News and Events
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Geminid meteor shower 2013
Comet ISON - November 2013
Gamma Ray Burst observed via Skynet
Online Tours Calendar
Astronomical Event Calendar
Constellation of Crux (Southern Cross)
Planetary configurations for 2013
Annular Eclipse of the Sun: 10 May 2013
Eta Aquarid meteor shower
Close approach of asteroid 2012 DA14
Huge asteroid's earth flyby caught on video
Comet ISON: November 2013
Total Solar Eclipse 13-14 November
Vale Sir Patrick Moore: 1923 - 2012
Mayan Calendar: Why the world won't end in 2012
Orionid meteor shower
Planet found in nearest star system to Earth
ASKAP official opening
SKA decision reached
Astronomical diary for 2012
The Geminid meteor shower will peak after midnight on 13 and 14 December 2013. One of the most important meteor showers of the year, the Geminid meteors radiate from the constellation Gemini and were caused by the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. They are slow-moving meteors, making them fairly easy to spot. They often have a yellowish hue and can be seen in the southern hemisphere by looking to the east, midway up, where they will be dispersed over a large area. They are best viewed from Perth at around 3:00am on Saturday 14 December, when the shower will be at peak activity. This year, the meteors are predicted to appear at a substantial rate. We will program our R-COP telescope to hopefully capture some spectacular images of the shower. Watch this space!
On 24 September 2012, Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) was discovered by two amateur astronomers, Vitali Nevski from Belarus and Artyom Novichonok from Russia. On 28 November 2013, Comet ISON will approach the Sun to within 0.01 AU (Astronomical Units) and is expected to be a great visual comet. The Southern Hemisphere is not favourable for observation but there should be some good observations in the Northern Hemisphere. There have been some variations in its brightness curve. For more information, go to http://www.aerith.net/comet/catalog/2012S1/2012S1.html
Though the Southern Hemisphere is unfavourable for general observation, the comet may give an interesting display later in November. A bright tail of the comet may be visible in the morning twilight sky. The attached document shows where the comet can be found in November 2013 from Perth, Western Australia: Comet ISON observations 2013.
The Perth Observatory observed its first gamma ray burst for Skynet, via our R-COP telescope. View the GCN (Gamma-Ray Burst Coordinates Network) circular: GCN Circular 15369.
We have created an online tours calendar to show the dates of scheduled day and night tours, including start and finish times. We have also indicated what is visible in the sky during the night tours.
We have developed an online calendar showing major astronomical events for each month including moon phases, planetary positions and significant milestones. All times are shown in AWST (Australian Western Standard Time). We are producing a similar online calendar to complement our tours once our tour season commences. Go to this link to view our calendar for the month of July 2013:
In June, the Southern Cross can be viewed in the early evening sky, due south at a high altitude of sixty degrees.
The constellation of Crux (Latin for cross) is popularly known as the Southern Cross. This imaginary cross is formed by drawing two lines from α Crucis (Acrux) to γ Crucis (Gacrux), and from β Crucis (Mimosa) to δ Crucis, thus forming the cross. Acrux is 321 light years away while Gacrux is only 88 light years away. Gacrux is the nearest red giant star to the Sun.
The two stars that form the 'pointers' to the Southern Cross are Alpha Centauri (Rigel Kent) and Beta Centauri (Hadar). Alpha Centauri is the closest star to our Sun and is a triple star system. Through a small telescope, α Centauri can be resolved as two stars while the third component is a very faint red dwarf star only visible with a modest-size telescope and a locating chart. Alpha Centauri is 4.4 light years distant, with a planet about the size of the Earth orbiting close to the star.
With a small telescope you can see NGC 4755, a beautiful open star cluster call the 'Jewel Box' and adjacent to the star Mimosa.
This simplified view of the Solar System, displays all the possible planetary configurations. The planets that orbit between the Sun and the Earth are known as the “inferior” planets (Mercury, Venus) while the planets from Mars outwards are known as the “superior” planets.
