Photo of the Week..
Maui's Haleakela volcano casts a stunning sunset shadow onto the
Earth's atmosphere. Photo by Beth Bye.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, September 27,
The Moon passes its last quarter this week on Sunday, September
29, during daylight hours in North America, roughly about the time
of moonset. The night of Saturday the 28th finds the Moon just to
the northeast of Saturn.
The night of Tuesday, October 1, the waning crescent will then fall
about the same distance to the northeast of much brighter Jupiter.
which has been an evening companion since last March, is rapidly
disappearing into the early western evening sky, and is setting in
the southwest well before twilight ends. We also begin the week
Mercury in inferior conjunction with the Sun (when it is
between us and the Sun), a position Venus will be in at the end of
October. Instead of the two inferior planets (those closer to the
Sun than we are), however, focus on the two giants of the Solar
System, Saturn and Jupiter. The ringed planet, now moving very
slowly to the east against the background stars near the Taurus-Gemini border, rises around 11 PM, while Jupiter,
firmly ensconced in Cancer, begins
to climb the eastern sky around 2:30 AM. Early risers cannot miss
it high to the southeast at dawn. In a real oddity, Saturn is
actually in Orion! Hardly
considered a constellation of the Zodiac, the modern boundaries of
the constellation contain a small narrow section that stops less
than a degree short of the ecliptic. Saturn is about a degree
south of the ecliptic, so for a
brief time it passes through the extended outline of the giant
Hunter. The visit is only an artifact of recent times and
artificial boundaries, however. More interesting perhaps, Saturn
is about as far north as possible, and a mere 1.7 degrees to the
southwest of the summer solstice,
marking its position rather nicely. Though the solstice is
traditionally said to be in Gemini, it is actually just across
Gemini's western border in Taurus, again an artifact of modern
boundaries, as the solstice is clearly much closer to the classic
figure of Gemini than to the classical figure of Taurus.
This seems to be
asteroid week, three of the first four discovered in special
positions. Ceres, the first one found and also the largest (900 km
in diameter), is in opposition to the Sun the night of Thursday
October 3, while Juno (number 3 found and 13th largest) is in
conjunction with the Sun the day before, and Pallas (number 2 found
and second largest) goes into
retrograde on Sunday, September 29.
While the ancient constellations grab the skywatcher's attention,
many are the obscure and modern ones that represent more recent
times. South of Scorpius lies
little Norma, the Square, south of Sagittarius Telescopium, the Telescope, south of Capricornus, Microscopium, the Microscope, and south of Pisces Austrinus (the Southern Fish)
and the bright star Fomalhaut
is Grus, the Crane and Sculptor,
the Sculptor's Studio.