus, against the backdrop of Scorpio constellation. For the first two weeks of November it will be easy to spot Mercury because of his vicinity to Venus, especially for people in the Southern Hemisphere. Mercury will reach a magnitude of – 0.3 compared with much brilliant Venus, -3.9, and appear southward and nearly parallel to Venus in our southern regions. A few minutes ago I had them both framed by my caravan’s window!

Now Evening Star, after becoming Stationary Retrograde on November 23, Mercury will conjunct the Sun on December 4 (Inferior Conjunction). Our Little Brother will afterwards re-emerge in the dawn twilight, very close to the eastern horizon, in early December. The Crescent Moon will be appear close to Mercury in the evening sky on November 26.


VENUS: Venus is again queen of the evening sky, but Jupiter, in the opposite hemisphere, surpasses her in brilliance in November. She is gradually separating from the Sun this month, climbing the sky higher every evening, from West to East, reflecting more sunlight back to Earth and thus becoming brighter.

Mercury is doing just the opposite, nearing the Sun and edging toward the western horizon.

Venus will be at her maximum brightness in April 2012, having reached  maximum elongation or longitudinal distance from the Sun, at the end of March. The Crescent Moon will be close to Venus in the evening sky on November 27.

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*MARS: in November Mars will be visible only for a few hours, rising about 2 am in Southern Hemisphere mid-latitudes, and remaining pretty close to the horizon. The dark hour just before dawn will be the best time to spot Mars because then he will be higher in the sky.

Another chance to recognize the Red Planet will be on November 10 when it will be conjunct the alpha star of Leo, Regulus, the Little King; and also on November 17/18, night of the Leonid Meteorite Shower, when the Last Quarter Moon may hinder the shooting stars’ view while making Mars more obvious.



JUPITER: the brightest planet this month, after the Sun opposed him on October 28, Jupiter is now already high in the North-Eastern sky by sunset. The Giant Planet will set earlier every night as we near December, descending toward the West.

Jupiter is transiting between the constellation of Aries (the Ram), Pisces (the Fish) and Cetus (the Whale). The Moon will be visually close to Jupiter on November 8/9.

November 2011 is not be the best month to spot SATURN, as the Ringed Planet will remain very close to the Eastern horizon, mainly lost in the pre dawn twilight until the middle of the month, particularly in Southern Hemisphere latitudes. Saturn is however slowly climbing the sky, not completely invisible as it was the case in October. By the end of the month it will become easier to observe Saturn, a not so bright Morning Star in the East.

Throughout the month Saturn will transit in the vicinity of the alpha star of Virgo, Spica, the ear of corn in the maiden’s hand. To make sure to find both the planet and the star, wait until November 22 when the Waning Crescent Moon will be close to them just before sunrise.


Other major astronomical events in November

Two Meteors Showers are expected this month, the Taurid and the Leonids. The first reached its peak in early November, but some shooting stars could still be observed until the middle of November, coming from the Pleiades and Hyades clusters, near the constellation of Taurus. There aren’t that many shooting stars in this shower but they are sometimes quite bright.

The Leonid Shower can be active between November 13 and 20 instead, reaching its peak on November 17/18. This shower displays 25 to 40 meteors per hour, usually not very bright, but prone to occasional outbursts (meteors’ storms).

Best time for viewing the Leonids will be after 3 am. The Last Quarter Moon, on November 17/18 may actually hinder this shower’s view, the Moon transiting in between the front paws of the celestial lion on the night of the 18th, just above Mars and Regulus.

A massive Sunspot (called AR1339) was detected by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) on November 3. It is apparently 80,000km x 40,000km, many times bigger than planet Earth.

The Sunspot is expected to face the Earth during the second week in November, possibly causing intense solar flares that in turn could affect our electrical power grids and the working of our satellites. A big Solar Flare was already detected on November 6.

Enough for a week? I think so!

For more information about this Sunspot please navigate to this SpaceWeather’s article HERE.

