International Space Station (ISS)
19 to 22 December
The ISS completes an orbit of Earth every 90 minutes, with a crew of six travelling at the fantastic speed of 27,600km/h. It’s been doing that since 1998, but many don’t realise you can observe some of these passes with the naked eye. It’s easy to see and can be brighter than the brightest stars. There are some good passes from 19 to 22 December. For the exact time, direction and brightness from anywhere in Australia, go to
heavens-above.com and put in your location – the nearest town or suburb is close enough – then click ‘ISS’.
There’s no argument, a moonrise beats a sunrise every time. It’s spooky, and majestic, watching our nearest neighbour slowly emerge over the eastern horizon. Best times are one to three days following the full moon. On Tuesday 2 January, begin your watch of the eastern horizon exactly at sunset (8.46pm). Find a flat eastern horizon – an east-facing beach is perfect. The next night, commence your vigil at 9.46pm. On Thursday 4 January, moonrise is at 10.36pm, and Friday 5 January at 11.15pm. If there are distant hills, the wait will be longer, so put on Van Morrison’s Moondance and relax while you wait.
Orion (The Saucepan)
Orion is a superb constellation. From European latitudes, where it was created, its stars joined together make up a mythical hunter, complete with belt and a sword hanging from it. In the southern hemisphere, it’s upside down and easier to recognise as a ‘saucepan’. Locate three stars of even brightness in a straight line – this is the ‘belt’ or the bottom of the saucepan. In the handle of the saucepan is a fuzzy star which becomes an enormous cloud of gas in a telescope – a star-forming factory.