Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 20, 2000.
The Moon passed through its third quarter early this morning, and
tonight, Friday the 20th, will rise shortly before midnight
daylight time just past that phase to the east of the bright stars
of Gemini. From here it wanes through crescent to new, that phase
reached the morning of Friday the 27th. The morning of Tuesday the
24th sees the Moon to the northeast of Mars, which is now rising in
eastern Leo (CK) a bit after 4 AM daylight time.
Working our way more into evening, Jupiter, which is now rising
behind Saturn just after 8 PM daylight time, passes five degrees
directly north of Aldebaran around midnight (in North America) the
night of Friday the 20th. The proximity of the bright stars of
Taurus to the two giant planets makes their westerly retrograde
motion easy to follow (in addition to making them a glorious sight
as they all pass nearly overhead in the early morning sky).
Further toward evening, Venus makes a pass at another reddish star,
this one Antares in Scorpius, the planet 3 degrees north of the
star the night of Thursday the 26th. Bright twilight will make the
passage (though hardly Venus) difficult to see. With the westerly
of the four large outer planets (Neptune) having made the
transition to easterly motion, it is now number two's turn, as
Uranus stops retrograde and turns around toward the east on
Thursday the 26th.
The Orionid meteor shower, caused by the debris of Halley's Comet
hitting the Earth's atmosphere, peaks on Saturday, the 21st, the
shower best in the early morning hours, the meteors seeming to come
out of the constellation Orion. The near-third-quarter Moon will
wash out the fainter meteors of the shower. However, the Orionids,
which typically produce about 20 meteors per minute, will last for
a few more days while the Moon dims, letting us hang on to them for
In mid-evening, around 10 PM, the southern sky is near its best in
displaying its "wet quarter," reminiscent of an ancient rainy
season (during which the Sun was probably passing through the
constellations, rendering them invisible). Aquarius, the water
bearer, with its 4-star "Water Jar" (or "Urn"), is right on the
meridian, while Capricornus is to the right and the huge sprawl of
Pisces is to the left southeast of the Great Square of Pegasus.
Directly below Aquarius is the lonely first magnitude star
Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish, into whose mouth
Aquarius is sometimes depicted as pouring his water. Above the set
and north of the celestial equator and Capricornus is another "wet"
constellation, Delphinus, the Dolphin, easily noted by its small
tight irregular box of stars.