Table of Southern Meteor Showers

 

Shower

Dates

Moon

Peak Rate

RA

Dec

Near Star

 

Active

Peak

2015

    
Centaurids Jan 28 - Feb 21 Feb 8 4 days before last quarter 5 (-25) 14.1 -59 β Cen
gamma-Normids Feb 25 - Mar 22 Mar 13  1 day before last quarter 8 16.6 -51  γ Nor
pi-Puppids  Apr 15 - Apr 28 Apr 23  3 days before first quarter var to 40 7.3 -45  σ Pup
eta-Aquariads  Apr 19 - May 28 May 5  1 day after full moon 60 22.5 -1  η Aqr
Pisces Austrinids  Jul 15 - Aug 10 Jul 27  3 days after first quarter 5 22.7 -30  α PsA
alpha-Capricornids  Jul 3 - Aug 15 Jul 30  1 day before full moon 4 20.5 -10  α Cap
Southern delta-Aquarids  Jul 15 - Aug 25 Jul 27 4 days before full moon 20 22.6 -16 δ  Aqr
Southern iota-Aquarids  Jul 25 - Aug 15 Aug 4  3 days before last quarter 2 22.3 -15  ι Aqr
Northern delta-Aquarids  Jul 15 - Aug 25 Aug 13  2 days before new moon 4 22.3 -5  θ Aqr
Northern iota-Aquarids  Aug 11 - Aug 31 Aug 19  4 days before first quarter 3 21.8 -6  β Aqr
Piscids  Sep 1 - Sep 30 Sep 19  2 days before first quarter 3 0.3 -1  λ Psc
Orionids  Oct 2 - Nov 7 Oct 21  first quarter 20 6.3 +16  γ Gem
Leonids  Nov 14 - Nov 21 Nov 17  2 days before first quarter 100+ 10.2 +22  γ Leo
alpha-Monocerotids  Nov 15 -  Nov 25 Nov 27  1 day after full moon var to 5 7.9 +1  δ Mon
Pheonicids  Nov 28 - Dec 9 Dec 6  3 days after last quarter var 1.2 +53  Achernar
Geminids  Dec 7 - Dec 14 Dec 14  3 days after new moon 120 7.3 +33  Castor

 

Meteors and Meteor Showers

Meteors are caused by small particles ranging in size from a grain of sand to a pea entering the Earth's atmosphere from space at high speed. Because of the speed, which can be between about 20 km/s and 70 km/s, the particles "burn up" in the upper atmosphere, briefly leaving a visible, incandescent trail. A meteor shower may result when the Earth moves through a stream of such particles, which are usually left by a comet.

Normally a small number of "sporadic" meteors can be seen each hour of a moonless night. Sporadics are likely to be seen in any part of the sky. During a shower the number of meteors visible may increase considerably. The meteors will appear to originate from a small area of the sky, called the radiant. The spreading out from the radiant is a perspective effect due to the meteors travelling in parallel lines but as they approach the observer they appear to fan out. The shower is named after the constellation which contains the radiant. In general the meteor trails do not start from the radiant, but a few degrees from it.

The list of meteor showers shows some visible from the southern hemisphere. It includes the range of dates when the shower is active, and the peak date. The possible number of meteors per hour at the peak is also shown. It is known as the Zenith Hour Rate, ZHR, and is the number to be expected with the radiant at the zenith, directly overhead, with a dark sky and no Moon.

The state of the Moon at each peak is shown for the current year. When there is significant Moon in the sky, the number of meteors likely to be seen will be considerably reduced. Those showers with a green background colour are not likely to be affected by Moon-light in the current year, those with a grey background are likely to be more or less washed out by moon light.

Also shown is the right ascension and declination of the radiant, and a nearby bright star. This latter may help give a quick idea of where the radiant is.

The contents of this page are based on information from the International Meteor Organisation. Further details on meteor observing can be obtained from their web pages which should be consulted by anyone interested in making observations of meteors.

Further information on meteors is also be available at Meteor Showers on Line. The Comet and Meteor Section also has some information.

 

 

Notes on the Streams

Centaurids, peak February 8

There are two showers with close radiants, the alpha-Centaurids and the beta-Centaurids. The two radiants, are near to one another and to the Pointers, α and β Cen. Both are active and peak near the beginning of February. The beta-Centaurids tend to be a little brighter than the alpha-Centaurids. Some can be of fire-ball class (magnitude -3 or brighter), with persistent trains. However recent peaks have shown 5 or less per hour, although bursts in 1974 and 1980 yielded about 25. This group is worth observing for another strong event, particularly when the Moon does not interfere.

Viewing is best after local midnight when the Pointers, and the radiant, gain a reasonable altitude. But the radiant is visible all night in NZ.

gamma Normids, peak March 13

gamma-Normids meteors are similar to the sporadics in appearance, and for most of their activity period are virtually undetectable above this background rate. The peak itself is normally quite sharp, lasting for only a day or two either side of the maximum. The best time for observing is after midnight when the radiant reaches a reasonable elevation.

pi-Puppids, peak April 23

The pi-Puppids are produced by Comet 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup. The hourly rate is variable, up to 40 an hour have been recorded. The shower is only occasionally active near the time of a perihelion passage of its parent comet. The last perihelion was in March 2008, the period of the comet is 5.3 years. The material from the comet may be spreading along the comet's orbit, so meteors may become visible in years following perihelion, such as 2013. The shower is best observed in the evening once the sky is dark. The radiant gets lower after midnight.

eta-Aquarids, peak May 5

The eta-Aquarids is a fine, rich stream associated with Comet 1P/Halley, like the Orionids of October, but it is visible for only a few hours before dawn essentially from tropical and southern hemisphere sites. This has the advantage that if the Moon is waxing and a few days before full, it will set before the radiant is high enough for observation. The fast and often bright meteors make the wait for radiant-rise worthwhile, with many events leave glowing persistent trains after them.

A relatively broad maximum, sometimes with a variable number of submaxima, usually occurs in early May. The zenith hourly rates are generally above 30 for almost a week centered on the main peak. High rates are expected between 2008 and 2013. The radiant rises at about 2 am in New Zealand, so observation is best from about 5 am by which time the radiant has a reasonable altitude. The radiant culminates at about 08h local time.

Pisces Austrinids, peak July 27

This is one of a group of 4 or 5 showers with close radiants active in July. The stream is rich in faint meteors, making it well-suited to telescopic work, although enough brighter members exist to make visual and photographic observations worth the effort too, primarily from more southerly sites. Observation is best from late evening when the radiant, which is within a few degrees of Fomalhaut, has gained sufficient altitude.

alpha-Capricornids, peak July 30

The alpha-Capricornids are noted for their bright - sometimes fireball-class - events, which, combined with their low apparent velocity, can make some of these objects among the most impressive and attractive an observer could wish for. A minor enhancement of alpha-Capricornid Zenith hour rate to about 10 was noted in 1995 by European IMO observers. The radiant transits close to local midnight, so observation is possible for most of the night from mid evening.

delta-Aquarids and iota Aquarids, peaks July 27 to August 19

Like the Piscis Austrinids, the Aquarids are all streams rich in faint meteors, making them well-suited to telescopic work, although enough brighter members exist to make visual and photographic observations worth the effort too, primarily from more southerly sites. The radiant is sufficiently high for observation from late evening.

Such a concentration of radiants in a small area of sky means that familiarity with where all the radiants are is essential for accurate shower association for all observing nights. Visual watchers in particular should plot all potential stream members seen in this region of sky rather than trying to make shower associations in the field. The only exception is when the Southern delta-Aquarids are near their peak, because rates may become too high for accurate plotting particularly from southern hemisphere sites, .

Piscids, peak September 19

The Piscids can be observed from either hemisphere throughout September. There is some doubt as to when the Piscid peak occurs, or if there is only one. The radiant transits close to local midnight near the time of the peak, so observation is possible for most of the night from mid evening.

Orionids, peak October 21

The Orionids is associated with Halley's Comet as are the eta-Aquarids in May. The shower has several maxima apart from the main one. For example a strong peak on October 17-18 has been observed in Europe in 1993 and 1998. Both 2006 and 2007 produced unexpectedly strong Orionid rates, with ZHRs better than the normal peak seen on two or three consecutive nights, at best up to 50-70. The 2006 return also produced a good number of bright Orionids.

For mid southern hemisphere latitudes the radiant does not reach a reasonable altitude for observation until about 2 hours before sunrise, despite rising about local midnight.

A weak shower, the epsilon Geminids, is nearly coincident with the Orionids and has a peak October 18.

More on observing the Orionids

Leonids, peak November 17

The Leonids derive from comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle last at perihelion in February 1998. A meteor storm was seen in 1999 in the region of the Canary Islands. This shower could produce some high count rates. Unfortunately, from mid southern latitudes the radiant does not rise until about 2 hours before sunrise, so activity would only be observable while very low.

