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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday September 29 to Thursday October 6

The New Moon is Saturday October 1. Venus climbs higher in the evening sky. The thin crescent Moon is close to Venus on the 3rd and 4th of October.  Mars and Saturn are visible in the early  evening and form a long triangle with the red star Antares. The crescent Moon is close to Saturn on the 6th. Mars is in the "lid" of the Teapot of Sagittarius. There is a bright binocular nova in the constellation of Lupus.

The New Moon is Saturday October 1. The Moon is at  apogee, when it is furthest from the Earth on the 4th. Daylight Savings time Starts Sunday October 2.

Evening sky on Tuesday October 4 looking west an 40 minutes after sunset. Venus and alpha Librae  are close together, with the thin crescent Moon above them.  Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Venus continues to rise into darker skies this week. Venus is high in the dusk sky and can be seen easily. From somewhat before half an hour to a bit after an hour and a half after sunset, Venus is easily seen, staying visible after twilight is over low above the horizon in truly dark skies.

At the start of  the week Venus is alone in the twilight skies.  As the week goes by Venus climbs higher into the evening sky towards the head of the Scorpion coming close to the brightest star in the constellation of Libra. On the 3rd on 4th the Thin crescent Moon is close to Venus. On the 6th Venus is closest to Alpha Librae.

Jupiter is lost in the twilight.

Evening sky on Thursday October 6 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:00 ACDST. Venus, Mars, Saturn, Antares and the Moon form a stunning trail in the sky. The inset shows the approximate binocular view of Mars and the Lagoon Nebula.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is in the western evening skies in the "teapot" of Sagittarius.

It starts the week within a binocular field of within binocular range of two glorious nebula, the Lagoon Nebula and the Triffid Nebula. As the week draws on it moves away from them towards the bright star that forms the"lid" of the "teapot" Kaus Autralis, and the bright globular cluster M22. By the end of the week Mars and M22 are in the same binocular field. Detailed printable charts are available here.

With the Moon out of the way watching Mars progress through the star fields of Sagittarius will be delightful, even by the end of the week the crescent Moon will not disturb the view.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  and is still visibly dimming, but is still a modest telescope object. It is visible all evening long. In even small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but gibbous, disk, and you may even be able to  see its markings.

 Saturn was at opposition on the 3rd of June. However, Saturn's change in size and brightness is nowhere near as spectacular as Mars's, and Saturn will be a reasonable telescopic object for many weeks. Saturn is readily visible next to Antares in Scorpius. Saturn is still high enough for good telescopic observation in the early evening, setting abut midnight daylight saving time. In even small telescopes its distinctive rings are obvious.

On the 6th the crescent Moon  is close Saturn, and in the early evening the line-up of Venus, Saturn, the crescent Moon and Mars under dark skies will look very good.

Location of Nova Lupi. The image shows the South-Western horizon as seen from Adelaide an hour and a half after sunset. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at equivalent times. Click to embiggen

A bright probable nova has been reported not far from epsilon Lupi. The nova has rapidly brightened and is now almost unaided eye magnitude and readily visible in binoculars. It is not clear if it will brighten further and become visible to the unaided eye. Detailed observing charts are here.

 Mercury is low in the morning twilight but never rises far above the horizon.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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Monday, September 26, 2016

 

My First Image of Nova Lupus 2016

Nova Lupus (ASASSN-16kt) imaged from my back yard using a Canon IXUS. 10 x 15 second 400 ASA shots stacked in DeepSkyStacker and contrast adjusted and cropped in ImageJ. Click to embiggen.

Despite rubbish conditions (low haze and close to te horizon, that's the roof of the house at the bottom) I was able to pick up the nova. compare this camera image with the simulations at this page.

Despite the less than ideal conditions form comparison stars I estimate the visual magnitude to be between 6.7 and 6.8, definitely not less than 6.9 (comparison stars TYC 7847-2084-1, TYC 8295-1806-1, TYC 7848-731-1, TYC 7849-1310-1, TYC 7849-2514-1)

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A Bright Probable Nova in Lupus (26 September, 2016)

Location of Nova Lupi. The image shows the South-Western horizon as seen from Adelaide an hour and a half after sunset. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at equivalent times. Click to embiggenThe image shows a simulated binocular view of nova Lupi (it will not look like a bright yellow ball at all, but more like a dim star) just above epsilon Lupi. Click to embiggen
Black and white printable chart of the western horizon at 9:30 pm. The Click to embiggen and print (use with redlight torches so as to not destroy your night vision).Black and white printable chart suitable for use with binoculars or telescopes. The large circle is the field of view of 10x50 binoculars.Click to embiggen and print (use with redlight torches so as to not destroy your night vision).

