Mudgee Observatory Logo




-  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 April 2016

   Making a return to the evening twilight sky this month, Mercury will be hard to spot for the entire month. It reaches its greatest elongation east of the Sun on the 18th but because of the very sharp angle of the ecliptic to the horizon it will be hard to spot in the twilight sky, setting less than one hour later than the sun. On the 9th the two day old crescent Moon will be ten degrees to the east of Mercury and much easier to observe than the planet. On the same evening the 8.4 magnitude asteroid 4 Vesta will be 1.5 degrees to the east of the Moon.

The "Morning Star" rises 1 hour and 30 minutes before the Sun at the beginning of April and best observed early in the month as by the end of the month rises only 45 minutes earlier than the Sun. The waning crescent Moon is five degrees to the west of Venus on the 6th of the month.

  The separation between these two planets does not alter greatly for the entire month of April remaining no more than nine degrees apart for the entire month. Mars begins the month in Scorpius, moving into Ophiuchus where it joins Saturn on the 3rd of the month, returning to Scorpius on the last day of the month. The very subtle yellow tint of Saturn should help to identify it whereas there is no mistaking the ruddy glow of Mars. Don't confuse Mars with the Scorpion's brightest star Antares which on the 26th is separated by less than five degrees from the red planet, Mars being the brightest of the pair. Antares gets its ancient Greek name because of its similarity in colour to Mars the name meaning "rival of Mars". Mars rises at 9:50pm A.E.S.T at the beginning of the month, rising four minutes earlier each day as the month progresses until by the end of the month it will rise at 7:50pm A.E.S.T. The waning gibbous Moon will be in the vicinity of the pair on the 24th and 25th.

  The giant planet will be high in the eastern sky after the Sun has set at the beginning of April and continues on its retrograde motion against the background stars in the constellation, Leo. On the 18th the waxing gibbous Moon will be just three degrees from the planet. It's a great exercise to watch the changing positions of the Galilean moons over a few nights and on the 12th and 13th a seventh magnitude star will be posing as a fifth moon.

1st 7th 14th 22nd 30th

 back to top  

The Planets for May 2016

   Hidden in the glare of the western twilight at the beginning of May, Mercury is on its way to transit the face of the Sun on the 10th of the month. However this transit will not be visible from Australia; the next transit visible in this country will be in 2032. Mercury enters the morning sky after the 10th but best observed toward the end of May when it will be rising almost two hours before the Sun among the faint stars of Aries.

Too close to the Sun for safe observation this month.

   Still retrograding in Scorpius this month, Mars begins the month five degrees from its rival the red giant star, Antares and will be a full magnitude brighter than the star. The red planet is at opposition with the Sun on the 22nd when it will cross the meridian at midnight and makes its closest approach to the Earth on the last day of the month. The near full Moon will be close to Mars on the 21st a 22nd of the month.

  Crossing the meridian around 8:30pm at the beginning of the month, Jupiter is easy spot among the stars of Leo. Make the most of the first half of the month as by the end of the month the giant planet will be setting just after midnight. The waxing crescent Moon and Jupiter will be just over one degree apart on the 15th of the month.

The ringed planet is also in an ideal position for observation this month lurking among the stars of Ophiuchus-The Serpent Bearer. High in the eastern sky after the Sun has set its magnificent system of rings are a sight not to be missed in any moderate to larger telescope. The Moon pays Saturn a Visit on the 22nd and 23rd of the month.

7th 14th 22nd 29th

 back to top  

The Planets for June 2016

   This is an excellent month for the early risers to observe the elusive Mercury as for the first half of the month it will be rising two hours earlier than the Sun. It reaches its greatest elongation west of the Sun on the 5th after which it starts its journey back toward the Sun. On the 19th it will be less than a degree from epsilon Tauri, the star marking the northern eye of the bull. This star is an orange giant of magnitude 3.5 which lies at a distance of 147 light years and in 2007 the first star in an open cluster around which a planet was discovered. The brighter eye of the bull is marked by Aldebaran, a 0.9 magnitude red giant at the closer distance of 68 light years that is not a true member of the Hyades cluster but an unrelated foreground star. The waning crescent Moon will rise thirty minutes before Mercury on the third of the month.

Lost in the glare of the Sun this month and in conjunction with the Sun on the 7th of the month. On this date Venus will be occulted by the Sun for 46 hours after which it moves into the evening twilight.

   Still in a great position for observation this month and even a 100mm instrument will at times reveal its south polar cap. Mars will appear stationary at the end of the month after retrograding against the background stars since April spending a few days from the 26th within half a degree of magnitude 8.6 globular cluster NGC 5897. It begins its eastward march early next month taking it once more in the direction of Scorpius. The Moon passes seven degrees to the north of Mars on the 17th of the month.

  The giant planet sits high in the northern sky after the Sun has set early in June. It passes within 20 arcminutes of Magnitude 4.7 chi Leonis on the 9th of May and is visited by the Moon on the 11th and 12th of the month. It will be best viewed early in the month as by the end of the month it will be setting at 10:30pm.

The real star of the show, Saturn is always a breathtaking sight when seen through even the smallest of telescopes. It reaches opposition on the 3rd and so is visible all night long among the stars of Ophiuchus. It is less than seven degrees to the north of Scorpio's brightest star, Antares and the colour contrast between the two should be quite obvious. The Moon is in the vicinity on the 18th and 19th of June.

5th 12th 20th 28th

 back to top