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Australasian Sky

Australasian Sky column

Dazzling Local Autumn Sky Show

By Dave Reneke

A spectacular alignment will occur on 26-27 March.

Autumn in Australia is great for sky gazers. We have some of the best skies in the world. The sky is full of bright stars, prominent constellations and fascinating celestial sights. Sometimes, when conditions are right, the skies put on an awesome show just for our viewing pleasure.

Get set for one of those rare events because your view of the evening night sky is going to be spectacular on March 26. It’s an alignment of planets with the Moon, and they don’t happen all that often!

The Moon, Venus and Jupiter are the three brightest objects in the night sky.

Star Chart for March 2012

By Dave Reneke

Read about some special features in the night sky from February 23, and download the Sydney Observatory's star chart for March 2012.

Attention all budding sky watchers, grab your telescopes. What you’re about to read might give you an uncontrollable urge to dash outside. The brightest planets in the solar system are lining up in the evening sky, and you can see the formation, some of it at least from 23 February.

Go out at sunset and look west. Venus and Jupiter pop out of the twilight even before the sky fades completely black. The two brilliant planets surrounded by evening blue is a spellbinding sight. Hey, grab your smartphone, hold it steady and see what a pic looks like.

Advice for First Time Telescope Buyers

By David Reneke

There are many junk telescopes out there, but decent starter scopes are not too expensive.

What’s on the top of your Xmas list this year? Maybe a telescope?

I get a lot of people asking me about the best telescope to buy. Well, the short answer is, the dearest one you can afford.

Modern telescopes are a compromise between price and quality and any telescope in this country under $300 is not going to do any serious work for you. Don’t buy from a department store. Buy from a dealer who knows about telescopes, a camera shop for instance, or a telescope retailer.

Stargazing, January/February 2012

By Sydney Observatory

Your guide and star chart for the night skies this month.

Stargazing, December 2011

By David Reneke

Your guide and star chart for the night sky this month.

Do you retire early and plop yourself in front of the telly all night? Make an exception this month and head outside to see a truly dazzling sight. Look to the west just after sunset and you’ll be able to spot the famed ‘evening star’ – better known as the planet Venus.

Setting slowly, it shines with an eerie glow and for decades has been the reason for a dozens of UFO reports. It really does look like one! At this time of the year it sits high in the sky and a lot of people mistake it for the fabled ‘Christmas Star’ the three wise men followed.

David Reneke is one of Australia’s leading astronomers, lecturers and teachers. He’s a feature writer for Australasian Science magazine and a science correspondent for ABC and commercial radio.

Stargazing in November

By David Reneke

Your guide to the night skies

The night sky this week is fairly dark with a nice half moon in sight and that's good for watching meteors over the next week or so. This month’s are frequently bright, slow moving and noted for producing colourful ‘meteor showers.’ Fantastic sights if they happen so don't forget to keep your camera handy - just in case.

So, what exactly are meteor showers? As comets orbit the Sun, they shed an icy, dusty debris stream along the comet's orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower. By the way, when meteors hit the ground they’re called meteorites.

Stargazing October 2011

By David Reneke

Your guide to the night sky this month.

We’re into a new month and as we get closer to Christmas more of the better sights start to appear in the early evening skies. The jewel in the Crown at the moment is still the giant planet Jupiter. Overhead for most of the night it’s the favourite of planetariums and astronomy clubs all around the world. Why? Because it’s just so clear and easy to see.

Stargazing in August

By David Reneke

Your guide to the night sky this month.

There’s a Full Moon on Sunday August 14 so anytime well before this is the best time to stargaze. Really! Without the moon around so many more stars and star clusters can be seen. Funnily, some astronomers consider the moon a source of light pollution because it washes out half the sky around it.

Skygazing in July

By David Reneke

Your guide to the night sky this month.

There’s a New Moon on July 11 so, for awhile, the skies are going to be nice and dark. Ideal for stargazing! In fact this month is full of stargazing goodies so see you in the backyard right after dinner, OK?

With the glare of moonlight gone so many more stars are visible and the colours stand out nicely as well. Watch for a lot of twinkling stars this month due to unsteady air currents and water vapour in the atmosphere. Add in a bit of wind and you start to get a ‘star’ which can change colour and make people wonder if they are seeing a UFO.

Lunar Eclipse on 16 June

By David Reneke

We’re going to be treated to a total lunar eclipse just before sunrise on Thursday 16 June with the Moon expected to take on an eerie reddish glow.

The eclipse will be visible over more than half the globe, throughout most of South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, the Indian subcontinent and Australia. It’s expected to be one of the darkest eclipses on record, due to an unusually straight alignment between Sun, Moon and Earth. In fact, predictions are the Moon will turn a blood red colour at totality!