Autumn Constellations

We live on a planet that is constantly moving, which affects what we see in the sky. As the Earth rotates on its axis, we experience day and night. As the Earth orbits around the Sun, we experience the seasons. For each season we see different constellations in the night sky. For example, the constellation of Scorpius is best seen during winter, while the constellation of Orion is visible on summer evenings. The Southern Cross is a good constellation to watch throughout the entire year because it never disappears below the horizon. It can always be seen circling around the South Celestial Pole.

The information given is for around 8pm (AEST) during March.

Southern Cross in Autumn

The Southern Cross in Autumn
Copyright: Melbourne Planetarium.

In the night sky:

The Southern Cross is almost horizontal, and can be seen towards the south-east, with the Two Pointers, Alpha and Beta Centauri, directly below.

The bright band of stars called the Milky Way, arches across the sky from north-west to south-east.

Canis Major (the large dog), that contains Sirius the brightest star in the night sky, and Canis Minor (the small dog), that contains a slightly fainter star called Procyon, are both found high in the north-western sky.

Gemini (the twins), has two bright stars called Castor and Pollux, and is found low in the north. Cancer, the crab, and Leo, the lion, with the bright star Regulus, are low in the north-eastern sky.

The star Spica, in the constellation of Virgo, the maiden, can be found low in the south-east.

The second brightest star in the night sky, Canopus, is now high overhead.

With 7 x 50 binoculars:

Two open star clusters can be found in the constellation of Cancer, which lies to the north. They are the Beehive, that contains around 50 stars and M 67, which is made up of around 200 stars.

In the south between the Southern Cross and the Eta Carinae Nebula, there is an open star cluster called NGC 3532 that some say is the finest open cluster of its type in the sky. Only a short distance from this cluster is another good open cluster NGC 3293.

With a telescope:

In the Milky Way between Canopus and the Southern Cross we find the Keyhole Nebula.

High and almost overhead in Monoceros (the unicorn), we find the Rosette Nebula.

Comments (7)

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Gloria Hartney 28 April, 2010 06:24
What was the brightest star that was closest to the moon last night around 9.30pm?. Thank you. Gloria
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Discovery Centre 5 May, 2010 10:41

Hi Gloria, the bright star that was close to the Moon on the 27th was in fact Spica.  It was not however the brightest star in the night.  Sirius, although low in the horizon would have been the brightest, followed by Canopus, also low down, and then Alpha Centauri the brightest star in the Pointers.  Spica is in fact the 18th brightest star in the night sky.  The planet Saturn is also very bright at the moment, and a little brighter than Spica, and was also not far away from the Moon on the 27th.

Julian Hammett 14 June, 2010 15:34
Hi do u have any maps of the night sky at a particular time to show where to look for planets, stars, nebuli n all that interesting suff? If not do u know where I could find them for melbournes north eastern sector
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Discovery Centre 16 June, 2010 10:25

Hi Julian, we have a couple of resources that will be of interest to you. The first is Skynotes - our monthly newsletter providing information on constellations, planets, interesting occurrences in the night sky and other astronomy & meteorology information. The other is our Sky Maps for south-eastern Australia, which give the location of constellations and stars for each month.

Rosie 14 April, 2011 09:54
Can anyone tell me what was the really bright star on 10/4/11 seen from Ocean Grove in Victoria. I saw it in the south east about 4am moving upwards to the east? It was so bright and photos I took show a planet of some sort, quite clearly, and no it was not the moon!!
Discovery Centre 17 April, 2011 10:49

Rosie, in April several planets are in relatively close alignment in the morning sky; going from your description it is a bit difficult to determine which one you saw. You might want to visit the Museum Victoria Planetarium site http://museumvictoria.com.au/planetarium/discoverycentre/skynotes/skynotes-april-2011/ and the video ‘sky notes’ site http://museumvictoria.com.au/planetarium/discoverycentre/skynotes/video-skynotes-april-2011/  which explain and map the position of the planets in the morning sky for April.

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Jan Bedson 6 March, 2012 19:25
My husband and I saw a huge "comet like" thing flying from right to left in our southern sky in north east Victoria on Sunday night 4th mArch at 10.30. It left a brilliant green and purple and yellow tail behind it round ball shape. I watched it for at least 3 minutes as it went parallel to the earth fairly low down. I know it was not a comet but probably space junk and I wish i Had taken a photo but we were entranced. I would say it "flew"about 3 kilometer s and the it exploded and was like fireworks that glittered. I actually thought it was a plane in trouble. The fireworks effect also kept flying right to left for another minute but then went behind a hill and we lost sight but I could tell by the glow it was still burning. The funny thing was that we do see many "falling stars" like this as we are in a rural property in yackandandah but this was not a quick flash just went on for at least three minutes. Has anyone else reported the event and was it just space junk. It was actually what average person would think a comet looked like but was s close to the earth it was touchable. I spotted Haleys comet many years ago with great difficulty and was just amazed at this the other night. Hope someone else saw it. We looked for news items the next day but nothing.
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