Legend for Solar System diagram below:
|Inferior Planet||Superior Planet|
|GEW||Greatest Elongation West||WQ||Western Quadrature|
|GEE||Greatest Elongation East||EQ||Eastern Quadrature|
* WAST = West Australian Standard Time
|CONJUNCTIONS WITH SUN||OPPOSITIONS WITH SUN||GREATEST ELONGATIONS|
|1 May 2013 - 31 Dec 2013 (WAST)||1 May 2013 - 31 Dec 2013 (WAST)||1 May 2013 - 31 Dec 2013 (WAST)|
|Mercury superior||12.5.13||5:10||Pluto||2.7.13||8:06||Mercury||13.6.13||0:45||24.3 East|
|Mercury inferior||10.7.13||2:41||Uranus||3.10.13||22:12||Mercury||9.10.13||18:11||25.3 East|
|Mercury superior||25.8.13||4:56||Venus||1.11.13||15:59||47.1 East|
|Mercury inferior||2.11.13||4:19||Mercury||18.11.13||10:22||19.5 West|
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE IS IT SAFE TO DIRECTLY VIEW THE SUN - BLINDNESS WILL OCCUR
The first solar eclipse of 2013 will occur on the 10th of May. It will be visible as a partial eclipse from Western Australia early at sunrise and an annular eclipse starting near the Collier Range National Park at 06:33am WAST (Western Australian Standard Time).
The 171 to 255 kilometre-wide annular eclipse shadow track will quickly sweep northeast towards Tennant Creek. This track will then continue towards eastern Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the Gilbert Islands. It will be widely visible as a partial eclipse from the central Pacific Ocean, Oceania and Indonesia.
The moon is 3.5 days before apogee thus its apparent annular size is slightly smaller than that of the sun, hence the 'annular' nature of the eclipse. The moon covers most of the sun other than a bright ring.
Viewing the eclipse
Indirect projection is the safest way to view this eclipse. A piece of cardboard with a small hole of around 1mm in diameter is held up so its projected image of the sun falls on a white surface. Looking at the white surface you can safely view the indirect projection of the sun.
Under no circumstance should you look at the sun through the 1mm hole.
View our webpage dedicated to the solar eclipse to see a graphic representation of approximate times of the eclipse viewed from WA.
As the earth orbits the sun it will, on occasion, pass through the orbital track of a comet or asteroid. If debris remain in the orbital track and the earth encounters these particles, a 'meteor shower' may be visible on earth. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is the earth passing through the debris field of comet Halley with observation rates up to 40-80 meteors per hour. Peak activity will occur this year on a near-moonless night in the early hours of Sunday 5 May. The activity is best viewed four to five hours before dawn.
These shooting stars or meteors appear to radiate from the constellation of Aquarius. Meteoroids are essentially moving parallel to each other as they enter the earth's atmosphere. To our perspective, we are standing in the middle of the stream and seeing meteors around us. If the paths of these meteors were traced back to the sky they will converge to a point - the star Eta Aquarid (hence the name of the meteor shower).
Meteoroids are generally a few millimetres across but enter the earth's atmosphere at high speeds and vaporise in a process called ablation. The meteoroids from comet Halley enter the atmosphere at 66 kilometres per second.
Image courtesy of Arie Verveer, Perth Observatory.
Asteroid 2012 DA14 passed within 28,000 km of the Earth on the morning of 16 February 2013, at 3.25 WAST (Western Australian Standard Time). Western Australia was ideally placed to observe this record-close approach and the Perth Observatory's Arie Verveer followed the event throughout the night, using the Observatory's R-COP telescope.
The image of 2012 DA14 (pictured below) was constructed from four overlaid exposures and show a little over one minute of the asteroid's journey on the night of close approach to Earth.
Asteroid DA14 was discovered in 2012 by the Observatorio Astronómico de La Sagra in the southern province of Granada, Spain. Radar observations of DA14 made on the night of 15 February show it to be an elongated 20 x 40 metre object. Its encounter with the Earth's gravitational field moved the asteroid into a new orbit and reduced its orbital period from 366 to 317 days. The next close approach will be on 16 February 2126 and will be similar to the 2013 passage.
Image of 2012 DA14 constructed from four overlaid exposures and shows just over one minute of the asteroid's journey.
Image courtesy of Arie Verveer, Perth Observatory.
A video has captured the giant asteroid 4179 Toutatis tumbling through space on its flyby of Earth this week. The 40 second long video combines 64 radar images taken on 13 and 14 December by NASA's Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, California. Follow this link for the video and more information
On 24 September 2012 a new comet was discovered by two amateur astronomers and was named C/2012 S1 (ISON). At the time of its discovery, ISON was beyond the orbit of Jupiter and it will move into the inner solar system in 2013. The comet's orbit will bring it near the Sun in 2013 and by late November, it might become bright enough to be seen in the daytime. A few weeks later, the comet's outward trajectory will bring it to just 0.4 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. The path of comet ISON is believed to be very similar to the comet of 1680, whose path Isaac Newton plotted, and its success inspired Edmond Halley to investigate the paths of past comets and led to the discovery of Halley's Comet.
