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Australasian Sky

Australasian Sky column

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.

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.

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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!

Stargazing in June

By David Reneke

What’s in the night sky this month?

June nights are pretty cool, so you’re going to need a blanket, a pillow or two, your binoculars and perhaps a warm glass of Milo or a fine red to keep warm while you stargaze. On a clear night depending on your age and your eyesight, you can see anywhere up to about 1,500 to 2,000 stars. Introduce city lights and pollution, and you see less and less.

The Dance of the Planets


Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter are all going to be in the same part of the eastern morning sky together, joined for a short time by a thin Crescent Moon.

By David Reneke

What’s in the night sky this month?

Armed with your binoculars, find a nice dark place away from the glare of the street lights. Pick a comfy spot and wait about 5-10 minutes to allow your eyes to adapt to the darkness. See that band of stars stretching across the sky from one side to the other? That’s the Milky Way, full of more stars than you can count.

Sweet and Sour for Spaceflight

By Morris Jones

Tthe 50th anniversary of human spaceflight is a somewhat embarrassing time for the space community.

2011 marks an historic anniversary for science buffs. This is the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight. Half a century has passed since Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made a single orbit of the Earth aboard his Vostok 1 spacecraft, enthralling the world, but also causing fear. The flight was yet another symbol of rising power from a bellicose Soviet Union, whose leaders threatened the security of the West with a rising arsenal of nuclear weapons. Spaceflight was thus both sweet and sour for a turbulent twentieth century world.