Perth Observatory Newsletter | September 2021

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EDITOR'S NOTE by James Chesters September 2021 Welcome to Perth Observatory's Spring Equinox newsletter. Perth Observatory Volunteer Group acknowledges we operate on the traditional lands of the Whadjuk-Noongar people. As we move into the season of Kambarang in the Noongar calendar, the Perth Hills are alive with wildflowers. There are more than 12,000 species of wildflowers in Western Australia, so it's an excellent excuse to come visit us for a Sunday guided day tour.

PERTH OBSERVATORY 337 Walnut Rd Bickley WA 6076

However, the best views at the observatory are at night. In this edition of the newsletter, find out what's up where and when in the night sky from our star master Matt Woods. Over the next few months, we've got everything from planetary alignments and lunar eclipses to meteor showers, galaxies, and nebulas to show you. There's one thing you can say about our starry southern sky: it never gets boring. Also in this Spring Equinox edition of the newsletter, we have events a-plenty. Join us for Cosmoscon next month, celebrating Perth Observatory's 125th birthday, along with some very special and spooky events in October. Not to be missed in November is Astrofest, one of the busiest days of the year for Perth Observatory volunteers. We hope we'll see you at Western Australia's oldest observatory for an event or a tour soon. Kalamunda has long been an important meeting place for Noongar people, and our local area contains campsites and spiritual sites used from pre-contact to the present day. POVG pay our respects to Noongar Elders past, present.

CONTACT US Perth Observatory PO Box 179 Kalamunda WA 6926 (08) 9293 8255




2021's Meteor showers

James Chesters

Contributors Dr Colin Armstrong


Dr Craig Bowers Jay Chesters

Starting with the faint and fast Orionids in October, through to the Geminids in December, several key meteor showers mark the end of 2021.

Julie Matthews Matt Woods Paul Wadham

minor planet named after perth astronomer

Zoe Fraussen


The International Astronomical Union has officially named a minor planet after Dr Craig Bowers.

is there life on venus?


Venus is often described as a hellhole. Recent reports that it might show signs of possible life are very surprising.

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geminids meteor shower night

28 Come on, Get Social

Join us on December 14 and witness the Southern Hemisphere’s best meteor shower of the year.

A VIEW THROUGH THE EYEPIECE POVG CHAIR DR COLIN ARMSTRONG Summer is an excellent time for visiting Perth Observatory – and there is so much to see in the coming months. In this edition of the newsletter, Matt Woods does an excellent job reporting everything happening in the fantastic southern night sky in the coming months. There are meteor showers, a lunar eclipse, conjunctions between the Moon and planets, and so much more. We can’t wait to show them all to you. We are also excited for a cornucopia of events happening on the hill at Bickley; there’s something for everyone. From spooky events in October to a gas giants photography workshop with the esteemed Roger Groom, from the Geminids Meteor Shower night to a Doctor Who night tour. If nights aren’t easy for you to do, we’re still open every Sunday for day tours of Perth Observatory and grounds, including our nowfamous fairy doors. I’m delighted to be celebrating the achievement of Perth Observatory’s honorary historian, Dr Craig Bowers, who has had a minor planet named after him. Not many people can say they have planets named in their honour! Behind the scenes, the observatory is a hive of activity, as always.

Countless hours of work have gone into the new Perth Observatory website. Now live, it's sleeker, faster and better than ever. A big thank you goes to Matt Woods and Roger Groom for their efforts making this possible. Speaking of new things, we recently received the final draft of the plan for our renovated museum. We're also working on producing for you a 'digital museum' that we will be displaying while the physical museum is temporarily closed for the renovations. The new museum's plans are being kept closely under wraps at the moment, but I hope to be able to share them with you all in the next Perth Observatory Newsletter. Watch this space! This quarter's newsletter is packed full of pages and pages of great content for you to enjoy. Thanks to our editor-in-chief, Jay Chesters, for another great edition. I hope to see you all soon under the stars at Western Australia’s oldest observatory!


2021'S METEOR SHOWERS by Jay Chesters From October through December several key meteor showers mark the end of 2021. Starting with the faint and fast Orionids in October, through to the bold and bright Geminids in December there's lots happening in the sky. Get away from the city lights, find somewhere dark, then sit back and watch the skies. Read on for more info, taken from our meteor files.

Perth Observatory Meteor Shower Fact File 2021 Meteor Shower: The Draconids Peak: Just before nightfall, Oct 8 What to expect: Not much - but European observers saw over 600 meteors per hour in 2011 Are they bright? Draconids are a bright meteor shower What's the Moon doing? The thin waxing crescent moon sets before nightfall. Slow or fast? Draconids are slow meteors, reaching about 20km/s Where to look: Meteors seem to come from constellation of Draco, the Dragon Meteor Shower: The Taurids Peak: Around midnight, Nov 12 What to expect: Average around 5 meteors per hour, with some bright fireballs Will they be bright? Taurids can be as bright as the Moon, leaving smoke trails What's the Moon doing? The first quarter moon sets at late night, meaning dark skies from roughly midnight till dawn Slow or fast? Taurids are slow, coming in around 28 km/s Where to look: Meteors seem to come from constellation of Taurus Meteor Shower: The Orionids Peak: Before dawn, Oct 21 What to expect: Average 10 - 20 yellowish-green meteors per hour Are they bright? Orionids are slightly faint but many leave persistent trails What's the Moon doing? The Moon is full this year, so there isn't much to see Slow or fast? Orionids are extremely fast, plummeting into the Earth’s atmosphere at about 66km/s Where to look: Meteors seem to come from the constellation of Orion

