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

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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Star over Wollumbin, May 4 to 7, the Eta Meteor Shower in the constellation of Aquarius

April 2011, Stars over Wollumbin, our Southern Skies

While Venus still dominates the pre-dawn sky, Mercury and Mars are making their first tentative appearance there.

Saturn is left alone to reign supreme over the night sky, and invisible Jupiter rises and sets with the Sun

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MERCURY meets the Sun at Inferior Conjunction, on April 10. Being very close to the Sun until then and for a while after our little brother will return to visibility as a Morning Star only at the end of April, very low on the eastern horizon, at a dim +0.9 magnitude.

Mercury will rise before the Sun until late May.

VENUS remains the beautiful Morning Star until June 2011.  She has now reached her Gibbous Phase, becoming fuller but also smaller over the next few weeks.

In our mid-southern latitudes she will rise about 2 hours 40 minutes before sunrise at the start of April and two hours 10 minutes at the end of the month, still high enough above the eastern horizon for great observations.

Venus will pass the boundary of the constellation of Aquarius around April 10, entering then the outer regions of Pisces, transiting to the middle of this elongated constellation until the end of the month.

Here is a sky-scape of Venus, taken on April 15, looking toward the East, at around 5.15 am.

Click to enlarge

After disappearing from the night sky in December MARS will re-emerge before dawn around the middle of April, but still very low above the eastern horizon, hard to spot for a while longer in the twilight hour.

The Red planet will become well visible again as a Morning Star in mid-May 2011, rising before the Sun until 2012.

JUPITER has been lost in the Sun glow since the Aries Equinox (March 21). He will pass behind the Sun, at Inferior Conjunction, on April 6, remaining invisible until the end of April, when it may be glimpsed, very low above the eastern horizon, before sunrise. We will have better views of the Giant Planet in May.

The Sun will reach its yearly opposition to SATURN on April 4, the day of the Aries New Moon.  For now on Saturn will rise as the Sun sets and sets as the Sun rises, remaining visible all night, and at its most elevated around midnight.

April begins the period of maximum brightness for Saturn. The Ringed Planet will be as close to planet Earth as it can be, best time for obervation. With a decent pair of binoculars or a small telescope the rings of Saturn can be now seen, as well as the Moon Titan, the one moon in the Solar System with a significant atmosphere.

Saturn will be magnitude +0.4 at the beginning of April and +0.5 at the end of the month. It appears as a slightly yellow star, still transiting over the constellation Virgo, closely aligned to bluish Spica, Virgo’s alpha star, and above bright and orange hued Arcturus, alpha of constellation Bootes. As you can see in this sky-scape, taken on April 15, around 8.30 pm, looking North-East. The Waxing Moon will also be there.

Click to enlarge

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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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March 2011, Stars over Wollumbin, our southern skies

March: an opportunity to watch little brother Mercury and big brother Jupiter shine together in the evening sky.

Best planetary conjunction of the year.

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MERCURY met the Sun at Superior Conjunction, on February 25, and now in March is returning to the evening sky for a brief spell.

He will be  Morning Star again in late April, until late May.

Mercury will start the month still lost in the glare of the Sun, but it will become visible again, after sunset, from March 7 or 8, depending on where you are.  If you have a fairly low western horizon you will be able to observe the alignment of the tiny waxing Moon, Jupiter and Mercury, closer to the horizon than the other two, shining at magnitude -1.4.

Apart from this alignment the evening appearance of Mercury will be the finest we will get of this elusive planet in 2011.

Here is a snapshot of this event, taken on March 7, around 7 pm, looking West. And underneath another snapshot, taken on March 10, around the same time. You can see, comparing these pictures, how Mercury is getting visibly closer to Jupiter every day (while losing a bit in brightness), while the waxing Moon, bigger by the hour, continues her journey North-East.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Finally, on March 15, Mercury and Jupiter will be conjunct, a couple of degrees apart, shining respectively at magnitude -0.9 and -2.1. This will be the best planetary conjunction in the evening sky for the remaining of the year. After this event Jupiter will sink toward the West, eventually disappearing in the light of the setting Sun toward the end of the month. Mercury too will disappear soon after Jupiter, during the last week of March.

Here is a sky-scape of the march 15 conjunction, taken at around twenty to seven in the evening, looking West. If you miss this chance, no to worry. Little brother and big brother will be aligned for a while longer, providing great views for another week or so.

Click to enalrge

VENUS is the Morning Star until June 2011. She will rise about three hours before the Sun at the start of the month, and 2 hours 45 minutes before sunrise by the end of March; her brilliance slowly becoming absorbed by the Sun’s as the month advances.

