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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday September 18 to Thursday September 25

The New Moon is Wednesday September 24. Mercury meets the bright star Spica. Mars enters the head of the Scorpion. Mars and Saturn are prominent in the evening sky forming a line with Mercury and two bright stars. Jupiter becomes more prominent in the morning sky and is visited by the Moon on the 20th. Comets C/2013 A1 Siding Spring and C/2013 V5 are in the reach of small telescopes.
 
The New Moon is Wednesday September 24. The Moon is at apogee (furthest from the Earth) on the 20th.


Evening sky on Saturday September 20 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 19:00 (7:00 pm) ACST in South Australia. Mercury is close to the bright star Spica. Comet C/2013 V5 may be visible in the twilight not far from Mercury. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

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.



Evening sky on Thursday September 18 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 (10:00 pm) ACST in South Australia. Mars is close to Dschubba and Saturn is  under the head of  Scorpius. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

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.

Morning sky on Saturday September 20 looking north-east as seen from Adelaide at 5:30 am ACST.  Jupiter is above the north-east horizon and close to the crescent Moon. (click to embiggen).

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.


Evening sky on Saturday September 20 looking West as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 (10:00 pm) ACST in South Australia. Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring is above  the tail of the Scorpion. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

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.

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