Winter mornings may be tough, but the good thing is you get to see more of the stars and planets. Mars, Jupiter and Mercury can all be found low in the north-east before sunrise. Venus is stunning in the north-west at sunset and Saturn shines steadily in the northern evening sky.
Discover the Night Sky – August 2013
The Melbourne Planetarium at Scienceworks presents its popular after-dark sessions, Thursday evenings from 8th to the 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. 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
The Moon will be at apogee (furthest from Earth) on Sunday 7th at a distance of 406,491 km.
The Moon will be at perigee (closest to Earth) on Monday 22nd at a distance of 358,401 km.
Let The Moon Be Your Guide
The Moon can be used as a pointer to find other objects in the sky.
- During the early hours of the 5th, the waning crescent Moon sits between the star cluster Pleiades and the red giant star Aldebaran (Taurus).
- Before sunrise on the 7th, the Moon is to the right of Mars with Jupiter directly below.
- After sunset on the 10th, the waxing crescent Moon is to the left of bright Venus.
- The Moon sits above Regulus (Leo) on the evening of the 12th.
- The First Quarter Moon on the 16th sits just to the right of Spica (Virgo).
- Then on the 17th, the Moon is near Saturn.
- On the 19th, the waxing gibbous Moon is near Antares (Scorpius).
Mercury appears briefly in the morning sky at the end of the month. It can be found low in the north-east, below Mars and Jupiter.
Venus is currently the ‘evening star’, the first object to be seen at sunset. It can be found in the north-west, towards the glow of the setting Sun. On the 10th, the crescent Moon sits to the left of Venus, then on the 22nd Venus will be just to the right of the bright star Regulus (Taurus).
Earth reaches aphelion on Saturday 6th. 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 our daily temperatures.
Mars remains low in the north-east at sunset, but it is always a great planet to look for due to its reddish colour. The crescent Moon sits to the right of Mars on the 7th, then on the 20th Mars and Jupiter are side-by-side, with Mercury below.
Jupiter is slowly moving into the morning sky. On the 21st it sits just to the right of Mars.
Saturn continues to shine brightly in the northern sky, following the bright star Spica (Virgo), while the constellation of Scorpius trails behind. The Moon joins Saturn on the 17th.
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:
6:20pm - 6:26pm, Friday 12th July.
The Station will appear above the north-west horizon, passing Venus, Regulus (Leo) and the Moon, then travel directly overhead and disapper in the souther-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, the 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.