Astronomical telegrams have reported a bright probable nova ASASSN-16kt not far from epsilon Lupi at RA 15:29:01.82, DEC -44:49:40.89 (J2000.0) at magnitude 9.1. The nova has rapidly brightened and is now almost unaided eye magnitude according to the latest astronomical telegram with its reported magnitude between between 6.9 B and 6.3V.

UPDATE: NOPE found it on camera images, definitely there at around mag 6. It should be readily visible in binoculars, but by the time I went out tonight (9:30 pm ACST) it was just above the roof tops and I could not identify it. It is possible the nova may be fading already (although unlikely, alternatively, my rubbish eyesight and horizon murk obscured it). The best time to view is at astronomical twilight, when it is still high above the horizon.

A bright nova is a treat, so get out and have a look tomorrow (those of you not caught up in the "storm of a generation")

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

 

Mars Meets the Lagoon Nebula (24-30 September, 2016)

Evening sky on Wednesday September 28 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. Mars, Saturn, Antares form a long triangle. The fuzzy patch near Mars is the Lagoon NebulaSimilar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).This simulation shows the approximate binocular view of Mars and the Lagoon Nebula in 10x50 binoculars under dark skies. The Lagoon Nebula is the vertical parch of stars and gas in the middle of the image. The Triffid Nebula is the second patch of stars and gas to the right hand side. Click to embiggen.

For the next few days Mars will be within a binocular field of the iconic Lagoon and Triffid nebulas. This will look rather nice, even under suburban skies they clearly visible as a fuzzy patchs to the uniaded eye and are very nice in binoculars. They will not be as spectacular as in professional astrophotographs of course, but they will look very nice in your backyards indeed. Over the next few days the absence of the Moon will give us reasonably dark skies, weather permitting.

Black and white printable chart suitable for use with binoculars or telescopes. The large circle is the field of view of 10x50 binoculars, the small circle the FOV of a 30 mm eyepiece with a 114mm reflector. Click to embiggen and print (use with redlight torches so as to not destroy your night vision).

If you head out aroud 10 pm local time and loo west, the constellation of Scorpio is obvious as a backto front question mark above the western horizon. Mars is the obvious bright red object off to the right of the curl of the question mark. You shoudl be able to see the Lagoon and Triffid Nebula e as brightish fuzzy patches to the right of Mars again. 

By the 28th (and the 29th) Mars will be (just) within the field of view of wide field telescope eye pieces. This should look very good. You may find my guides to using point and shoot cameras to capture images of Mars and clusters in telescopes and just on tripods helpful (see here and here)

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Astrophiz Podcast 12 is Out

This week’s feature is from Dr Nadeshzda Cherbakov, where she tells us about Blackbody Radiation.

In’What’s Up Doc?’ I tell you what to look for in the sky this week. My Tangent: the gunpowder smell of moondust and its inherent dangers.
 
In the news this week:
1. A team at the Large Hadron Collider reports a new particle dubbed the Madala boson.
2. The Gaia mission is mapping the nature and movements of a billion stars in the Milky Way.
3. For our aurora watchers the European Space Agency has solved a problem that was preventing us from closely observing the sun’s corona.
4. Watch the Milky Way's birth in a lovely Caltech simulation at tinyurl.com(ForwardSlash)astrophizgalaxy
5. Australian OzGRav teams to embrace the new era of gravitational wave astronomy in $31.3M project

6. 16th Australian Space Research Conference in Melbourne 26-30 September,
7. The venerated Dish at Parkes serves up the answer to one of life’s greatest mysteries with the discovery of the most complex chiral molecules found in space.
 
(I'm a bit late passing on the link this week due to going to a talk by Dr. Ian Frazer and having visitors drop in)

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

 

Aurora Watch (20 September 2016)

Hobart K-Index plot diagramThe Australian Space Weather Service (SWS ) has now  issued an Aurora Watch for 20 September UT from a high speed solar wind stream and there is also a current geomagnetic warning. Early evening skies are Moon free, but cloud is problematic and the moon rises later in the evening. It is possible aurora may be seen in Tasmania and Southern Victoria if minor storms eventuate. As of  the last few hours, aurora have been reports of aurora in New Zealand, but current conditions in Australia are unfavorable. However, conditions are expected to fluctuate rapidly through the evening so be on the lookout if cloud clears.