And fro a historical take on Sun Spots and Flares please navigate to some interesting article on space.com HERE.

A Partial Solar Eclipse in the Tropical Sign of  Sagittarius is on the cards for the New Moon of November 25. This Eclipse will be visible only partially from some places in New Zealand, Tasmania and South Africa and nearly in its entirety across Western Antarctica. The series to which this Eclipse belongs started near the North Pole in 1074 and will end in 2084 at the South Pole.

For more information about this Eclipse please navigate to this Wikipedia article HERE.

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All the Sky Snapshots have been generated using Stellarium, a wonderful Planetarium freeware software.

Information for the Sky Events has been gathered from these web sites:

http://www.suite101.com/profile.cfm/kellykw

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mjpowell/Astro/Naked-Eye-Planets/Naked-Eye-Planets.htm#PlanetList

http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/visible-planets-tonight-mars-jupiter-venus-saturn-mercury

http://www.astronomy.com/en/News-Observing/Sky%20this%20Month.aspx

http://www.curtrenz.com/astronomical.html

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September 2011, Stars over Wollumbin, our Southern Skies

Not as many planets will be visible in the September’s sky,

while the now famous comet Elenin will be the center of attention to many,

for all the wrong reasons.

*MERCURY formed his Inferior Conjunction with the Sun, moving between the Earth and the Sun, on August 16, and re-emerged in the pre-dawn sky at the end of August.


Our Little brother will become visible for a short time in early September.

It will be possible to observe Mercury around September 9, looking East, just before sunrise, when it will be very close to Regulus, alpha star of the Leo constellation, but only in a place with a very low and clear horizon.

After the middle of September Mercury will disappear in the Sun’s glow once more, to make his last appearance of 2011 as a Evening Star, from the end of October to late November.

From early December Mercury will be again a Morning Star.

VENUS: September will not be a good month to observe Venus. After her Superior Conjunction to the Sun in mid-August (as Mercury was forming his Inferior Conjunction) Venus has become again the Evening Star, but she is still too close to the western horizon this month to allow for easy observation.

Venus will show off in her full glory only from mid-October, cruising longer and longer the evening sky after sunset, becoming brighter until April 2012 (maximum elongation, or longitudinal distance from the Sun, happening at the end of March).

MARS: only very early risers will be able to observe Mars in September, just above the Eastern horizon, against the backdrop of the Twins constellation.

Mars will rise around 3 am at the start of the month, and a bit earlier at the end, moving from the middle of Gemini to the middle of Cancer.

The Red Planet will be more easily identified around Equinox time, September 22 and 23, when the Waning Moon will pass close by him and the stars Pollux and Castor (Gemini), and Procyon (Canis Minor).

Mars will continue to rise before the Sun until 2012.

JUPITER: Jupiter rises after 10 pm, at the start of Septemeber, and about 9 pm at the end of the month. He then navigates the night sky ’til morning.

The best time to observe Jupiter will be the hours before dawn. The giant planet can be found against the backdrop of Aries, the constellation of the Ram.

On September 15 and 16 Jupiter is easily spotted close to the still big Waning Moon and the star Hamal, alpha of Aries.

SATURN, the planet that has dominated the night sky since March, is now edging closer to the western horizon, ready to completely disappear from view in October.

If you happen to have a very low and uncluttered horizon, you could still spot Saturn at the start of September, an hour or so after sunset, with the backdrop of Virgo constellation, below bright Spica, the ear of corn in the maiden’s hand.


VESTA: the asteroid Vesta, orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, has had her yearly opposition to the Sun on August 5, the best time for observation, the Sun illumining her globe more fully.

It is still possible however to spot Vesta even with the naked eye, better with a pair of binoculars though (magnitude 6). Her relatively fast track in the sky can be followed in September through the constellations of Capricorn. She will be already high in the sky after sunset.

