Observations - news and views on astronomy from Sydney Observatory

March 2015 night sky guide transcript and sky chart

Published by Melissa Hulbert on March 1, 2015 No Comments

To help you learn about the southern night sky, Sydney Observatory provides an audio guide/podcast, transcript of that audio, and a sky map or chart each month. This month’s guide is presented by Geoffrey Wyatt, Sydney Observatory’s Education Program Producer.

If you’re not sure how to find your way around the night sky, Geoff presents some easy tips for how you can find angles above the horizon just using your fist, fingers and arm – and it doesn’t matter how old or big you are as the sizes of your fist, fingers and arms are proportional with the rest of you – so it works for everyone!

Geoff takes us on a tour of the stars and constellations prominent in the March sky, including the bright star Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus, and the bright star Betelgeuse in the constellation of Orion.

Geoff’s fascinating talk is enriched with historical and mythological astronomical references – ranging across cultues including Indigenous Australian, Arabic and ancient Greek.

SEE THE SKY CHART
We provide an embedded sky map (below – please be patient as it can take a little while for it to load) and a March 2015 night sky chart (PDF) which shows the stars, constellations and planets visible in the night sky from anywhere in Australia. To view PDF star charts you will need to download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader if it’s not on your computer already.

READ THE TRANSCRIPT (after the jump)

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A Sydney City Skywatchers Presentation held at Sydney Observatory

6:30pm, Monday 2 March, 2015
Professor Wayne Orchiston (National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand) presents:
‘Joseph Ward and the Historic Cooke Refractor at the Wanganui Observatory, New Zealand’

Joseph Ward c 1921. Image source http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/3w4/ward-joseph-thomas

Until quite recently, the historic 9.5-in Cooke refractor at the Ward Wanganui Observatory in the North Island city of Wanganui was the largest refracting telescope in New Zealand. Manufactured in 1859, this is an internationally-important telescope since it is a ‘type specimen’ (in zoological parlance) and features the first all-metal English equatorial mounting ever made. The telescope was used for serious research in England during the nineteenth century, and subsequently in New Zealand after it transferred ‘down under’ in 1902. The man responsible for bringing the telescope to New Zealand was Joseph Ward (1862–1927), who is a remarkable character. He not only discovered many new double stars with the Cooke telescope, but also made refractors and reflectors on a commercial basis. His largest telescope was a 20.5-in Newtonian reflector, which has an interesting history. Professor Orchiston will discuss the English and New Zealand histories of the historic Cooke refractor, and Ward’s bid to make astronomical telescopes more widely available throughout New Zealand at a reasonable price.

Sydney City Skywatchers are very grateful to the Donovan Astronomical Trust for helping fund Professor Orchiston’s visit to Sydney.

Bio: Wayne Orchiston was born in New Zealand, but grew up in Sydney. In 1959 he joined the NSW Branch of the British Astronomical Association, was elected to the Committee at the age of 16, and eventually served as President. Later he was elected an Honorary Life Member when the Branch closed and the Sydney City Skywatchers was formed. Wayne’s early observational interests were in sunspots, meteors, the planets and variable stars, but he also developed a passion for the history of Australian astronomy and particularly the achievements of the Branch’s first President, John Tebbutt of Windsor.

Wayne has B.A. Honours and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Sydney and formerly worked at the CSIRO’s Division of Radiophysics, Sydney Observatory (part-time), Victoria College (later Deakin University, in Melbourne), the National Observatory of New Zealand (as Director), the Anglo-Australian Observatory and the CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility (in Sydney), and finally James Cook University (Townsville) before joining the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT) a little over two years ago, where he is a Senior Researcher. He is co-founder and Editor of the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, and in 2013 the IAU named minor planet 48471 Orchiston after him.

SYDNEY CITY SKYWATCHERS welcome members, new members and those interested in astronomy in the city to this presentation. There is a small supper charge $2 Members/ $5 non-members.

Sydney Observatory Teachers’ Preview Thursday 19 March 2015
Arrive at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Concludes around 9pm

Start 2015 with a special teachers only event at Sydney Observatory. This is the official education launch of the East Dome facility, which has been designed to provide an accessible telescope dome experience and features a new exhibition. Wine and light refreshments will be served on the night and pizzas will be ordered to suit every taste.

Aimed at primary school and secondary science teachers, this is an opportunity to come along and see for yourself just how wonderful Sydney Observatory and Fort Phillip can be for you and your students. Arrive at 6pm for a glimpse of the new East Dome.

The focus in 2015 is See, Think, Wonder a visible thinking routine to facilitate deeper engagement and an enhanced learning exchange in our programs at Sydney Observatory and all venues across the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS).

Our special guests this year are Peter Mahony, Education and Digital Learning MAAS; Craig Brown, Mars Lab; James Oliver, Digital Learning MAAS and teachers Shelley and Cath from Mater Dei Primary School.

Our colleagues from the Rocks Education Network (REN) will show why the Rocks precinct should be high on the list for cost efficient, cross curricula, exciting joint visit excursions.

Places are limited to a maximum of 5 teachers per school and this event usually books.

BOOK NOW by e-mailing observatory@phm.gov.au. Please include the name of your school as well as the names, e-mail addresses of each teacher attending. Please note that this event is for teachers only. Partners and children are not permitted.

Daily cosmobite: Saturn at midnight

Published by Andrew Jacob on 3 Comments

SaturnSaturn is the most beautiful celestial object to see through a telescope. Even after more than twenty years I still enjoy observing it. It is rising just before midnight at present.