More on observing the Leonids

alpha-Monocerotids, peak November 21

In an outburst in 1995, this shower produced a rate of about 420 per hour - for 5 minutes! The whole outburst lasted about 30 minutes. There is little likelihood of another outburst until about 2020, so activity at best will be low. The radiant, which is only a few degrees from Procyon, is sufficiently high for observation by about an hour after local midnight at the latitude of New Zealand.

Phoenicids, peak December 6

The Phoenicid return in 1956 was impressive with about 100 per hour. Activity is otherwise very uncertain. The radiant is well placed for southern hemisphere observers being high enough for observation virtually throughout the hours of darkness.

Geminids, peak December 14

One of the finest annual showers but with a radiant well north of the equator. In the southern hemisphere the radiant is highest about 2 hours after local midnight (3 am NZDT), but even then is low to the north for the latitude of New Zealand. This results in only a small proportion of the meteors being visible. Even so this is a splendid shower of often bright, medium-speed meteors.

More on observing the Geminids

December Moon & Planet data for 2014


The Solar System in December 2014

All dates and times are NZDT (UT +13 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

December 1    sunrise: 5.40am   sunset: 8.39pm   December 31    sunrise: 5.47am  sunset: 8.59pm
Civil twilight starts: 5.10am     ends: 9.10pm                   starts: 5.16am    ends: 9.31pm
Nautical twilt starts: 4.28am     ends: 9.52pm                   starts: 4.33am    ends:10.14pm
Astronomical   starts: 3.40am     ends:10.40pm                   starts: 3.42am    ends:11.05pm

The southern summer solstice is on December 22, with the Sun furthest south at 12.04pm. On the day of the solstice, sunrise and sunset times are:

Auckland     5.55 am and 8.42 pm,
Wellington   5.41 am and 8.56 pm,
Invercargill 5.46 am and 9.41 pm

The sun is more than 18° below the horizon (that is no twilight) for 5hr 33min at Auckland, 4hr 32min at Wellington and 2hr 32min at Invercargill

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

Full moon:     December  7 at  1.27 am (Dec  6, 12:27 UT)
Last quarter:  December 15 at  1.51 am (Dec 14, 12:51 UT)
New moon:      December 22 at  2.36 pm (        01:36 UT)
First quarter: December 29 at  7.31 am (Dec 28, 18:31 UT)

The planets in december

The 5 naked eye planets will be in order across the sky, although not all visible at once. In the evening Mercury sets first (after conjunction) followed by Venus and Mars. Soon after Mars sets in the west, Jupiter will rise in the east, with Saturn rising some hours later, but increasingly before the Sun as the month progresses.

Mercury is too close to the Sun to observe for much of December. It is at superior conjunction on the 8th when the planet will be 70 million km (0.467 AU) beyond the Sun, and 217 million km (1.45 AU) from the Earth. After conjunction Mercury becomes an evening object setting after the Sun. By December 31 it will set an hour later. That evening Mercury will have a magnitude -0.8 and be just over 3° to the left of Venus.

Venus is also an early evening object setting some 45 minutes after the Sun on the 1st and 66 minutes later than the Sun on the 31st. By the latter date it will be about 5° above the horizon well to the south of due west 30 minutes after sunset. Mercury will be about 3° to its left and a little lower.

The moon, just over 1 day old, will be 7° to the lower right of Venus and about level with Mercury, on December 23. The moon, as a very thin crescent, will set 40 minutes after the Sun, so not easy to spot.

Mars is also an early evening object during December, a little higher than the two inner planets. It sets around midnight on the 1st, nearly an hour earlier on the 31st. The planet starts in Sagittarius but moves on into Capricornus on the 4th. During the rest of December it moves most of the way across Capricornus ending the month close to delta Cap, at 2.85 magnitude the brightest star in the constellation.

On the 26th the moon, now a crescent 14% lit, will be just over 6° to the lower right of Mars.

Jupiter remains essentially a morning object although by the end of December it will rise just after 11pm. The planet rises 2 hours later at the beginning of the month. It will be in Leo, 7.5° from Regulus and, at first, moving very slowly towards it. On the 9th Jupiter is stationary and then starts moving back over subsequent nights until on the 31st it will be over 8° from the star.

The waning moon passes Jupiter and Regulus on December 12 and 13. On the morning of the 12th the 76% moon will be 6° from Jupiter. The following morning the 67% lit moon will be just over 3° above Regulus and 8° from Jupiter.

There are 4 mutual events of Jupiter's Galilean satellites observable from NZ during December. Some details are given below.

Saturn was at conjunction mid November, during December it starts moving up into the morning sky. At first it rises only 30 minutes before the Sun, so will be unobservable. By the end of December, Saturn will rise over 2 hours before the Sun, so 45 minutes before sunrise it will be about 15° up in a direction a little to the south of east. Antares will be to the right of the planet at almost the same altitude. However to see the planet it will be necessary to be looking by 5am or earlier.

With the north pole of Saturn tilted towards the Earth at an angle almost 25° the rings are wide open and easily seen in binoculars or a small telescope.

On the morning of the 20th the moon, visible as a thin crescent only 7% lit, will be 3° to the left of the planet.

Outer planets

Uranus is in the evening sky at magnitude 5.8. It is in Pisces, setting soon after 3am at the start of December, two hours earlier by the end of the month. It is stationary on the 22nd, so its position will change little throughout December.

Neptune, in Aquarius at magnitude 7.9, sets nearly 90 minutes earlier than Uranus, so will be setting just before midnight by the 31st.

Pluto is in Sagittarius at magnitude 14.4. By the end of December it will be within 3° of the Sun.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is within a few degrees of the Sun throughout December. Conjunction is on December 10, at its closest Ceres will be only 6 arc minutes from the northern limb of the Sun. The asteroid will be nearly 420 million km beyond the Sun and 567 million km from Earth.

(3) Juno brightens from magnitude 9.0 to 8.5. It will be in Hydra and stationary mid month.

(4) Vesta, brightens slightly from magnitude 7.8 to 7.6 in December. It is in Sagittarius which means it is close to the Sun, the asteroid's distance from our star decreasing from 20° to 5° during the month. So like Ceres it will not be readily observed. However on the 16th Vesta will be 1° to the lower right of Venus.

(6) Hebe, in the evening sky, fades a little from magnitude 8.3 to 8.9 as the Earth's distance from the asteroid increasing during December. The asteroid will be in Eridanus and will be stationary at the end of the month.

Mutual events of the gallilean satellites december 2014.

There are 4 events during December, 3 occultations and one eclipse. Visually occultations are generally more interesting to watch as the satellites approach one another, merge and then separate again. Eclipses are often difficult to detect visually as the light change is often quiet small, and takes place slowly.

To see the merging and separation, occultations should be watched for several minutes before and after the start and end times. That is for at least the duration of the event.

Details of events visible from NZ during the month are listed, note times could be in error by a minute or two.

  • Dec 17, 5:02:30 am, Europa occults Io, annular, duration 28 minutes, from 4:48:32 am to 5:16:27 am. Strong twilight by end of event
  • Dec 22, 1:00:55 am, Callisto eclipses Io, annular, duration 22.5 minutes, maximum light drop 0.6 magnitudes, difficult to detect visually. Jupiter low.
  • Dec 24, 5:03:43 am, Callisto occults Ganymede, partial, almost grazing, duration 9.3 minutes, no light change.
  • Dec 29, 4:25:34 am, Ganymede occults Io, total, duration 25.1 minutes. Io will be completely hidden by Ganymede for just over 9 minutes. Moderate twilight by end of event

The follwing table lists various solar system object events during December. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

December 1 Uranus 1.1 degrees south of the Moon Occn
December 4 Mercury 3.9 degrees north of Antares
December 6 Aldebaran 1.4 degrees south of the Moon
Moon full
December 7 Moon northern most declination (18.7 degrees)
December 8 Mercury superior conjunction
December 9 Jupiter stationary
December 12 Jupiter 4.9 degrees north of the Moon
Regulus 4.2 degrees north of the Moon
Moon at apogee
December 14 Moon last quarter
December 17 Spica 2.7 degrees south of the Moon
December 19 Saturn 1.5 degrees south of the Moon
December 20 Venus 3.2 degrees south of Pluto
December 21 Moon southern most declination (-18.7 degrees)
Solstice
December 22 Moon new
Uranus stationary
Pluto 2.8 degrees south of the Moon
December 24 Moon at perigee
December 25 Mars 5.6 degrees south of the Moon
Mercury 4.3 degrees south of Pluto
December 26 Neptune 4.0 degrees south of the Moon
December 28 Moon first quarter
December 29 Uranus 0.9 degrees south of the Moon Occn
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • superior conjunction: Conjunction where the Sun is between the Earth another solar system object

November Moon & Planet data for 2014


The Solar System in November 2014

All dates and times are NZDT (UT +13 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

On November 1 the Sun rises at 6.05 am and sets at 8.03 pm. On November 31 the times are 5.40 am and 8.38 pm respectively. Nautical twilight starts about 1 hour before sunrise in the morning and ends about 1 hour after sunset in the evening. Nautical twilight starts/ends when the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon. The sky is then reasonably dark except for a near horizon glow in the direction of the Sun.