The Waxing Moon will pass close to Vesta on September 8/9. Look for them overhead and then going westward, between 7 pm and 3 am.

ELENIN: in regard to the much talked about Elenin, comet or pseudo red dwarf, harbinger of doomsday or higher consciousness, I refer the reader to a comment I posted in answer to a query on the subject: My view on ELENIN.

As far as observing Elenin with the naked eye, the 22 and 23 of September have been indicated as the best times. But the comet will be around the constellation of Virgo, very close to the setting Sun and for most lost in the glare.

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All the Sky Snapshots have been generated using Stellarium, a wonderful Planetarium freeware software.

Information for the Sky Events has been gathered from these web sites:

http://www.suite101.com/profile.cfm/kellykw

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mjpowell/Astro/Naked-Eye-Planets/Naked-Eye-Planets.htm#PlanetList

http://www.astronomy.com/en/News-Observing/Sky%20this%20Month.aspx

http://www.curtrenz.com/astronomical.html

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June 2011, Stars over Wollumbin, our Southern Skies

In June Grandfather Saturn still reigns alone over the night sky,

while little Mercury, at first invisible, will join Saturn in the late evenings toward the end of the month, too low to be observed though until early July.

Father Jupiter, now heralding the Sun in the pre-dawn sky, rises a bit higher and earlier above the eastern horizon every week.

Brother Mars and sister Venus are also in the pre-dawn sky, Mars higher and Venus lower above the eastern horizon.

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MERCURY forms his Superior Conjunction with the Sun, moving behind the Sun disk from our earthly viewpoint, on June 12, thus remaining invisible for a good part of the month of June.

Mercury will be above the horizon later in the months, bu still too close to the Sun to be easily observed. Our little brother will in fact reach his greatest elongation in the evening sky after the middle of July this year, a time of better visibility.

It could be possible to spot elusive Mercury at the very end of June, when he will align with the twin stars of Castor and Pollux of Gemini constellation, not long after sunset, but only if your western horizon is clear of trees or hills.

VENUSs is slowly moving closer to the eastern horizon, difficult to spot this month. 

By June 17 to 19 Venus will appear very close to Aldebaran, the alpha star of Taurus constellation, at around 6 am, just before sunrise. This conjunction, if you were able to see it, will form a sort of second eye in the head of the Celestial Bull.

By the end of June the tiny Waning Moon will be close to first Jupiter, then Mars and Venus, this perhaps the last chance to observe Venus before her complete absorption in the glare of the Sun.

After that Venus will disappear in the Sun light to return only in mid-October as the Evening Star, above the western horizon.

MARS emerged as a Morning Star around the middle of April, and, as the month of June advances he will become more easily visible.  A low, uncluttered horizon will be needed to spot him though, and a pairs of binoculars will make it easier.

Around the time of our southern Winter Solstice in Cancer (June 21), to the end of the month, it will be possible to observe Mars against the backdrop of Taurus constellation, between the two beautiful stars clusters Pleiades and Hyades.

Mars will continue to rise before the Sun until 2012.

JUPITER. Since the month of May we have been able to observe Jupiter in the pre-dawn sky, forming a rare group with Venus, Mercury and Mars in mid-May. Now the group has scattered, but Jupiter, still low, will rise a bit earlier and higher above the eastern horizon every week in June.

SATURN still dominates the night sky in June, becoming visible however a bit later every week, and less bright as the Earth slowly gains distance from it.

One thing that has made observing Saturn’s transit more interesting has been his proximity to the the gamma star of Virgo constellation, Porrima. Fifteen minutes of arc will separate Saturn from Porrima in the middle of June. This star is actually made up of two visually very close stars, but only a telescope could allow you to see that.

For watching purposes Saturn is the star of the show in the month of June.

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All the Sky Snapshots have been generated using Stellarium, a wonderful Planetarium freeware software.

