Skynotes October 2013

Month Highlights

It’s a great month to see Mercury, Saturn and Venus in the evening sky. Venus outshines them all, high in the west, with Mercury and Saturn much closer to the horizon. In the morning, Jupiter and Mars can be seen towards the north-east.

Planetarium Highlights

Next month, the Planetarium is hosting the world premiere of Natural Satellite, an astronomically inspired guitar-duet to be performed by Slava and Leonard Grigoryan.

Surrounded by planets and their moons, Natural Satellite will be performed at 7.30pm and 9pm on Friday 15th November. See the What's On for more information, pricing or bookings.

Sunrise and Sunset Times

    Rise Set
Tuesday 1st 5:56* 6:24*
Friday 11th 6:41 7:33
Monday 21st 6:27 7:43
Thursday 31st 6:14 7:53

* AEST - Daylight Savings begins at 2am on Sunday 6th.

Moon Phases

New Moon Saturday 5th
First Quarter Saturday 12th
Full Moon Saturday 19th
Last Quarter Sunday 27th


The Moon will be at perigee (closest to Earth) on Friday 11th at a distance of 369,811km.
The Moon will be at apogee (furthest from Earth) on Saturday 26th at a distance of 404,560km.

Let The Moon Be Your Guide

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

  • On the morning of the 1st, the waning crescent Moon sits above Mars.
  • After sunset on the 7th, the waxing crescent Moon is above Mercury and Saturn.
  • On the 8th the crescent Moon is below Venus.
  • While on the 9th, the Moon sits to the right of Antares (Scorpius).
  • During the early morning of the 22nd, the waning gibbous Moon is near the bright star cluster Pleiades.
  • On the 23rd, the Moon is near the red giant star Aldebaran (Taurus).
  • Before sunrise on the 26th, the Moon is above Jupiter.
  • On the morning of the 30th, the Moon forms a triangle with Mars and Regulus (Leo).

Planets

Mercury looks great this month and can be found fairly high above the western horizon at sunset. On the 6th, it is to the left of Saturn, and then on the 7th, the thin crescent Moon can be seen just above. By the 16th, Mercury has reached its highest point and then starts to move towards the horizon in step with Saturn.

Venus continues to look stunning in the evening sky and certainly can’t be missed. It moves through the constellation of Scorpius and on the 17th sits to the right of the red supergiant star Antares. Below Venus, is where you will find Mercury and Saturn.

Mars is just below the thin crescent Moon on the morning of the 1st. It is low to the eastern horizon, but drifts higher as the month goes by. On the 13th, the red planet is very close to the bright star Regulus (Leo), which sits to the right. At the end of the month, on the 30th, the Moon is back with Mars.

Jupiter once again, spends the month sitting above the twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux. They are easily seen in the north-east before sunrise. On the 26th, the Moon is found just above Jupiter.

Saturn disappears from the evening sky this month. It is low to the west at sunset, sitting between Mercury and Venus. It passes Mercury on the 7th and then continues heading towards the horizon.

Meteors

The Orionids are visible from the 15th to 29th, with the peak of the shower occurring on the 21st. Generally, this is a good shower for beginners with estimates of around 30 meteors per hour. As with all showers, the best time for viewing will be from around 3am until an hour before sunrise. The shower is centred on Orion’s club near the red supergiant star Betelgeuse and the meteors are typically fast, sometimes bright and generally more than half leave persistent trains. This shower was first recorded by the Chinese in 288 AD and is associated with Comet Halley.

The Taurids are a long-duration shower visible throughout spring and peaking during the first week of November. There are two branches to the shower: one appearing near the star cluster Pleiades and the other near the red star Aldebaran. Each branch has a maximum rate of roughly ten meteors per hour. They have been described as being bright, slow-moving and with the occasional colourful fireball.

Stars & Constellations

Scorpius is prominent in the western sky at sunset. Its claws are heading towards the western horizon, while the curved shape of its tail stretches high above.

Around to the north-west there are three bright stars; Vega (Lyra) and Deneb (Cygnus) are low to the horizon, while Altair (Aquila) sits up above. They make a lovely triangle, which in the northern hemisphere is known as the ‘summer triangle’, as these stars are high overhead during their summer.

Heading across to the north-east horizon is another famous northern asterism. Four stars stand out as the ‘Great Square of Pegasus’, including Alpheratz which is actually part of Andromeda.

Looking towards the south-east the star Achernar shines brightly at the head of the river Eridanus. A little further south but much lower in the sky shines Canopus , the second brightest star in the night sky. The Southern Cross is now seen in the south-west with the Two Pointers almost vertical above it.

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:

5:48am - 5:54am, Tuesday 15th October.

The Station will appear in the north-west and travel overhead passing close to Betelgeuse (Orion) and through Canis Major before disappearing towards the south-east.

Predictions of when to see the ISS can be obtained from the Heaven's Above website.

On This Day

1st 1958, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) was inaugurated.

3rd 1815, the first meteorite identified as coming from Mars fell in Chassigny, France.

3rd 1942, German A-4 (V-2) rocket became the first rocket in outer space.

4th 1957, Sputnik (USSR) was launched to become the first artificial satellite.

5th 1923, Edwin Hubble (USA) established that M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is separate to and distant from our own Milky Way Galaxy.

6th 1990, Ulysses (Europe) was launched to the poles of the Sun from the space shuttle Discovery.

7th 1959, Luna (USSR) took the first images of the far side of the Moon.

10th 1846, William Lassell (UK) discovered the first moon of Neptune, Triton.

10th 1980, the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope network is commissioned.

10th 1986, Cruithne, the satellite of the Earth with a horseshoe orbit, was discovered.

11th 1968, Apollo 7 (USA), the first manned Apollo mission was launched.

14th 1947, Charles E. ‘Chuck’ Yeager made the first supersonic flight (Bell X-1).

15th 1582, the Gregorian Calendar was established.

15th 1997, the spacecraft Cassini was launched.

18th 1989, the spacecraft Galileo was launched to Jupiter from the space shuttle Discovery.

21st 1923, the world's first projection planetarium, the Deutchse Museum, Munich, was officially opened.

22nd 2136BC, the first recorded solar eclipse was observed in China.

23rd 1975, Venera 9 (USSR) returned the first images of the surface of Venus.

31st 1992, the Catholic Church admitted it erred in condemning Galileo's beliefs.

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