Phases of the Moon (times as shown by guide)

Full moon:     November  7 at 11.23 am (Nov  6, 22:23 UT)
Last quarter   November 15 at  4.16 am (Nov 14, 15:16 UT)
New moon:      November 23 at  1.32 am (Nov 22, 12:32 UT)
First quarter: November 29 at 11.06 pm (        10:06 UT)

The Planets in November

Two planets will be easily seen during November. Mars will be visible in the evening sky for two or three hours before it gets too low. Jupiter for a little longer in the morning sky after it rises and before dawn.

Mercury, Venus and Saturn are all close to the Sun during November with Saturn at conjunction on November 18. Observation of any of them will be problematical, to say the least.

MARS, PLANET OF THE EVENING SKY. Best viewed as the sky darkens following sunset.

MARS is the only planet really visible in the evening sky, it sets shortly after midnight, 12.40 am on the 1st and 12.09 am on the 30th. So it is best viewed an hour or so after sunset, when it will be almost due west all month, gradually getting a little lower as the month progresses.

The planet will be moving across Sagittarius and in the process pass close to some bright stars and clusters. On the 3rd it will, at its closest, be less than 3' (one-tenth of the full moon's diameter) from the centre of M28. By the time the sky darkens in NZ Mars will be slightly be about 5' from the centre. The following night the planet will be just over half a degree from lambda Sgr, mag 2.8. On the 6th and 7th it will be less than 1° from M22, the third brightest globular cluster, with Mars to the left of the cluster on the 6th and nearly above it on the 7th.

Mars then passes the “handle of the teapot” in Sagittarius, being just under 2° from Nunki, sigma Sgr, magnitude 2.1 on the 12th with the star to the upper left of Mars, magnitude 0.9. By November 17, Mars will be close to pi Sgr, magnitude 2.9, with the planet nearly 3° from the star, this time the star being to the lower right of Mars.

The crescent moon, 17% lit will be some 7° to the lower right of Mars on November 26.

Jupiter in the Morning Sky.

JUPITER rises 3 hours before the Sun on November 1 and about four and a half hours earlier on the 30th. Thus it will be a brilliant object visible fairly low to the northeast before sunrise. The planet will be in Leo all month, slowly moving towards Regulus which will be a few degrees to its right. An hour before sunrise Jupiter will be to the northeast on the 1st, rather further round towards the north on the 30th.

The moon, at last quarter, will be just over 4° above Jupiter on the morning of October 15. The two are closest just after 3am.

Jupiter's equator is currently nearly edge on as seen from the Earth. As a result a series of mutual events of the major satellites is is occurring. A number of these events are visible from New Zealand during November. Most are occultations when one moon will be seen to close in on and merge with another, the two separating again a few minutes later.

MERCURY, VENUS and SATURN, three planets lost in the Sun.

MERCURY is nominally a morning object, it rises 35 minutes before the Sun on the 1st. 20 minutes before the Sun comes up, the planet will be only 2° above the horizon and so not observable. On the 1st Mercury is at its greatest elongation 19° west of the Sun. During the rest of November it will get steadily closer to the Sun, rising only 15 minutes earlier on the 30th.

VENUS, having become an evening object at the end of October, sets just 6 minutes after the Sun on November 1. This increases to 44 minutes later by the end of the month. Hence, by then, it may be briefly visible, very low, 30° to the south of west shortly after the Sun goes down. It will then be in Ophiuchus.

SATURN sets just over an hour after the Sun on November 1. By the 18th it is at conjunction with the Sun. As “seen” from the Earth it will pass almost 2° north of the Sun but in reality it will be 9.95 Au 1488 million km, beyond it. The distance from Earth will be 10.934 AU, or 1636 million km. After conjunction, Saturn will rise before the Sun, but less than half an hour earlier by the 30th, so not observable.

Outer Planets

URANUS is in the evening sky at magnitude 5.7 to 5.8. It is in Pisces, highest and to the north at about 11.30 pm on the 1st and two hours earlier on the 30th.

NEPTUNE is also an evening object throughout November, setting after midnight. The planet is in Aquarius, magnitude 7.9. It is stationary mid month, so its position scarcely changes during the month.

PLUTO is in Sagittarius at magnitude 14.4. On the 11th, Mars will be less than 4° from Pluto, with the latter the opposite side of Mars to the star Nunki.

Brighter Asteroids:

(1) Ceres is an early evening object magnitude 9.0 to 8.8. At the beginning of November, it sets less than 2 hours after the Sun, by the end of the month only 25 minutes later. By late November Ceres will be in Ophiuchus and will be less than 1° to the lower right of Venus on the 26th. Twilight is likely to make it impossible to view the asteroid in binoculars.

(3) Juno brightens from magnitude 9.3 to 9.0 during November. The 244 km asteroid is a morning object rising a little after midnight in Hydra. It is less than 10" from eta Hya on the morning of the 12th.

(4) Vesta, magnitude 7.9, starts November in Ophiuchus. It moves into Sagittarius on the 27th. It is an evening object, setting just before 11pm on the 1st and a little after 10pm on the 30th.

(6) Hebe is at opposition on November 20 with a magnitude 8.1. Being some way south of the celestial equator at opposition it will rise before sunset and set after sunrise. The asteroid is in Eridanus and will be less than 1° from 3.5 magniutde delta Eri between November 21 and 25.


The follwing table lists various solar system object events during November. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

November 1 Mercury greatest elong W(19)
November 2 Neptune 4.4 degrees south of the Moon
Moon at perigee
November 4 Mercury 4.2 degrees north of Spica
Uranus 1.2 degrees south of the Moon Occn
November 6 Moon full
November 8 Aldebaran 1.5 degrees south of the Moon
November 9 Moon northern most declination (18.6 degrees)
November 10 Mars 3.7 degrees south of Pluto
November 13 Venus 1.5 degrees south of Saturn
November 14 Jupiter 5.0 degrees north of the Moon
Moon last quarter
November 15 Moon at apogee
Regulus 4.4 degrees north of the Moon
November 16 Neptune stationary
November 18 Saturn at conjunction
November 19 Spica 2.6 degrees south of the Moon
November 21 Mercury 1.9 degrees south of the Moon
November 22 Saturn 1.2 degrees south of the Moon
Moon new
November 23 Venus 3.9 degrees south of the Moon
November 24 Moon southern most declination (-18.6 degrees)
Venus 4.5 degrees north of Antares
November 25 Pluto 2.8 degrees south of the Moon
November 26 Mercury 1.6 degrees south of Saturn
November 27 Moon at perigee
November 29 Neptune 4.2 degrees south of the Moon
Moon first quarter
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • conjunction: Two astronomical objects are 'lined up' (have the same right ascension) when viewed from Earth
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth

Southern Hemisphere Lunar Phases

The Moon moves about 15 degrees (almost a hand span) across the sky from from night to night. The side of the Moon toward the Sun is lit, so before full moon the left side of the Moon (for Southern hemisphere viewers) is the lit side. The right side of the moon is lit after full moon.

The Moon looks different in the Southern Hemisphere than it does in the Northern Hemisphere. That's because folk in the Northern Hemisphere view the Moon upside down. The following images taken by Maurice Collins show the Moon the way it ought to look, at least for Southern Hemisphere observers. See the bottom of the page for images of (near) new moon, first quarter, full moon and last quarter moon.


