Skynotes August 2013

Month Highlights

You simply can’t miss Venus in the western sky after sunset, it is shining so brightly. While high in the north-west Saturn can be seen with a slightly yellowish glow. In the morning sky, Jupiter and Mars can be found near to the north-east horizon.

Planetarium Events
Discover the Night Sky – August 2013

The Melbourne Planetarium at Scienceworks presents its popular after-dark sessions, Thursday evenings from 8th to 29th August at 7.30pm. All evenings include a glass of wine with cheese, the opportunity to chat to the Planetarium's astronomer, Dr Tanya Hill, and to be immersed in a planetarium experience. You will finish the evening stargazing through telescopes (weather permitting).

Each evening will showcase a different aspect of the night sky.
Thursday 8th: A Tour of the Universe – Leave Earth behind and venture to the far reaches of space.
Thursday 15th: Solar System Discoveries – What's new with our family of planets?
Thursday 22ndColours of the Universe – Explore a universe full of colour that only our telescopes can see.
Thursday 29th: Dark Energy – We don't understand it, but it fills our Universe.

For more information, pricing or bookings please see the What's On or call the Scienceworks Booking Office on 9392 4819.

Sunrise and Sunset Times
    Rise Set
Thursday 1st 7:20 5:33
Sunday 11th 7:10 5:41
Wednesday 21st 6:57 5:49
Saturday 31st 6:44 5:58


Moon Phases
New Moon Wednesday 7th
First Quarter Wednesday 14th
Full Moon Wednesday 21st
Last Quarter Wednesday 28th

The Moon will be at perigee (closest to Earth) on Monday 19th at a distance of 362,264 km.

The Moon will be at apogee (furthest from Earth) on Saturday 3rd and Saturday 31st at distances of 405,833 km and 404,882 km, respectively.

Let The Moon be your Guide

The Moon can be used as a pointer to find other objects in the sky.

  • The waning crescent Moon sits between the star cluster Pleiades and the bright star Aldebaran (Taurus) on the morning of the 1st.
  • Before sunrise on the 4th the Moon is just above Jupiter.
  • Then on the 5th, the Moon can be found to the right of Mars.
  • At sunset on the 10th, the waxing crescent Moon sits above bright Venus.
  • On the 12th the Moon is just below Spica (Virgo).
  • Then on the 13th the Moon is close to Saturn.
  • On the 16th the waxing gibbous Moon is near the red supergiant star Antares (Scorpius).
  • During the early morning on the 29th, the Moon is near Aldebaran (Taurus).
  • On the 31st the waning crescent Moon sits above Jupiter.


Mercury is too close to the Sun to be seen this month.

Venus is impressive in the evening sky at sunset and it will shine brilliantly throughout the month. On the 10th the thin crescent Moon will sit just above the bright planet.

Mars can be seen in the north-east before sunrise. It begins the month sitting below bright Jupiter, but the two planets soon move apart. By the end of the month, Mars joins the twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux. On the 5th, the crescent Moon is directly to the right of Mars.

Jupiter sits above Mars in the morning sky at the start of the month. On the 4th, and then again on the 31st, the Moon can be found above Jupiter.

Saturn is high in the north-west at sunset. It remains close to the bright star Spica (Virgo), and just in front of the constellation of Scorpius. The Moon is very close to Saturn on the 13th.


The major meteor shower this month is the Perseids which peaks on the 13th. This is a strong Northern Hemisphere shower with around 100 meteors predicted per hour. The shower resides within the northern constellation of Perseus and it is difficult to view from the Southern Hemisphere. However, at the peak of the shower, it has been known for long-pathed Perseids to be seen here.

Perseids are fast, bright and frequently leave persistent trails. They appear to come from a point below the north-eastern horizon.

The best time to look for Perseids is from 3am onwards. This shower is associated with Comet Swift-Tuttle, which passed near the Sun in 1991.

Stars and Constellations

The two dominant constellations in the sky this month are Scorpius (the scorpion) with its hook-shaped tail and bright, red star Antares, and Sagittarius (the archer) whose bright stars resemble a teapot.

Crux, or the Southern Cross, is high in the south-west. On a clear, moonless night it may be possible to see the Coal Sack nebula, a dark region that lies between the two brightest stars of the Southern Cross, known as Alpha and Beta Crucis.

Low in the southern sky are the bright stars Achernar (to the east) and Canopus (to the west). These stars lie opposite the Southern Cross and never disappear below the horizon.

International Space Station

From Earth, the ISS appears as a bright star that steadily moves across the sky. It can often be seen from Melbourne, for example at:

6:16am - 6:23am, Monday 12th August.

The Station will appear in the north-west and travel right overhead. It passes very close Canopus (the second brightest star in the sky) before disappearing in the south-east.

Predictions of when to see the ISS can be obtained from the website:

On this Day

3rd 2004, the MESSENGER (USA) mission to Mercury was launched.

4th 2007, the Phoenix (USA) Mars lander was launched.

5th 1998, the Near Earth Object Program Office was set up by NASA to detect and catalogue asteroids that approach near to Earth.

6th 2012, the Mars rover Curiosity landed on the red planet.

7th 1959, Discoverer 1 (USA) returns the first satellite images of the Earth.

10th 1877, American astronomer Asaph Hall discovered Mars’ moon Deimos and then two days later Mars’ second moon Phobos.

19th 1960, two dogs, Belka and Strelka, were launched into space aboard Sputnik 5 (USSR), and successfully returned to Earth.

20th 1977, Voyager 2 (USA) was launched to explore the planets in the outer Solar System.

25th 1609, Galileo demonstrated the newly invented telescope.

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