What are the Quasar Publishing Yearbooks
and what can they do for me?
We have been producing these annual publications for 30 years since 1991. These yearbooks are written by Australians for Australians.
ASTRONOMY 2021 is available directly from Quasar (along with many previous editions).
These yearbooks have been designed for anyone who looks at the night sky whether you are using just your eyes, a pair of binoculars or a telescope. The book has something for everyone from the basic novice up to the advanced amateur astronomer. This includes those with a casual interest who might just want to know, "what is that bright star next to the Moon?"
This book and a good planisphere are powerful tools for those first learning their way around the sky.
The book includes most of the monthly section from November and December 2020. Below are some examples from the December 2020 monthly section.
The table of contents (PDF) and the complete December 2020 section (5 page PDF) can be downloaded, see at bottom below.
Each month has one of these, it enables you to quickly determine when (or if) a planet or the Moon is visible in the night sky for any day in that month. Each chart has the midnight line centred, with the evening sky below this line and the following morning sky above. The ideal time to observe an outer planet is at the time of transit (represented by dashed lines), which is when it is due north and has reached its maximum altitude. Moon phases are included.
Each month this diagram provides the reader with a telescopic view of each planet at the same scale. To make them more attractive we use photographic images but you may be surprised how much detail can be viewed directly through a small telescope given good seeing. For example, the Great Red Spot (when visible) and cloud belts on Jupiter. Phases are also shown for Mercury, Venus and Mars and the approximate appearance of Saturn’s rings. Each image is shown north up with a date, the planet’s angular diameter and magnitude.
This is a list of general phenomena associated with the planets, Moon, minor planets and comets. Included are:
Phase of the Moon.
Key events in a planet’s orbit.
Selected conjunctions between the Sun, Moon, planets, comets, minor planets (asteroids), brighter stars and deep sky objects.
Sky View Diagrams
There are usually 4-6 of these diagrams each month and are designed to help you find the naked-eye planets. The date and time chosen give the most interesting patterns of the planets and Moon. Sometimes the times correspond to about one hour (or even down to 30 minutes) before sunrise or after sunset.
THE PLANETS Presented are general notes on each planet, including location in the sky and best time to observe. Emphasis is placed on their suitability for observation and any interesting conjunctions and patterns between the Moon, other Solar System objects, stars and deep sky objects.
Shown here is the December 2020 monthly text (in the 2021 book) for Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
In the northern sky as evening twilight ends, Mars, in Pisces, is obvious as an orange beacon in a region devoid of bright stars to the upper right of the Great Square of Pegasus. Its post opposition size shrinks from around 15 arcseconds at the beginning of December to 10 arcseconds at year’s end. From the 9th to the 15th the Red Planet will be within 1° of Zeta (ζ) Piscium, a splendid double for small telescopes. There is some dispute on the colours of this pair (magnitudes 5.2 and 6.3, separation 23 arcseconds) with the primary described as pale yellow or white and its companion yellow or reddish. On the 23rd and 24th, the waxing gibbous Moon appears in the vicinity of the Red Planet.
Jupiter is visible as it sinks toward the early western evening horizon, spending half the month in Sagittarius before moving into Capricornus. A very neat conjunction occurs on the 17th with the slender crescent of the 3-day old waxing crescent Moon appearing directly above Jupiter and Saturn (see Sky View). It would be best to observe the trio soon after the end of civil twilight whilst still a reasonable altitude above the horizon. The distance from Jupiter to the northern lunar cusp at this time is 3° (a little further from WA) and the separation between planets is just 0.5° (one Moon diameter).
After this lunar conjunction on the 17th, Jupiter and Saturn remain less than 0.5° apart for the next 7 days and are closest on the 21st at 0.1° apart—a spectacular conjunction (see Sky View). It is rare to see both gas giants in the same field of view of a telescope, so don’t miss this one as these big guys only get together every 18–20 years for a rendezvous.
As Saturn, together with Jupiter, settles into the western evening twilight the pair provides some great naked-eye and binocular observing this month. Starting at the beginning of December at 2° apart, the gap between the pair narrows culminating in a spectacular and rare conjunction, just 0.1° apart on the 21st (see Sky View). A few days earlier on the 17th, the 3-day old earthshine enhanced crescent Moon appears around 3° above the pair for an impressive triple conjunction (see Sky View).
Uranus, now past opposition, is in the northern evening sky at the end of astronomical twilight in Aries.
Neptune remains within 1° of the 4th magnitude star Phi (φ)Aquarii this month. The planet can only be seen in the western evening sky as it heads toward conjunction in March 2021.
All Sky Maps
Map 3, one of nine in the book covering the entire sky visible from Australia.