Moon Phases for 2018, New Zealand dates and times

New Moon First quarter Full Moon Last quarter
Date and times NZDT = UT + 13 hours
    2 Jan 2018 15:24 9 Jan 2018 11:25
17 Jan 2018 15:17 25 Jan 2018 11:20 1 Feb 2018 2:27 8 Feb 2018 4:54
16 Feb 2018 10:05 23 Feb 2018 21:09 2 Mar 2018 13:51 10 Mar 2018 0:20
18 Mar 2018 2:12 25 Mar 2018 4:35 1 Apr 2018 1:37  
Date and times NZST = UT + 12 hours
      8 Apr 2018 19:18
16 Apr 2018 13:57 23 Apr 2018 9:46 30 Apr 2018 12:58 8 May 2018 14:09
15 May 2018 23:48 22 May 2018 15:49 30 May 2018 2:20 7 Jun 2018 6:32
14 Jun 2018 7:43 20 Jun 2018 22:51 28 Jun 2018 16:53 6 Jul 2018 19:51
13 Jul 2018 14:48 20 Jul 2018 7:52 28 Jul 2018 8:20 5 Aug 2018 6:18
11 Aug 2018 21:58 18 Aug 2018 19:49 26 Aug 2018 23:56 3 Sep 2018 14:37
10 Sep 2018 6:02 17 Sep 2018 11:15 25 Sep 2018 14:52  
Date and times NZDT = UT + 13 hours
      2 Oct 2018 22:46
9 Oct 2018 16:47 17 Oct 2018 7:02 25 Oct 2018 5:45 1 Nov 2018 5:41
8 Nov 2018 5:02 16 Nov 2018 3:54 23 Nov 2018 18:39 30 Nov 2018 13:19
7 Dec 2018 20:20 16 Dec 2018 0:49 23 Dec 2018 6:49 29 Dec 2018 22:34

Dates and times modified from GUIDE 8


Moon Phases for 2017, New Zealand dates and times

New Moon First quarter Full Moon Last quarter
Date and times NZDT = UT + 13 hours
  6 Jan 2017 8:47 13 Jan 2017 0:34 20 Jan 2017 11:13
28 Jan 2017 13:07 4 Feb 2017 17:19 11 Feb 2017 13:33 19 Feb 2017 8:33
27 Feb 2017 3:59 6 Mar 2017 0:32 13 Mar 2017 3:54 21 Mar 2017 4:58
28 Mar 2017 15:57      
Date and times NZST = UT + 12 hours
  4 Apr 2017 6:40 11 Apr 2017 18:08 19 Apr 2017 21:57
27 Apr 2017 0:16 3 May 2017 14:47 11 May 2017 9:43 19 May 2017 12:33
26 May 2017 7:45 2 Jun 2017 0:42 10 Jun 2017 1:10 17 Jun 2017 23:33
24 Jun 2017 14:31 1 Jul 2017 12:51 9 Jul 2017 16:07 17 Jul 2017 7:26
23 Jul 2017 21:46 31 Jul 2017 3:23 8 Aug 2017 6:11 15 Aug 2017 13:15
22 Aug 2017 6:30 29 Aug 2017 20:13 6 Sep 2017 19:03 13 Sep 2017 18:25
20 Sep 2017 17:30      
Date and times NZDT = UT + 13 hours
  28 Sep 2017 15:54 6 Oct 2017 7:40 13 Oct 2017 1:26
20 Oct 2017 8:12 28 Oct 2017 11:22 4 Nov 2017 18:23 11 Nov 2017 9:37
19 Nov 2017 0:42 27 Nov 2017 6:03 4 Dec 2017 4:47 10 Dec 2017 20:51
18 Dec 2017 19:30 26 Dec 2017 22:20    

Dates and times modified from GUIDE 8


The following images taken by Maurice Collins show the Moon as new(ish), first quarter, full moon and last quarter. The Moon takes about a month to go from new moon through its various phases and back to new moon. Indeed, the word month derives directly from that cycle.

The details on the moon change dramatically from day to day. Indeed even from hour to hour the change in details can be facinating with some features only observable for a few hours at the right phase. Binoculars or a small telescope are fine as a starting point for observing the Moon.

 

This two and a half day old Moon is about as soon after new moon that a good lunar image can be obtained. Any earlier and the Moon is too close in the sky to the Sun.

 

The lunar cycle takes close to four weeks so seven days is a quarter of the way through the cycle, first quarter, even though the Moon is half lit. Notice how the detail increases toward the terminator (the day/night or light/dark line) where the shadows cast by lunar features are longer - think morning/evening shadows.

 

Two weeks in is half way through the cycle and the Moon is fully lit. At full moon the Moon and Sun are on opposite sides of the Earth so the Moon rises as the Sun sets, and sets as the Sun rises. During full moon shadows are short on the Moon (think midday shadows on Earth) so very little crater detail can be seen, but "seas" and the rays from large craters are easy to see.

 

Week three of four and last quarter. You'll need to stay up late or get up early in the morning to observe the Moon now. The last quarter Moon rises near midnight.

October Moon & Planet data for 2014


The Solar System in October 2014

All dates and times are NZDT (UT +13 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

On October 1 the Sun rises at 6.53 am and sets at 7.28 pm. On October 31 the times are 6.07 am and 8.02 pm respectively. Nautical twilight starts about 1 hour before sunrise in the morning and ends about 1 hour after sunset in the evening. Nautical twilight starts/ends when the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon. The sky is then reasonably dark except for a near horizon glow in the direction of the Sun.

Phases of the Moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: October  2 at  8.32 am (Oct 1,  19:32 UT)
Full moon:     October  8 at 11.51 pm (        10:51 UT)
Last quarter   October 16 at  8.12 am (Oct 15, 19:12 UT)
New moon:      October 24 at 10.57 am (Oct 23, 21:57 UT)
First quarter: October 31 at  3.48 pm (        02:48 UT)

Total Eclipse of the Moon, October 8 to 9.

A total eclipse of the moon takes place on October 8. All phases of the eclipse are visible from New Zealand. Totality lasts for almost an hour from 11:25 pm to 12:24 pm. The moon starts entering the Earth's umbral shadow about 10:15 pm and finally leaves it at 1.35 am.

Numerous stars will be occulted during the eclipse, although none will be visible to the unaided eye. One of the brightest is SAO 109533, magnitude 7.4 which will disappear just before totality starts and reappear during the total part of the eclipse.

Lunar occultations of asteroids are rarely visible due to the brightness of the Moon and faintness of most asteroids. An occultation of (37) Fides, magnitude 9.8, occurs during the eclipse, so will be visible. It disappears behind the moon shortly before the end of totality and reappears at the darkened limb of the moon about 40 minutes later. Precise times of the occultation of Fides and stars for any locality can be generated using Dave Herald's Occult program.

Partial Eclipse of the Sun, October 23.

The partial eclipse of Sun follows a fortnight later on October 23. Technically it is an annular eclipse but the path misses the Earth passing over the north pole. A partial eclipse is visible from the northern Pacific and north America as far south as the Yucatan Peninsula, apart from Labrador and Newfoundland. For the eastern half of Canada and the USA the Sun sets while partially eclipsed. It rises in eclipse for eastern Siberia.

The Planets in October

The two inner planets, Mercury and Venus are both at conjunction with the Sun during October. Mercury will be visible as an evening object for the first few days of the month. Mars and Saturn are both early evening objects, although is very low in the evening twilight by the end of the month.

Jupiter is a morning object rising 3 hours before the Sun at the end of October.

Planets in the Evening Sky.

MERCURY starts October as a magnitude 0.5 evening object, setting more than two hours after the Sun. Some 45 minutes after sunset the planet will be 14° above the horizon a little to the south of west. Spica at magnitude 1.1 will be 8° below Mercury while Saturn will be 20° higher and a little to the right of Mercury.

Over the following evenings Mercury will rapidly get lower in the evening sky, especially after it is stationary on October 4. As a result it will be lost in the evening twilight within a few days. Inferior conjunction is on October 17, when the planet will be 50 million km from the Sun and 100 million from the Earth. After conjunction, Mercury becomes a morning object but will rise little more than half an hour before the Sun on the 31st, so being unobservable.

MARS is the best placed planet for viewing in the evening sky, setting after midnight all month. It starts October just under 4° from Antares, with Mars very slightly brighter. The planet is then in Ophiuchus and steadily moves away from Antares and across the constellation until entering Sagittarius on the 21st.

The moon makes a rather distant pass of Mars on the 18th, when the two will be 7.5° apart. The moon will be a 21% lit crescent.

SATURN sets considerably earlier than Mars, ranging from three and a half hours after the Sun on the 1st to only an hour and a quarter later on the 31st. The planet is in Libra with the two brightest stars of the constellation below and to either side of Saturn.

On October 25, the moon as a very thin crescent will be 5° below Saturn. The following evening the slightly thicker moon will be 8° to the upper right of the planet.

At the beginning of October the asteroid Ceres, magnitude 9, will be a little over a degree below Saturn. Over the following few evenings Ceres will overtake Saturn, the two being less than half a degree apart on the 5th, with Ceres to the right. Those wanting to identify the asteroid using binoculars should note that Ceres will be a little lower than Saturn. A slightly brighter star, magnitude, 8.6 will be almost level with Saturn but a little further away.

Jupiter in the Morning Sky.

JUPITER rises 2 hours before the Sun on October 1 and 3 hours earlier on the 31st. Thus it will be a brilliant object visible fairly low to the northeast before sunrise. The planet starts October in Cancer but moves on into Leo on the 13th.

The moon passes Jupiter mid month. As seen from NZ the 32% lit moon will be 5.5° to the upper left of Jupiter on the morning of the 18th and 9.5° to the right of the planet the following morning.

Jupiter's equator is currently near edge on as seen from the Earth. As a result a series of mutual events of the major satellites is starting. A partial eclipse of Callisto by Ganymede on the morning of the 6th will not be observable as it takes place too close to sunrise. The two satellites reverse their roles at the end of the month, but for NZ the eclipse takes place on the morning of November 1. At present Jupiter is well north of the equator, so rather low in NZ skies.

