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January 2021

Hunting Spectres on the Moon

As the line of day & night (the terminator) falls across the Moon, sunlight glints off terrain of high relief while leaving lower regions bathed in shadow. This interplay of light and dark can create striking and short-lived features, known as “clair-obscur effects”.

Some of these lunar moments have evocative names, such as “Cassini’s Moon Maiden” and “Gruithuisen’s Lunar City”.
The visibility of these fleeting events depends on the underlying terrain, the angle of the Sun’s light, and, of course, the visibility of the Moon from your location.

In the 2021 edition of the Sky Guide, the astronomical handbook for southern Africa, predictions are given for the visibility of the “Lunar X” (p 6). The effect occurs during each lunar month, but only the event on 2021 January 20 will be visible from South Africa.

Clair-obscur guru Dana Thompson has kindly also supplied information about spotting the “Curtiss Cross”. This effect was first recorded on 1956 November 26, by astronomy enthusiast Robert E. Curtiss (New Mexico, USA). The distinct formation lies near the crater Copernicus (see accompanying photographs).

During 2021, there are three opportunities to witness this spectral sight: 2021 April 06, June 04, and November 28.
Happy hunting!

2021 Jan 07 09:08
2021 Feb 05 23:42
2021 Mar 07 13:44
2021 Apr 06* 02:53
2021 May 05 15:04
2021 Jun 04* 02:28
2021 Jul 03 13:24
2021 Aug 02 00:20
2021 Aug 31 11:42
2021 Sep 29 23:48
2021 Oct 29 12:50
2021 Nov 28* 02:44
2021 Dec 27 17:14

Times in SAST

* Visible from         South Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 


21 December 2020 – Great Conjunction

Photo by Angus Burns, Newcastle KZN


14 December 2020 – Solar Eclipse


‘Star of Bethlehem ‘ to light up SA skies – A bit of celestial wonder to end the year.

Prepare to witness a celestial event that’s been dubbed the “star of Bethlehem” in our night skies in the coming weeks. Dr Daniel Cunnama, a science engagement astronomer at the South African Astronomical Observatory, confirmed that a spectacular conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on 21st December will be visible in South Africa. “You can look to the West just after sunset and you will see them over the next two weeks”.

According to the BBC’s Sky at Night magazine, the closest giant planetary “kiss” since 1623 will see gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn just 0,06° apart.

“Our Solar System’s two gas giant planets have been edging closer in recent months, and on Monday, December 21 Jupiter and Saturn will be less than a degree apart in the night sky,” says the magazine.

The spectacular sight will be visible in clear skies across the world. Sky at Night said Jupiter and  Saturn won’t really be close to each other at all. “In fact, on that date — which also just happens to be the date of the December solstice — Saturn will be about twice as far from Earth as Jupiter will be.

“However, our line of sight from Earth will suggest otherwise, as we all get to witness (clear skies allowing) the closest planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that most of us are ever going to see. “Saturn and Jupiter appear to pass close to each other, as seen from Earth, every 20 years, and when they do we call it a ‘great conjunction’.”

If you see it, count yourself lucky.


Fireball Sighting Cape Town – 5th December 21:39

Dean Kűbler of Cape Town just witnessed an extraordinary fireball / meteorite sighting at Sunset Beach in Cape Town.

At approx 21:39 on Saturday 5th December, he witnessed a glorious fireball, which seemed quite big / close ( in comparison to any stars or any usual light object such as aircraft) streak across the night sky, traveling in a NNE direction over Sunset Beach. The fireball was preceded with what seemed to be quite a trailing fire and sparks. He observed it for about a solid second, it disappeared for a split second and then reappeared for another second or two, almost in a flashing / streaking manner.

Dean says “It is indeed a first for me to have observed such a moment and I would be keen to find out if any other peoples observed same, or even better, if details could be passed on about the meteorite”.


2021 Sky Guide Africa South

Now available from ASSA Centres or if you join as a country member


A Bit of Sky Guide History

The first edition of this Sky Guide was published in 1946 and was known as the Astronomical Handbook for Southern Africa. It consisted of 12 pages and was available for 1/6 from Juta and Co., Darling Street, Cape Town. Dr Richard Hugh Stoy of the Royal Observatory carried out most of the calculations, assisted by Mr Reginald de Kock, Dr Alan Cousins and other members of staff. In 1957 the book was redesigned and most of the calculations were performed by the Transvaal Centre’s Computing Section. In 1962 the Handbook was sold for 25 cents, and the Royal Observatory was again responsible for generating the data. In 1974, Dr Tony Fairall at the UCT Astronomy Department took over as editor. The next 13 issues were edited by Mr Rupert Hurly until Ms Pat Booth took over in 1990. During 2003, a committee consisting of Auke Slotegraaf, Maciej Soltynski and Cliff Turk, assisted by many helpers, redesigned the Handbook. After much deliberation the name was changed to the Sky Guide.


Big 5 of the African Sky

Published 2017 June 23
The Big 5 of the African Sky – the five best deep-sky objects – are beautifully placed at this time of year for observing.

Find out more about the Big 5 and how to observe them and also how to qualify for this beautiful personalized mug!