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The sky.

Go to the end of this article to find more detailed information about The Star Chart, how to use the chart, and a table of Moon phases. Use this table of phases to help you with the timing of successful astronomy evenings for students. The best time for an astronomy evening is usually six days after New Moon.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Significant events

(All times are UTC, Universal Time). Where time of day is relevant, each following event occur at about 8.00 pm local time on the given date, unless shown otherwise.

20 Jun--Southern Winter Solstice; Winter begins 23h 59'

30 Jun-2 Jul--Mars passes Regulus, brightest star in Leo, in the early evening sky

9 Jul--Jupiter at opposition

14 Jul--Moon occults Antares around 12h. Visible from southern Australia

28 Jul--Pisces Austrinids meteor shower peaks. Active from 15 Jul-10 Aug. Maximum hourly rate of 5.

28 Jul--Delta-Aquarids meteor shower peaks. Active from 12 Jul-19 Aug. Maximum hourly rate of 20.

13 Aug--Perseid meteor shower peaks. Active from 17 Jul-24 Aug. Maximum hourly rate of 100.

15 Aug--Neptune at opposition

16 Aug--A partial eclipse of the Moon is visible from all of Australasia. The umbral eclipse begins at 19h 36' and ends at 22h 45'. The time of maximum eclipse is 21 h 10' when 0.81 of the Moon's diameter is obscured.

1 Sep-18 Sep--Mercury, Mars and Venus close together

2 Sep--First day of Ramadan

12 Sep- Mars and Venus very close together

22 Sep--Southern Spring Equinox; Spring begins at 15h 44'

30 Sep--Uranus at opposition

30 Sep--Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) 5769

4 Oct--Occultation of Antares visible from WA

9 Oct--Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)

30 Nov--First Sunday in Advent

1 Dec -Very close meeting of Venus, Jupiter and the Moon

21 Dec--Southern Summer Solstice; Summer begins 12h 04'

29 Dec--Occultation of Jupiter by Moon, Mercury nearby

29 Dec-Islamic New Year 1430

All Jewish and Islamic dates above are tabular dates, which begin at sunset on the previous evening and end at sunset on the tabulated date.

The sky at about 8.00 pm local time

The dominant constellation of the winter skies is Scorpius. It is big, and it is nearly directly overhead in the evenings. However, the smallest of the 88 modern constellations, Crux, also known as the Southern Cross, is also high in the evening sky at this time.

Crux is surrounded on three sides by the constellation Centaurus, and to the south by Musca, the Fly. Ancient Greeks originally considered Crux to be part of Centaurus. The Greeks could see these stars at this time, but the slow precession of the Earth's axis lowered them below the European skyline, and they were forgotten.

We lack a significant pole star in the southern hemisphere so many people use the Cross to find the south celestial pole. If you continue the line between Gamma Crucis and Alpha Crucis for about 4.5 times the distance between them ten you will end up at a point fairly close to the south celestial pole.

Alpha Crucis, also known as Acrux is a multiple star of magnitude 0.81. With a surface temperature of 28,000 K it is one of the hottest, and therefore whitest, of the bright stars.

Beta Crucis, also known a Becrux or Mimosa, has a magnitude of 1.3. At just over 28,000 K it is even whiter than Alpha Crux.

Gamma Crucis, also known as Gacrux, is an obvious red giant of magnitude 1.59 and a surface temperature of comparatively low 3040 K. It shows up as a triple star system on closer examination, with the red giant dominating.

Nearby Centaurus, the Centaur, is a big constellation originally listed by Ptolemy in his 48 constellations. Centaurus contains Proxima Centauri, the red dwarf that is the nearest known star to our Sun, as well as Alpha Centauri, which is a binary star to which Proxima Centauri may be gravitationally bound to form a triple star system.

Alpha Centauri is the 4th brightest star in the night sky. Beta Centauri, is a second first magnitude star in Centaurus.

How to use the star chart

To use the sky chart go outside at the appropriate date and time, and hold the chart, upside-down above your head. Then turn around till the direction marks around the chart's edge are pointing in the correct compass directions. Now the chart should give you a condensed view of the sky that you see beside the chart.

Because no single sky chart will do for all localities in Australia, I have generated one for a position about 100 km east of Adelaide. It shows what the sky should look like at 35[degrees] south latitude anywhere in Australia at around 8:00 pm local time on 9 July 2008. If you are situated further north then you may not be able to see those objects in the far south of the chart. Similarly, observers further south may not be able to view the northernmost objects on the chart. Use the chart four minutes earlier than 8:00 pm for every day after 9 July, and four minutes later for every day before 9 July.

Enjoy looking up!

Ray Forma teaches science at Methodist Ladies College in Claremont, WA.
Table 1. Phases of the Moon over the coming year. The times
are UTC (Universal Time)

New Moon                First Quarter           Full Moon

3 Jun 2008 19:35      10 Jun 2008 15:05     18 Jun 2008 17:35
3 Jul 2008 02:15      10 Ju1 2008 04:30     18 Jul 2008 08:00
1 Aug 2008 10:00      8 Aug 2008 20:15      16 Aug 2008 21:15
30 Aug 2008 19:50     7 Sep 2008 14:00      15 Sep 2008 09:10
29 Sep 2008 08:15     7 Oct 2008 09:00      14 Oct 2008 20:05
28 Oct 2008 23:30     6 Nov 2008 04:00      13 Nov 2008 06:25
27 Nov 2008 17:10     5 Dec 2008 21:25      12 Dec 2008 16:40
27 Dec 2008 12:25     4 Jan 2009 11:55      11 Jan 2009 03:30
26 Jan 2009 07:40     2 Feb 2009 23:10      9 Feb 2009 14:50
25 Feb 2009 01:20     4 Mar 2009 07:40      11 Mar 2009 02:35
26 Mar 2009 16:05     2 Apr 2009 14:30      9 Apr 2009 14:55
25 Apr 2009 03:40     1 May 2009 20:45      9 May 2009 04:05

New Moon                Last Quarter

3 Jun 2008 19:35      26 Jun 2008 12:15
3 Jul 2008 02:15      25 Jul 2008 18:45
1 Aug 2008 10:00      23 Aug 2008 23:55
30 Aug 2008 19:50     22 Sep 2008 05:15
29 Sep 2008 08:15     21 Oct 2008 12:05
28 Oct 2008 23:30     19 Nov 2008 21:40
27 Nov 2008 17:10     19 Dec 2008 10:35
27 Dec 2008 12:25     18 Jan 2009 02:45
26 Jan 2009 07:40     16 Feb 2009 21:35
25 Feb 2009 01:20     18 Mar 2009 17:50
26 Mar 2009 16:05     17 Apr 2009 13:40
25 Apr 2009 03:40     17 May 2009 07:35
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Title Annotation:hands on
Author:Forma, Ray
Publication:Teaching Science
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 2008
Words:1204
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