This year's special events in the sky



Sun:   Looking at the Sun either with the unaided eye or through binoculars or telescope is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS!
here  to find out how to observe the Sun safely.



Moon Phases: 

The Moon is ideal for viewing in the week centred on the First Quarter phase, both regarding the sights presented and the most convenient time for observing (evenings). In addition, it is nearly overhead at sunset. First Quarter in 2017 will occur on the following dates:

2017:   January 6;   February 4;   March 5;   April 4;   May 3;   June 1;   July 1 and 31;   August 29;   September 28;   October 28;   November 27;   December 26



Eclipses in 2017:



PARTIAL PENUMBRAL, FEBRUARY 11:   This eclipse of the Moon is penumbral - no part of the Moon will pass through the main shadow of the Earth, the umbra, at any stage. The eclipse will begin at 8:34 am, will reach its maximum phase at 10:44 am, and will end at 12:54 pm (Sunshine Coast, Queensland times). As the Moon will have set at 5:21 am, no part of the eclipse will be visible from Australia. It will be visible from the Americas, Europe, Africa and most of Asia.will pass through the main shadow of the Earth, the umbra, at any stage. In fact, to the casual observer the eclipse will hardly be noticeable at all. The Moon will enter the penumbra at 7:38 pm, the maximum darkening of the Moon will occur at 9:48 pm, and the eclipse will end at 11:58 pm.  At maximum, only 80% of the Moon will be immersed in the penumbra.

PENUMBRAL, AUGUST 8:   This eclipse of the Moon is penumbral, but a small portion of the Moon will pass through the main shadow of the Earth, the umbra. This part of the eclipse will be very noticeable, even to the casual observer. The Moon will enter the penumbra at 1:49 am, and will enter a part of the umbra at 3:23 am. The maximum darkening of the Moon will occur at 4:21 am, when about one fifth of the Moon will be immersed in the umbra. The Moon will leave the umbra at 5:19 am, and the penumbral phase will end at 6:54 am, 26 minutes after the Moon has set.

TOTAL, JANUARY 31, 2018:   Begins at 8:50 pm, maximum phase of totality occurs at 11:30 pm, eclipse ends at 2:10 am.



ANNULAR, FEBRUARY 26:    This eclipse of the Sun is annular - the Moon will be near apogee (furthest distance from the Earth) and so will appear slightly smaller than the Sun. For places on the centre line of the eclipse, when the Moon covers the Sun its smaller size will be demonstrated as a "ring of fire" around the black disc of the Moon. The only countries on the centre line are Chile, Argentina, Angola, Zaire and Zambia. The eclipse will begin at 10:10 pm, will reach its maximum phase at 12:59 am on February 27, and will end at 3:35 am (Sunshine Coast, Queensland times). As the event will happen at night for Australia, no part of the eclipse will be visible from here.

TOTAL, AUGUST 21:    The path of totality for this eclipse runs from the far north of the Pacific Ocean (south of the Bering Sea), across the continental United States of America, and finishing in the mid-Atlantic. The centre of the eclipse will occur at Hopkinsville, Kentucky, with a duration of 2 minutes 40 seconds. No part of this eclipse will be visible from Australia.



The Planets in 2017: 


Mercury:        January 8:                Western stationary point
                                    January 19:              Greatest elongation from Sun in morning sky (24
                                    March 7:                  Superior conjunction
                                    April 1:                     Greatest elongation from Sun in evening sky (18
                                    April 10:                   Eastern stationary point
                                    April 20:                   Inferior co
                                    May 4:                      Western stationary point
                                    May 18:                   Greatest elongation from Sun in morning sky
                                    June 22:                  Superior conjunction
                                    July 30:                   Greatest elongation from Sun in evening sky (27
                                    August 13:               Eastern stationary point
                                    August 27:               Inferior co
                                    September 5:          Western stationary point
         September 12:        Greatest elongation from Sun in morning sky (17
                                    October 9:               Superior conjunction
                                    November 24:         Greatest elongation from Sun in evening sky (21
                                    December 3:           Eastern stationary point
                                    December 13:         Inferior co
                                    December 23:         Western stationary point (18

 Venus:             January 13:             Greatest elongation from Sun in evening sky (47 08')
                                    March 4:                 Eastern stationary point
                                    March 25:               Inferior conjunction
                                    April 15:                  Western stationary point
                                    June 3:                   Greatest elongation from Sun in morning sky (45
                                    January 9, 2018:    Superior conjunction 


From January to early March, Venus will dominate the western twilight sky as an 'evening star'. During January it will appear like a little half-moon, and in February-March as a crescent, as it is between us and the Sun and turns its dark (night) side towards us. Venus will overtake the Earth on March 25, and will then move into the eastern pre-dawn sky as a 'morning star', becoming prominent there from April to the end of the year. In April it will appear as a crescent, but over the next month or so it will become a smaller 'half-moon' shape, and by the end of the year it will have shrunk to a small 'full moon'. It will assume these shapes and shrink in size as it will be heading around to the far side of the Sun, where it will appear fully illuminated to us.

