SkyWatch in the Flinders Ranges

Dean Davidson’s Skywatch portable planetarium was thrilling children at Leigh Creek Area School and Marree Area School this week, followed by community astronomy night viewings. The famously dark skies of the Flinders Ranges availed excellent views of the Milky Way and the Dark Emu. Saturn and Jupiter were crowd pleasers, as always.

Jupiter’s diminishing Great Red Spot

The Great Red Spot of Jupiter is appearing to unravel. Where once the great storm could encompass three earths, it is now diminishing to the size of one earth. The Great Red Spot is shedding a succession of jet streams as long as 10,000km long, as captured by an amateur astronomer.

Image by Anthony Wesley of Australia, 19/5/19

Jupiter is currently rising in the constellation Ophiuchus, easy to find by association with nearby Scorpius.

This nifty little calculator will tell you what time the Great Red Spot transits into visibility at your latitude / longtitude.

Astronomy night

April Astronomy night under the brilliant Flinders Ranges skies showcased a line up including the new moon, the Orion Nebula, some fabulous clusters, the Tarantula Nebula, globular cluster 47 Tucana, and a look at different types of star such as Betelgeuse and Sirius.

Orion Nebula

Comet 46P Wirtanen

Comet 46P Wirtanen can be seen with the naked eye in the clear Flinders Ranges during December, with peak viewing around the 12th. The chart below shows the relationship between Orion (blue), Taurus (green), the Pleiades (pink) and the comet’s position during the days of December (red). 

Perseid meteor shower

NASA predicts a particularly prevalent Perseid meteor shower this year, with high number of fireballs in the sky in this week leading up to the peak event when the earth moves through the stream of debris from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Prime viewing is expected on August 11-12th.

While the northern hemisphere views will be optimal, constellations Perseus and Taurus should be visible on the northern horizon in the Flinders Ranges before sunrise. This image generated by Stellarium software shows the local view as at August 12th, 5.51am. Alderbaran (marked in white) is a prominent orange giant star in the constellation Taurus. Other familiar markers to look for in the field of view are the Pleiades and Orion.

Meteors will be moving from Perseus toward Taurus, as seen in this graphic from spaceweather.com :

 

Jupiter and Venus

Currently at sunset, Venus is visible in the constellation Taurus above the western horizon and on the opposite horizon, Jupiter is rising in the east in the constellation Libra.