Venus will move from the edge of the constellation of Sagittarius, at the beginning of the month (where she met the Waning Moon) to the middle of the constellation Capricorn, in mid-March, to finally reach the middle of the constellation of Aquarius, at the end of March.

Here is a snapshot of Venus, taken at around 5.30 in the morning, on March 15 2011, against the backdrop of the constellation of Capricorn. Notice to the South-East of Venus Fomalhaut, one of the four Sacred Stars of the Persians, in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus or Australis (not to be confused with Pisces which contains two fish). This group of stars was known as the Great Fish, supposedly drinking the water from the Water Bearer’s jug.  Also you can locate in the picture, not visible to the naked eye, Vesta, one of the four largest Asteroids orbiting between Mars and Jupiter.

Click to enlarge

MARS has disappeared from the sky in December, reaching its conjunction with the Sun in early February.

The Red planet will become visible again as a Morning Star in mid-May 2011. Mars will rise before the Sun then until 2012.

JUPITER will disappear from view earlier and earlier every night during March 2011. This month is in fact the last time we will be able to spot Jupiter in the West after sunset, because by month-end he will be too close to the Sun for observation. Jupiter will be lost in the Sun’s glare around March 21, Equinox time.

His conjunction with Mercury, the best pairing this year, will be the last of Jupiter’s shows for a while.

The Sun will reach its conjunction to Jupiter in early April, after which Jupiter will return as a Morning Star, rising before the Sun in early May.

SATURN is still on the opposite side of Jupiter, in the East after sunset, while Jupiter prepares to set in the West.

The Ringed Planet will reign supreme over the night skies until late September 2011.

Due to retrogradation, slowing Saturn’s speed, the planet will appear mostly stationary against the backdrop of Virgo constellation.

The Sun will reach the opposition to Saturn in early April, period of maximum brightness for all planets outside the Earth’s orbit. From Earth’s viewpoint Saturn and the Sun will be then opposite each other, Saturn rising as the Sun sets and viceversa. This occurs when the Earth passes between them once a year, marking the best time for naked eye observation of Saturn (or any of the celestial bodies outside the Earth’s orbit).

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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

Stars over Wollumbin, February 11 and 12, 2011

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On the evenings of February 11 and 12, weather permitting, we may be able to observe the Crescent Waxing Moon getting close to the Stars’ Cluster known as the Pleiades, in the constellation of Taurus, the Bull. They were once the Nymphs who formed the retinue of Artemis, the Moon Goddess.  In one of the many variants of their story they are for ever running away from a lustful suitor, the hunter Orion with his mighty club!

The 12th will be the best night to view the Moon and the Pleaides together, because by then the 50% illumined Moon will not be so close to their cluster and they will be more visible.

The snapshots below were taken on the 11th (top one) and 12th of February (bottom one), around 9.30 pm (Eastern Australia Summer Time), looking toward the North-West.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

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For more information about the visible planets this month
Click here to visit the Stars over Wollumbin Page
Or here for earlier snapshots of the night sky, since August 2010

FEBRUARY 2011, STARS OVER WOLLUMBIN, OUR SOUTHERN SKIES

February’s night skies:

dominated by Jupiter after sunset,

Saturn through the night,

while Venus is still the reigning Morning Star

Mercury and Mars are lost to view

MERCURY became a Morning Star after meeting the Sun on December 20 (Inferior Conjunction). In February our little brother will be mainly lost in the glare of the Sun.

The last chance to spot it could be February 1, when the slither, which is all is left of the Waning Moon, will be close to it in the early hours before sunrise, but only if you have a very uncluttered and level horizon in the East.

On February 25 Mercury will in fact meet the Sun again, at Superior Conjunction, on the other side of the Sun from Earth’s view point.

Mercury will return as Morning Star only in late April.

VENUS‘ beauty and outstanding brightness (4.3 magnitude) will be only for the early risers in February and until June 2011.  Venus is rising and setting about three hours before the Sun this month.

Morning Star in the first six months of 2011 she will turn Evening Star after June.

In February she will navigate between the Constellations of Ophiocus (the Serpent Holder) and Sagittarius, steadily moving away from bright Antares, alpha of Scorpio Constellation, visible above Venus in Southern latitudes.

Here is a snapshot of Venus, taken at around quarter to five in the morning on February 3 2011. Notice Antares on top.

Click to enlarge

MARS has disappeared from the sky in December, as it is now immersed in the light of the Sun, reaching its conjunction with our Star at the end of January, early February 2011.

Mars will become visible again as a Morning Star in mid-May 2011. The Red Planet will rise before the Sun then until 2012.

JUPITER is the first planet to become visible in the sunset twilight (magnitude -2.2), not far from setting in the West, having been above the horizon since around 10 am at the stat of February and just before 9 am at the end.  Jupiter is transiting against the backdrop of the Pisces Constellation.

