Photo of the Week.Mars, lower
right, as it passed through Gemini last September 12, orange Pollux (just left of center and
about the same color as Mars) and fainter Castor (upper left) nearly pointing
downward at it. The planet is now in Cancer, one zodiacal constellation to the east.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, September 30,
The week's big event involves Mars. Rising now shortly
before 2 AM Daylight Time, situated against the stars of Cancer, for the past week it's been
approaching the Beehive
cluster, which to the naked eye appears as a dim fuzzy patch
but to binoculars breaks into a fine spray of stars. The night of
Friday, September 30th, actually the morning of Saturday, October
1, the red planet will appear to pass right through it. The event,
which is best seen in binoculars, will provide a fine opportunity
to see a planet move against the background as it orbits the Sun.
And will provide a most attractive sight as well, with great Leo following to the east.
While Mars is a morning delight that is shared with
Jupiter, the giant planet exclusively rules the evening.
Rising now before 8 PM just before the end of twilight, Jupiter
transits the meridian high to the
south less than an hour after Mars rises. The only other planetary
event, such as it is, is the passage of
Venus three degrees to the north of Virgo's Spica on the night of Monday the 3rd,
the pairing lost to bright evening twilight.
Mars helps us locate the zodiacal constellation Cancer, the
Crab, its most important feature a box of stars that surrounds the
Beehive. Jupiter then helps locate Aries, the Ram, which held the Vernal Equinox in classical times. (That it no longer
does is due to precession, the
26,000-year wobble in the Earth's axis, the equinox now in Pisces.) Look a few degrees to the
north (and a bit west) of the planet to find a flat triangle of
stars that hardly resembles the animal it is supposed to be (the constellations representing, not
portraying). To the north of Aries then note simple Triangulum, which really is just a
Triangle of stars.