Meteor Shower: The Leonids Peak: Before dawn, Nov 17 What to expect: Average 10 - 15 greenish meteors per hour Are they bright? Larger Leonids are known for producing bright meteors What's the Moon doing? Expect light pollution from the bright waxing gibbous moon nearly all night Slow or fast? Leonids are extremely fast, hitting our atmosphere at around 72km/s Where to look: Meteors seem to come from constellation of Leo Meteor Shower: The Geminids Peak: After midnight, Dec 13/14 What to expect: Average around 120 meteors per hour Are they bright? Geminids are bold and bright What's the Moon doing? Expect light pollution from waxing gibbous moon, setting early hours before dawn Slow or fast? Geminids are pretty slow, clocking in at around 35 km/s Where to look: Meteors seem to come from constellation of Gemini


Astrofest returns for 2021 this November with a free, astronomically awesome event. Taking place at Curtin Stadium on Saturday, November 13, this astronomy festival of epic proportions will be an engaging celebration of Australian science. As well as optical and radio telescopes observing throughout the day and night, Astrofest will feature a myriad of interesting, engaging and exciting indoor and outdoor activities for the whole family. There will also be many different telescopes to try out, or you can bring your own for some expert advice in getting the most out of it. Bring an early supper and make yourself comfortable in the picnic area Click here, or on the video below, and see how amazing Astrofest is!

Price: FREE! Location: Curtin University Stadium Date: Saturday, November 13 Time: 17:30

Photos and video credit: Astronomy WA Astrofest



VIRTUAL STAR PARTIES hosted by Matt Woods Tune in this October as the marvellous Matt Woods presents a live stream from one of our telescopes, showing off our amazing Southern sky. Join us! The virtual star party starts 20:00 (AWST). Click the links below and sign up now. Image Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA

Image Credit & Copyright: Kent Wood

Perth Observatory's Virtual Star Party

Perth Observatory's Virtual Star Party

Wednesday, 9 October 2021

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Register here - free!

Register here - free!

COSMOSCON Celebrate the cosmos at Perth Observatory! This years’ celebration coincides with the grand old observatory's125th Anniversary. Come along, bring the family, and enjoy all the fun of a day of astronomy and excitement. It will be a fun-filled day packed with heaps of entertaining things for the whole family, including: Solar viewing Kids astronomy activities Interactive games Viewing of our Historical Domes Telescope tours Live music Astronomy talks Exploring historical artefacts Food vans and fun snacks


This is a strictly ticketed event, get yours now before they sell out. Book here:

Price: Family: $55 (2 adults, up to 3 children) Adult: $20 Concession: $15 Child (Ages 5 to 17): $10

Location: Perth Observatory Date: October 2 Time: Choose from three entry times 10:00, 14:00, and 18:00



Mercury disappears into the Sun’s glare after three nights this October, before it reappears in the early morning at the end of October. It's unfortunately hard to see because it's both very low on the horizon and close to the Sun’s glare. Mercury reaches its greatest elongation in the east on October 25 and begins making its way back towards the Sun. Venus joins Mercury in the western early evening sky in the constellation of Libra (The Scales) at the start of October, moving through Scorpius (The Scorpion) and into Ophiuchus (the serpent-bearer) during the month.

By the end of October, Jupiter is setting at 02:01 and Saturn will at 01:11. You should look for Uranus in Aries (The Ram) in the evening this month. At the beginning of October, Uranus is rising at 22:59 and by the end of the month, Uranus rises at 21:02. Neptune is viewable as in the evening between the constellations of Aquarius and Pisces (The Fish). At the start of October, Neptune sets at 05:16 (AWST) and at 03:20 (AWST) by the end of the month.

Venus reaches its greatest elongation in the west on October 30 and begins its journey back towards the Sun. Jupiter and Saturn are high in the evening sky in the constellation of Capricornus (the seagoat). At the beginning of October, Jupiter sets at 04:00 (AWST) and Saturn at 03:08.

All images credit: Stellarium Mercury's greatest elongation in the east on 25/10/2021

Mercury on 15/07/21 at 06:30

Venus's greatest elongation in the west on 30/10/2021

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune on 15/10/21

Venus on 15/10/21 at 04:30

Orionid meteor shower. Image Credit: Mike Lewinski



In the early morning, between 02:00 and 05:00 on October 21/22, the Orionids meteor shower hits Earth's atmosphere. Appearing to originate in the constellation of Orion, the Orionids meteor shower has been observed for hundreds of years. The Orionids meteor shower is caused by Earth flying through the debris field of dust, ice, and rocks left over from the tail of Halley Comet's (or Comet 1/P Halley, to use its proper name.) From October 2, Earth flies through this debris field, with the meteors burning up causing yellowish-green streaks of light. While the meteor shower lasts until around November 7, it peaks just before dawn on October 21. Because the meteors are extremely fast and relatively faint, light pollution from the Full Moon will affect how many you'll see. Expect up to 5 meteors per hour this year. For the best chance of seeing the Orionids, look east-north-east from around Midnight, and then towards the North as it gets closer to dawn.

The Orionids on 22/10/21 at 02:00. Image Credit: Stellarium

47 Tucanae. Image Credit & Copyright: Mike O'Day


47 TUCANAE by Matt Woods

47 Tucanae or NGC 104 is the second-largest and second-brightest globular cluster in the Milky Way – rivalled only by Omega Centauri. 16,000 light-years away from us, the cluster is in the constellation Tucana (named after the South American Tucan bird), and it’s clearly visible to the naked eye as a ‘fuzzy blob' star. 47 Tucanae contains a dense swarm of at least 1-2 million stars – roughly 10 billion years old – and is roughly 120 light-years in diameter. The average distance between the stars at the centre is around 10% of a lightyear, more than 100 times the diameter of our solar system. With a little help from an 8-inch or larger telescope, the cluster resolves into bright clusters of stars. In February 2017, indirect evidence for a likely intermediate-mass black hole in 47 Tucanae was announced.

