Shallow Sky (Solar System) Section

Star trails

Section Director: Clyde Foster
Activity areas: Sun, Moon, Planets, SatellitesAsteroids, Comets, Meteors, Occultations.
Specialists & Collaborators: Tim Cooper, Brian Fraser, Lee Labuschagne, Greg Roberts, Jim Knight
Contact us: [ shallowskyassa.saao.ac.za ]

Jupiter – latest photo

  • The giant planet Jupiter is becoming visible in the east during the evening as it approaches opposition on 10 June. It will remain well placed for evening observation for the next few months. The cloud belts and famous Great Red Spot (a huge, long-lived, anti-cyclonic storm system) are detectable in relatively small telescopes, although larger telescopes, combined with modern day imaging techniques show substantial detail. This image captured from Centurion, Gauteng by Clyde Foster using Celestron 14” Edge HD telescope, ZWO ASI290MM camera.
  • Current and upcoming events

      • 2019 March 1 – Visible in our evening skies is C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto). A near-parabolic comet with a retrograde orbit discovered on December 20, 2018 by Japanese amateur
        astronomer Masayuki Iwamoto. It passed closest to Earth on February 13, 2019. It is
        expected to reach a magnitude of between 6.5 and 7.5, visible in binoculars or a small telescope.  Imaged on February 22nd 2019 from Pearly Beach, Western Cape
        by Kos Coronaios.

    Poor conditions, lots of haze and low level cloud moving in and out of the target area. No moisture at ground level but certainly up at altitude. Comet was not visible in the finder scope, camera viewfinder, live view, or in binoculars (12×50). Could not see it at the eyepiece probably due to the camera not 100% aligned with the OTA and did not want to move the scope during the short imaging session that I had. And then the clouds really rolled in! With the Moon heading towards last quarter I’m hoping for some good clear skies down here with some mag. observations to add.

    • 2016 September 16 – Penumbral Lunar eclipse. Note that as this is a penumbral eclipse, only the outer Earth shadow will cross the Moon and as a result the eclipse may not be obvious to the naked eye.
    • 2016 October 3 – Moon is near Venus in the evening sky
    • 2016 October 6 – Moon is near Saturn in the evening sky
    • 2016 October 8 – International Observe the Moon Night. ASSA is currently looking at various initiatives for this evening, including the possibility of live streaming.
    • Orionids Meteor shower. This meteor shower is typically active from 2 October until 7 November, with the peak meteor rate being observed about the 21 October and best between midnight and 4.00am. Unfortunately conditions are not good this year for observing this shower.

    Recent Events

    • The partial eclipse of the Sun on Thursday,  September 01 2016. This was the only solar eclipse visible from southern Africa this year. In fact, it was visible from almost anywhere in Africa (except the very northernmost parts), and seen from central Africa and Madagascar it would be annular. This rare event was a wonderful opportunity to witness the solar system in action, as the Moon slid in front of the Sun. Using simple materials, the progress of the eclipse – which lasted more or less 2 hours – could be watched, shown to family and friends, and shared with the world. Further information is available on the ASSA Eclipse 2016 page
    • Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter August 27th 2016. The separation of the pair on the 28th August 2016, at 18:49 (SAST) was 15′ 07.2” (just over a quarter of a degree). At their absolute minimum, the two planets had a separation of 4′ (arcminutes) at 21:47 (SAST), but would have been below the horizon for South African observers at this point.
    • Past events are archived on the ASSA website archive.

    Observing Guides

    1. How to observe the Sun.
    2. How to observe the Moon.
    3. How to observe the planets.
    4. How to observe satellites.
    5. How to observe asteroids.
    6. How to observe comets.
    7. How to observe meteors.
    8. How to observe occultations.

    Recipients of 2016 ASSA Shallow Sky Awards

    • Observing Certificate (Solar and Sunspot): Richard Ford

    Information about ASSA Awards and previous award winners can be found on the ASSA Awards page.