For SkyWatchers in the Southern Hemisphere and those positioned south of the +44 latitude line, now is the time to spot the swift members of the Corna-Australid meteor shower which peaks Sunday morning! Despite the first quarter Moon, this could be a very good year…
Why? Because the constellation of Corona Australis is located at the southwestern edge of Saggitarius, a constellation which won’t rise for most of us until the Moon has long departed the skies!
If you’re interested in spotting between 5 and 7 meteors per hour, one of the best times will be about 2 hours before local dawn for the lower northern hemisphere and anytime after the Moon sets for the south. To be sure, the Corona-Australids are a very narrow meteor stream, but even if weather doesn’t cooperate on March 16th, you’ll still be able to catch members of this short duration shower through the morning of March 18th. A very unusual aspect of the Corona-Australids is the fact the meteors never vary more than 7 degrees from the radiant constellation and almost all appear to move from south to north!
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While you’re out, enjoy viewing Corona Australis. The “Southern Crown” is home to an enormous cosmic dust cloud which veils its rich field of stars. This dark obscuring cloud could be no more than 500 light years away and the thickest part is only about 8 light years long. For observers, look for nebulae NGC 6726, NGC 6727, NGC 2679 and IC 4812. Even binoculars should be able to spot pretty globular cluster NGC 6723!
Enjoy the constellation and good luck catching a shooting star!