VENUS is at superior conjunction at the far side of the Sun to the Earth on October 25 so will be observable during October. At conjunction Venus will be 108 million km (0.72 AU) beyond the Sun and 257 million km (1.72 AU) from the Earth. At closest it would appear to be 1° to the north of the Sun.

Outer Planets

URANUS is at opposition on October 8, the planet will then be 2844 million km, 19 AU, from the Earth. Consequently the planet will be in the sky all night. It is currently in Pisces.

A few hours after Uranus is at opposition the Earth's moon is in total eclipse. Uranus, at magnitude 5.7 will be 2° above the moon as seen from NZ. A similar magnitude star will be 1.3° to the left of Uranus, otherwise there is no object likely to be confused with Uranus in binoculars above the moon.

NEPTUNE is an evening object throughout October, it sets well after midnight. The planet is in Aquarius, magnitude 7.8 to 7.9.

PLUTO is in Sagittarius at magnitude 14.4. By the end of October Mars will be 8.5° from Pluto.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres is an evening object in Libra at magnitude 9.0. As noted above it passes Saturn at the beginning of October, with the two less than 0.5° apart on the 5th. By the end of October, Ceres will set less than 2 hours after the Sun. (4) Vesta, magnitude 7.9, starts October in Libra. It crosses part of Scorpius between October 11 and 21; on the latter date it carries on into Ophiuchus. On the 26th it is just over 6° from Antares. (6) Hebe brightens from magnitude 8.6 to 8.2 during October, making it a fairly easy binocular object. It is in Eridanus, rising about 10.30pm on the 1st and 8.15pm on the 31st. (3) Juno brightens to magnitude 9.3 at the end of October. It will then be a morning object in Hydra rising about 1.24 am.


The follwing table lists various solar system object events during October. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

October 1 Moon first quarter
Pluto 2.8 degrees south of the Moon
October 4 Mercury stationary
October 5 Neptune 4.4 degrees south of the Moon
October 6 Moon at perigee
October 7 Uranus at opposition
October 8 Uranus 1.2 degrees south of the Moon Occn
Moon full Eclipse
October 12 Aldebaran 1.4 degrees south of the Moon
October 13 Moon northern most declination (18.5 degrees)
October 15 Moon last quarter
October 16 Mercury 0.4 degrees north of Spica
Mercury inferior conjunction
October 17 Mercury 2.4 degrees south of Venus
October 18 Jupiter 5.2 degrees north of the Moon
Moon at apogee
Regulus 4.4 degrees north of the Moon
October 19 Venus 3.2 degrees north of Spica
October 22 Mercury 0.6 degrees north of the Moon Occn
October 23 Spica 2.5 degrees south of the Moon
Moon new Eclipse
Venus 0.1 degrees north of the Moon Occn
October 25 Mercury stationary
Venus superior conjunction
Saturn 0.9 degrees south of the Moon Occn
October 28 Moon southern most declination (-18.6 degrees)
October 29 Pluto 2.9 degrees south of the Moon
October 31 Moon first quarter
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • inferior conjunction: Conjunction where a solar system object is between the Earth and the Sun
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • superior conjunction: Conjunction where the Sun is between the Earth another solar system object

September Moon & Planet data for 2014


The Solar System in September 2014

Up to September 27 dates and times are NZST (UT +12 hours) unless otherwise specified. NZDT starts September 28. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The Sun rises at 6.44 am and sets at 5.58 pm on September 1. On September 30 the times are 6.55 am NZDT and 7.27 pm NZDT respectively.

Phases of the Moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: September  2 at 11.11 pm (11:11 UT)
Full moon:     September  9 at  1.38 pm (01:38 UT)
Last quarter   September 16 at  2.05 pm (02:05 UT)
New moon:      September 24 at  6.14 pm (06:14 UT)

The Planets in September

Mercury has its best evening appearance of the year for southern hemisphere viewers this month. Mars and Saturn are also early evening objects

Jupiter rises further into the morning sky but Venus is too close to the Sun to observe.

PLANETS IN THE EVENING SKY. Best viewed as the sky darkens following sunset.

MERCURY is an evening object throughout September. It reaches its maximum elongation 26° east of the Sun on September 21. It will then set more than 2 hours after the Sun. With a magnitude 0.1 it will be readily visible fairly low to the west as the sky darkens especially later in the month. It will be the brightest star like object in that region of the sky.

On the 20th and 21st Mercury will be only 45 arc minutes from the Spica, magnitude 1.1 thus an obvious pair in the western sky. Mercury will be noticably brighter.

Mercury is in Virgo all month. It will be brightest early in September, on the 1st magnitude -0.2, when it sets about 100 minutes after the Sun. By the end of September the planet will be a little less bright, magnitude 0.4. It will still be setting over 2 hours later than the Sun.

On the 26th a very thin crescent moon will be 5.5° below and to the right of Mercury with Spica just over 3° left of the moon.

MARS remains an evening object setting just after midnight all month; when NZDT starts at the end of September the planet will set close to 1am.

Mars starts September in Libra. It moves across the narrow part of Scorpius between the 13th and 25th and then on into Ophiuchus. While in Scorpius, Mars will move through the head of the Scorpion passing just over half a degree from the 2.3 magnitude star delta Sco on the 18th. After entering Ophiuchus, Mars will move past Antares, being closest on the 28th when the two will be just over 3° apart. Planet and star will be almost identical in brightness, thus they will make a notable pair of reddish objects in the evening sky.

The Moon passes Mars twice in September. On the 1st the 38% lit moon will be some 5.5° from Mars (but much closer to Saturn). On the 29th the 24% lit moon will 8° from Mars, the next evening the two will be 9° apart with the moon 34% lit.

SATURN, like Mars remains an early evening object throughout September. But as Saturn's motion to the east is less than that of Mars, it will drop behind the red planet and steadily set earlier. On the 1st it will set about half an hour before Mars, by the 30th almost two hours earlier at about 11 pm NZDT. So the planet is best viewed early evening as the sky darkens.

Saturn is in Libra during September. The moon joins Saturn on September 28, with the 15.7% moon 2° to the right of Saturn. Earlier, at about 5 pm NZDT, the moon will Occult Saturn, an event visible from Hawaii and the western parts of Alaska.

By the end of September the two asteroids Ceres and Vesta will be close to Saturn. In fact Vesta is closest to Saturn on the 14th, with the asteroid, magnitude 7.8, just over a degree to the right of, and slightly lower then Saturn. On the 30th Ceres, magnitude 9.0, will be 1.5° below Saturn.

Planets in the Morning Sky.

JUPITER rises a little over an hour before the Sun on September 1, 2 hours before it on the 30th. So, unlike Venus it will become more visible in the morning sky as the month progresses. Jupiter is in Cancer all month; on the mornings of the 20th and 21st the crescent moon will be a few degrees from the planet.

The equatorial plane of Jupiter is now nearly edge on to the Earth. The four major satellites of Jupiter orbit close to the plane of Jupiter's equator. As a result eclipses, transits and occultations of Callisto, as well as the other three, are now taking place. Also a series of mutual events of the moon's are about to start. The first is on September 10 involves a very slight penumbral eclipse of Ganymede by Callisto. At this event the change in brightness is too slight to detect. Some events later this year and in 2015 will be easier to see.

VENUS is also a morning object but not readily visible. It rises only half an hour before the Sun at the beginning of September – and only 7 minutes earlier than the Sun by the 30th. The planet is in Leo much of the month but moves into Virgo on the 24th. On the 6th it will be less than 1° from Regulus, but with an altitude only 4° at sunrise, the conjunction will not be visible.

Outer Planets

URANUS rises just before 9 pm on September 1st and close to sunset on the 30th. The planet is in Pisces with a magnitude 5.7.

NEPTUNE rises more than an hour before sunset the 1st and is highest just after midnight. The times get earlier by about 2 hours during the month, but start of NZDT drops it to only one hours earlier on the 30th. The planet is in Aquarius, magnitude 7.8.

PLUTO is in Sagittarius at magnitude 14.3, about 6° from Nunki, sigma Sgr. Nunki, at magnitude 2.1, is the brightest star in the handle of the teapot.

Brighter Asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are in Libra during September in the vicinity of Saturn. As noted above Vesta is in conjunction with Saturn on the 14th, Ceres' conjunction is early October. Their magnitudes change little in September at 9 and 7.8 respectively.

(6) Hebe brightens from magnitude 9.1 to 8.6 in the month. The asteroid starts September in Taurus but it moves into Eridanus on the 7th.


