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Auke Slotegraaf has provided a nicely designed southern hemisphere* star wheel (planisphere), which can be downloaded, for free, from here. The charts were compiled as a contribution to the International Year of Astronomy (2009). There are several different versions included in the pdf:

  • Bright Stars (only the brightest stars, typically visible from light-polluted urban areas)
  • Indigenous Stars (some of the stars recorded by the indigenous peoples of southern Africa)
  • Advanced Disk 1 (showing all constellations visible, stars down to 4th magnitude, and the brightest deep sky objects)
  • Advanced Disk 2 (same as above, but without labels and constellation lines)

The southern star wheel, by Auke Slotegraaf

You insert the chart you want to view within an outline ‘envelope’, where you choose the relevant date and time. As with many topics, getting started is probably hardest – once you know one constellation, it becomes easier to learn the adjacent ones. You might want to start with the Southern Cross and Orion.

A star atlas or software (e.g. StarMap HD on iPad) can also serve the same purpose (and more), but it is sometimes nice to have a light, portable, un-breakable version.

Star Atlas, by Wil Tirion.

It can also be interesting to print off the first or last charts of the star wheel, those without writing, and use them to make and name your own constellations – kind of like a d.i.y. dot-to-dot pattern.

*We have not really looked through the possibilities for northern hemisphere versions, but Sky and Telescope have one here.

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The Transit of Venus in 2012 is this wednesday. we have our solar viewing filters, a solar filter for our 5-inch Celestron telescope and iPhone apps (also Android),

but the weather forecast is not promising.

The University of Canterbury is hosting a public Transit of Venus open day on the 6th 10am-4.30pm. An information sheet and the link to the live web feed is on the University’s Physics and Astronomy page http://www.phys.canterbury.ac.nz/

But looks like we’ll had to make do with live coverage from the Mt John observatory here http://www.phys.canterbury.ac.nz/venus_transit/ and the international SLOOH Space Camera is here http://www.slooh.com/transit-of-venus/ Also Fraser Cain and Pamela Gay will have virtual star party on Google+. Or NASA

Anyway this is what the sun looked like today – might be the last we see of it till after the event

 

transit of Venus is coming. Only seven times since the invention of the telescope has Venus crossed the face of the Sun.

It’s a rare event because the orbit of Venus around the Sun is slightly inclined to Earth’s. So Venus appears to pass above or below the Sun’s disk. But periodically, when the Sun, Venus and Earth line up, Venus is in the plane of the Earth’s orbit and then you see Venus cross the Sun’s disk.

The transits occur in a regular pattern, every 8 years, 121.5 years, 8 years and 105.5 years. The last was in 2004, the next is in 2012 and the one after that in 2117.

In New Zealand we’re perfectly placed to see the next event. In Christchurch, Venus will be within the Sun’s disk between 10:33 and 16:25 on 6 June 2012. You can check out the timing at your location on this website.

Keep in mind you can’t just look at the Sun directly, or through a telescope! Putting it another way, never view the sun with the naked eye or with any optical device, such as binoculars or a telescope.