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Night Sky, Christchurch 3am 14 Dec

The Geminid meteors are at their peak on 14/15th December. The meteors appear to come from the radiant, in this case, a point in the sky in the constellation of Gemini.

Best viewing in New Zealand is between 1am and dawn on Dec 14th and 15th. The constellation of Orion is easy to spot – see above. The radiant is to the right of and below Orion, almost due north, about 10 degrees above the horizon. If you live in a city, you’ll get a better view by travelling north, so the glow of the city lights is behind you.

There’s a lunar eclipse visible in New Zealand on December 21st. The eclipse starts at 6:28pm NZ Daylight Saving time, with the total eclipse starting at 8:41pm, maximum at 9:17pm and ending at 9:53pm. The eclipse is completely over at 12:06am.

For most of New Zealand the total eclipse will have already started by the time the moon rises. Moonrise is 8.36pm in Auckland, 9:06pm in Christchurch and 9.36pm in Invercargill.

Friday nights in winter, the Townsend Observatory in the Christchurch Arts Center is open from 8 pm, weather permitting, for anyone to view the night sky through their 6″ telescope. The ‘scope itself is a seriously cool contraption – interesting to look at in its own right, as well as for what you can see through it. Built in 1864, it is an equatorially mounted refractor, with a mechanical weight drive.

The observatory is in a tower located in the South Quad of the Christchurch Arts Center, accesible by some rather steep, winding, narrow stairs. There is a dome on the tower that retracts and then rotates.

Each year a student from the Physics and Astronomy department at the University of Canterbury is appointed the Townsend observer. Typically several students show up each Friday to point the scope at the objects of note, and to provide information and answer questions.

Also notable is the old fashioned orrery on view part of the way up into the tower. This is a Copernican Planetarium, which shows the  movement of the planets relative to each other and the sun.

Recommended.

Galaxies intersecting

Flickr Photos

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