Information for the Sky Events has been gathered from these web sites:

http://www.suite101.com/profile.cfm/kellykw

http://home.mira.net/~reynella/skywatch/ssky.htm#update

http://astroblogger.blogspot.com/

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mjpowell/Astro/Naked-Eye-Planets/Naked-Eye-Planets.htm#PlanetList

http://www.astronomy.com/en/News-Observing/Sky%20this%20Month.aspx

http://www.curtrenz.com/astronomical.html

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Star over Wollumbin, May 13 and 14, the Moon aligned to Saturn and Spica of Virgo

Star over Wollumbin, May 11 and 12. A multiple conjunction in Aries: Mercury, Venus and Jupiter, with Mars near by

May 2011, Stars over Wollumbin, our Southern Skies

In the month of May shining Venus dominates the planetary group in the pre-dawn sky,

keeping company to Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and invisible Uranus.

Mars is becoming brighter, while Jupiter is making now its first appearance since late March.

Saturn still reigns supreme over the night sky.

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MERCURY met the Sun at Inferior Conjunction, on April 10. As the month advances our little brother will be nearly lost in the Sun glare in the month of May, edging closer and closer to the eastern horizon, making it difficult to spot without a pair of binoculars.

Finding Mercury will be easier by looking at Venus, because the two will move in unison in the pre-dawn sky, from the start of May to nearly the end of the month. On May 8 they will be at their closest.

The dawn sky will be in fact the best place for stargazing this month, with Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and invisible Uranus, all clustered together against the backdrop of the constellation of the Ram (Aries) and the Whale (Cetus).

Mercury will rise before the Sun until late May.

VENUS remains the beautiful Morning Star until June 2011.  Like Mercury she is also edging toward the eastern horizon, but she is still high enough for great views. We should take advantage of this now because by June Venus will disappear in the Sun light to return only in mid-October as an Evening Star.

She is not alone, Mercury will be a close companion until May 25, with Mars and Jupiter near by. On May 7-8 Venus will be very close to little Mercury; on May 11 and 12 to giant Jupiter; and on May 23-24 to fiery Mars.

The snapshot below was generated by Stellarium for May 12, at around 5.30 am, looking East.

Click to enlarge

MARS emerged as a Morning Star around the middle of April. Its magnitude increases to +1.3 this month, making it slowly more visible in the pre-dawn sky.

Don’t forget to observe the conjunction Venus-Mars on May 23 when the two lovers will be only one visible degree apart.

The Red Planet will rise before the Sun until 2012.

The snapshot below illustrates just that encounter. It was generated by Stellarium for May 23, around 5.30 am, looking East, North-East.

Click to enlarge

JUPITER has been lost in the Sun glow since the Aries Equinox (March 21). He passed behind the Sun, at Inferior Conjunction, on April 6, and remained invisible until the end of April. In May we finally have a chance to see Jupiter again, grouped with Venus, Mercury and Mars.

Jupiter will be however too close to the horizon for best viewing. Try to spot him close to Venus and Mercury on May 11 to 14

The Sun reached its yearly opposition to SATURN on April 4, the best viewing time of the year.  Saturn is still visible all night in May, but becoming slightly fainter now, as the Earth slowly gains distance from it.

Saturn appears as a yellowish star, still transiting over the constellation Virgo, closely aligned to bluish Spica, Virgo’s alpha star. From May 12 to 15 the big Waxing Moon will transit close to both Saturn and Spica.

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All the Sky Snapshots have been generated using Stellarium, a wonderful Planetarium freeware software.

Information for the Sky Events has been gathered from these web sites:

http://www.suite101.com/profile.cfm/kellykw

http://home.mira.net/~reynella/skywatch/ssky.htm#update

http://astroblogger.blogspot.com/

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mjpowell/Astro/Naked-Eye-Planets/Naked-Eye-Planets.htm#PlanetList

http://www.astronomy.com/en/News-Observing/Sky%20this%20Month.aspx

http://www.curtrenz.com/astronomical.html

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