Photo of the Week. The setting full Moon glides just
above the lowering shadow of the Earth, cast upon the morning air.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 16, 2009.
We start the week with the Moon in its waning crescent phase, last visible as
Skylight's week starts on the morning of Friday, October 16. By
the next morning, the Moon will be quite invisible as it heads
toward new on Saturday the 17th. It will thereafter wax as an
evening crescent the remainder of the
week, not passing first quarter until
Saturday the 25th. You should get your first look at the crescent
in western twilight the evening of Monday the 19th. Not much
happens between new and quarter other than the Moon passing north
of Antares in Scorpius during daylight on the
morning of Wednesday the 21st. The waxing crescent will then be
seen to the west of the star the evening of Tuesday the 20th, then
to the east of it the following night.
But there are other things to see. Though Venus
drops lower in early morning, its rising around 5:30 AM still beats
twilight, making it yet a glorious sight in dawn. If you have a
clear eastern horizon, you might spot
Saturn a bit to the west of Venus, the ringed planet rising
about half an hour earlier. By then, Mars, rising at midnight Daylight Time,
appears high in the sky in Cancer
to the east of Gemini. Mercury, moving fast, is
effectively gone. In the evening, we admire Jupiter
, which is now crossing the meridian well to the south around 8:30
PM, not setting until 1:30 AM.
The big event, and yes there is one, is the Orionid
meteor shower, which peaks the morning of Wednesday the 21st, with
Orion high in the sky. The
Orionids are the debris that has flaked off Halley's Comet, which
hit us twice, the other the Eta Aquarids of early May. Under a dark sky
you might spot one every couple minutes or so.
The Andromeda myth is
climbing the sky, led by Queen Cassiopeia, whose "W" or "Chair" is now rising in the
northeast as the Big Dipper sets
toward the horizon in the northwest. To the west lies Cepheus, the King, while to her
east is Perseus, the hero who slew
Cetus, the Sea Monster, who was
about to devour Cassiopeia's daughter Andromeda, whose graceful
curves of stars begins now to rise in late evening. Watch them
all, be taken back into the past, when the stories were written
upon the clear dark skies.