Will the comet be visible from Australia?
It will be visible in the northern and southern hemispheres for at least two months, from November 2013 to January 2014. On 29 November 2013 (Australian time), Comet ISON will pass just 1.2 million kilometres from the Sun. From Earth, ISON will be about one degree from the Sun. The comet will be visible low in the east before sunrise in the week or two before closest approach to the Sun (known as perihelion). If the comet grows a visible tail, it should be pointing upwards, away from the rising Sun.
After perihelion as it moves towards Earth, we will not see much from the southern hemisphere. In the evenings, the comet will set before the Sun and in the mornings it will rise with the Sun.
Assuming the comet does not fade away (as Comet Elenin did in August 2011), the best chance to see Comet ISON from the southern hemisphere will be from mid to late November 2013 in the mornings before sunrise, and in the daytime about the date of perihelion on 29 November 2013.
Note: Do not look directly at the Sun. Use your unaided eyes to look for the comet (you should not use telescopes or binoculars) taking care to block the Sun with an object.
A total solar eclipse will be seen from parts of Australia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, South America and Antarctica on 13-14 November, 2012. It will be 14 November local time when the eclipse is visible in places west of the International Date Line. The eclipse starts at 19:38pm Universal Time (UT) on 13 November and ends at 00:46am UT on 14 November 2012.
Times for the eclipse in WA
In WA, the eclipse occurs on 14 November and the timeline is detailed below (all times below in WAST - WA Standard Time):
Start of eclipse: 03:37am
Start of partial eclipse: 04:21am
Maximum eclipse: 05:00am (in WA, the maximum of the eclipse occurs when the Sun is still below the horizon as sunrise is 05:09am)
End of partial eclipse: 05:41am
End of eclipse: 08:45am
CAUTION: It is very dangerous to look directly at the Sun. Viewing the projected image is quite safe (e.g. via pinhole method), but looking directly at the Sun through binoculars or telescopes will cause almost instant blindness.
Check out when the eclipse starts all over the world and watch an animation of the eclipse's path:
Sir Patrick Moore, amateur astronomer, lunar researcher and television presenter of 'The Sky at Night' since 1957, died on 9 December 2012. Sir Patrick was also a prolific author of more than 70 books on astronomy. The British Astronomical Association blog has a moving tribute to Sir Patrick Moore.
According to the credible source of no less than NASA itself, 21 December 2012 will not spell the end of the world as we know it (apologies to REM). It will in fact, be a winter solstice. We have received queries about the Mayan Calendar and predictions of the world's demise, and decided to address some of the claims by linking to the venerable NASA site.
Below is a link to some common questions about this topic and the answers from NASA scientists:
On the weekend of 20 to 21October, the Earth passed through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Forecasters expected ~25 meteors per hour when the shower peaked on 21October. The Perth Observatory captured the following photos of the meteor shower from our All Sky Camera.
European astronomers have discovered a planet with about the mass of the Earth orbiting a star in the Alpha Centauri system — the nearest to Earth. It is also the lightest exoplanet ever discovered a star like the Sun. The planet was detected using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The results will appear online in the journal, Nature, on 17 October 2012.
For more information, visit: www.eso.org/public/news/eso1241/
Source: Source: European Southern Observatory website - www.eso.org/
The CSIRO's newest telescope, the Australian SKA Pathfinder was officially launched on 5 October at the Murchison Radio Astronomy Observatory in regional Western Australia. Follow this link for more information.
On 25 May 2012, members of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation agreed on a dual site solution for the SKA Telescope. This is a crucial step towards building the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope.
The decision is exciting news for the future of radio astronomy and astronomy in general in Australia. It will have the potential to impact skills development, employment and economic growth in science, engineering and associated industries within Australia.
From Easter 2012 onwards... what can we see, and when?
Consult our astronomical diary to find out what's happening in our universe this year.
National Science Week is from 10 to 18 August 2013. Follow this link to view lots of great events happening nationwide.
The Perth Observatory hosted its nineteenth annual summer lecture on the evening of Thursday, 7 February 2013.
The inaugural summer lecture was held in 1995 and is the highlight of the Perth Observatory’s outreach program. About 200 people attended this year, which took place on the back lawn of the main administration building. A sausage sizzle was held for the first time this year and many people arrived early to enjoy their picnic dinner on the lawn, with near-perfect weather conditions. The display room was open for people to view the Observatory’s historical instruments and artefacts and the gift shop was open for purchases.