This month Jupiter will disappear from view around 10 pm (one and half hours earlier at the end of February).

February is in fact the last month that we will be viewing Jupiter as an Evening Star, because in March it will become too close to the Sun to be visible. The Sun will reach its conjunction to Jupiter in early April, after which Jupiter will return as a Morning Star in early May.

Jupiter will slowly lose intensity and size as the month progresses, setting with the Sun by the end of March.

Still very close to URANUS at the beginning of January, Jupiter is now steadily separating from it.

The next opportunity to easily spot this remote world (through binoculars)  will come on April 23, when Venus will become very close to Uranus in the pre-dawn sky.

SATURN, at 0.6 magnitude, appears in the night sky as Jupiter disappears (around 11 pm at the beginning of February and 9 pm at the end), and stays up all night.

Much brighter objects will compete with Saturn, like Spica, alpha star of the Virgo Constellation Saturn is transiting. Throughout the month and for a few more months these two will remain close.

And also, to the South, Sirius, alpha of the Great Dog Constellation (Canis Major), brightest of all stars. And, slightly to the North, Arcturus, alpha of the Herdsman Constellation (Bootes).

Saturn will be a night star until late September 2011.

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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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JANAURY 2011, STARS OVER WOLLUMBIN, OUR SOUTHERN SKIES

January’s visible (and some invisible) Planets

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MERCURY became a Morning Star after meeting the Sun on December 20 (Inferior Conjunction).

Our little brother will rise before the Sun in the morning until early March 2011, returning as Morning Star only in late April.

On January 9 Mercury will reach maximum visual distance from the Sun, shining at – o.3 magnitude and could be spotted, low in the South-East, until the Sun comes up.

From November 2010 to June 2011 VENUS is donning her Morning Star’s bright mantle. During the month of January our sister planet will rise three hours before the Sun (around 3 am, Australia Eastern Summer Time), giving early risers plenty of time for observation.

On January 8 Venus will reach maximum visual distance from the Sun (47 degrees), just one day before Mercury does the same.

Venus will be the brightest object in the morning sky this month, reaching a magnitude of -4.6, ten times brighter than Jupiter!

MARS has disappeared from the sky in December, as it is now immersed in the light of the Sun, reaching its conjunction with our Star in early February.

Mars will become visible again as a Morning Star in mid-May 2011. The Red Planet will rise before the Sun then until 2012.

JUPITER has a magnitude of -2.3 at the start of the month and dominates the sky after sunset. By month’s end Jupiter will set about 2 and half hours after the Sun.

Jupiter will slowly lose intensity and size as the month progresses, down to a -2.2 magnitude by the end of January.

The giant planet will be very very close to Uranus at the beginning of January, becoming conjunct with this remote world, for the third and last time, on the 4th, the day of the Partial Solar Eclipse in Capricorn. They will be less than a visual degree apart. The giant planet reaches a magnitude of -2.4, while Uranus is a much dimmer 6 magnitude, visible only with a good pairs of binoculars or through a telescope.

The first few days of January are better suited to spot Uranus because the eccentric planet will be only half a degree away from Jupiter. They will remain close for the rest of the month, visually one degree apart from each other. To spot them look for the bright one (Jupiter) just above the square of Pegasus, the Winged Horse Constellation.

Here is a Stellarium’s snapshot of the Jupiter-Uranus’ conjunction, taken on January 5, around 9 pm, looking West.

Jupiter and Uranus became conjunct for the first time in nearly 14 years on June 9. Jupiter and Uranus meet cyclically (synodical cycle) every 13.7 years. This time they are playing a prolonged duet, though, having  met twice in 2010 (June 9 and September 22) and a third time on January 2, 2011. This is a rarer opportunity for the energies of these planets to blend for a sustained period, so exerting a greater overall influence over the affairs of the whole year. The last time Jupiter and Uranus met three times was in 1983, 27 years ago.

Animation of the triple conjunction of Jupiter-Uranus in 2010/11, from Martin J.Powell astronomical site, can be found HERE.

SATURN is a Morning Star now, rising about one am at the beginning of January and around 11 pm at the end of the month (Australian Eastern Summer Time).

The ringed planet’s brightness will increase slightly during the month. Viewed through a telescope the rings are opening up again now and the so called Cassini’s division (dark band between the two major rings’ groups) can be observed again.

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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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DECEMBER 2010, STARS OVER WOLLUMBIN, OUR SOUTHERN SKY

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December’s visible (and some invisible) Planets

plus a TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE MOON and TWO METEORS SHOWERS

 MERCURY turns Evening Star in December, until his encounter with the Sun on December 20 (Inferior Conjunction).

Our small brother will become first Stationary and then Retrograde between December 10 and 30.

