17th July: What’s Up Tonight, Southern Skies Edition

By on July 17, 2014 in

Podcaster: Alice Enevoldsen aka Alice’s AstroInfo

Alices-Astro-InfoTitle: What’s Up Tonight, Southern Skies Edition

Organization: Alice’s AstroInfo


Description: Presented as a counterpart to Awesome Astronomy’s Northern Hemisphere monthly forecast, Alice talks about what’s visible from the Southern Hemisphere. Focused at about 33°S, this forecast should work for anywhere between 25°S and 50°S

Bio:  Alice Enevoldsen currently volunteers as one of NASA’s Solar System Ambassadors. She has been working in planetariums since 1996, has a B.A. in Astronomy-Geology from Whitman College, and a Masters in Teaching from Seattle University. Her fascination with the stars led her to try her hand at astronomy research in Boston and Walla Walla, where she realized that her calling in life was actually to work in outreach and be a translator for scientists. Now she works hard to share her love of the stars and excitement about astronomy with as many people as possible.

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by — no one. We still need sponsors for many days in 2014, so please consider sponsoring a day or two. Just click on the “Donate” button on the lower left side of this webpage, or contact us at signup@365daysofastronomy.org.


Hello, I’m Alice Enevoldsen, coming to you not-so-live from Alice’s AstroInfo with a ‘cast about what’s up in the late July skies … over the Southern Hemisphere.

How are you today?

Oh great! I’m glad to hear that? Or maybe that’s too bad, depends on what you just said … I’m sorry it’s a little hard to hear you through this machine.

I’m here today as a foil for Ralph and Paul with Awesome Astronomy and their monthly 365 Days of Astronomy podcast about what’s up in the skies over the Northern Hemisphere. The gals at Cosmoquest Media decided it was time to include the whole world in the monthly forecasts. So here I am. I’ll be basing this podcast around 33-35°S, so it should be good anywhere from about 25°S to 45° or 50°S. Those of you living near the equator will have to combine both podcasts, both mine and Ralph and Paul’s to figure out what’s in your sky.

Let’s get started, with a section I call “Hey, what’s that?”

Tonight as you look up after sunset, you’ll see the striking pairing of the bright star Spica and the planet Mars in the Northern sky. Not only are the two quite bright, but the color difference is beautiful. If you haven’t yet practiced noticing the difference in the colors of the stars, this is a perfect opportunity to spend a few minutes on it. Mars is the yellower/oranger of the pair. Over the rest of the month, Mars will slowly travel away from Spica towards the East, towards the next brightest object in the sky: the planet Saturn.

This brings me to some other Notable Sky Objects in the July sky

So, Saturn is in the Northern sky near to Mars & Spica but a bit to the East, and a bit closer to the Northern horizon than all that is the bright star Arcturus.

I’ve been talking about the evening sky so far, but shortly before sunrise, you’ll notice Orion rising in the northeast, as well as Taurus and the Pleiades. The Pleiades are definitely one of my favorite objects in the sky because they’re great with just your eyes, or with more magnification.

Also! They’re known by the Māori name Matariki—meaning the ‘eyes of god’ or ‘little eyes.’ The rising of Matariki in the winter sky signals the time to celebrate the Māori New Year. This time celebrates a number of things, including life, death, harvest, and planting. I’m utterly fascinated by this, because in the Northern Hemisphere the Pleiades are an integral part of this historic Celtic new-year’s celebration: Samhain, which in turn has become Halloween and is celebrated three and a half months from now in October. During the traditional Samhain celebration, the Pleiades were opposite the Sun in the sky, so the moment they cross the meridian signifies that the Sun will return, and spring will come again.

Even though the celebrations are in opposite hemispheres in different months, they celebrate many of the same things: life, death, and harvest. The seasons are different – July and the Māori New Year are winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and the Pleiades are rising shortly before sunrise. October and Samhain are late fall in the Northern Hemisphere, and the Pleiades are directly overhead at midnight.

I love celestial links between completely different cultures. I’m not sure how much farther apart you can get than the Celtics and Māori! But, as exciting as this is — now it is time to move onward.

As always, there are plenty of other constellations and objects in the night sky, and a few other Planets deserve at least a little of your attention.

Venus will be quite noticeable as the Morning Star just before sunrise. Mercury is there too, but much harder to spot.

Speaking of hard to spot, Pluto is in the constellation Sagittarius – in fact if you saw the Supermoon last week it was just beside the Moon. Not that you would have seen Pluto, you’d need a dark sky and a great telescope for that, but it is worth mentioning today because in just under a year … about 363 days if my math is correct … on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will make its closest approach, flying by Pluto for the first even vaguely-close views of this contentious dwarf planet.

If you’re ready to take out your telescope or do some photography of the night sky, now is a good time to check out Omega Centauri, Eta Carina, the Tarantula Nebula, and the Trifid Nebula. Both Omega Centauri and Eta Carina are visible in good conditions to the naked eye, and using binoculars or a telescope will let you see detail. The Tarantula and Trifid nebulas require a telescope or a camera with a delayed shutter to see.

Lastly, let’s just do a quick overview of the upcoming Moon Phases:

The last quarter moon is Jul 19. For the week around the last quarter moon it is visible in the early morning sky.

The day of the new moon, July 26 or 27 (depending on your time zone), you won’t see the Moon at all, but a few days before or after you might see a tiny sliver of a crescent Moon in the mid-day sky

The first quarter moon, August 4, is ideal for late afternoon and early evening observation.

The full moon on August 10 or 11 (again, the time zone thing) rises around sunset, and sets around sunrise.

Well! Thanks for tuning in, I hope I gave you some things to keep your eyes peeled for. I’ll add some of my favorite stargazing planning links to the end of the transcript for you. If you have suggestions for additions to “What’s up tonight, Southern Skies Edition,” please leave them in the comments!

Once again, I’m Alice from Alice’s AstroInfo. You can find me online as AlicesAstroInfo on Twitter, Facebook, and www.alicesastroinfo.com. Keep your eyes high!

Thanks very much to a few advisors: Jonas Goodwin at @JonasGoodwin on Twitter, and the staff at Beverly Begg Observatory in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Useful Links:

Heavens-Above Starcharts for anywhere, anytime, not installation required

Stellarium Free planetarium-style program for your computer or tablet

7Timer – Clear sky charts (will it be clear enough for stargazing?). Input your location, then click on “ASTRO” in the pop-up.

Māori New Year and Matariki reference

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Astrosphere New Media. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. In the new year the 365 Days of Astronomy project will be something different than before….Until then…goodbye

About Alice Enevoldsen

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