Tuesday, September 16, 2014
The Sky This Week - Thursday September 18 to Thursday September 25
The New Moon is Wednesday September 24. The Moon is at apogee (furthest from the Earth) on the 20th.
Mercury climbs higher in the evening sky and is now readily visible above the western horizon. It is now easy to see from half an hour after sunset to an hour and a half after sunset, when the zippy planet is in dark skies.
The western horizon now has a long string of bright objects making an interesting line in the sky. Mercury, Spica, Saturn, Mars and Antares. The line is topped off by the hook that is the tail of the Scorpion, embedded with clusters and nebula (and comet C/2013 A1, see below).
Mercury is easy to see in the early evening now. It is still climbing rapidly in the sky, and will be less than a finger width from Spica, on the 20th and 21st. On the 22nd Mercury will be at its highest in the evening sky, and will head towards the horizon after this.
Comet C/2013 V5 is brightening but rapidly becomes lost in the morning twilight. If it survives it's passage of the Sun it will reappear on the evening sky by the weekend. It may be visible to the unaided eye, but should be visible in binoculars if it survives. More detailed viewing maps suitable for binoculars are here.
Mars is easily seen in the western evening sky, setting just before midnight. Mars was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest, on the 9th of April, and is still readily distinguishable as the bright red/orange object above the western horizon in the early evening.
Mars is in the constellation of Scorpius. It forms a line with the red star Antares (which means rival of Mars) and Saturn (and Spica and Mercury). At the beginning of the week it is half a finger-width from the middle star of the Scorpions head, Dschubba. Thereafter it climbs towards Antares.
Saturn is in the early western evening sky, and was at opposition on June 11th. Saturn is visible in the early evening, setting just after 10 pm local time. . Saturn is still high enough from twilight for decent telescopic observation for a few hours.
Saturn is in Libra near the head of the constellation of the Scorpion and forms a line with Mercury, Spica, Mars and Antares.
Venus is lost in the glare of the Sun.
Jupiter rises higher in the morning twilight, and now is easy to see above the horizon at twilight. During the week Jupiter climbs higher and becomes easier to see as the brightest object above the north-eastern horizon.
On the mornings of the 20thand 21st the crescent Moon is close to Jupiter.
Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring is rising higher the the evening sky, being highest around midnight. It is currently located just above the Southern Cross. While at magnitude 8.4 it should be visible in binoculars, it is likely that you will need a small telescope to see it until the waning Moon leaves the evening sky early in the week. A printable black and white chart suitable for binoculars is here. The large circle is the field of view of 10x50 binoculars.
There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Mars and Saturn prominent in the early evening sky. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.
Labels: weekly sky