Photo of the Week. In early October of 2010, Jupiter,
Uranus, and the Vernal Equinox lay all in a nice row within western Pisces. While seeming
neighbors, Uranus was actually 4.8 times farther away from us,
Jupiter at 3.97 Astronomical Units (the AU the distance between
Earth and Sun).
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 15, 2010.
Having just passed first quarter on Thursday, October 14, the Moon
begins our current week in the early part of its waxing gibbous phase. Watch as it then grows
towards full, which is finally attained
the night of Friday the 22nd. The night of Tuesday the 19th finds
the Moon passing several degrees above Jupiter
, and of course then above much dimmer accompanying Uranus (see the
picture of the week) as well, the latter planet quite washed out by
bright Moonlight. The following night with the Moon to the east of
Jupiter will present us with a fine sight as well. Near the Vernal Equinox, the nights from
Tuesday the 19th to Thursday the 21st find the Moon drifting to the
south of the Great Square of
Pegasus. Somewhat earlier, on Monday, the 18th, the Moon
passes apogee, where it is farthest from Earth on its monthly
round. Earlier yet, on Sunday the 17th, the Moon goes by (to the
north of) Neptune, which
fares even worse than Uranus.
The planetary sky pretty much consists of Jupiter. Mars and Venus
are lost to evening twilight,
Mercury passes superior conjunction with the Sun (on the other
side of it) on Saturday the 16th, and Saturn has not yet cleared
dawn's light. But the "big one" may be enough to keep us occupied
for a time. Just to the southwest of the Vernal Equinox in Pisces, Jupiter is well up in the
east in twilight, crosses the meridian
to the south around 11 PM Daylight Time, and does not set until
shortly before the beginning of eastern morning twilight.
Another meteor season is upon us, this time leading with the Orionid shower, which stretches over the week,
peaking the mornings of Thursday the 21st and Friday the 22nd.
Under a dark sky we might expect some 20 meteors per hour coming
from the direction of Orion.
Unfortunately, at the showers' peak, the sky will be awash with
moonlight, rendering these leavings of
Halley's Comet hard to see. Halley's is alone in generating
not one, but TWO showers, the other the Eta Aquarids in early
As fall deepens, it's time for the constellations of the Andromeda myth, among the most
beloved of which is autumn's great harbinger, Pegasus (the Flying Horse) and its
Great Square. Rising north
of Jupiter like a great diamond, the Great Square crosses the
meridian high in the sky around 11 PM. Coming off its northeast
corner is the main star stream that makes most of Andromeda
herself. Above her, find the "W" that represents the major portion
of her Mom, Queen Cassiopeia.