47 Tucanae on 15/10/21 at 21:00

47 Tucanae on 15/10/21 at 21:00. Image Credit: Stellarium

OCTOBER'S CONJUNCTIONS Conjunctions involve object(s) in the Solar System and/or more distant objects, such as stars. It’s an apparent phenomenon where an observer’s perspective causes multiple objects that aren’t close together to appear close in the sky. This month, you can see conjunctions between the Moon, Pollux & Castor, and between the Moon, Venus & Antares. Read more on the Perth Observatory website here:

The Moon, Pollux & Castor on 01/10/21 at 05:00

The Moon, Venus & Antares on 09/10/21 at 20:00

All image credits: Stellarium

The Moon, Venus & Antares on 10/10/21 at 20:00


PERTH OBSERVATORY GHOST TOUR The observatory's ghouls and ghosts are beginning to stir. Gear up for Halloween and join us for a guided ghost tour of the observatory and its grounds. We'll guide you through 125 years of ghostly history, then come sit around our fire pit for entertaining ghost stories and discussions from supernatural stories that surround the Moon and stars from cultures all over the world. Finish the night with a hot drink and a look at some ghost hunting tools. You may even catch sight of a ghost yourself... Get your ticket now for this very special event before it sells out. Book here:

Location: Perth Observatory Date: October 31 Time: 8:00pm Duration: 1½ to 2 hours


Price Adult: $55 Concession: $40 Child (Ages 5 to 17): $30

Halloween Night Tour Hop on your broomstick and head up to the Perth Observatory for an amazing Hallowe'en night under our starry southern sky. The Observatory will be decorated and our volunteers in costume for this special night, as we take you on a grand tour of the Southern Hemisphere’s sky with a wide range of telescopes. As well as showcasing ghostly objects on the night, we'll also be giving out great prizes for the best adult and child costumes – so dust off your scariest costumes and join us for some fun on the spookiest night of the year. This is a very popular event, get your ticket now before it sells out. Book here:


Price Adult: $55 Concession: $40 Child (Ages 5 to 17): $30 Location: Perth Observatory Date: October 31 Time: 8:00pm Duration: 1½ to 2 hours

The orbit of 8138 Craigbowers. Image Credit: NASA/JPL


PERTH ASTRONOMER by Matt Woods Dr Craig Bowers, our honorary historian at Perth Observatory, has had a minor planet named after him. There was much fanfare at the observatory recently when it was announced that the International Astronomical Union had officially named the minor planet 1980 FF12 after Dr Bowers. Dr Bowers was a Meridian Telescope Observer at the observatory, working on the Perth 83 Meridian Star Catalogue, which catalogued over 12,000 stars and monitored double stars' orbits. During Comet Halley's 1985-86 visit to the inner Solar System, Dr Bowers was heavily involved in the continuous Lowell/Perth telescope observations, including the discovery of the jets of CN gas, or phenacyl chloride, used in tear gas.

This discovery led to a revision of the estimated rotation of Comet Halley's nucleus. Dr Bower's PhD thesis details the scientific history of Perth Observatory from 1960 to 1993. The minor planet, now called 8138 Craigbowers, was discovered on March 20 1980. Jeff Johnston, Perth Observatory's senior astronomical observer, discovered the planetary body using the Astrographic Telescope, Perth's first research telescope. A three km asteroid, 8138 Craigbowers rotates every three hours and is a main-belt asteroid orbiting the Sun just outside the orbit of Mars at nearly 325 million km. 8138 Craigbowers takes a little over three years to complete an orbit. Since Perth Observatory moved from West Perth to Bickley, back in 1966, thirty-five asteroids have been found, sixteen of which have been named.

Dr Craig Bowers. Image Credit: The Echo Newspaper

MINOR PLANET NAMED AFTER PERTH ASTRONOMER The former staff and Perth Observatory acknowledge Craig's lifetime work and dedication to the observatory with the naming of 8138 Craigbowers. The naming is an honour for Craig, who said, "I got very emotional when I was told of this honour as I never got into this for the accolades." The naming of a minor planet is the end of a decades-long process. The discoverer of a particular object has the privilege of suggesting a name to a 15-person Working Group for SmallBody Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union. The IAU's working group then judges the name's suitability. The hopeful plan is to name the remaining unnamed asteroids after the astronomers who worked at Perth Observatory who haven't received this honour, as well as Prudence Valentine Williams and the three other 'female computers' who worked at the Perth Observatory between 1901 and 1921. Together, they were responsible for measuring thousands of Astrographic Catalogue glass plates, which involved calculating exactly where each star sat in the celestial sphere. The Astrographic Catalogue has helped direct modern satellites, including the Kepler, Hipparcos and Gaia space-based telescopes, to refine our understanding of where we sit in the universe. Read more about Dr Bowers in this 2018 interview with Julie Matthews, Perth Observatory's Business Manager. Click here:

Government astronomer William Ernest Cooke and staff of the Perth Observatory, including Prudence Valentine Williams (believed to be the woman on the far left) in 1910. Image Credit: Sunday Times, Perth, May 1st 1910