Dark sky sites have the best chance of seeing anything, and always allow around 5 minutes for your eyes to become dark adapted.

As always look to the south for shifting red/green glows, beams have been reported consistently over the last few aurora and a large green "blob" has been seen, as well as bright proton arcs and "picket fences".

Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds http://satview.bom.gov.au/
Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.  

The all sky aurora camera in Northern Tasmania at Cressy is still borked.
<http://www.ips.gov.au/Geophysical/4/2>

SUBJ: SWS AURORA WATCH
ISSUED AT 0711 UT ON 20 Sep 2016 by Space Weather Services
FROM THE AUSTRALIAN SPACE FORECAST CENTRE

The earth is currently under the influence of a high speed solar wind
stream (675km/s) from a recurrent negative polarity coronal hole.
There is a chance this may result in significant space weather
activity and visible auroras during local nighttime hours - dependent
upon strong solar wind speed, sustained southward Bz and favourable
viewing conditions. Aurora alerts will follow should favourable space
weather activity eventuate.

Further monitoring at
http://www.ips.gov.au

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The Sky This Week - Thursday September 22 to Thursday September 29

The Last Quarter Moon is Friday September 23. Earth is at Equinox on the 23rd. The Moon is close to the red star Aldebaran in the morning sky on the 22nd. Venus climbs higher in the evening sky. Mars and Saturn are visible most of the evening and form a long triangle with the red star Antares. Mars is close to the Lagoon Nebula on the 28th. The thin crescent Moon is close to Mercury in the morning on the 29th.

The Last Quarter Moon is Friday September 23. Earth is at Equinox on the 23rd, when day and night are approximately equal length.

Evening sky on Saturday September 24 looking west an hour after sunset. Venus and Spica are close the horizon, with Venus well above Sica.  Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Venus continues to rise into darker skies this week. Venus is high in the dusk sky and can be seen easily. From a little before half an hour to a bit after an hour and a half after sunset to just under an hour after sunset, Venus is easily seen, staying visible after twilight is over low above the horizon but in truly dark skies.

At the start of  the week Venus is just above the bright star Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo.  As the week goes by Venus climbs higher into the evening sky away from Spica and towards the head of the Scorpion.

Jupiter is lost in the twilight.

Evening sky on Wednesday September 28 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. Mars, Saturn, Antares form a long triangle. The inset shows the approximate binocular view of Mars and the Lagoon Nebula.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is in the western evening skies near the body of the Scorpion. On the 22nd it officially enters Sagittarius and comes within binocular range of two glorious nebula, the Lagoon Nebula and the Triffid Nebula. It is also just within binocular range of the Butterfly cluster at this time. With the Moon out of the way watching Mars progress through the star fields of Sagittarius will be delightful.

As the week progresses Mars comes closer to the Lagoon nebula and is closest on the 28th and 29th. People with  wide field telescope lenses will just fit Mars and the Lagoon nebula in them together. at this time.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  and is still visibly dimming, but is still a modest telescope object. It is visible all evening long. In even small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but gibbous, disk, and you may even be able to  see its markings.

 Saturn was at opposition on the 3rd of June. However, Saturn's change in size and brightness is nowhere near as spectacular as Mars's, and Saturn will be a reasonable telescopic object for many weeks. Saturn is reasonably high in the evening sky and is readily visible next to Scorpius. Saturn is still high enough for good telescopic observation in the evening. In even small telescopes its distinctive rings are obvious.

Morning sky as seen at half an hour before sunrise  on 29 September. The thin crescent Moon is near Mercury in the twilight glow as seen from Adelaide. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia half an hour before sunrise. (click to embiggen).

Mercury returns to the morning sky in the last week of September but never rises far above the horizon. On the 29th there is a chance to use the thin crescent Moon as a guide to finding Mercury low in the twilight.

Other morning views will be the close approach of the waning Moon to the bright red star Aldebaran in the head of Taurus the Bull on the morning of the 22nd, and the close approach of the thin crescent Moon to the bright star Regulus, alpha Leonis on the morning of the 28th.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

 

My Images of the Penumbral Lunar Eclipse (Saturday 17 September, 2016)

Moon at 3:00 am ACST, 37 minutes after the penumbral eclipse has started, not much is going on in either the telescope or visually. Click to embiggen.Moon at 3:30 am ACST, a clear darkening is seen in the telescope, less obvious visually. Click to embiggen.
Moon at 4:00 am ACST, darkening now obvious both visually and telescopically. Click to embiggen.Moon at 4:30 am ACST, 6 minutes after maximal penumbral eclipse. darkening very obvious both visually and telescopically. Stars also clearer (sorry ABC). Click to embiggen.