Professor Phil Brand from Curtin University began his lecture at 8pm. Phil’s topic was ‘On the trail of a meteor’ and he spoke about his work developing a network of cameras that can image the trails of bright meteors. Phil explained how he and his group use these images to determine where an individual meteor came from, where to look for any fragments of the meteor that may have reached the ground, and how they add new pieces to the geological map of our solar system. Phil demonstrated the cameras he uses and showed an image from a remote desert site. After question time, the lecture concluded about 9pm.
The night was a great success due to the efforts of many people: the Observatory staff that organised the event, set up the stage and equipment, and ran the sausage sizzle; the Observatory’s volunteers who assisted with the gift shop, display room, front gate and parking; Professor Phil Bland who delivered such an interesting lecture and the general public and industry guests who attended the event.
Overall, a wonderful night was enjoyed ‘under the stars’.
Enjoying the 2013 annual summer lecture on the back lawn of the Perth Observatory.
Photograph Copyright: Geoff Scott, 2013
Read more about the annual summer lecture series.
Mr Ralph Martin, Acting Government Astronomer and Dr John Kennewell, Director of the Australian Space Academy, were interviewed this week by Andrew Elstermann from Murdoch University about World Space Week.
Follow this link to read the article and/or listen to the interview.
From 5 April to 19 May 2013, the Perth Observatory hosted a touring exhibition of photos from the prestigious 'Winning Sky Photos: David Malin Awards'. Follow this link for more information or to view the photographs online.
About the Summer Lecture Series
During summer, the Perth Observatory conducts a summer lecture 'under the stars'. This event is one of the Perth Observatory's major public outreach activities. Our aim is to present a lecture concerning current astronomy that is accessible to the general public.
The image to the right is of Professor Miller Goss giving the Summer Lecture in 2011 - 'Under the Radar': the life and times of Ruby Payne-Scott, pioneer female radio astronomer.
The annual summer lecture is a highlight of the Perth Observatory's public education and outreach program.
Previous summer lecturers and their chosen topics are detailed in the table below.
|2013||Professor Phil Bland
|On the trail of a meteor|
Professor John Kennewell
|'A Sky Full of Debris'|
|2011||Professor Miller Goss
(NRAO, New Mexico)
|'Under the Radar': the life and times of Ruby Payne-Scott, pioneer female radio astronomer|
Prof Matthew Colless
|What do we know about the Universe?|
|2008||Prof Bryan Gaensler
(University of Sydney)
|The amazing magnetars|
|2007||Mr Rob McNaught
(Siding Spring Observatory)
|Comet tales and comet trails|
|2006||Mr Ralph Martin & Dr Andrew Williams
|Discovery of the coolest known exo-planet|
|2005||Prof Penny D. Sackett
(Mt Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories, Australian National University)
|Giant optical eyes and other solar systems|
|2004||Prof Ray Norris
(CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility, Sydney)
|The void at the end of the universe|
|2003||Assoc Prof James Biggs
|The deep foundations of astronomy in everyday life|
|2002||Prof William Harris
(McMaster University, Canada)
|The history of starlight: building a universe in four easy steps|
|2001|| Prof Don Campbell
(Department of Astronomy, Cornell University, USA)
|Planetary radar astronomy with the world's largest telescope|
|2000||Prof John deLaeter
(Department of Applied Physics, Curtin University)
|Exploding stars and the tapestry of life|
|1999|| Dr John Kennewell
(Learmonth Solar Observatory)
|1998|| Prof David Malin
|A universe of colour|
|1997|| Dr Brian Boyle
|Quasars, black holes and the universe|
|1996|| Dr Joseph Dolan
(NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, USA)
|Neutron stars and black holes|
|1995|| Prof Colin Norman
(Johns Hopkins University, USA)
|The evolution of galaxies|
On 6 June 2012, Venus transited over the disk of the Sun. Observers in Perth were able to observe the transit from sunrise until 12:47pm.
Transits of Venus across the disk of the Sun are among the rarest of planetary alignments. During the interval from 2000 BCE to CE 4000, a total of 81 transits of Venus occur, that is, on average, one every 74 years. However, they almost always occur in pairs (separated by 8 years) and so even a long-lived person may not get to witness a Venus transit in their lifetime. More than a century will elapse before the next pair of transits in 2117 and 2125.
The Perth Observatory opened its doors to the public to view the images on our large screen in the display room. The inclement weather meant we did not receive as many images as we had hoped. We thank those who attended, and for their gold coin donation.
View our images and more information about the Transit of Venus.