NIGHT SKY TOURS Winter is over! Night sky tour times are changing so make a note now. The days are getting longer – and that means our night tours start later, beginning in October. Join Perth Observatory's passionate volunteers to experience our amazing summer sky through a wide range of telescopes. Check out all of Matt Woods' various expert articles in this newsletter to find out 'What's Up in the Sky' each month, or just pick a free night to join us! At this time of year, the Small Magellanic Cloud is visible in the night sky – right through to January, and Sirius (the bright star sitting above the constellation of Orion) is also best seen during the summer months. That's not all! You will also have the chance to browse our museum and see our meteorite exhibit, historical instruments, and admire our amazing astrophotographs and artwork. Our night sky tours often sell out in advance, so book your spots now for Perth's best view of the night sky. Get more info here: Price Adult: $50 Concession: $35 Child (Ages 5 to 17): $25

Location: Perth Observatory Duration: 1½ to 2 hours


CHOOSE YOUR NIGHT FOR A TOUR Dark Sky Nights Dark sky nights are when there’s no Moon. Fainter objects, such as globular clusters and nebulae, show up well against the darker background of a moonless sky.

Moonlit Nights Moonlit nights are when the Moon is one of the observing targets. The best detail on the lunar surface is seen around half moon phase. Star clusters and bright nebulae are also visible.

Full Moon Nights Full moon nights are when a Full Moon occurs on a weekend or during a school holiday period.



Venus is in the western early evening sky in the constellation of Ophiuchus (the serpentbearer) at the start of November. Moving quickly into Sagittarius (the archer) during the first week of the month, Venus remains in the constellation for the rest of the month. Jupiter and Saturn are high in the west during the evening in the constellation of Capricornus (the sea-goat) this month.

Look for Uranus in Aries (the ram) in the evening skies at the beginning of November and is visible throughout the night. By the end of the month, Uranus is setting at 03:42. Neptune is also viewable in the evening this November, between the constellations of Aquarius and Pisces (the fish). At the start of November, Neptune sets at 03:16, and by the end of the month, it’s setting at 01:21.

At the very end of November, Jupiter moves into Aquarius (the water-bearer). At the beginning of November, Jupiter sets at 01:57 (AWST) and Saturn at 01:07. By the end of the month, Jupiter sets at 00:11 and Saturn at 23:15.

Uranus and Neptune on 15/11/21 at 22:00

Venus, Jupiter and Saturn on 15/11/21 at 20:00


This month you can see conjunctions between The Moon & Saturn, The Moon & Jupiter, and Venus & Antares. Read more about what's up in the sky on the Perth Observatory website here:

The Moon and Saturn on 14/10/21 at 21:00

The Moon and Jupiter on 15/10/21 at 21:00

Uranus and Neptune on 15/08/21 at 03:00 All Images credit: Stellarium

Venus and Antares on 16/10/21 at 20:00


VIRTUAL STAR PARTY hosted by Matt Woods Tune in this November as Matt Woods shows off our amazing Southern sky with a live stream from one of our telescopes. Join us! The virtual star party starts at 20:00 (AWST) on November 10. Click the link below and sign up. The Central Soul Nebula Without Stars Image Credit & Copyright: Jason Guenzel

Perth Observatory's Virtual Star Party

Wednesday, 10 November 2021 Register here - free!

SUNDAY DAY TOURS See Perth Observatory in a new light daylight! Sunday afternoons are the perfect time for joining your family and friends on a special Guided Day Tour of Perth Observatory. Our guided tours of the observatory start at 13:30, 14:00, 14:30 and 15:00 every Sunday afternoon, and include visits to our Astrograph, Calver and Meridian telescopes, as well as the majestic and historic Lowell telescope. And don't miss our Aboriginal Astronomy centre, Worl Wangkiny, celebrating 60,000 years of Noongar celestial storytelling.

There's no need to book (but please tell us in advance if you're a group of 20 people or more so we've enough volunteers for you!) Find out more here:





Image credit & Copyright: Gábor Tóth

Andromeda (M31) is a spiral galaxy. Approximately 2.5 million light-years from Earth, it's the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way. Andromeda's name stems from the area of the sky in which it appears, the constellation of Andromeda. Observations made by the Spitzer Space Telescope in 2006 revealed that the galaxy contained approximately one trillion stars, more than twice the number of the Milky Way – estimated to have between 200 to 400 billion stars. Andromeda spans approximately 220 000 lightyears and is the largest galaxy in our Local Group. The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are on a slow-motion collision course and will crash together in about 4.5 billion years, merging to form a giant elliptical galaxy or a large disc galaxy. Uranus and Neptune on 15/11/21 at 22:00

Andromeda on 15/11/21 at 21:00. Image Credit: Stellarium


Penumbral Lunar Eclipse diagram Image credit:

Perth gets a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse on the evening of Friday, November 19. Penumbral Lunar Eclipses are when the Sun, Earth, and the Moon imperfectly align, and the Moon passes within Earth’s outer shadow (the penumbra.)

