There’s one good thing to be said about the darkness of winter mornings – you get to see more stars! The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, are together in the morning sky, with Orion just nearby. There’s a pairing in the evening sky too, as Mars and Saturn drift towards each other in the north. Low to the north-west Mercury can be found.
Discover the Night Sky – August 2012
The Melbourne Planetarium at Scienceworks presents its popular after-dark sessions, Thursday evenings from 2nd to 30th 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. For more information, pricing or bookings please see the What's On or call the Scienceworks Booking Office on 9392 4819.
Melbourne International Film Festival – 4th August 2012
For the third year running, MIFF comes to the Planetarium for an evening of fulldome works, presenting movies specifically designed for the domed screen. The are two sessions on Saturday 4th August:
Fulldome Showcase One: VisuaLiszt and Space Opera
Fulldome Showcase Two: Coral: Rekindling Venus and Life: A Cosmic Story
For more information and ticketing visit the MIFF website: ww.melbournefilmfestival.com.au
Sunrise and Sunset Times
The Moon will be at apogee (furthest from Earth) on Saturday 14th at a distance of 404,782 km.
The Moon will be at perigee (closest to Earth) on Monday 2nd and Sunday 29th at distances of 362,361 km and 367,317 km, respectively.
Let The Moon Be Your Guide
The Moon can be used as a pointer to find other objects in the sky.
- On the 1st the waxing gibbous Moon is near Antares (Scorpius).
- Before sunrise on the 15th the waning crescent Moon is just above Jupiter.
- Then on the 16th, the Moon is below Venus.
- After sunset on the 20th the waxing crescent Moon is very close to Mercury.
- On the 25th the Moon is high in the north with Mars, Saturn and Spica (Virgo).
- During the evening of the 28th, the Moon is back with Antares.
Mercury is low in the north-west for most of the month. The bright star to the left of Mercury during the start of the month is Procyon, the ‘little dog star’. After sunset on the 20th, the thin crescent Moon joins Mercury.
Venus and Jupiter are together in the early morning sky. At the start of the month they can be seen low to the north-east horizon. The red star Aldebaran (Taurus) is just to the right of Venus. During the early part of the month it can be seen to drift past Venus; moving from below to above. Further around to the right is the splendid constellation of Orion. The Moon sits near Jupiter on the 15th and below Venus on the 16th.
Earth reaches aphelion on Thursday 5th. This is when the Earth is at its furthest point from the Sun for the year, at 152 million km. It is a coincidence that this occurs during our winter; changes in the distance between the Earth and Sun are small enough that they do not significantly affect the temperature on Earth.
Mars and Saturn are high in the north at sunset. You can see the two planets drifting towards each other; Mars is to the left, while the bright star Spica (Virgo) continues to sit above Saturn. On the 25th, the Moon joins the trio.
While July doesn’t have any strong meteor showers, there are a number of minor showers that combine to produce good results during the later half of the month. The area of sky to watch is around the constellations of Aquarius and Capricornus and as always, the best time to spot meteors is after midnight. The main meteor shower for July, the Southern Delta Aquarids, peaks on the 28th.
Stars and Constellations
In the west in the early evening is the kite shape of Corvus, the crow, sitting just below the bright star Spica, in Virgo. The Southern Cross is high in the south while the bright stars Canopus and Achernar are found low to the southern horizon.
Almost overhead, Scorpius takes up a large part of the sky with the hook shape of its tail. Sitting below the tail of Scorpius is the teapot shape of Sagittarius.
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:
6:28am - 6:33am, Tuesday 3rd July.
The Station will appear above the north-west horizon, travel directly overhead, passing near to Jupiter and Venus, before disappearing in the north-east.
Predictions of when to see the ISS can be obtained from the Heaven's Above website.
On This Day
4th 1997, Mars Pathfinder (USA) lands on Mars.
4th 1054, Chinese and other astronomers witnessed the supernova explosion that produced the Crab Nebula.
6th 1687, Isaac Newton (UK) published 'Principia Mathematica'.
8th 2011, The space shuttle Discovery (USA) was launched on the final mission for the shuttle program.
10th 1962, Telstar (USA) the first private telecommunications satellite was launched.
11th 1979, Skylab 1 (USA) was destroyed during re-entry over central Australia.
14th 1965, Mariner 4 (USA) made the first controlled flyby of Mars and returned the first close-up images of the planet.
15th 1975, first USA/USSR space project Apollo-Soyuz was launched.
17th 1850, W.C. Bond and J.A. Whipple (USA) take the first photograph of a star.
20th 1969, Apollo 11 (USA) lands on the Moon. At 12:39pm AEST (21st) Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the Moon.
23rd 1999, The Chandra X-ray Observatory (USA) is launched from the space shuttle Columbia.
25th 2000, The International Space Station starts to take shape with the installation of the Russian Service Module.