The follwing table lists various solar system object events during September. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

September 1 Mars 4.1 degrees south of the Moon
September 2 Moon first quarter
September 3 Moon southern most declination (-18.6 degrees)
September 4 Pluto 2.6 degrees south of the Moon
September 5 Venus 0.7 degrees north of Regulus
September 8 Moon at perigee
Neptune 4.3 degrees south of the Moon
September 9 Moon full
September 11 Uranus 1.2 degrees south of the Moon Occn
September 15 Aldebaran 1.4 degrees south of the Moon
September 16 Moon last quarter
Moon northern most declination (18.6 degrees)
September 20 Jupiter 5.2 degrees north of the Moon
Moon at apogee
Mercury 0.5 degrees south of Spica
September 21 Regulus 4.4 degrees north of the Moon
Mercury greatest elong E(26)
September 22 Pluto stationary
September 23 Equinox
Venus 3.8 degrees north of the Moon
September 24 Moon new
September 26 Spica 2.4 degrees south of the Moon
Mercury 4.0 degrees south of the Moon
September 28 Saturn 0.7 degrees south of the Moon Occn
Mars 3.1 degrees north of Antares
September 29 Mars 5.6 degrees south of the Moon
September 30 Moon southern most declination (-18.5 degrees)
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth

August Moon & Planet data for 2014


The Solar System in August 2014

All dates and times are NZST (UT +12 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The Sun rises at 7.26 am and sets at 5.28 pm on August 1. On August 31 the times are 6.46 am and 5.57 pm respectively.

Phases of the Moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: August  4 at 12.50 pm (        00:50 UT)
Full moon:     August 11 at  6.10 am (Aug 10, 18:10 UT)
Last quarter   August 18 at 12.26 am (Aug 17, 12:26 UT)
New moon:      August 26 at  2.13 am (Aug 25, 14:13 UT)

The Planets in August

A conjunction of Mars and Saturn on August 25 and 26 is the best planetary conjunction of the year. Mercury becomes visible in the evening sky by the end of August. Jupiter emerges from the Sun in the morning while Venus gets lower in the dawn sky.

The two asteroids, Ceres and Vesta have been a close pair this year. They begin to separate during August.

MERCURY starts August as a morning object, but rises only 17 minutes before the Sun on the 1st, so is not observable. The planet is at superior conjunction at the far side of the Sun on the morning of August 9 when it will pass less than 2° north of the Sun.

Superior conjunction sees Mercury return to the evening sky. It will continue to be too close to the Sun to see at first, but by the end of August the planet will set more than 90 minutes after the Sun and so be visible in the evening sky. On the 31st, half an hour after sunset, Mercury will be 11° above the horizon in a direction just north of west. At magnitude -0.3 it will be easily the brightest star like object to the west and so the first to appear as the Sun's glow diminishes.

VENUS is in the dawn sky all month. It rises some 75 minutes before the Sun on the 1st, but only half an hour earlier on the 31st. So by then ot will be a very low object to the ENE just before the Sun comes up. Jupiter will be rather higher and to its upper left.

Venus and Jupiter are at a close conjunction on the mornings of the 18th and 19th of August, when they will about half a degree apart, slightly further on the 19th. Their low altitude, only 6° a few minutes before sunrise, will make the conjunction difficult to see, but the planets are likely to be visible in binoculars. Look for the two planets very low about 30° round to the north of east a little before sunrise.

MARS and SATURN get close in August. Mars moves further east, away from Spica, during August to join Saturn in Libra. The two planets are closest on the 25th and 26th, when they will be 3.4° apart. They will both be at magnitude 0.6. Alpha Lib will be close forming the third corner of a small triangle with the planets. Alpha is fainter than the planets by 2 magnitudes. From the point of view of visibility this is the best planetary conjunction for 2014, but not the closest.

Beta Lib slightly brighter than alpha, will be the opposite side of Saturn to Mars, and about twice as far away. Antares will be some 22° above the two planets.

Earlier in August the moon passes first Mars and then Saturn. In both cases the moon will be closest to the planets late evening. On the 3rd the 43% lit moon will be 2.7° from Mars at 11 pm. On the 4th the moon will get much closer to Saturn, the 54% lit moon being 35' from Saturn as seen from Wellington. Further north the two will appear even closer, until from Kaitaia northwards there will be an occultation. This will occur close to midnight. A grazing occultation is visible in a band from just south of Kaitaia north to Motutangi. In this band only part of Saturn will be hidden by the moon. Further north the planet will disappear completely for up to a few minutes.

The occultation is earlier visible from all parts of mainland Australia except the extreme south point of Victoria where a graze occurs. The Occultation misses Tasmania.

The two asteroids Ceres and Vesta continue to be near Mars all month. During the second half of August they will be about 7° from the planet.

JUPITER will be in the dawn sky. It starts August even closer to the Sun than Mercury and is not likely to then be visible. The two planets are in conjunction on the morning of the 3rd when they will be just under a degree apart, but only 6.5° from the Sun.

After this, Jupiter will steadily move further away from the Sun. On the morning of the 18th it will pass Venus at a distance of just under half a degree. The following morning the two will be just over half a degree apart. The two planets will then be some 18° from the Sun, so the conjunction may be visible in binoculars shortly before sunrise.

For the rest of the month Jupiter continues to move away from the Sun. By the 31st it will rise over an hour before the Sun. Half an hour before sunrise it will be some 6° above the horizon, in a direction 30° round to the north from east.

Outer Planets

URANUS rises just before 11 pm on August 1st and two hours earlier on the 31st. The planet is in Pisces with a magnitude 5.7.

NEPTUNE rises at 7.37 pm on the 1st and 5.35 pm on the 31st. It is in Aquarius and at opposition on the 29th at magnitude 7.8. At opposition it will be 29 AU, 4333 million km, from the Earth.

PLUTO is in Sagittarius at magnitude 14.3, 2.5° from the magnitude 3.5 star xi2 Sgr.

Brighter Asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are in Virgo at the beginning of August at magnitudes 8.8 and 7.5 respectively. By the end of August they will both have moved into Libra, and have magnitudes 9.0 and 7.7.

During the month Ceres and Vesta will separate a little, so that by the end of August they will be nearly 5° apart.

On the 31st the 29% lit moon will be 1.5° left of Vesta and 4° above Ceres late evening. All 3 will be a few degrees below Mars and Saturn


The follwing table lists various solar system object events during August. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

August 2 Spica 2.2 degrees south of the Moon
Mercury 0.9 degrees north of Jupiter
August 3 Mars 2.1 degrees south of the Moon
August 4 Moon first quarter
Saturn 0.1 degrees north of the Moon Occn
August 7 Moon southern most declination (-18.8 degrees)
August 8 Pluto 2.4 degrees south of the Moon
Mercury superior conjunction
August 10 Moon full
Moon at perigee
August 11 Neptune 4.3 degrees south of the Moon
August 14 Uranus 1.2 degrees south of the Moon Occn
August 15 Mercury 1.2 degrees north of Regulus
August 17 Moon last quarter
August 18 Venus 0.2 degrees north of Jupiter
Aldebaran 1.6 degrees south of the Moon
August 19 Moon northern most declination (18.7 degrees)
August 23 Jupiter 5.3 degrees north of the Moon
August 24 Venus 5.5 degrees north of the Moon
Moon at apogee
August 25 Regulus 4.4 degrees north of the Moon
Moon new
Mars 3.4 degrees south of Saturn
August 27 Mercury 3.3 degrees north of the Moon
August 29 Neptune at opposition
Spica 2.4 degrees south of the Moon
August 31 Saturn 0.3 degrees south of the Moon Occn
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • superior conjunction: Conjunction where the Sun is between the Earth another solar system object

July Moon & Planet data for 2014


The Solar system in July

All dates and times are NZST (UT +12 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The Sun rises at 7.45 am and sets at 5.04 pm on July 1. On July 30 the times are 7.27 am and 5.27 pm respectively.

Phases of the Moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: July  5 at 11.59 pm (        11:59 UT)
Full moon:     July 12 at 11.25 pm (        11:25 UT)
Last quarter   July 19 at  2.08 pm (        02:08 UT)
New moon:      July 27 at 10.42 am (Jul 26, 22:42 UT)

The Planets in July

Mars and Saturn are visible in the evening sky while Mercury and Venus are morning sky objects. Jupiter is a very low evening object early in July but is at conjunction on the 25th.

The two asteroids, Ceres and Vesta have been a close pair this year. They are at their closest in July, only 10 arc-minutes apart early in the month.

MERCURY is a morning object during July. It rises some 80 minutes before the Sun on July 1 with a magnitude 2.4. 45 minutes before sunrise it will be 5° up at an azimuth of 60°. So it will not be not an easy object in the dawn sky.

Things improve a little over the next few days. On the 13th it reaches its greatest elongation, 21° west of the Sun. Its magnitude then will be 0.4, so 2 magnitudes brighter and 7° up at an azimuth 55° 45 minutes before sunrise.

By the 20th Mercury will be at magnitude -0.4, but only 4° above the horizon 45 minutes before sunrise. The planet gets closer to the Sun during the rest of the month.