Mercury transited very close to Mars at the end of November (visible conjunction on November 21, 22), and he will meet Mars again, in retro motion this time, on December 14. By then both planets will be low on the western horizon to be visible, too close to the glare of the setting Sun.

By December 13, Mercury will have disappeared as a Evening Star, only to re-appear early on Christmas day as a Morning Star.

It will rise at first half hour before sunrise,  ending up rising one and a quarter hours before the Sun by the end of December. It will remain visible until morning twilight to the end of the month and beyond.

Since November 4 VENUS has been rising before the Sun, a brilliant Morning Star in the company of Saturn. In December Venus will slowly distance herself from Saturn, powering ahead in direct motion. The day of greatest illumination will be December 4.

Throughout the month Venus will rise at first about two hours before the Sun and, by the end of December, around three hours before the Sun. She will disappear only in the morning twilight.

It could be worth while to get up early on December 2, and 4 to watch a beautiful display of Venus with the old Moon, Saturn and the Star Spica, aligned together in the East, around 4, 4.30 am (keep an eye on the Stargazing link here and on Living Moon opening page for sky-scapes of this and other events).

MARS is disappearing from the western horizon in December, more and more immersed in the light of the Sun, inching ever closer to the horizon. Mars will make his next appearance in the East, as a Morning Star before sunrise, in mid-April 2011, against the Pisces Constellation and in the Tropical Sign of Aries.

JUPITER can be readily spotted in in the night time in December, exceptionally bright with a pair of binoculars or a telescope. Our giant neighbor becomes visible around  7 pm in the evening and disappear around midnight, the Sun reaching a distance of 90 degrees from Jupiter on December 17.

With a pair of good binoculars we could even be able to spot far away URANUS, with Jupiter pulling close to the eccentric planet during December. Uranus appears as a bluish/green star-like object,the brightest in the vicinity of Jupiter.

Jupiter and Uranus became conjunct for the first time in nearly 14 years on June 9. Jupiter and Uranus meet cyclically (synodical cycle) every 13.7 years. This time they are playing a prolonged duet, though, having  met twice in 2010 (June 9 and September 22) and a third time on January 2, 2011. This is a rarer opportunity for the energies of these planets to blend for a sustained period, so exerting a greater overall influence over the affairs of the whole year. The last time Jupiter and Uranus met three times was in 1983, 27 years ago.

Animation of the triple conjunction of Jupiter-Uranus in 2010/11, from Martin J.Powell astronomical site, can be found HERE.

SATURN will be visible after midnight throughout the month, and remain well visible, high in the sky, until sunrise.

DECEMBER’S METEORS SHOWERS

The GEMINIDS METEORS SHOWER will have its annual occurrence between December 6 and 19, with the period of high visibility and frequency around December 13 and 14. This is considered by many the best Meteors’ Shower of the year. It is known to produce 60 to 80 multi-coloured meteors per hour, at its peak. From locations away from artificial light there could be up to 120 meteors per hours!

The radiant point (from where the meteors seem to originate) will be in the Constellation Gemini, becoming visible before midnight toward the North-East. The Moon setting in the West at the same time will allow for a better show.

The known source of this shower is a strange object called Phaethon 3200, most probably a comet which became extinct a long time ago. The asteroid, that measures 5.10 km diameter, was discovered in 1983. Phaethon in Greek Mythology was the son of Helios, the Sun god, himself a demi-god who perished after attempting to get too close to the Sun in the chariot he had stolen from his father. The asteroid was named after him because it crosses the orbits of Earth, Venus and Mercury, and gets closer to the Sun than any other numbered asteroid.

The URSIDS METEORS SHOWER will occurs instead between December 17 and 24, with the peak on December 22. This is a less spectacular shower, with about 9, 10 meteors expected per hour, at peak. The shooting stars will appear to emanate from the constellation Ursa Minor, home to Polaris in the north. Because of their location the Ursids are not really visible from our Southern Hemisphere.

TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE MOON on December 21

This event will be visible mainly from North America and the west side of South America.

In most countries in Europe and Africa the Moon will be setting during the Eclipse proper. Only from Southern Scandinavia the Eclipse will be observable in its entirety.

In East Asia instead the Moon will be rising during the event.

People in South and East Africa, as well as in the Middle East and South Asia will not be able to witness the event. With the exception of Western Australia, where the Eclipse will not be visible at all, the rest of the continent will witness the event partially around Moon rise, with the Moon very close to the Eastern horizon. The total stages instead will be partially visible from New Zealand but not from Australia. In the northern parts of New Zealand the Eclipse will be visible in its totality. Further South only parts of the total stages will be visible.

Not the best Eclipse for the Southern hemisphere.

For more information on this Eclipse and others please navigate to the Nasa Eclipse Page here.

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