Astronomy 2018 – Inside the cover
Astronomy 2018 has 3 clear parts so you can easily find the information you need.
– Part I is a general quick reference for those wishing to see which planets are up and when to observe them. This section is ideal for those just starting their exploration of the night sky. Sky View diagrams are an easy way to spot the planets and see the constellations while the All Sky Maps will allow you to cover the entire night sky visible from the Southern Hemisphere.A detailed Moon Map also supplied. You can easily identify prominent features visible with small scopes.
– Part II leans more heavily towards the needs of the seasoned amateur with detailed information about the Solar System. Rise and set times, information about eclipses, occultations, transits, Jupiter’s moon events, Pluto finder charts, minor planet positions, comets and meteor showers.
– Part III, the appendices, includes sections on astronomical places of interest and amateur societies, ideal for the beginner.
Quasar Publishing has been producing these annual publications since 1991 – written by Australians for Australians.
If you open Astronomy 2018 to the tables of numbers in the back of the Yearbook, it may seem a little daunting. You don’t need them when starting out. Nor do you need a telescope to discover the most spectacular show nature has to offer, the night sky. You just need this book to guide you along on your voyage of discovery of the Universe.
The first part of this book, the ‘Monthly Sections’, has the most to offer the novice.
Is this useful for where I live?
The information in Part I is useful for anywhere in eastern and central Australia (some of it is common for the world). The change in the appearance of the sky between cities and towns – even across a country as vast as Australia – is not large. The rise/set graphs are useful since they give an approximate local time of rising and setting – no matter where you live!
Times used are Australian Eastern Standard Time (in Part I) with no adjustment for daylight saving time.
Part I is a quick reference section for anyone who wants a summary of tonight’s sky, without having to refer to lengthy, complicated tables. Precise data, like the exact rise/set time or position (RA and Declination) of the planets is contained in Part II.
What Can Astronomy 2018 Help Me See?
The night sky regularly puts on displays for us called conjunctions. Since the planets, including Earth, are moving round the Sun, their positions change constantly with respect to the background stars. As seen in the sky, the planets seem to pass by each other and bright stars. When a planet is near another, the Moon or a star, it’s called a conjunction. When the Moon joins the scene, it’s a wonderful sight.
Conjunctions can be spectacular events. This is simply a chance alignment of celestial bodies. They only look close together; in space they are still separated by enormous distances. Conjunctions are fun to watch, free, and entertaining. The equipment needed to see conjunctions? You guessed it… nothing!
When will it happen?
Astronomy 2018 shows the best times to see conjunctions in the Sky View diagrams (there are four such drawings for each month). Each Sky View shows you an area of the sky that contains a conjunction or another interesting feature. The horizon is shown at the bottom of most Sky Views along with any useful notes. At the top of each Sky View is the date you should look. Since the planets move fairly slowly in the sky, many conjunctions occur over a number of days. This means you can often see the planets and stars starting to take their ‘places’ days before, and then drift apart for days after the event.
The Moon is the only exception. It moves quite a bit each day against the background stars. This is why the Moon’s position for more than one day is sometimes shown on the same diagram. All the planets visible in a Sky View are labelled, as are the brighter stars.
To use a Sky View, simply go outside under the night sky at the time given and face the direction shown on the Sky View horizon. What you see in the Sky View will be a temporary map of the sky in front of you. Incidentally, if you don’t know the directions around your house, use a street directory to show you which way is north.
Other celestial events
There is more to the night sky than conjunctions. There are meteor showers, comets, minor planets (asteroids) and constellations. Not to mention the fascinating movements of the planets as they wander against the background stars. All are described in Part I of this book.
Part I is divided into months. At the beginning of each monthly section is a curious looking graph called a rise/set chart. This series of squiggly lines is your guide to knowing when the planets, Sun and Moon rise and set. To use the chart, simply look at the current date on the bottom of the chart and follow that line upward until it intersects the object of interest. The rise or set time of the object can now be read on the left-hand edge of the chart. Incidentally, when you see objects rising or setting together look for a Sky View on that date.
Each of these monthly sections also has diagrams showing the relative size and appearance of each planet, as seen through a telescope. There is also a description of celestial happenings and highlights – kind of like a celestial movie goer’s guide – and in plain English! Want to know what Venus is up to in March? The description will tell you. A diary of events is also included that summarises the month’s features. Some of the celestial events covered in Astronomy 2018 require a pair of binoculars or a telescope.
What equipment do I need?
There is one piece of equipment that every sky watcher should have – a red astronomy torch. The aim is to preserve your night vision, or ‘dark adaptation’. When your eyes become used to the dark, they won’t react to a red light and so you can use the charts and illustrations and still enjoy the night sky.
While on the subject of lights, make sure as many lights as possible near your observing site are turned off. The less glare around you the easier it will be to enjoy the night sky. Encourage neighbours to turn off their outside lights, too. A major modern threat to the night sky is light pollution; stray light scatters upward into the night sky where it drowns out the stars. So, the more lights we all turn off, the less light pollution, the more power we save and the less natural resources we consume. Perhaps it is time the environmentalists had a look at this. After all, it is the only form of pollution where it costs less to fix!
Get a good Planisphere
The Sky Views don’t show all the sky. By their very nature they mostly concentrate on the ecliptic or zodiac regions of the sky i.e., where the planets and Moon wander. A good companion to this publication would be a basic star atlas or a planisphere. These will show all of the sky, but not the Sun, Moon and planets because they move. The planisphere is useful by showing at a glance all of the constellations visible at the time you are observing. Exploring the sky with a planisphere you will be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to recognise a few of the constellations. These star patterns will quickly become familiar and will soon be like old friends.
Part II of Astronomy 2018 contains more specialised data generally designed for the more experienced enthusiast. The novice however should not miss the appendices. If you wish to pursue the hobby further, the authors strongly recommend that beginners check out the local amateur community. Learn from these experts and look through their equipment, before spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a telescope that may not suit you or your needs. The public observatories, mobile planetariums and courses can also be great resources. Use them.