Most Penumbral Lunar Eclipses aren't easily distinguished from a normal Full Moon as at the maximum phase of the eclipse the Moon turns a shade darker. Perth is among the best places to see it, along with North/West Africa and much of Europe. The rest of Australia, much of Asia, North America, South America, Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic will experience a Partial Lunar Eclipse The eclipse starts in Perth with the Moon below the horizon at 14:02 (AWST), and we’ll miss the maximum partial phase when it occurs at 17:02 pm. The Moon rises in Perth at 18:57. With the eclipse finishing at 20:03, we’ll only see the last 66 Venus, Jupiter and Saturn on 15/11/21 at 20:00 minutes of 2021's final Penumbral Lunar Eclipse.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse viewing map. Image credit:


LEONIDS METEOR SHOWER The Milky Way during the Leonid Meteor Shower.

by Matt Woods

The Leonids Meteor Shower is active between November 6 and November 30. You might guess from its name: the radiant point of the Leonids is in the constellation of Leo, rising early in the morning. The shower peaks around 03:00 (AWST) on November 18, head out between 3am and sunrise. This year, the Leonids promises to produce around 5 meteors per hour. Unfortunately, November's Full Moon means lots of light pollution. Since the meteors strike the Earth at 71km/s it will be harder than normal to spot the extremely fast fireballs. The source of the Leonid Meteor Shower is Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, and they’re prone to provide great outbursts around once every 33 years. We’re now past midway from the 1998 – 1999 outburst years, with the next predicted ‘Leonid meteor storm’ set for 2032 – 2033. The great Leonid Storm of 1833 is considered a contributing factor to the religious fundamentalist movements of 1830s the USA. That year, residents along the eastern seaboard woke on November 13 to a stunning sight with meteors seemingly filling the sky like snowflakes in a winter storm. Churches filled up, and many believed Judgment Day was dawning. The meteor storm also made a lasting impression among the indigenous peoples of North America. The Sioux people of the North American plains kept records called “winter counts,” a chronological, pictographic account of each year painted on animal skin. In 1939, an Amangu man from Mullewa, WA told the anthropologist Norman Tindale* how his grandmother was a baby when ‘the stars fell’ -- a reference to a bright meteor shower in the early 19th century. Tindale considered this to be the same Leonid Storm of November 1833.

'The Night The Stars Fell' engraving by Adolf Vollmy (1889)

* Tindale, N 1983 'Celestial Lore of Some Australian Tribes'

Leonid Meteor Shower on 18/11/21 at 04:00. Image credit: Stellarium

by Jay Chesters Venus is often described as the closest thing to hell imaginable. Reports that it might show signs of possible life are surprising. In September last year, the paper Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus* reported "the apparent presence of phosphine (PH3) gas in Venus’s atmosphere." "The presence of PH3 is unexplained after exhaustive study," the authors said. The finding inspired and excited people because MIT scientists call phosphine a 'biosignature gas.' This means the possible detection of phosphine in a rocky exoplanet's atmosphere is a promising sign of life. In the simplest of terms, the paper was saying not "we've found evidence of extraterrestrial life" but "we seem to have found signs of this gas on Venus. It's weird and we can't yet explain it." Penguins and stretching If there was a prize for the biggest stretch in the reporting of scientific findings then the recent "are penguins aliens?" stories must surely take the (fish)cake. "Scientists baffled after discovering gas typically found on Venus in penguin poo" one headline read. "That's not what we said at all,' the scientists probably replied. "Penguins ‘may be aliens’ after scientists discover chemical from Venus in their poo" claimed another. You're at risk of serious injury if you don't gently warm up before a stretch as big as that. The whole significance of the possible indication of phosphine is because it's not "typically found" there. It's not a surprise finding it on Earth, it's commonly produced by anaerobic organisms like bacteria or microbes.



A bit like Venus, the places you find these microbes aren't anywhere you want to be. Think of the stinking guts and dung of penguins, as well as swamps and bogs. Because it's almost only produced by extreme, oxygen-averse organisms, and Venus' atmosphere is so harsh, if there is phosphine that suggests something is replenishing it. Phosphine, and penguins, aren't generally found on Venus. And, like penguins, there might not even be phosphine. Three papers swiftly followed the first -- each reporting they could not find the same evidence as the original. This is the scientific process working as it should, and one of these papers was co-authored by the lead researcher of the original report. One article suggests that the phosphine result is an error in data processing; another proposes that the result might be better explained as sulphur dioxide gas. Biosignatures are complicated, and this debate won't be settled soon. When ESA's JUICE mission swings by Venus on its way to Jupiter, it will be equipped to detect signs of phosphine thousands of times lower, so we have to wait and see.

*Greaves, J.S., Richards, A.M.S., Bains, W. et al. (2021) Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus. Nature Astronomy, 5, 655–664.

Image credit: Julie Matthews



Dig out your sonic screwdriver and unlock your TARDIS.

This November 23, navigate to Perth Observatory and join us in celebrating everything Doctor Who on the night of TARDIS Day. This year is the 58th anniversary of the debut episode of Doctor Who, and we'll have Doctor Who characters at the Observatory – and maybe even a Dalek.

Location: Perth Observatory Date: Sunday, November 23 Time: 20:30 Duration: 1½ to 2 hours

Come dressed as your favourite Doctor Who characters, there will be prizes on the night for both the best adult and child costumes.

Perth Observatory's volunteers will show you the starry southern sky all evening through our telescopes – including terrestrial planets, galaxies, and star clusters. We'll also have the Perth Observatory museum open on the night with astrophotography, our meteorite exhibit, and much more besides. Find out more here:

Price Adult: $50 Concession: $35 Child (Ages 5 to 17): $25.00

Image credit: Julie Matthews



There's nothing like a good old road trip up north. After a couple of months of cold and rainy weather, Roger Groom and I were looking forward to sun and clear skies. The now-annual pilgrimage to the Dark Skies of Gascoyne Junction started on Thursday, August 12, as Roger and I drove from Perth to Geraldton to run a nightscape workshop with Ken Lawson from Astro Star Tours at the Walkaway Wind Farm lookout. For some, the workshop started with dinner at The Provincial Restaurant, and we met the others at the lookout. During the introduction part of the night, it was great to get the different perspectives on nightscape shooting from both Roger and Ken, who are some of the best astrophotographers in Western Australia. When the Sun set, Venus and a lovely small crescent Moon were low in the west and we started taking our shots with the wind turbines and the beautiful farming scenery to go with them. Both Roger and Ken had nifty lighting tools so the participants could get the wind turbine blades in nice flower configurations with the Milky Way as well. Towards the end of the night, we were saying our goodbyes, and everyone was pumped for more Astrophotography in the coming weeks. Just then, we saw a glorious meteor burning up in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, no one got a photo of it because we'd all packed our equipment away, but we still got to experience that amazing moment, watching the fiery death of that meteor.

