6 March 2013

Night sky viewing coming up—ISS, Comets, Flares and a Spy Shuttle

| Gungahlin Al
Join the conversation

There’s a stack to look at in the sky during the first half of March. First there’s the Comet C/2011 L4, also known as PANSTARRS. This lovely photo was taken by Canberra Astronomical Society member Vello Tabur on 5 March. Look just south of where the sun goes does, immediately after sunset. No scope required, but a pair of binoculars will make your viewing a little more enjoyable. It’s getting closer to the Sun so won’t be visible for much longer.

There are a few really bright Iridium flares, short extremely bright bursts of reflected sunlight off satellite telephone satellites:

Time Brightness Altitude Azimuth Satellite Distance to flare centre Brightness at flare centre Sun altitude
12, 06:19:08
-8 54° 354° (N) Iridium 7 3 km (W)



14, 20:28:09
-7.5 36° 177° (S) Iridium 50 0 km (E) -7.5 -14°
15, 20:21:56
-3.5 38° 176° (S) Iridium 53 12 km (E) -7.6 -13°

The International Space Station will be making morning and evening bright passes:

Brightness Start Highest point End
[Mag] Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az.
-2.1 6:07:55 13° W 6:10:03 23° NW 6:12:43 10° N
-1.5 21:08:56 10° NNW 21:10:21 22° NNW 21:10:21 22° NNW
-1.8 5:20:58 25° NNE 5:20:58 25° NNE 5:22:35 10° NNE
-2 20:18:49 10° N 20:21:32 23° NE 20:23:10 16° E
-2.6 21:03:50 10° WNW 21:07:09 55° SW 21:08:26 32° SSE
-3.3 20:13:00 10° NW 20:16:21 71° NE 20:19:43 10° SE
-1.8 20:08:07 10° WNW 20:11:18 39° SW 20:14:31 10° SSE

Here’s a challenge, and binoculars might be a help. It’s the top secret X37B spy space shuttle:

Brightness Start Highest point End
[Mag] Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az.
3.2 5:53:38 19° WSW 5:55:09 31° SSW 5:57:55 10° SE
4.7 4:46:38 20° SE 4:46:38 20° SE 4:47:47 10° ESE
4.1 6:18:48 10° WSW 6:21:06 19° S 6:23:26 10° SE
3.8 5:11:09 26° S 5:11:09 26° S 5:13:16 10° SE
4.1 5:35:39 16° SSW 5:36:34 18° S 5:38:48 10° SE
4.4 6:00:32 10° SW 6:02:38 17° S 6:04:44 10° SE
4.9 4:53:09 15° SSE 4:53:09 15° SSE 4:54:12 10° SE
4.2 6:26:15 10° SW 6:28:40 21° SSE 6:31:05 10° ESE

It’s such a big secret that the US spy agency running it issues media releases about its launches and landings. I think if you’re telling the media about your secret activities, you’re not doing it right!

Jupiter is still making for good viewing, setting in the late evening, while Saturn is making a welcome return to our evening skies, rising now before midnight.

And ANU is running some daytime Mount Stromlo walking tours:

Take a walking tour of the Mount Stromlo Observatory and learn about the history of one of Canberra’s oldest sites. Mount Stromlo Observatory has been carrying out astronomical observations for over 100 years and, prior to the 2003 firestorm, had grown from a small outpost of pioneering astronomers to one of the great observatories of the world.
Its history includes designing optical munitions during the Second World War, weathering two devastating bushfires and earning one Nobel Prize. Learn about this unique part of Canberra’s history amid the beauty of this heritage location.
Bookings are essential! Please contact Rose Metcalfe to confirm your place (6125 8022).
Saturday, 9 March 2013 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM

Clear skies!

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Lovely photo, and thanks for the info.

Gungahlin Al3:33 pm 08 Mar 13

Thanks for the info, I had a look at the comet last night after reading this heads up. Apparently there’s a potentialy really bright one (comet Ison) due in Nov/Dec this year.

Lucky you SO! I was up on a hill but with nothing to see but western clouds. Helluva sweet sunset but.

The previous two nights I was doing astronomy sessions in the Botanic Gardens for Enlighten tour groups, so couldn’t see it either – bloody great mountain in the way. We did see Comet Lemmon last night though. Still a long way off and not much to see (telescope only).

I’m hoping PanSTARRS will still be up this evening as the western sky still looks clear..

Yes – despite copping a lot of over-hyping, Comet ISON may well be a beauty. We’ll need to wait until it’s closer and better trajectory calculations can be made before we know how good though.

🙂 Thanks Al!

Gungahlin Al10:42 am 06 Mar 13

Excel and HTML do not make good bedfellows…
When we left DOS behind decades ago, why do we still battle to the death with obscure HTML?

Happy viewing folks.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.