Category Archives: Observing

Venus and the Moon

I looked out the window last night and Venus and the thin crescent Moon made a nice pair in the cloudy sky.


The pair won’t be lined up quite this way tonight or the next few nights but you should see Venus and Jupiter paired up just at sunset. All you need to do is look in the Western sky. Venus will be west of the Moon and Jupiter will be west of and lower in the sky than Venus. As days go by Venus and Jupiter will get farther away from the Moon at Sunset.

You can seem everything with no extra optical aids, however if you have binoculars give them a try. With binoculars you probably can get Jupiter and Venus in the same field of view and you also should be able to see a few of Jupiter’s moons if it is dark enough.

See Mercury in the Morning Sky


This morning the planet Mercury is at maximum western elongation. This means we will be able to see Mercury in the early morning just before sunrise especially for the next few days.

Yes, western elongation means Mercury will be in the eastern sky before sunrise. It can be a little confusing at first. The western/eastern elongation is the position relative to the Sun not the Earth.

So western elongation means Mercury is west of the sun and that being true will rise in our eastern sky before the sun. Mercury this morning will reach an altitude of 22 degrees before sunrise. If you have a good view of the eastern sky you will get to see it (for the next few days at least) in the twilight before the Sun gets too bright. I know, it’s early morning for the northern hemisphere but so worth it. I am pretty close to a mountain range and that interferes so I’m taking a drive to get a better look IF the clouds stay away.

In September the planet will reach eastern elongation so it will appear in the western sky just after sunset.

Check it out if you can.

Image Credit:
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Lunar Occultation June 11


If you are in Australia you will be treated to a lunar occultation on 11 June 2015.

The moon is going to occult the planet Uranus. Uranus is a magnitude 5.9 so with a modest telescope should be visible. It could even be visible with binoculars. I personally have not been able to see the planet in binoculars however the sky conditions here (light pollution) is what I blame. Image stabilizing binoculars would help – and they are wonderful for sky viewing! I wish I had a pair. The big question is how much glare from the moon is going to hinder things. There is a huge difference in brightness between the two so the planet will be lost in the glare at some point well before it goes behind the moon. It still counts though and very well worth the effort to look though. I’d be out there.

Anyway the actual time varies depending on where your are of course. Australia is a big place! To give you a quick reference Adelaide has a time of 18:49.27 UTC.   To find the occultation time for you, have a visit to this page, the source of the above image, it has times for a extensive list of places to help you out, they do a great job.

The link mentioned above is specific for this occultation. Their main page is a place you can also find occultations of all kinds for pretty much any place and other useful occultation links.  Occultations, lunar and otherwise, usually don’t occur all that often for a specific location so they are a treat.

Hopefully this post gives you enough time to prepare.  The time conversion has me tied in knots so I figured I better be a couple days early.  Good luck!

What’s Up May 2015

I always appreciate being able to see Mercury and when it is visible all you have to do is look up, surprising how many people have never seen Mercury or at least recognized that’s what they are looking at.

You only need a pair of binoculars to see the four large moons of Jupiter and this time of year it’s comfortable enough to go out on successive nights and see the changes in orbital position.


Lunar Evolution

The skies here cleared out overnight and when I got up everything was lit up the the brilliant full moon. Well, almost full moon, full moon occurs on 04 May at 03:43 UTC / 03 May at 23:43 EDT. It has been a while since I had good skies and the sight was beautiful and I thought of this video, glad to see it was still there.


Lyrids Meteor Shower

Hopefully tonight you have clear skies because it’s time for the Lyrid meteor shower.

Actually the shower goes from about 16 April to 26 April and tonight should be near the peak. The meteor rate is usually about 10 per hour with occasional outburst years of over 100 per hour.

This meteor shower has observations that go back 2600 years or more. Have a look at Meteor Showers Online for a concise history on the Lyrids and finders charts for both northern and southern hemispheres.

ScienceAtNASA just published this video, it’s pretty good with some great tips. You might have to convert the times they give in the video (UTC = EDT + 4). Basically if it is dark and you can see stars, get comfortable and look up, the moon won’t be a problem. Follow the trails back and you will find the constellation Lyra the namesake of the shower.

Good luck and have fun!

Video link

Yuri’s Night

Yuri’s Night is a World Space Party and it is tonight! Many observatories, science centers and astronomy clubs are hosting Yuri’s Night events.

Everywhere! The entire world is involved, there’s even a South Pole Yuri Night so if you happen to be in Antarctica near the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, check it out 😉

If you don’t happen to be near an event, you can still participate. Go outside, pick out a constellation or two, find a planet. A telescope isn’t required and if you have a pair of binoculars they will work just fine.

Go outside and see what you can see.  Have fun!

Yuri’s Night