We were up early on Friday morning early, making our pilgrimage stop to the amazing doughnut shop Beach Barrel for breakfast and coffee. Then, we continued up the North West Coastal Highway to Carnarvon for a lovely one-on-one nightscape workshop with a father and daughter. On Friday night, the Moon was a larger crescent, and while we usually don't like light pollution, the Moon lit up the beautiful red and green in the scenery. This gave us beautiful bordering for our nightscape photos. We got to have a bit of sleep in on Saturday, with only a two-hour drive to Gascoyne Junction, so we restocked supplies at Gascoyne Growers' Market and the local orchardists. We also made a pilgrimage stop to the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum; if you've never been to the museum, it's a must-see. The museum is built at the tracking station that helped provide communications to the Apollo Lunar missions and the Gemini and Skylab missions. While the dish there isn't THE dish that was used by NASA on the site, you get to see the replica Redstone rocket and the equipment they used at the tracking station


The Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum has done a fantastic job of STEM activities for the kids, and (at time of writing) they're about to unveil a replica of the Apollo Lunar Lander. While you're there, make sure you give Buzz the cat a nice scratch behind the ears or at the base of the tail. After the museum, it was on to Gascoyne Junction, and we had to dodge cows, fitches playing chicken, and almighty wedge-tail eagles on the way to the town. At the start of the evening, we set the telescopes up at the Gascoyne Junction Pavilion before digging into an amazing meal of curries, pappadums and rice. Everyone was amazed at what we could show them in the night sky through the telescopes, especially the kids who live on the station. One girl called Ella was super keen to learn how to use a telescope, and we couldn't resist, so we let her loose on one of our Dobsonian telescopes. At the very end of the night, when it was just Ella and her Mum, we showed her how to use one of our Celestron CPC 1100s and let her move to different objects to have a look at them. It was a real hoot seeing the glee on Ella's face as she used the telescopes, and we hope we've got a new potential astronomer now. Bright and early on Sunday morning, with the van already packed, Roger and I started the long way down back to Perth. Our next stop was a nightscape workshop at the Kalbarri Skywalk. It was fantastic to have completely clear skies when it came time to do the Kalbarri Skywalk nightscape workshop. Last year, when the night started, it was partly cloudy, becoming mostly cloudy halfway through the workshop.

After the introduction and info session for the night, the participants went around taking photos of the night sky with the Kalbarri Skywalk and the animal statues, plus the artwork. If you haven't been to the Kalbarri Skywalk, I highly recommend going in the late afternoon as the shadows give the already impressive scenery just that extra amount of awe. International and interstate readers may not know that Kalbarri was severely damaged by Cyclone Seroja in March. The locals have worked extremely hard to rebuild the town, but you can see areas still affected by the cyclone damage. It's worth driving up north at the moment if you have any time off coming up, especially as we are in wildflower season. After this winter's rain, it's incredible to see them all in full bloom. Thank you to Ainsley Harris from the Gascoyne Development Commission for the help in organising this year's trip to Gascoyne Junction.


VIRTUAL STAR PARTIES hosted by Matt Woods Tune in this December as the amazing Matt Woods presents a livestream from one of our telescopes, showing off our amazing southern sky. Join us! The virtual star party starts at 20:00 (AWST). Click the links below and sign up. Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA Processing: Faus Márquez (AAE)

Image Credit & License: NASA, ESA, Hubble; Processing: Judy Schmidt

Perth Observatory's Virtual Star Party

Perth Observatory's Virtual Star Party

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Wednesday, 11 December 2021

Register here - free!

Register here - free!

NEW YEAR'S EVE NIGHT TOUR Do something different to bid 2021 farwell. This New Year's Eve, join us for a pre-fireworks night tour at Perth Observatory. Our amateur astronomers are ready and waiting to show you stunning objects, whether it’s a single star or a massive nebula. Then, to welcome the New Year, you can drive to one of the Perth Hills many lookouts and take in all the fireworks from around Perth at the stroke of midnight. Experience our amazing night sky through our wide range of telescopes with our sky viewing nights. Observatory will take you on a grand tour of the Southern Hemisphere’s sky with a wide range of targets including nebula, planets, dying stars, and enormous star clusters. Find out more and book your ticket now. Go here:

Location: Perth Observatory Date: December 31 Time: 20:30 Price Adult: $55 Concession: $40 Child (Ages 5 to 17): $30




Mercury joins Venus, Jupiter and Saturn in the evening sky this month. Mercury will appear low in the south west in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer) during the last week of the month. Venus is also in the western early evening sky in Ophiuchus (the serpent-bearer) at the start of the month and quickly moves into Sagittarius (the archer) during the first week of December where it remains for the rest of the month. Mars is low in the early morning eastern sky in Libra (the scales) late in the first week of December. It moves into Scorpius (the scorpion) in the middle of the month and then into Ophiuchus (the serpent-bearer) for the last week. Uranus and Neptune on 15/12/21 at 21:00