 

Saturn. If you step back & squint this image most closely resembles the view of Saturn through a small telescope. NASA/JPL.

 

 

 

 

Free 30 minute astronomer-led tour of the new East Dome with its accessible telescope and exhibition ‘Revealing the Sky’ at 10am and 11am on 14th, 15th, 18th, 21st, 22nd March. The tour includes solar viewing (weather permitting) and a 3D Theatre show ‘Extreme Places’.  Its an opportunity to really enjoy one of the most interesting sites in NSW. Bookings required via Online bookings or phone our bookings officers on 9921 3485.

This is an official NSW Seniors Week event.

East Dome

Enjoying our new East Dome building! Photo T.Stevenson

The East Dome project was supported by the Department of Disability and Ageing. 

Additional information

The Millers Point bus runs regularly to the bottom of Sydney Observatory.
Meter parking is available on Observatory Hill. Limited parking for disability sticker visitors is available at Sydney Observatory (Please give your registration number when you book).

A good idea is to also visit our neighbours on Observatory Hill: the National Trust Cafe for morning tea or lunch and the SH Ervin Gallery to view their exhibition (entry fee charges apply). Gallery and Cafe visitors can park at the National Trust, a 2 minute walk from Sydney Observatory.

East Dome

Volunteers with MAAS conservator, Tim Morris, (far left) very proud of the restored astrograph! Photo T.Stevenson

Saturday 28 March
7:30pm to 10pm
See the stars shine brighter than ever as Sydney turns off its lights in support of the annual Earth Hour.

Prior to the lights off see an astronomy presentation. Tea and coffee will be available for purchase. The focus for the evening is viewing through telescopes and the planet Jupiter, the constellations Orion and the Southern Cross are amongst the many splendours of the night sky on show. In inclement weather we will recreate a dark starry sky in the digital planetarium.

Lights will go out from 8:30 to 9:30 when Sydney Observatory will be the perfect location to both view through telescopes and experience the heritage site as it was in a bygone era.

To book phone: 9921 3485. On-line bookings available soon.

Quetelet.Moon.IAU.GPNToday the Moon is at first quarter in the constellation Taurus. Look due north after sunset.

 

 

Quetelet, the only lunar crater beginning with ‘Q’. Map provided by the IAU Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.

 

 

 

 

Saturday 14 March 2015, 5pm to 8:30pm
This seminar is open to all.
Cost: $10*
Held at Sydney Observatory this is an opportunity to hear great speakers focus on the contributions of amateur astronomers. Seminar cost includes refreshments. Numbers are limited so reserve your seminar seat today by emailing: secretary@sydneycityskywatchers.asn.au. *Note: Tickets to the dinner held on the previous evening include the cost of the seminar.

SEMINAR PROGRAM
5pm Introduction by Sydney City Skywatchers President, Mike Chapman

5:10pm Keynote presentation by Professor Wayne Orchiston
‘John Tebbutt and the Formation of Sydney’s Earliest Astronomical Societies’

John Tebbutt. Collection MAAS.

Wayne Orchiston was born in New Zealand, but grew up in Sydney. In 1959 he joined the NSW Branch of the British Astronomical Association, and eventually served as President and he was later elected an Honorary Life Member. Wayne’s early observational interests were in sunspots, meteors, the planets and variable stars, but he also developed a passion for the history of Australian astronomy and particularly the achievements of the Branch’s first President, John Tebbutt of Windsor. Wayne has B.A. Honours and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Sydney and formerly worked at the CSIRO’s Division of Radiophysics, Sydney Observatory (part-time), Victoria College (later Deakin University, in Melbourne), the National Observatory of New Zealand (as Director), the Anglo-Australian Observatory and the CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility (in Sydney), and finally James Cook University (Townsville) before joining the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT) a little over two years ago, where he is a Senior Researcher. He is co-founder and Editor of the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, and in 2013 the IAU named minor planet 48471 Orchiston after him.
Sydney City Skywatchers are very grateful to the Donovan Astronomical Trust for helping fund Professor Orchiston’s visit to Sydney.

6:10pm Refreshments and discussion

6:30pm Sydney City Skywatcher presentations (15 mins each):
• Monty Leventhal OAM, Steavenson Award winner, ’22 years of Solar Observing’.
• Dr Nick Lomb, IMAgine Award winner, ‘Closing Encounters: the BAAs attempt to save Sydney Observatory’.
• Toner Stevenson, PhD candidate, ‘Women in Amateur Astronomy’
• Harry Roberts, Mike Kerr medal & McNiven Award winner, ‘Astronomical Illustration’

8pm Concluding remarks

8:30pm Optional dinner at the Hero of Waterloo
(not included in seminar cost)

Daily cosmobite: Mercury ushers in sunrise

Published by Andrew Jacob on February 25, 2015 No Comments

mercury.color.MessengerMercury is at “greatest elongation west” today, i.e. at its furthest apparent distance from the Sun. This means it is easiest to see just before sunrise. Look for the last ‘star’ visible in the morning twilight, it will be almost a handspan above the eastern horizon.

Mercury, messenger of the gods, heralds sunrise at present. This image from the Messenger spacecraft, NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington.

 

 

 

Daily cosmobite: Dark observing locations in Adelaide

Published by Andrew Jacob on February 24, 2015 No Comments

iss-adelaide-nightLight pollution is the bane of city-based astronomers. This series of night time images was taken from the International Space Station. They help identify dark sites from which to best view the sky. This week we  look at Adelaide.

Adelaide at night as seen from the International Space Station. Image by Chris Hadfield.

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