                             January 2017                         March 2017                              April 2017                               June 2017                        November 2017                          



Mars:                  July 27:                    Conjunction                         (angular diameter = 3.5")
                                    March 25, 2018:       Western quadrature          (angular diameter = 8.0")
                                    July 27, 2018:          Opposition                          (angular diameter = 24.2")
For all of 2017, Mars will be on the far side of its orbit, and will therefore appear quite small, less than 7 arcseconds in diameter, Its magnitude will vary from 0.9 in January to 1.5 in December. The next opposition, occurring on July 27, 2018, will be very favourable, as at closest approach to Earth its angular diameter will be 24.2".


Mars photographed from Starfield Observatory, Nambour on June 29 and July 9, 2016, showing two different sides of the planet.  The north polar cap is prominent.


Jupiter:             January 12:               Western quadrature
                                    February 6:               Western stationary point
                                    April 8:                      Opposition (Jupiter rises in the east at sunset)
                                    June 9:                     Eastern stationary point
         July 6:                       Eastern quadrature
                                    October 27:              Co
The giant planet begins 2017 near the star Spica in Virgo, and moves through that constellation until it crosses into Libra on November 14, 2017.

Jupiter as photographed from Nambour on the evening of April 25, 2017. The images were taken, from left to right, at 9:10, 9:23, 9:49, 10:06 and 10:37 pm. The rapid rotation of this giant planet in a little under 10 hours is clearly seen. In the southern hemisphere, the Great Red Spot (bigger than the Earth) is prominent, sitting within a 'bay' in the South Tropical Belt. South of it is one of the numerous White Spots. All of these are features in the cloud tops of Jupiter's atmosphere.



Saturn:             March 18:                  Western quadrature
                                   April 4
:                       Western stationary point
                                   June 15:                    Opposition
                                   August 25:                 Eastern stationary point
                                   September 14:          Eastern quadrature
                                   December 22:           Conjunction

Saturn begins 2017 in the southern part of the non-Zodiacal constellation of Ophiuchus, and will cross into Sagittarius on February 20, 2017, where it will remain for the rest of the year.

Saturn with its Rings wide open on May 25, 2017. The shadow of its globe can be seen on the far side of the Ring system. There are three main concentric rings: Ring A is the outermost, and is separated from the brighter Ring B by a dark gap known as the Cassini Division, which is 4800 kilometres wide, enough to drop Australia through.
Ring A also has a gap inside it, but it is much thinner. Called the 'Encke Gap', it is only 325 kilometres wide and can be seen in the image above.The innermost parts of Ring B are not as bright as its outermost parts. Inside Ring B is the faint Ring C, almost invisible but noticeable where it passes in front of the bright planet as a dusky band. Spacecraft visiting Saturn have shown that there are at least four more Rings, too faint and tenuous to be observable from Earth, and some Ringlets. Some of these extend from the inner edge of Ring C to Saturn's cloudtops. The Rings are not solid, but are made up of countless small particles, 99.9% water ice with some rocky material, all orbiting Saturn at different distances and speeds. The bulk of the particles range in size from dust grains to car-sized chunks. At bottom centre, the southern hemisphere of the planet can be seen showing through the gap of the Cassini Division. The ring system extends from 7000 to 80 000 kilometres above Saturn's equator, but its thickness varies from only 10 metres to 1 kilometre. The globe of Saturn has a diameter at its equator of 120 536 kilometres. Being made up of 96% hydrogen and 3% helium, it is a gas giant, although it has a small, rocky core. There are numerous cloud bands visible.



Uranus:            January 11:               Eastern quadrature
                                   April 14:                     Conjunction
                                   July 21:                      Western quadrature
                                   August 3:                   Western stationary point
                                   October 20:               Opposition
                                   January 2, 2018:       Eastern stationary point
                                   January 15, 2018:     Eastern quadrature

Uranus spends all of 2017 in the constellation Pisces, and will cross into Aries on April 22, 2018.



Neptune:       March 2:                   Conjunction
                                   June 5:                      Western quadrature
                                   June 16:                    Western stationary point
                                   September 5:            Opposition
                                   November 22:           Eastern stationary point
                                   December 3:            Eastern quadrature
                                   March , 2018:           Conjunction

Neptune spends the whole of 2016 in Aquarius, near the asterism known as the 'Water Jar'. It will remain in Aquarius until April 21, 2022.



Pluto:                  January 7:                Conjunction
April 9:                     Western quadrature
                                   April 20:                    Western stationary point
                                   July 10:                     Opposition
                                   September 29:         Eastern stationary point
                                   October 10:              Eastern quadrature
                                   January 9, 2018:      Conjunction

Pluto spends all of 2017 in Sagittarius.  It will not move out of this constellation until  March 1, 2023.