This December, Jupiter is in the high in the west during the evening sky, in Aquarius (the waterbearer). At the beginning of December, Jupiter sets at 00:07 (AWST) and by the end of the month, is setting at 22:20 Saturn is near Jupiter in Capricornus (The SeaGoat) this month. At the beginning December, Saturn sets at 23:11 and by the end of the month, it's setting at 21:22. Uranus is in the evening sky in Aries (the ram) at the beginning of December. Staring the month, Uranus sets at 03:38 and by the end of December, it’s setting at 01:37. Neptune is viewable in December's evening sky between Aquarius and Pisces (the fish). At the start of December, Neptune sets at 01:17 and by the end of the month, it’s setting at 23:16. Read more about what's up in the sky on the Perth Observatory website here: All Images credit: Stellarium

Venus, Jupiter and Saturn on 15/12/21 at 20:00

Mars on 15/12/21 at 04:00

Mercury and Venus on 29/12/21 at 20:00

Alignment of The Moon, Jupiter and Saturn on 06/12/21 at 20:00



On Saturday, December 4, the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, causing a Total Solar Eclipse. This is great news: for the small region of Antarctica, where the eclipse turns day into night for a few minutes. This Total Solar Eclipse is the last eclipse of 2021, and is viewable in both Victoria and Tasmania as a Partial Solar Eclipse, starting 19:34 (AEDT) in Hobart and at 19:53 pm (AEDT) in Melbourne. From Hobart, at its maximum, the eclipse covers 21% of the Sun, while from Melbourne it covers only 7 per cent. From both cities, the eclipse ends at sunset. Unfortunately, we’ll miss it entirely in Perth.

December's Partial Solar Eclipse viewing map. Image Credit: The moon partially obscures the sun during the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017. Image Credit: Bill Ingalls

Types of Solar Eclipses. Image Credit:


THE ORION NEBULA by Matt Woods Orion is a diffuse nebula. North of Orion’s Belt (for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere) the nebula is in the constellation of Orion. Sculptor Galaxy Image Credit & Copyright: Mike O'Day

One of the brightest in our skies, the nebula is visible to the naked eye. Messier 42 (as it’s also known) is 1,344 light-years away from our Solar System, and it's an estimated 24 light-years across. To put that size in context, the NGC 2404 nebula is thought to be approximately 2,000 light-years in diameter. The Orion nebula has revealed much about the process of how stars and planetary systems form from collapsing clouds of gas and dust. The Orion constellation is called Djulpan by the Yolngu people, the traditional inhabitants of northeastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. To the Yolngu people, the constellation shows a hunting party. In their traditional stories of the Dreaming, the story goes that three brothers went out hunting and fishing, but could only catch kingfish. Unfortunately, because they were from the kingfish clan, the brothers were forbidden by Yolngu law to eat the fish. One brother got so hungry that he started eating a kingfish, and when the Sun, Walu, saw this, she became so angry she blew the brothers into the sky. You can still see the three brothers up there today, as the three stars in Orion's belt – with the Orion nebula as the kingfish trailing behind their canoe on its line.

The Orion Nebula - Image credit:

Orion Nebula on 15/12/21 at 21:00. Image Credit: Stellarium

Geminid Meteors over Chile. Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory, TWAN)


GEMINIDS METEOR SHOWER by Matt Woods The Geminids meteor shower is THE meteor shower to see in the southern hemisphere. This year, they reach their peak on the night of December 14/15. Active for a little over two weeks, from December 4 to 20, there's a great window for viewing the meteors without the Moon brightening the sky on Wednesday December 15 if you head outside after 02:30 (AWST). In dark sky locations around WA, you'll see between 30 and 50, and around the equator – where Gemini is high in the sky – you could see as many as 120 meteors per hour. The meteor shower appears to come from the Gemini constellation, with the streaks being caused by tiny dust particles and meteors hitting our atmosphere at tremendous speed and burning up from the friction. When looking at Gemini try to look about 30 to 45 degrees left or right of the constellation. First discovered (by Europeans) in 1862, the Geminids are caused by Earth travelling through the leftover material from the tail of the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. The asteroid is considered a rock comet, an asteroid that shares some characteristics of a comet – including a comet tail and surface jets. It's thought that when Phaeton was young, it got caught in Saturn's orbit and now passes the Earth every year leaving behind a debris trail. The Gemini constellation, after which the meteor shower is named, appears in our sky around 22:00 (AWST) so head outside after midnight when Gemini is higher in the sky because the shower gets better throughout the night.

Better yet, join us for our Geminids Meteor Shower Night on December 14.

3220 Phaethon's Orbit the course of the Geminids meteor shower. Image credit:

2012 Geminids taken Perth Observatory. Image Credit: Perth Observatory volunteer Roger Groom

Gemini's Meteors Composite Image Credit & Copyright: Jeff Dai (TWAN)



Experience the Southern Hemisphere’s best meteor shower of the year.

Rug up, bring your camera, camp chairs or even a bean bag and join us on December 14 for one of the brightest meteor showers of the year. Radiating from near the bright stars Castor and Pollux in the Gemini constellation, the Geminid meteor shower is one of the finest meteors showers in the Southern Hemisphere. The meteors are plentiful, rivalling even August's Perseids, and are often bold, white and bright. On a dark night you can catch 50 or more meteors per hour, with the greatest numbers in the small hours after midnight, centring around 0200 local time, when the radiant point is highest in the sky.

