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-  Proprietor  -
John Vetter
* Amateur Astronomer with
 over 40 years experience.

-  Address  -
961 Old Grattai Road
Mudgee NSW 2850

-  Phone  -
(02) 6373 3431

-  Email  


1st Quarter
Full Moon
3rd Quarter
New Moon



The Planets for January 2016

   The only naked eye planet in the western evening sky, Mercury only remains so until the 14th after which it joins the other bright planets in the morning twilight. On the 1st it sits less than a degree to the north of 8.6 magnitude globular cluster M75 though the cluster will be a real challenge low in the western evening twilight. Mercury will be better observed at the end of the month when it is in the early morning sky among the stars of Sagittarius.

 New Years Day finds this brilliant planet perched precariously near beta Scorpii, Graffias, a star that marks one of the scorpion's claws. It slips past and just a degree from this star on the 2nd, crossing into Ophiuchus on the 7th where it is joined by the waning crescent Moon. Saturn is only a couple of degrees away on this date also. Over the next two mornings Venus moves ever closer to Saturn and on the 9th the pair will be less than half a degree apart. Venus moves into Sagittarius on the 22nd and finishing the month one and a half degrees to the north of fifth magnitude globular cluster, M22 on the 31st of January.

  Now rising over four hours before the Sun, Mars starts the month in Virgo, five degrees to the east of Virgo's brightest star Spica. The contrasting colours are worth noting between this pair, Mars with its distinct orange glow and Spica's blue-white tinge and a little brighter of the two. Mars crosses into Libra on the 18th, finishing the month a degree and a half from alpha Librae (Zubenelgenubi). On ancient star charts this star marked the southern claw of the scorpion. The waning crescent Moon is two degrees to the north of Mars on the 4th of the month.

The giant planet rises around midnight at the beginning of the month but will be rising two hours earlier by the end of January. Still in Leo and close to the border of Virgo, Jupiter begins four months of retrograde motion on the 9th when it will appear to move from east to west among the background stars. The Moon will be less than one degree to the south of Jupiter on the 1st and also close by again on the 28th.

As the New Year begins, Saturn rises in the dawn sky two hours before the Sun in the constellation Ophiuchus. It gradually rises earlier with each passing day until by the end of the month it will rise almost four hours before the Sun. On the 9th the ringed planet and Venus will be less than half a degree apart when the contrasting colours of the pair should be obvious, Saturn having a slight yellowish hue against the brilliance of Venus. The waning crescent Moon will be in close proximity to the two planets on the 7th of the month.

2nd 10th 17th 24th

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The Planets for February 2016

   Mercury: For the first half of February Mercury will be rising a full two hours before the Sun and in a great position in the morning sky for observation for early risers. It begins the month in Sagittarius, crossing into Capricornus on the 15th where it spends the rest of the month. The waning crescent Moon will be five degrees to the east of Mercury on the 7th and the brightest planet Venus is just four degrees to Mercury's west on the 13th of the month.

 Venus: The brightest of the planets begins the month in Sagittarius, crossing into Capricornus on the 18th where it joins Mercury and remains for the rest of February. The thin crescent of a waning Moon is situated six degrees to the west of Venus on the 6th and for those adventurous souls with larger telescopes, 14.24 magnitude Pluto will be less than six arcminutes north of third magnitude Pi Sagittarii in the 13th of the month.
  Mars: The red planet rises just after midnight in the constellation of Libra at the beginning of February, less than two degree from Libra's second brightest star, Zubenelgenubi (alpha Librae). This star lies at a distance of 72 light years and is a wide double star consisting of a blue-white star of magnitude 2.8 and a white companion of magnitude 5.2. The ancient Greeks knew the constellation of Libra as "The Claws of the Scorpion", an extension of neighboring Scorpius but the Romans made it into a separate constellation around the time of Julius Caesar. Since then the scales of Libra have come to be regarded as the symbol of justice, held aloft by the goddess of Justice, Astraea. A first quarter Moon and Mars are 5 degrees apart on the 2nd of the month.

Jupiter: Retrograding in the constellation Leo, Jupiter rises in the eastern evening sky around 10:00pm at the beginning of February. By the end of the month it will rise a full two hours earlier putting it in an ideal position for observation in the early evening sky. On the 29th Jupiter lies one Moon width from Sigma Leonis, a blue subgiant star marking one of the lion's rear paws. At 220 light years away it shines at an apparent magnitude of 4.05. The waning gibbous Moon will be six degrees either side of the planet on the 24th and 25th of February.

  Saturn: Presiding over Ophiuchus, the thirteenth zodiacal constellation, Saturn moves only slightly against the background stars this month. It is easily identified by its distinctive yellowish hue and is in stark contrast to Antares' obvious orange colour. The ringed planet rises around midnight mid-month and on the 4th of the month sits four degrees to the south of a waning gibbous Moon.

1st 9th 15th 23rd

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