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The past weeks haven’t been happy ones for Dunedin stargazers。 Evening weather since Christmas has been dreadful, with few clear nights。 With time off over the holiday period, and feeling astronomical withdrawal symptoms, I decided a stargazing road trip was in order。。。
As darkness falls this week, there’s a fine celestial display in the south-western sky as the planet Mercury pops into view and sails past Saturn。 With the sun setting at about 9pm there really is no excuse for local stargazers not to hotfoot it to a local beauty spot with a good view to the south-west and enjoy the spectacle。 Once the sun has set, the planet Venus will be the first object you will see as the sky darkens。 Often mistaken for an unidentified flying object, the second planet from the sun is spectacularly bright; at sunset it stands just about twenty degrees (or one handspan at arm’s length)。。。
The moon reaches first quarter next Sunday (9 October) at 5.33pm, so moonlight won’t be a huge distraction for Otago stargazers this week. This gives us an excellent opportunity to explore and learn about some fascinating constellations visible in the northern sky after sunset this time of year.
My aim in writing these posts is to encourage you to enjoy something interesting in the night sky – sometimes it’s a lunar eclipse, at others it might be a close approach between planets, or (as last week) a particularly beautiful celestial object like the lagoon nebula. Amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, it can be easy to forget the simple pleasure of stargazing. Yet, when conditions are right, the combination of a crystal-clear sky and stunning Otago landscape can make for moments of transcendental splendour. I was reminded of this recently whilst driving around Hoopers Inlet, one of my favourite local astronomical stomping grounds. The night was still, the...
As a keen chaser of lunar eclipses, it’s been a big disappointment that this year there’s been a real paucity of good events。 So far during 2016, skywatchers in this part of the world have “enjoyed” only a couple of barely-visible lunar eclipses。。。
Something a tad more exciting than the impending change of season has put considerable bounce into my normally staid astronomical gait this past week。 The splendid display of the aurora australis I witnessed last Saturday evening has much to do with this。。。
Approaching winter, we get ready to celebrate Matariki, the Māori New Year. Down south in Dunedin, we also celebrate Puaka (known as Punaga up north), and this year will be the 8th annual Puaka Matariki Festival.
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