Get it here: Location: Perth Observatory Date: December 14 Time: 22:00 to 0200 (Doors open 21:30)

Geminids Meteor Shower on 15/12/21 at 02:00. Image credit: Stellarium

Price Adult: $30 Concession: $25 Child (Ages 5 to 17): $20




The December Solstice for 2021 is on Tuesday, December 21 at 23:58 (AWST) The beginning of astronomical summer for the southern hemisphere, the solstice marks winter for the northern hemisphere. The solstice is the moment when the Sun’s declination equals 23.5 degrees south as seen from the Earth. The line of latitude where the Sun passes directly overhead during the December solstice is known as the Tropic of Capricorn. These days, the Sun is actually in the Sagittarius constellation in mid-December, thanks to the wobble of Earth’s axis, called the Precession of the Equinoxes. December's solstice falls on Dec 21 and 22 until 2043, occasionally falling on Dec 20 from 2080. The December solstice means the southern rotational pole of the Earth is tipped towards the Sun, beginning its long apparent journey northward again until June. Precession takes about 26,000 years to complete one ‘wobble.’ Over an average person's 72year life span, the equinoctial points will have moved one degree (about twice the diameter of a Full Moon).

The Earth's position around the Sun at Solstices and Equinoxes. Image credit:

The Perseids on 13/08/21 at 06:00. Image Credit: Stellarium



This year the gas giants Jupiter, Saturn and Mars are putting on a fantastic show!

Spring is planet season: let’s make the most of it, and get some great shots of the gas giants for you, using your cameras. We'll use Perth Observatory's telescopes, with camera adaptors supplied, to connect your camera to the telescopes. You'll record raw footage of the planets and take that away with you to process and show your friends & family. There'll be four telescopes that 12 participants will rotate between, giving you plenty of time to capture your images, share techniques with others, try out your camera on different telescopes, and more. All participants need a good working knowledge of your camera for this workshop. You should know how to use manual shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. You should also be able to navigate your camera’s menu system and buttons to find settings such as Live View, zoom in/out on playback images and the Live View, and be able to use Photo and Video modes. Before heading to the telescopes we'll have a 30-45 minute theory session where Roger Groom will take you through the process of photographing the planets. We'll talk about equipment and software, and touch briefly on the image processing that you might use following the night. When booking, please provide details of your camera brand and model so we can plan appropriately for all guests. You're encouraged to bring your own camera T-ring adaptor if you've got one, and Barlow lenses if you also have those (using the equipment you have helps become more familiar with your own equipment.) Workshop places are strictly limited! Find out more and book your tickets here:

Location: Perth Observatory Date: October 13 and December 8 Time: 22:00 to 0200 (Doors open at 18:30) Price: $90 per person




Help Perth Observatory through the Containers for Change scheme. Please take glass, plastic, aluminium, steel and paper-based cartons between 150mL and 3L to your local refund depot, and use the Perth Observatory scheme ID C10424615. POVG will receive 10 cents for each container. Save the ID on your phone for every time you recycle your containers. Find your local refund depot and get more info on what containers are eligible for refunds here: Can't get to a refund centre? We have a dedicated and labelled bin on-site for you to add your clean container donations when you next visit the observatory. Our maintenance and accounts volunteer, Des, collects donated containers and takes them to the refund centre. Thank you for helping the POVG promote sustainable and environmentally conscious practices and diversifying ways for us to raise much-needed funds. Your help supports the continuing upkeep and running of Western Australia's oldest observatory!



Perth Observatory has several projects in progress. We're continually working to improve our facilities and restore some historical telescopes back to working condition. We'll then be able to use these telescopes for research, as well as on our school and night tours. Perth Observatory is listed on the deductible gift recipient registry, so all donations are tax deductible, and you'll get a tax receipt. Find out more about the projects and how you can help support them below.

Candy Telescope Restoration Help us bring Perth Observatory’s “Comet Hunter” Near-Earth Asteroid Object Telescope back to life. In 1998, Perth Observatory built and commissioned a revolutionary asteroid and comet tracking telescope, named the Mike Candy Telescope after the former Government Astronomer of Western Australia. This telescope needs restoration so we can enable the renewal of Near-Earth Asteroid research at Perth Observatory. In 2019, NASA identified more than 20,000 known Near-Earth Objects large enough to be tracked in space before striking the Earth. Objects like these damage the surface of the Earth producing tsunamis, firestorms and impact winters. Physicist Stephen Hawking considered an asteroid collision to be the biggest threat to the planet. Donate here and help restore our comet seeking telescope

Perth-Lowell Telescope Restoration Please support returning Perth Observatory’s Lowell Telescope to Astronomical Research. With your help, the Perth-Lowell telescope can continue to significantly contribute to current Astronomical Research including blackhole and exoplanet exploration. The Perth-Lowell telescope, which was funded by NASA and acquired by Lowell Observatory of Flagstaff, USA, was installed at Perth Observatory on a permanent loan basis. In 1977, the Perth Lowell Telescope was one of six built for International Observatories. Taking part in the International Planetary Patrol Program (IPPP) funded by NASA, it was instrumental in discovering Uranus' rings. With this telescope's restoration, we'll renew International Astronomical Research at Perth Observatory. Donate here and help restore our Lowell Telescope

Image credit: xkcd

Contact Us Perth Observatory PO Box 179 Kalamunda WA 6926 (08) 9293 8255

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Perth Observatory Volunteer Group acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands on which we operate, the Wadjak clan of the Noongar Nation, whose land extends to the present-day site of the observatory.

We recognise their continuing connection to these lands, waters and communities, and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

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