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Newsletter August 2013
Hello to all our supporters out there in the known universe...
A big thank-you to all our visitors who have returned feedback forms to Tourism WA. It is very
valuable to us and monitored by the Tourism Council. This month (August) we have submitted
ourselves into the WA Tourism Awards and keeps our fingers crossed that the judges are as star struck
as our dedicated staff. So please keep sending in those feedback forms.
We have a new coffee machine at the observatory, just in time for stargazing at our spectacular winter
skies – there’s nothing like a fresh ground cup of coffee or frothy hot chocolate when you come back
inside to warm up.
We also welcome back one of our Gingin Observatory astronomers, Auriol, who spent 2 weeks training
at NASA astronaut school, managing to successfully land a space shuttle (in a simulator - no actual
shuttles were landed during her training!)
What's Happening in August?
August is an incredible month in the southern hemisphere, with the centre of our Milky Way almost
above us we are spoilt for choice with stellar objects to look at. The actual centre is 27,000 light years
away and hidden from view by dust clouds. The centre of the galaxy is a great ball of stars, called the
'central bulge', some of which can be glimpsed through gaps in the dust clouds. At the very centre lies
a black hole that has a mass equivalent to four million of our sun's but is only about the size of our
solar system.
The end of July and August also bring us two meteor showers, the Delta Aquarids and the Perseids with
the Perseids expected to be spectacular this year at about 80-100 per hour. They should reach a peak
around the 11th/12th August.
Dates at the Observatory
Fri 2nd Aug
Sat 3rd Aug
Sun 4th Aug
Thu 8th Aug
Sat 10th Aug
Sun 11th Aug
Fri 16th Aug
Sat 17th Aug
Sun 18th Aug
Fri 23rd Aug
Sat 24th Aug
Thu 29th Aug
Fri 30th Aug
Sat 31st Aug
Start Time
Duration (hrs)
Viewing Type
Dark Skies
Dark Skies
Dark Skies
Dark Skies
Dark Skies
Moon + Perseids Meteor Shower Peak
Marvelous Moon
Marvelous Moon
Marvelous Moon
Marvelous Moon
Dark Skies
Dark Skies
Dark Skies
Dark Skies
Please keep an eye on our website for new or amended dates.
t: +61 8 9575 7740 e: [email protected] w:
What's Up in the Night Sky?
There are five August constellations right above us (in the southern hemisphere) and include some
of the most spectacular and well-known objects in the sky. The centre of our Milky Way galaxy is
located in the direction of Sagittarius and because of this Sagittarius contains more deep sky objects
than any other constellation. There are no less than 15 Messier objects found in this constellation,
including the Omega Nebula, the Trifid Nebula and a favourite of the astronomers and visitors alike at
Gingin Observatory - the Lagoon Nebula. Simply pointing a good pair of binoculars in this direction will
reveal a treasure trove of amazing sights.
Corona Australis, the Southern Crown is an old constellation and is believed to represent the crown
worn by the centaur Sagittarius. It was one of the original 48 constellations named by the astronomer
Ptolemy. In ancient times it was pictured as a hand full of arrows held by the centaur, Centaurus.
Corona Australis is a small, compact constellation located between Sagittarius and Scorpius, just east
of the scorpion's stinger. (We also have the other crown Corona Borealis in the sky too for a short
time, one of the few times in the year when both crowns appear in our sky together).
Lyra, the Lyre represents an ancient musical instrument known as a Lyre, which is similar to a harp.
The Lyre was invented by Hermes as a gift to his half-brother Apollo, who gave it to Orpheus, the
musician of the Argonauts. Lyra is a small, dim constellation, but it is home to the 5th brightest star in
the sky, Vega. It also contains two messier objects. The most famous of these is M57, The Ring
Nebula. This famous planetary nebula appears as concentric rings of colour with a small white star at
its centre. It is this star that shed the material that now makes up the nebula. Lyra is the radiant, or
origin point, for the Lyrids meteor shower which occurs every year between April 16 and 25.
Sagittarius, the Archer is easy to recognise due to an asterism, or grouping of stars that form a
teacup shape. Sagittarius is believed to have originated with the Babylonians. He was their god of War,
and stands with his bow aimed at the heart of Scorpius, the scorpion. Like Centaurus, he is a half man,
half beast creature. Some legends say that he was placed in the heavens to guide the Argonauts in
their travels. Sagittarius is an important constellation as it marks the direction of the centre of our
galaxy. It also contains more Messier objects than any other constellation in the sky. There are 15 in
all, including seven globular clusters, four open star clusters, three nebulae, and an interesting patch
of the Milky Way. M8 is known as the Lagoon Nebula and is one of the most well known nebulae in the
sky. M20, the Trifid Nebula is famous for its dark dust lane that divide it into three distinct areas.
Scutum, the Shield, was invented by the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius in 1690. It was
originally drawn as the Coat of Arms of Scutum (John) Sobieskii, king of Poland, in honour of his
victory against the Turks in 1683. The Turkish army marched on Vienna in 1683 but were turned back
at the gates of the city. Seven years later, Scutum was created in honour of the king. Scutum is a
small constellation and the stars are faint, but their shape does resemble that of a shield.
Telescopium, the Telescope, is one of the 15 southern constellations named by Abbé Nicolas Louis de
Lacaille in the mid-eighteenth century. This is a small constellation located just south of Corona
Australis and east of Scorpius. Telescopium was named after one of the most important pieces of
equipment in astronomy, the telescope. Unlike its namesake, however, the constellation is quite small
and insignificant.