Getting up at 2:30 am to view the penumbral eclipse was a bit brutal, as my plan to go to bed really early was thwarted by futile efforts to get SmallestOne to go to bed (The Guardians was on, who can resist super-powered owls) and I wanted to be sure my Beloved Life Partner arrived safe and sound in Hobart for a girls weekend at MOMA, airline connections meant that she didn't get in until around 10:30 pm.

Slightly trippy 7 frame animation of the eclipse,  a bit of libration makes this interesting. There is also some CCD rubbish getting in the way.

But anyway, I staggered out of bed, checked the skies, which were largely cloud free as predicted (thank you SkippySky, my go to cloud prediction service), and dragged Don the 8" Newtonian out getting my weightlifting exercise.

With no Southern Cross or Pointers visible to polar align my scope (curse you horizon obscuring house), and having knocked the finder-scope out of alignment (curse you clumsy shoulders). I took longer than usual to set up and take my first image, hence missing the earliest stages of the eclipse.

But after that it was a just a matter of keeping warm (copious cups of tea and increasing the number of layers I had on until I waddled slightly), occasionally correcting for the drift of not actually polar aligning the scope (my scope has a two axis drive, but only one axis works, one day I will get that fixed.) stopping the camera from shutting itself down and just enjoying the eclipse with my own eyes.

This was the deepest penumbral eclipse I have ever witnessed. The north pole of the Moon went visibly dark, not as dark as in a partial eclipse, but there was nothing subtle about it, anyone wandering out in the early morn would have notice the Moon was not its usual bright self.

The sky was also darker, again, not as dark as it gets in a partial or total lunar eclipse, but you could see that the background sky was darker than ta normal full Moon and that there were dimmer stars visible at 4:30 than a few hours before (Having Orion and Taurus around, with a wealth of dim stars was a useful comparison).

Technical details, I imaged this with a Canon IXUS point and shoot at ASA 400, with infinity to infinity exposure apposed to a 25 mm Plossl eyepiece on an 8" Newtonian reflector with motor drive. See the set-up here. the exposure started at F 13 1/125 second and then mysteriously swapped to F 4.5 1/500 second around haf-way through. Why not my DSLR? Primarily because the Moon is bigger than the field of view of my DSLR on the scope, and I have to manually stitch two images together. That and I have to reread the manual to work out the settings.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

 

Astrophiz Podcast 11 is Out

Astrophiz Podcast 11 is out now.
This week’s feature is from Dr Nadeshzda Cherbakov, where she tells us about Vera Rubin’s historic discovery of Dark Matter and how she is still being denied a well-deserved Nobel Prize.

In’What’s Up Doc?’ I tell you what to look for in the sky this week and for astrophotographers, how to use a simple point-and-shoot camera on a telescope. My Tangent: #TweetYourResearchAsAHarryPotterNovel
.

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Penumbral Lunar Eclipse (Morning, Saturday September 17, 2016)

Morning sky on Saturday September 17 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 04:00 ACST. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen). Note the subtle darkening of the Moon.Earth's shadow is formed from two overlapping cone-shaped sections. The outer or penumbral shadow is where the Earth blocks part but not all of the Sun's light from reaching the Moon. Click to embiggen

On the morning of 17 September there is a penumbral eclipse of the Moon, where the Moon glides through the outer segment of the shadow cast by Earth. Unlike earlier this year, the Moon dives deeper into the outer shadow, so although faint there will be a visible visible darkening of the Moons northern regions. An example from the penumbral eclipse in 2012 can be seen here.

Unfortunately, this all occurs in the early morning, so you will need to get up in the early hours to see it. However, to eclipse aficionados the subtle darkening of the Moons bright light to a pearly glow is quiet beautiful.

All of Australia will see this penumbral eclipse from start to maximum. However, in the eastern states the Moon sets before the eclipse finishes (see table below) . More importantly, in the eastern states astronomical twilight begins around maximum, so the faint penumbral shadow will be washed out by the twilight glow about an hour before the Moon sets. Central states have around half an hour more time before the eclipse will be washed out.


See the table below for timings for major cities (all times are am on the morning of the 17th). Twilight is Astronomical twilight, an hour and a half before sunrise, when the sky is still fully dark. See here for a map and contact timings in UT for sites outside Australia. Asia and Africa have the best views. My guide to imaging eclipses may be helpful.

