Photo of the Week. Remembering last summer's Venus
with a 3.6-day-old crescent Moon.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 29, 2010.
The Moon goes
through its third quarter the morning of
Saturday, October 30th, around the time of sunrise in North
America, giving us a nice daytime sight of the near-perfect phase.
It then greets November in the waning
crescent phase as it heads towards new the night of Friday, November 5. The morning of
Wednesday the 3rd finds the crescent just up and to the right of
Saturn (not to be confused with the star Porrima, which will lie just above
the planet). The following morning, the very thin crescent will be
up and to the right of Virgo's Spica. On Wednesday the 3rd, the Moon
goes through perigee, where
and when it is closest to Earth, not that that is a noticeable
We spent some weeks watching Mars, Venus,
Saturn do their dance in the western sky. Venus and Saturn
have now switched into the morning hours, leaving poor Mars quite
alone in western evening twilight and impossible to see without
binoculars and a clear horizon. Venus is in about the same
situation. It might be possible to catch it rising in dawn's light
toward the end of the week. But in the days to come, it will
rapidly climb upward from the horizon and be very visible toward
mid-month. Saturn, on the other hand, has cleared morning
twilight, rising near an hour before the sky starts to get light.
Look for Porrima (Gamma Virginis) just above it, the planet notably
the brighter, but similar to Spica, which lies well to the east of
As has been the case for some time now, though, the night belongs
Jupiter. Well up in the east as the sky darkens, the giant
planet now transits the meridian
around 10 PM Daylight Time. Drifting ever so slowly
retrograde (westerly against the stars), Jupiter has just
barely dipped back into Aquarius,
to the south of the technical boundary with Pisces (and still to the southwest of the psc-w-
t.html">Autumnal Equinox and Uranus, the two planets about three degrees apart).
It's fall, and it's time to admire lonely Fomalhaut as it drifts across the
sky not far above the southern horizon. The first-magnitude
luminary of Piscis Austrinus, the
Southern Fish, Fomalhaut ranks 18th in stellar brightness, and has
the distinction of having a directly-imaged planet in orbit about it. With nothing
but dim stars around it (you need a dark sky to catch the rest of
the Fish), the star, a harbinger of autumn, truly stands out.
Above it lies the gentle curve of stars that makes southern Aquarius.