NASA/courtesy of
NASA/courtesy of

What's Up in Space

Download this months Star Chart.

This weekend’s night sky (30-31 August 2014)

This weekend will see a growing crescent Moon moving through our early evening sky as we approach first quarter on the 2nd of September. At dusk on Monday it will join Saturn and Mars in the north-western sky.

Our winter constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius are slowly sliding down towards our western horizon. Following behind Sagittarius are the fainter zodiac constellations of Capricornus and Aquarius, visible in the eastern evening sky and rising higher overhead as the night progresses. Both will be easier to spot once the Moon dips below the horizon (shortly after 10pm on Saturday, and 11pm on Sunday).

Aquarius appears as a long string of stars stretching between Fomalhaut in the east and Altair in the north. Close to the 4.8 magnitude star Sigma Aquarii in the centre of the constellation is the faintest and most distant planet in our solar system, Neptune.

Neptune reaches opposition in the early hours of Saturday morning, when it will be directly opposite the Sun in the sky, and well placed for viewing throughout the night. This is also the time of its closest approach to Earth, appearing brighter than at any other time. Sadly, at magnitude 7.8, it is still not visible to the naked eye, but using binoculars or a small telescope you may just be able to pick it out as small blue-grey disk.

 Also in Aquarius is the lovely globular cluster M2. At magnitude 6.3 it is on the limit of naked eye visibility, so a good challenge for those with clear dark skies and good eyesight. It is easily visible in binoculars as a hazy star and with a 20cm telescope a few individual stars can be resolved.

Contact details

phone: +64 4 910 3140

Carter Observatory, PO Box 893, Wellington 6140

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