VENUS is also in the morning sky and rises 40 to 50 minutes before Mercury all month. Venus starts the month 4° from Aldebaran, the distance increasing to 10° by the 31st.

On the 25th a very thin crescent moon only 4% lit will be 4° to the upper right of Venus, about midway between the planet and the 2nd magnitude star gamma Geminorum.

MARS is losing brightness as the faster-moving Earth moves ahead of, and further from, the red planet. During July, Mars dims slightly from magnitude 0.0 to 0.4. It transits at 6.51 pm on the 1st and 5.46 pm on the 31st, so is highest in the early evening. Mars remains in Virgo, a few degrees from Spica. The two are closest on the 14th with Mars 1.3° to the lower right of Spica early in the evening. By late evening the sky's rotation will bring Mars almost level with Spica still to its right.

The 58% lit moon joins Mars and Spica on the on the 6th. Early evening the moon will be 2.4° from Mars, during the evening the moon will move a little closer to Spica, so that by 8 pm the moon and star will be 2.4° apart. Earlier in the day, the moon will occult Mars, the event being visible from northern parts of South America.

The two asteroids Ceres and Vesta continue to be near Mars all month. During the second half of July they will be about 7° from the planet.

JUPITER sets some 80 minutes after the Sun at the beginning of July, so will be a very low object only 7° up and round towards the northwest half an hour after sunset. The planet closes in on the Sun through the month so becoming lost to view within a few days. It is at conjunction with the Sun on the 25th.

At conjunction Jupiter will be 940 million km from the Earth, 788 million km beyond the Sun. At its closest it will pass 8 arc minutes north of the Sun as "seen" from the Earth.

SATURN transits at 8.44 pm, two hours after Mars, on the 1st and 6.45 on the 31st, only 1 hour after Mars. That is the two planets get closer during the month, with a separation of about 14° by its end. Saturn is in Libra and will reach a stationary point on the 21st. Hence it will show little change in its position during July, just under 2.5° from alpha Librae.

The 77% lit moon will be 2.5° from Saturn on July 8, with Saturn between the moon and Alpha Lib. As is the case for Mars, the moon will occult Saturn earlier in the day. In this case the occultation is visible from southern parts of South America. The paths of the occultations will not overlap, there will be a strip of the continent between the two which see neither event.

Outer Planets

URANUS rises an hour after midnight on July 1st and an hour before on the 31st. The planet is in Pisces at magnitude 5.8.

NEPTUNE rises at 9.42 p on the 1st and 6.41 pm on the 31st . It is in Aquarius with a magnitude 7.8 by the month's end.

PLUTO is at opposition on July 8. The dwarf planet is in Sagittarius at magnitude 14.3, position RA 18hr 51.1 min, Dec -2° 19'. This places it 1.7° from the mag 3.5 star xi2 Sgr and 40" south of the 7.6 mag star V4088 Sgr.

Brighter Asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are at their closest on July 5 and 6, when they will be 10 arc-minutes apart, about one-third the diameter of the full moon. Vesta'a magnitude ranges from 7.1 to 7.5 during July, Ceres's 8.4 to 8.8.

The two asteroids are also close to Mars some 7 or 8 degrees from the planet. All three are in Virgo. On the 14th when Mars is closest to Spica, the two asteroids will be 7° from the planet on the opposite to Spica.


The follwing table lists various solar system object events during July. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

July 1 Mercury stationary
Regulus 4.6 degrees north of the Moon
Venus 4.1 degrees north of Aldebaran
July 4 Earth at aphelion
Pluto at opposition
July 5 Moon first quarter
July 6 Mars 0.2 degrees south of the Moon Occn
Spica 2.0 degrees south of the Moon
July 8 Saturn 0.4 degrees north of the Moon Occn
July 10 Moon southern most declination (-19.0 degrees)
July 11 Pluto 2.3 degrees south of the Moon
July 12 Moon full
Mercury greatest elong W(21)
July 13 Moon at perigee
July 14 Mars 1.3 degrees north of Spica
July 15 Neptune 4.4 degrees south of the Moon
July 18 Uranus 1.4 degrees south of the Moon
July 19 Moon last quarter
July 21 Saturn stationary
July 22 Uranus stationary
Aldebaran 1.8 degrees south of the Moon
July 23 Moon northern most declination (18.9 degrees)
July 24 Venus 4.4 degrees north of the Moon
Jupiter at conjunction
July 25 Mercury 5.0 degrees north of the Moon
July 26 Jupiter 5.3 degrees north of the Moon
Moon new
July 28 Moon at apogee
July 29 Regulus 4.4 degrees north of the Moon
  • aphelion: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Sun
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • conjunction: Two astronomical objects are 'lined up' (have the same right ascension) when viewed from Earth
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth

June Moon & Planet data for 2014


The Solar System in June 2014

All dates and times are NZST (UT +12 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The Sun rises at 7.34 am and sets at 5.02 pm on June 1. On June 30 the times are 7.45 am and 5.03 pm respectively.

The Southern winter solstice is on June 21, with the Sun at its furthest north at 10.52 pm. For Wellington, earliest sunsets are a few seconds after 5.00 pm for a few days near June 14; latest sunrises are a few seconds after 7:45 am for a few days near June 28.

Phases of the Moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: June  6 at  8.39 am (June 5,  20:39 UT)
Full moon:     June 13 at  4.11 pm (         04:11 UT)
Last quarter   June 20 at  6.39 am (June 19, 18:39 UT)
New moon:      June 27 at  8.09 pm (         08:09 UT)

The Planets in June

Mercury will be difficult to see at any time in June. In the evening Jupiter gets low to set fairly soon after sunset, Mars and Saturn are visible all evening. Venus remains a brilliant morning "star" but gets a little lower during the month.

MERCURY sets some 80 minutes after the Sun at the beginning of June. It will be at magnitude 1.4. 45 minutes after the Sun sets Mercury will be only 4.5° above the horizon. With the Sun 8.7° below the horizon the sky will be bright in the direction of the planet, making it a very difficult object.

Over the following evenings Mercury will get even lower especially after it is stationary on June 7. This leads up to the planet being at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun on the morning of June 20. At conjunction Mercury will be 82.9 million km, 0.554 AU, from the Earth and 0.464 AU from the Sun.

Following conjunction Mercury will become a morning object rising before the Sun. By the end of the month, 45 minutes before sunrise, the planet will be only 4.2° up with a magnitude 2.7, so not visible

VENUS, in the morning sky, will rise just over 3 hours before the Sun on the 1st dropping to just over 2 hours before it on the 30th. Thus it will get a little lower, but remain a prominent object to the northeast in the dawn sky.

Towards the end of June, Venus will be in Taurus and move to be between the Pleiades and Aldebaran at the end of the month. On the morning of the 27th the Pleiades and Venus will ruse at the same time, with the star cluster 7° to the left of the planet.

On the morning of the 25th a very thin crescent moon, 6% lit, will be 3.5° to the right of Venus, with the moon slightly lower.

MARS remains a bright object in the evening sky throughout June. It will lose brightness a little, dimming from magnitude -0.5 to 0.0 during the month. It sets just before 3 am on the 1st and by 1.25 am on the 30th. It is in Virgo, by the end of June just over 6° from Spica.

The 73% lit moon will be about 3.5° to the right of Mars early in the evening of June 8. During the evening their separation will slowly increase as the moon moves towards Spica. The moon is closer to Spica the following night.

The two asteroids Ceres and Vesta will be near Mars all month, some 12° from the Planet on the 1st and 9° away on the 30th.

JUPITER gets low in the early evening sky during June. It sets 170 minutes after the Sun on the 1st, half this, 85 minutes later on the 30th. Hence by then it will be very low once the sky begins to darken following sunset.

Jupiter remains in Gemini during June, about 7° from Pollux which will be lower than the planet.

The moon passes Jupiter twice during June. On the 1st the crescent moon, 11% lit will be just under 5° to the upper left of Jupiter early evening. On the 29th the moon and Jupiter are closest about 1pm. At 6 pm the moon as a very thin crescent only 3% lit, will be again be 5° from the planet, and again to its upper left. At 6pm Jupiter will be only 4° up as seen from Wellington.

SATURN will be a prominent object throughout the evening. It transits and so is to the north and at its highest a few minutes before 11 pm on the 1st, advancing to 2 hours earlier by the 30th. The planet will be in Libra, between the two brightest stars of the constellation. By the 30th the 3 will almost be in line.

The 90% lit moon will be 5° from Saturn on the evening of June 10. They are only half this distance apart before Saturn and moon set about 5am the following morning.

This month's occultation of Saturn by the moon is mostly over the southern Indian Ocean and parts of the Antarctic. Early on the northern edge of the occultation path crosses southern parts of Namibia and South Africa. Towards its end the extreme northern edge touches the southeast corner of Western Australia, with a graze well south of Perth. By then the moon will be very low and close to setting.