Meteor Showers:

    January 4:            Quadrantids
    February 8:           Alpha-Centaurids
    April 22:                Lyrids
    April 24:                Pi-Puppids
    May 4:                  Alpha Scorpids
    May 5:                  Eta Aquarids (from Comet Halley)
    June 8:                 Arietids
    June 10:               Zeta Perseids
    June 29:               Beta Taurids
    July 10:                Pegasids
    July 29:                S Delta-Aquarids
    July 30:                Alpha-Capricornids
    August 13:           Perseids (from Comet Swift-Tuttle)
    September 1:      Alpha-Aurigids
    October 22:         Orionids (from Comet Halley)
    November 3:        S Taurids (from Comet Encke)
    November 13:      N Taurids (from Comet Encke)
    November 18:      Leonids (from Comet Tempel-Tuttle)
    December 7:       Phoenicids
    December 14:     Geminids (from Comet Phaethon)
    December 24:     Ursids

The 3.9 metre Anglo-Australian Telescope near Coonabarabran, NSW




The main Constellations visible at about 8.00 pm each month, from the horizon to the zenith:          



        East:       Hydra, Canis Minor, Canis Major, Puppis
        South:    Crux, Musca, Carina, Vela, Pavo
        West:      Aquarius, Capricornus, Pisces, Grus, Piscis Austrinus, Phoenix, Cetus, Eridanus
        North:     Aries, Perseus, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, Orion



        East:      Leo, Crater, Corvus, Hydra, Canis Major, Puppis
        South:    Grus, Centaurus, Crux, Musca, Carina, Vela
        West:      Cetus, Eridanus, Aries
        North:     Auriga, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Orion



        East:       Virgo, Libra, Lupus, Centaurus, Corvus, Crater, Hydra, Crux, Musca, Vela
        South:    Triangulum Australe, Toucan, Carina, Puppis
        West:      Phoenix, Cetus, Eridanus, Taurus, Orion, Canis Major
        North:     Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Canis Minor



        East:       Bootes, Libra, Scorpius, Virgo, Centaurus, Lupus, Ara, Crux, Musca, Corvus
        South:    Triangulum Australe, Pavo, Carina, Vela
        West:      Eridanus, Orion, Gemini, Canis Minor, Canis Major, Puppis
        North:     Cancer, Ursa Major, Leo, Crater, Hydra



        East:       Corona Borealis, Serpens, Ophiuchus, Sagittarius, Libra, Scorpius, Ara, Lupus, Centaurus
        South:     Indus, Pavo, Triangulum Australe, Crux, Musca, Carina
        West:      Canis Major, Canis Minor, Cancer, Puppis, Hydra
        North:     Ursa Major, Leo, Coma Berenices,Bootes, Virgo, Crater, Corvus



        East:       Ophiuchus, Capricornus, Sagittarius, Scorpius
        South:     Pavo, Triangulum Australe, Ara, Lupus, Crux, Musca
        West:      Hydra, Leo, Carina, Vela, Puppis, Crater, Corvus
        North:     Coma Berenices, Bootes, Corona Borealis, Hercules, Virgo, Serpens, Libra



        East:       Aquarius, Delphinus, Grus, Capricornus, Aquila, Sagittarius, Scorpius
        South:    Carina, Musca, Crux, Ara, Triangulum Australe, Centaurus
        West:      Hydra, Crater, Corvus, Virgo, Vela, Libra
        North:     Bootes, Corona Borealis, Hercules, Lyra, Ophiuchus, Serpens



        East:       Aquarius, Phoenix, Piscis Austrinus, Grus, Sagittarius
        South:    Eridanus, Musca, Crux, Triangulum Australe
        West:      Corvus, Virgo, Bootes, Libra, Centaurus, Ara, Lupus, Scorpius
        North:     Corona Borealis, Hercules, Lyra, Cygnus, Delphinus, Aquila



        East:       Pisces, Cetus, Eridanus, Phoenix, Piscis Austrinus, Grus, Aquarius, Capricornus
        South:     Crux, Musca, Triangulum Australe, Pavo
        West:      Centaurus, Libra, Serpens, Ophiuchus, Scorpius, Lupus, Ara
        North:      Lyra, Cygnus, Pegasus, Delphinus, Aquila



        East:        Eridanus, Cetus, Aries, Piscis Austrinus
        South:     Hydrus, Centaurus, Musca, Triangulum Australe, Ara, Pavo, Grus
        West:       Lupus, Scorpius, Ophiuchus, Sagittarius, Aquila, Capricornus
        North:      Cygnus, Delphinus, Pegasus, Andromeda, Aquarius



        East:        Taurus, Eridanus, Cetus, Phoenix
        South:     Carina, Musca, Triangulum Australe, Pavo
        West:       Scorpius, Sagittarius, Aquila, Delphinus, Capricornus, Grus, Piscis Austrinus
        North:      Pegasus, Andromeda, Aries, Pisces, Cetus, Aquarius



        East:        Taurus, Orion, Canis Major, Puppis, Carina, Eridanus
        South:     Carina, Musca, Pavo
        West:       Capricornus, Aquarius, Grus, Piscis Austrinus, Phoenix
        North:      Pegasus, Andromeda, Aries, Perseus, Cetus


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