CityEclipse startMid eclipseTwilight End eclipse Moonset
Adelaide (ACST)2:234:244:486:266:23
Brisbane (AEST)2:524:544:266:565:25
Canberra (AEST)2:524:544:366:566:10
Darwin (ACST)2:234:245:306:266:50
Hobart (AEST)2:524:544:356:566:20
Melbourne (AEST)2:524:544:506:566:28
Perth (AWST)0:532:544:524:566:26
Sydney (AEST)2:524:544:296:566:01

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday September 15 to Thursday September 22

The Full Moon is Saturday September 17. There is a penumbral eclipse of the Moon in the early morning of the 17th. Venus comes close to the bright star Spica in the twilight. Jupiter is lost to view. Mars and Saturn are visible all evening long and form a triangle with the red star Antares. There are a series of bright International Space Station passes near the bright planets. The Moon is close to the red star Aldebaran in the morning sky on the 22nd.

The Full Moon is Saturday September 17. There is a penumbral eclipse of the Moon in the early morning of the 17th. The Moon is at Perigee (when it sis closest to the Earth) on the 19th).

Evening sky on Sunday September 18 looking west an hour after sunset. Venus and Spica are close the horizon.  Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Venus continues to rise into darker skies this week. Venus is high in the dusk sky and can be seen easily. From a little before half an hour to a bit after an hour and a half after sunset to just under an hour after sunset, Venus is easily seen, staying visible after twilight is over low above the horizon but in truly dark skies.

At the start of  the week Venus is just below to the bright star Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo.  Venus comes closer and is closest to Spica on the evenings of the 18th and 19th.


The ISS passes near Venus with Spica nearby as seen from Brisbane on the evening of  Wednesday 21 September at 18:41 AEST. Simulated in Stellarium (the ISS will actually be a bright dot), click to embiggen.

From the 16th to the 21st there is a series of bright passes of the International space Station to the bright planets, with some notable ISS-Venus passes, details are here.




Jupiter is lost in the twilight.

Mercury is lost in the twilight.

Evening sky on Saturday September 17 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACST. Mars, Saturn, Antares form a triangle. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is in the western evening skies in the body of the Scorpion (strictly, it is in the constellation of Ophiuchus, as is Saturn).

Mars moves further down the body of the Scorpion this week, moving away from Saturn and the red star Antares. The triangle they form continues to lengthen.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  and is still visibly dimming, but is still a modest telescope object. It is visible all evening long. In even small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but gibbous, disk, and you may even be able to  see its markings.

 Saturn was at opposition on the 3rd of June. However, Saturn's change in size and brightness is nowhere near as spectacular as Mars's, and Saturn will be a reasonable telescopic object for many weeks. Saturn is reasonably high in the evening sky and is readily visible next to Scorpius. Saturn is still high enough for good telescopic observation in the evening. In even small telescopes its distinctive rings are obvious.


Lunar Eclipse, 8:30 pm
Morning sky on Saturday September 17 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 04:00 ACST. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen). Note the subtle darkening of the Moon.

On the morning of 17 September there is a penumbral eclipse of the Moon, where the Moon glides through the outer segment of the shadow cast by Earth. There will be a faint, but visible, darkening of the Moons northern regions.

Unfortunately, this all occurs in the early morning, so you will need to get up in the early hours to see it. However, to eclipse aficionados the subtle darkening of the Moons bright light to a pearly glow is quiet beautiful.

All of Australia will see this penumbral eclipse from start to maximum. However, in the eastern states the Moon sets before the eclipse finishes. More importantly, in the eastern states astronomical twilight begins around maximum, so the faint penumbral shadow will be washed out by the twilight glow about an hour before the Moon sets. Central states have around half an hour more time before the eclipse will be washed out.

For the East Coast Moon the eclipse begins at 2:52 am AEST, astronomical twilight 4:30 am (approx), maximum eclipse is at 4:54 am , the eclipse ends at 6:56 am after Moonset.

For the Central states the eclipse begins at 2:23 am ACST, astronomical twilight 4:48 am (approx), maximum eclipse is at 4:24 am , the eclipse ends at 6:23 am around Moonset.

For Western Australia the eclipse begins at 0:53 am AWST, astronomical twilight 4:52 am (approx), maximum eclipse is at 2:54 am , the eclipse ends at 4:56 am

See here for a map and contact timings in UT for sites outside Australia

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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