Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, August 28, 2009.
The week begins with our viewing the Moon rather late in its waxing gibbous phase as it heads toward full during mid-daylight on Monday,
November 2. The Moon will then be just shy of full the evening of
Sunday the 1st (rising just before sunset), and just past the phase
the following night (rising just after sunset). It then wanes in the gibbous over the remainder of
As the Moon
makes its rounds it also glides through some nice passages. Though
its brightness will hamper the event, on the night of Tuesday the
3rd, just after full phase, the Moon will pass through the Pleiades of Taurus, while by the following
night it will have moved into central Taurus to the northeast of
the Hyades cluster. Then the
night of Thursday the 5th, look for it between Taurus and classical
With Daylight Savings Time ending on Sunday, November 1, all times
below are Standard. During the early evening hours you can admire
Jupiter, which now transits the meridian to the south right at the end of
twilight, around 6:30 PM. Now setting just before midnight, the
giant planet has become fully an evening object as it makes its way
to the east against the stars of northeastern Capricornus. Then around 10:30 PM, up comes Mars. In a fine setting in
Cancer, the red planet (2
magnitudes fainter than Jupiter, a factor of 6 in brightness)
crashes through (really, against) the Beehive cluster around Sunday the 1st, the sight quite
lovely in binoculars or a small telescope.
In the morning sky, we are slowly losing
Venus, which rises at 5 AM, just as formal twilight begins to
light the sky. Look for it to the southwest in dawn's brightening
light. On Sunday the 1st, with Mars visiting the Beehive, Venus
passes 4 degrees north of Virgo's
Spica. The dark morning hours thus
belong to Saturn.
Rising to the east at 3 AM, the ringed planet is now in Virgo just
a couple degrees north of the Autumnal Equinox, between Spica and Leo's luminary, Regulus. In invisible news,
retrograde motion (westerly against the stars) on Wednesday the
Mercury passes superior conjunction with the Sun (on the other
side of it) the following day.
The Zodiac, through which all
the planets move (only
Pluto, if you wish still to call it a planet, significantly
deviating), is quite a mix of figures, some bright and beautiful,
others dim and hard to see. Cancer, noted above and flagged by Mars, is one of the
latter. So are the three constellations of the "wet quarter"
now visible, Capricornus (the Water
Goat), Aquarius (the Water Bearer),
and Pisces (the Fishes), although
in a dark sky they will still stand out for you.