Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 24, 2008.
As quiet as last week was, this one is
busy. We begin with the Moon in its waning crescent phase heading toward
new, the Moon disappearing more or less in front of the Sun on Tuesday, October
28. The morning of Saturday the 25th finds our Moon just to the
south of Saturn. You
can get your last glimpse of the waning
crescent in dawn the morning of Monday the 27th with the Moon to
the southwest of Mercury, the two invisibly
passing conjunction later in the day. With the evening ecliptic flat against the
horizon, the first sighting of the waxing
crescent will be delayed until at least the evening of Thursday
The two inner planets make a pair of nice passages as well, though
in twilight they will be difficult to see. On Sunday the 26th, Venus -- now
brilliant in southwestern dusk -- will pass three degrees north of
Antares in Scorpius (actual conjunction taking place that
morning), while on Thursday the 30th, Mercury and Spica (in Virgo) get together, the planet four degrees north of
Mercury rises at the start of morning twilight, while Venus,
becoming ever brighter and climbing ever higher, now sets just a
bit after evening twilight comes to a close. Next up, well to the
east of Venus, is bright Jupiter, which
dominates the dark of early night until it sets around 10:30 PM
Daylight Time (here a good moment to note that Daylight Time does
not end until Sunday, November 2).
For the next five hours the sky is bereft of ancient planets until
the 3:30 AM rising of Saturn to the southeast of Regulus in Leo.
While the ancients are gone, you might contemplate Uranus and the
brightest Asteroid, Vesta.
Uranus, in far northern Aquarius
just south of the Circlet of
Pisces, is faintly visible to the naked eye, while Vesta is
just under naked eye visibility (but a good binocular object) as it
hits opposition to the Sun on Wednesday the 29th just to the
southwest of the head of Cetus.
The summer gang to the south -- Scorpius and Sagittarius -- moves off into twilight to
be replaced by the autumn crew. But by looking early you can still
harken to warmer times by noting the two birds of Summer, Cygnus (the Swan) to the northwest,
and Aquila (the Eagle) which
spans the celestial equator.