C/2011 F1 LINEAR
Unexpected fading? predicted 10th magnitude.
C/2011 R1 McNaught
12th magnitude and fading. South Eastern evening sky.
29P Schwassmann-Wachmann
12th magnitude outbursts. South Eastern evening sky.
C/2013 E2 Iwamoto
13th magnitude and fading. North Eastern morning sky.
C/2006 S3 LONEOS
13th magnitude and fading. South Eastern evening sky.
13th magnitude and brightening. South Eastern evening sky.
Coming Later this year – Comet Ison!
Meteor Showers
Delta Aquarids:
This is an average shower that can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by
debris left behind by comets Marsden and Kracht. The shower runs annually from July 12 to August 23.
It peaks this year on the night of July 27 and morning of July 28. The second quarter moon will block
out most of the faint meteors, but you should still be able to catch quite a few good ones if you are
patient. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the
constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
This is the most famous of all meteor showers that can produce up to 100 meteors per hour at its
peak. The shower runs annually from July 17 to August 24 and this year peaks around August 11. It
never fails to provide an impressive display. For us here in the Southern Hemisphere, the Perseid
radiant never climbs above the horizon, which will considerably reduce the number of Perseid meteors
you are likely to see. There are other, weaker meteor showers going on around the same time as the
Perseids, but the Perseids will generally appear to move much faster across the sky than meteors from
the other showers. In fact, the Perseids are among the fastest moving meteors we see every year.
Rising a little over one hour before the Sun at the beginning of the month, Mercury is fairly easy to
spot among the stars of Gemini. This will be short lived however as the planet moves rapidly back
toward the Sun as the month progresses and will be quickly lost in the Sun’s glare. It will be on the
opposite side of the Sun on the 25th after which it will move into the early evening sky but remain too
close to the Sun to be safely observed for the rest of the month. The thin waning crescent Moon will
rise just before Mercury on the 5th.
Easy to spot in the western evening sky as the Sun sets, Venus catches the eye of even the most
casual observer. Now fulfilling its role as the “Evening Star” it resides in the constellation Leo until the
11th when it moves into Virgo. Coincidently this is the same day the Sun enters Leo. On the evening of
the 10th the waxing crescent Moon will be 5 degrees to the east of Venus, the pair making a delightful
scene in the evening twilight.
The red planet can be found in the early morning twilight sky and at the beginning of August rising
ninety minutes before the Sun. It will move from Gemini into Cancer on the 25th where by the end of
the month crosses the eastern horizon almost two hours before the Sun. On the 5th the waning
crescent Moon rises just after Mars forming a triangle with the planet Mercury and having Jupiter
slightly above these three.
Making up the trio of planets in the morning twilight, Jupiter is the first to cross the eastern horizon
rising almost two hours before the Sun as August begins. It rises a around two minutes earlier than the
Sun each day until by month’s end it will rise a full three hours before the Sun. It spends the entire
month in the constellation Gemini where on the 4th will be joined by the waning crescent Moon.
High in the north western sky after the Sun sets, Saturn is still in a fairly easy position for observation
early in the evening. You will need to observe it early as by the end of the month it will be setting
around 10:00pm. It spends the month in Virgo, its separation from Virgo’s brightest star Spica
increasing slightly as the month progresses. The six day old waxing crescent Moon is just over 2
degrees away on the 13th of the month.
Uranus is more than 3 hours behind Neptune, so it will not rise until late evening early in the month
and mid evening by the end. Its magnitude is 5.7 and will spend this month in Pisces
Neptune is at opposition on August 27, when it will be 29.0 AU, (4334 million km) from the Earth and a
further 150 million km from the Sun. At opposition its magnitude is 7.8. Neptune will spend August in
Pluto is coming to the end of its opposition this month but is still well placed for observation (though
you will need a large telescope as the dwarf planet is a faint 14.1 magnitude), lying in the constellation
Sagittarius, far above the horizon for much of the night. Regardless of your location on the Earth, Pluto
will reach its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time.
For satellite viewing click the Heavens-Above web site below, the link is set for the Gingin Observatory
Moon Phases
New Moon:
First Quarter:
Full Moon:
Last Quarter:
07:52 hrs
20:57 hrs
11:46 hrs
19:36 hrs
diameter = 29.8'
diameter = 31.9'
diameter = 32.7'
diameter = 29.8'
Local Attractions:
Why not make it a “getaway weekend” and visit some of the other attractions near us (listed below)
courtesy of which also has an accommodation guide.
 Gravity Discovery Centre: E [email protected] W http//
 Horseback riding: E [email protected] W
 Mini Golf and Le Shed Café: E: [email protected] W
 Regans Ridge Olives: E [email protected] W
 Riseborough Estate Winery and Art Gallery: ph 9575 1211 W
 West Coast Honey: E [email protected] W
 Yanchep National Park: E [email protected] W
AGWA (Astronomical Group of WA), Meeting 1st Tuesday in every month
Next meeting: Tuesday 6th August, at
BTOW, Unit 5, 41 Holder Way, Malaga.
Doors open 7.00pm for 7.30pm start.
Cost - $3.00. Refreshments supplied mid evening. Guests welcome.
Enquires: PH: +61892496825
Email [email protected]
See you in the stars!
Gingin Observatory
PO Box 2695
t: +61 8 9575 7740
e: [email protected]