Photo of the Week. The blue sky, mirrored in deep
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 6, 2009.
Having passed full, the Moon spends the
earliest part of the week waning through the gibbous phase. It then crosses
third quarter on Monday, November 9, about the time of Moonset
in North America. The remainder of the week then sees our
companion waning through the crescent as
it heads toward new early next week. The night of Friday the 6th,
it passes perigee
, where it is closest to the Earth.
As it rounds the Earth, the Moon finds itself in some lovely
settings. The night of Friday the 6th, the waning gibbous will
fall smack in the center of Gemini to the southwest of Castor and Pollux, while the following night the
two stars will point southeasterly toward it. Then the night of
Sunday the 8th, the Moon will rise just three degrees to the south
of reddish Mars. Saturn gets into the
act as well, as on the morning of Thursday the 12th, the crescent
will be seen several degrees to the right of it.
Though Mars encroaches on it by rising now at 10:30 PM, the evening
still belongs the king of the planetary system (with three times
the mass of all the other planets rolled together), Jupiter. Look for it to the south as twilight draws to
a close around 6:30 PM. Slowly drifting to the east against the
stars, Jupiter still holds court in northeastern Capricornus near the Aquarius border. Then its back to
Mars, the red planet now appearing just a bit to the east of the Beehive cluster, which it crossed
in front of last week.
An hour after Mars rises, Jupiter sets, and we are into the morning
hours to wait for Saturn's 3 AM (or so) arrival, the ringed planet
creeping east in Virgo just to
the northeast of the autumnal
equinox. Finally, Venus
enters the scene. Now rising around 5:30 AM, just after the
beginning of morning twilight, the planet is becoming more elusive
in a brightening sky in spite of its great brilliance.
Though the autumn constellations
are upon us, the stars of summer linger on, perhaps making us feel
a bit warmer. Indeed, Cygnus the
Swan, with first magnitude Deneb
(the faintest star of the Summer
Triangle), is so far north it will be with us until winter and
the end of the year. But then it's back to autumn, told to us by
lonely but bright Fomalhaut,
visible low in the south down and to the left of Jupiter. Then the
chill of winter is in the air, as by late evening not only is Orion up but so is Sirius of Canis Major, the sky's brightest star.