Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 3, 2008.
Night-by-night, the waxing crescent Moon
climbs out of western evening twilight, growing fatter and setting
ever later as it heads towards first
quarter the morning of Tuesday, October 7, after moonset in
North America. It thereafter continues to grow in the waxing gibbous phase. As the quarter is
approached, the Moon takes on Sagittarius and
Jupiter. The night of Sunday the 5th, it will lie to the west
of the Archer's "Teapot," while the
following night, that of Monday the 6th, it will pass a couple
degrees to the south of the giant planet, the pairing making a fine
sight. At the end of our week, the Moon invisibly passes
Neptune the morning of Friday the 10th.
As bright as it is,
Venus remains elusive. Though it passed superior conjunction
Sun (on the other side of the Sun) early last June, the
flatness of the evening ecliptic against the horizon
keeps the planet low in the southwest after sunset. The situation
will rapidly change as the month rolls on, allowing our nearest
neighbor to dominate early evening skies. On the other hand,
Venus's brother planet,
Mercury, is quite gone from the visible heavens, as it passes
inferior conjunction with the Sun on Monday the 6th. The little
planet, closest to the Sun, will thence become a morning object as
it climbs the dawn sky toward a fine (for Mercury) appearance later
in the month.
Venus climbs higher, however, Jupiter still
claims dominion over the early evening sky. Seen to the south-
southwest as the sky darkens, the giant planet (still in Sagittarius north of the Little Milk Dipper) now sets by 11:30
PM Daylight Time. On the other side of the sky,
Saturn, in south-central Leo to
the southeast of Regulus, slowly
becomes visible, rising about an hour before the onset of dawn.
In mid-evening, around 9 PM, look for the cocked-hat shape of Capricornus fairly low to the south.
Below it is a dim-bulb of a modern constellation honoring the microscope,
not surprisingly called Microscopium, while to the southeast is that announcer
of northern autumn, the bright first magnitude star Fomalhaut, in Pisces Austrinus, the Southern Fish. Immediately above
Capricornus are the sprawling stars of western Aquarius, the Water Bearer, whose Y-shaped "Water-Jar" straddles the celestial equator. All these, plus Pisces (to the northeast of
Aquarius), fill in the sky's "wet quarter."