OUTER PLANETS Uranus rises shortly before 3 am on June 1st and just after 1 am on the 30th. Thus it remains a morning object. The planet is in Pisces with a magnitude ranging from 5.9 to 5.8 during the month.

Neptune rises 20 minutes before midnight on the 1st and nearly 2 hours earlier by the 30th. The planet is in Aquarius with a magnitude 7.9

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta get even closer during June. On the 1st they are about 2° apart, by the 30th the separation will drop to only 25', less than the diameter of the full moon. This presents an unusual opportunity to view two asteroids in the same binocular field. Vesta'a magnitude ranges from 6.6 to 7.0 during June, Ceres's 7.8 to 8.4.

The two asteroids are also close to Mars, all three being in Virgo. On the 1st the two asteroids will be some 12° to the right of Mars, by the 30th they will about 9° to its right. Spica will then be about 6° above Mars as seen late evening.


The follwing table lists various solar system object events during June. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

June 1 Jupiter 5.4 degrees north of the Moon
June 3 Moon at apogee
June 4 Regulus 4.8 degrees north of the Moon
June 5 Moon first quarter
June 7 Mercury stationary
Mars 1.5 degrees north of the Moon
June 8 Spica 1.8 degrees south of the Moon
June 10 Neptune stationary
Saturn 0.6 degrees north of the Moon Occn
June 13 Moon full
Moon southern most declination (-19.0 degrees)
June 14 Pluto 2.2 degrees south of the Moon
June 15 Moon at perigee
June 18 Neptune 4.6 degrees south of the Moon
June 19 Moon last quarter
Mercury inferior conjunction
June 21 Uranus 1.6 degrees south of the Moon
Solstice
June 24 Venus 1.3 degrees north of the Moon
June 25 Aldebaran 1.9 degrees south of the Moon
June 26 Moon northern most declination (19.0 degrees)
Mercury 0.3 degrees south of the Moon Occn
June 27 Moon new
June 29 Jupiter 5.4 degrees north of the Moon
June 30 Moon at apogee
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • inferior conjunction: Conjunction where a solar system object is between the Earth and the Sun
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth

May Moon & Planet data for 2014


The Solar System in May 2014

All dates and times are NZST (UT +12 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The Sun rises at 7.05 am and sets at 5.30 pm on May 1. By May 31 the times are 7.33 am and 5.03 pm respectively.

Phases of the Moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: MAY  7 at  3.15 pm (03:15 UT        )
Full moon:     MAY 15 at  7.16 am (May 14, 19:16 UT)
Last quarter   MAY 22 at 12.59 am (May 21, 12:59 UT)
New moon:      MAY 29 at  6.40 am (May 28, 18:40 UT)

An occultation of Saturn by the moon occurs on the night of May 14/15, a few hours before full moon. Despite the brightness of the moon, the occultation should be visible in a small telescope.

The occultation is visible from all parts of New Zealand and from Australia except the north east. A grazing occultation is visible from a little north of Brisbane. The graze path passes just north of NZ’s North Cape.

Times of mid occultation for some places in NZ are

City        Disappear  Reappear  Duration
Auckland     11:52:59   12:38:51  +/- 44s
Wellington   11:45:46   12:51:45  +/- 29s
Christchurch 11:40:05   12:54:54  +/- 25s
Dunedin      11:36:15   12:51:09  +/- 23s

The duration gives the time taken by Saturn’s disk to move behind the moon. Double these figures to obtain the approximate times for the start/end of the occultation of the rings.

More details of the events can be obtained from Dave Herald’s Occult

The Planets in May

Saturn is at opposition on the night of May 10/11 so will be visible in the evening sky. Jupiter is in the early evening sky setting mid evening. Mars is visible all evening. Venus is in the morning sky.

MERCURY is in the early evening sky, but will set less than 30 minutes after the Sun early in the month. By the end of May it will set a little more than an hour after the Sun. By the time the Sun has sunk to 10° below the horizon on the 31st, Mercury, at magnitude 1.2, will be about 3° above the horizon, so very difficult to see. On the 31st a very thin crescent moon will be 8° above Mercury.

VENUS remains prominent in the morning sky although it begins to rise a little later, about 4.20am at the end of May. This is still more than 3 hours before the Sun. The planet is in Pisces all month except for 3 days mid month when it crosses an indented corner of Cetus

On the morning of May 16 Venus will be just over 1° from Uranus, with the latter to the lower left of Venus. At magnitude 5.9, Uranus will be the only bright object in the same binocular field as Venus. The previous morning Venus will be just under 2° above Uranus while on the morning of the 17th the planets will be 1.5° apart with Uranus to the left of and a little higher than Venus.

On May 25, the 9% lit crescent moon will be just under 4° below Venus.

MARS was at opposition on April 8 so will remain readily visible in the evening sky all May. As the Earth moves away from Mars, the latter will dim a little, but by the end of May it will still be magnitude -0.5. The planet is in Virgo a few degrees from Spica all month. Mars reaches a stationary point in its orbit on the 21st, so its position will not change greatly during May.

The 87% lit moon will be a little less than 3° from Mars on May 11.

JUPITER will be easily seen, if rather low, early in May evenings. By the 31st it will set close to 8pm. Being well north of the equator it is low in southern skies, so best looked for shortly after sunset. The planet is in Gemini about 10° from the star Pollux.

The 24% lit crescent moon will be just under 6° from Jupiter on the evening of May 4.

SATURN is at opposition on May 11 so will then be rising about the time of sunset and setting close to sunrise. The planet will then be 1331 million km (8.90 AU) from the Earth. The angular diameter of the disk will be 18.7 arc-seconds, with the rings just over twice that at 40 arc-seconds. The tilt of the north pole is 21.7 degrees towards the Earth making the rings easily visible in a small telescope.

By the end of May Saturn rises about an hour before the sun sets, so will be already visible to the east as the sky darkens.

The almost full moon will occult Saturn near midnight on May 14/15. The times at which Saturn disappears behind the moon and reappears again the other side of the moon are given above for a few locations. The moon’s limb will take about 45 seconds to move over the disk of Saturn as seen from the south of NZ. The time gets longer further north in the country reaching about 90 seconds in Auckland. The time for the ring system to be covered or uncovered is rather more than twice that of the planet’s disk.

Saturn remains in Libra during May fairly close to alpha Lib and beta Lib. Its changing position relative to the two stars will be detectable during the month.

OUTER PLANETS Uranus and Neptune are both in the morning sky. On May 1 Uranus rises at 4.50 am, Neptune about 3 hours earlier. The Sun rises just after 7.00 am. So Uranus will be at a moderate altitude an hour before sunrise. By May 31 the times are 3 am for Uranus, just before midnight for Neptune and 7.33 am for the Sun.

Uranus is in Pisces during May where it is in conjunction with Venus mid month. Neptune is in Aquarius.

Brighter Asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta remain a close pair of asteroids throughout May, no more than 2.5° apart in Virgo, so easily in the same binocular field. In the evening the two asteroids form a roughly equilateral triangle with Mars and Spica. Each side of the triangle will subtend an angle of some 13° or so. As seen in the evening, the triangle is inverted with Mars and Spica forming the base and the two asteroids at the lower apex.

The two asteroids were at opposition just after Mars in April, so they will fade a little during May, from magnitude 6.0 to 6.6 in the case of Vesta and 7.2 to 7.9 for Ceres.

(2) Pallas is also an evening object rising some 3 hours before Ceres and Vesta. It is in Leo, near Regulus. Pallas’ path takes it within 1.3° of the star on May 13th when the asteroid at magnitude 8.6 will be almost directly below Regulus. By the end of May Pallas will have faded to 8.9 and be 5.5° to the right of the star.


The follwing table lists various solar system object events during May. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

May 1 Aldebaran 2.0 degrees south of the Moon
May 2 Moon northern most declination (19.0 degrees)
May 4 Jupiter 5.4 degrees north of the Moon
May 6 Moon at apogee
May 7 Moon first quarter
May 8 Regulus 4.9 degrees north of the Moon
May 10 Saturn at opposition
May 11 Mars 2.8 degrees north of the Moon
May 12 Spica 1.7 degrees south of the Moon
May 14 Saturn 0.5 degrees north of the Moon Occn
Moon full
May 15 Venus 1.2 degrees south of Uranus
May 16 Moon southern most declination (-19.0 degrees)
May 18 Pluto 2.3 degrees south of the Moon
Moon at perigee
May 21 Mars stationary
Moon last quarter
May 22 Neptune 4.7 degrees south of the Moon
May 24 Uranus 1.8 degrees south of the Moon
May 25 Mercury greatest elong E(23)
Venus 2.1 degrees south of the Moon
May 28 Moon new
Aldebaran 2.0 degrees south of the Moon
May 30 Moon northern most declination (19.0 degrees)
Mercury 5.8 degrees north of the Moon
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth