What’s up in Space

KNOW YOUR NIGHT SKIES : THE WEEK'S NIGHT SKY

OUR SOLAR SYSTEM

Enjoy the night sky each week, as we give you the latest on stargazing. 

SEE WITH THE NAKED EYE 

  • The Sun is in the zodiacal constellations of Leo, and then moves into Virgo on the 17th of September where it stays until October 31st. It sets around 6:04 pm and rises around 6:32 am.
  • This week, the Moon is a waxing gibbous, going from a full moon on the 14th of September to a last quarter on the 22nd of September.  
  • Mercury is in Leo. Is 207 million kilometres from Earth, about 12 light minutes away.
  • Venus is in Virgo and rises around 06:56AM, is very close to the Sun and not visible. Is at 255 million kilometres from Earth or about 14 light minutes. 
  • Mars is visually in the zodiacal constellation Leo, at a distance of 399 million kilometres, or just about 22 light minutes away, so communication with the red planet is very delayed now. 
  • Jupiter rises around 10:36AM, and is in the constellation of Ophiuchus at a real distance of 777 million kilometres or about 43 light minutes from Earth.
  • Saturn is visually in Sagittarius, and 1429 million kilometres away or 78 light minutes (1 hour and 30 mins away approx). 

Jupiter and Saturn from Wellington this time of the year. Credit @Space_Samuel

SEE WITH BINOCULARS AND TELESCOPE

  •  Uranus is in Aries. It has a visual magnitude of +5.8 so under a very dark sky and if you have amazingly good eyes you might be able to see it, with the naked eye. It’s at 2866 million kilometres from Earth or about 2 hours and 40 light minutes away approx. 
  • Neptune is in Aquarius at 4327 million kilometres from Earth. It takes light approximately 4 hours to reach us from Neptune.  At a visual magnitude of +7.8 you will need binoculars or telescopes to see it. 
  • Pluto in Sagittarius. We cannot see Pluto with the naked eye, as it has a magnitude of 14.2 is 4983 million kilometres away, at about 273 light minutes – more than 4 hours and 30 light 

Of course none of the planets make light of their own, what we see are the features of each planet illuminated by the light from the Sun that gets reflected by our Solar System companions.

After dark adaption and under the very best observing conditions, the average limiting magnitude of the human eye is about magnitude 6.5. 

STARS

Milky Way’s centre is flanked by Jupiter and Saturn and visible at sunset high in the northern part of the sky, the edge of our galaxy is towards the constellation Orion visible in the morning sky. 
Bright stars on the ecliptic are Regulus in Leo and Spica in Virgo and Antares in Scorpius. 

If you wish to attend a detailed presentation about the night sky, come every first Tuesday of the month to Astronomy on Tap. During these evenings we extend our live sky presentation and go deeper into space. This is a great opportunity to share thoughts and findings with other people interested in space over a refreshments and nibbles.

PODCASTS

Simon Morris from Radio New Zealand talks to Geoffrey Batchen and to our Senior Science Communicator Haritina Mogoșanu. Art historian Geoffrey Batchen has curated Live from the Moon selecting from images that were transmitted to Earth from the Moon. 

WHAT'S IN THE NIGHT SKY?

Listen here to the southern hemisphere night sky which is part of The Jodcast – a volunteer podcast about astronomy set up by astronomers based at the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank aiming to cover astronomy carried out all over the Earth and beyond.

 

DEEP SKY STARGAZING

 

There are beautiful objects you can see in the night sky, some are circumpolar and some are seasonal.

  • An in-depth look at the area between the Southern Cross and the Magellanic Clouds here.
  • Binocular Objects between Southern Cross and the Diamond Cross here.

From Wellington it is always a great time to learn the main asterisms (groupings of stars) that make the main constellations since our light pollution does allow us to observe only the brightest stars.

You can also observe craters on the Moon – here is a comprehensive map of it by Google Moon. 

Milky Way’s centre is now rising around 2:00 PM and it will be visible after sunset. In September, in the evenings, you will find the Southern Cross in the south western part of the sky. So just after sunset is at 3 o’clock position heading down followed by The Pointers. Canopus would be at the same time grazing the southern horizon so hard to see from hilly wellington. Achernar and the two Magellanic Clouds would be in the south eastern part of the sky.  

THE MOON

On average, the Moon rises or, if it’s already in the sky, sets about 50 minutes later than the previous day, every day.

New Moon: Sunday 29 September 07:26:33AM

First Quarter: Sunday 6 October 05:47:24AM

Full Moon: Saturday 14 September 4:32:40 PM

Last Quarter: Sunday 22 September 02:41:10 PM 

 

Data compiled with Sky Safari Pro

LAST WORD FROM SPACE PLACE

Keep an eye out for our astronomy and space courses coming up, details are in our What’s On section. We will start another Stargazing 101 course in the last quarter of the year. If you wish to attend, contact Space Place and put your name on the waiting list. 

At Space Place, we open our telescope for viewings every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday night if the weather is on our side. Alternatively, the planetarium live shows is a great place to see our current night skies.  Let us know how it went, or if you have any questions by visiting our Facebook, or Instagram.

Clear skies for the week ahead!

OPENING HOURS

Open 3 Late nights & weekends

Tuesday:  4pm – 11pm*
Friday: 4pm – 11pm*
Saturday: 10am –  11pm*
Sunday: 10am – 5:30pm*

*Last entry is 10pm and 5pm

Last entry at 5pm and 10pm

Closed Monday, Wednesday, Thursday

School bookings available Monday-Friday during school hours.

Closed on Christmas day

During school holidays we are open 7 days

ADMISSION PRICES

Adult: $14

Gold Card Holder / NZ Student (NZ ID required): $12

Child (4-16 years): $9

Preschool Child (0-3 years): Free

Family (2 adults and up to 3 children): $45

Friends of Museum Wellington: Free

Please note that children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult at all times. 

Bookings are essential for all schools and tour groups.

PARKING

Parking is available at Skyline car park, located on Upland Road (charges apply). There are limited parking spaces outside Space Place reserved especially for mobility permit holders.

CONTACT US

HOW TO FIND US

40 Salamanca Rd, Kelburn, Wellington 6012 located at the top of the Cable Car, just a short stroll from the terminus.

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