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Tuesday, October 12, 2010


The Sky This Week - Thursday October 14 to Thursday October 21

The First Quarter Moon is Friday October 15. Mars and Venus are not far from each other, but this is your last week to see Venus easily . Venus's crescent shape is easily seen in small telescopes and good binoculars. Jupiter is easily seen in the evening sky. October 14, occultation of pi Sagittarii. October 18, Comet 103P Hartley seen in southern Skies. Variable star Mira bright.

Evening sky looking East as seen from Adelaide at 8:30 pm daylight saving time on Wednesday October 20 showing Jupiter close to Uranus and near the Moon. Jupiter is just past opposition, but is still excellent in telescopes and binoculars. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen.

The First Quarter Moon is Friday October 15.

Jupiter rises in the early evening, and can be readily seen from about 7:00 pm local time just above the eastern horizon. This is the last week you can easily see bright Jupiter rising in the east while Venus is still in the west.

Jupiter was at opposition on Tuesday September 21, when it is was its biggest and brightest as seen from Earth. However, Jupiter will still be excellent in binoculars and small telescopes for many weeks to come.

Jupiter and Uranus are close together and can be seen near each other in a pair of binoculars. Uranus is the brightest object within a binocular field north of Jupiter, and is in fact bright enough to be (just) seen with the unaided eye under dark sky conditions. A binocular spotters map is here.

Ganymede just about to exit Jupiter's shadow, Europa and its shadow on Jupiter's disk and Io about to disappear behind Jupiter on October 20 at 23:15 ACDST (23:45 AEDST).

Jupiters' Moons are a easy to see whether you have binoculars or a telescope. Watching their eternal dance is always rewarding. The evening of Wednesday October 20 is particularly busy, with Ganymede coming out from under Jupiter's shadow (23:27 ACDST), Europa and its shadow on Jupiter's disk and Io disappearing behind Jupiter (23:24 ACDST).

This occurs fairly late in the evening (although Europa starts crossing Jupiter at 21:27 ACDST), but still early enough to watch and head off to bed without too much loss of sleep.

There are lots of opportunities in the rest of the month to see cool Jupiter Moon events (scroll down until you hit Jupiter).

Evening sky looking North-west showing the Venus and Mars at 8:00 pm local daylight saving time on Saturday October 16. Click to embiggen.

Bright white Venus is rapidly heading towards the horizon, and this is the last week it is still easily visible. Venus is visible above the western horizon from half an hour after Sunset, (even before) until just before the end of twilight (about an hour after sunset).

Venus is in the constellation of Libra, the Balance, but returns to Virgo this week. Venus is not far from to Mars but draws further away as the week progresses. Venus is visible crescent in small telescopes and 10x50 or stronger binoculars, and becomes dramatically bigger and thinner over the week, although it comes closer to the horizon, making observation more difficult.

Mars is distinguishable by its reddish colouring and is the brightest object near Venus.

Saturn is now lost in the twilight.

The variable star Mira is very bright.

Venus is a distinct crescent, and grows measurably bigger during the week. In my 10x50 binoculars on a tripod mounting Venus is very small but the crescent shape is easily visible. If your binoculars don’t have decent anti-glare coatings, you may have to observe in the early twilight in order to see Venus’s shape without internal reflections from the binocular lenses getting in the way.

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. Jupiter is well worth telescopic observation, and even in binoculars its Galilean moons are easily seen.

Evening sky facing west as seen from Adelaide at 22:50 ACDST on October 14. The Moon is just about to pass in front of pi Sagittarii.

On the evening of October 14 the Moon passes in front of the moderately bright star pi Sagittarii, the star is covered at around 11 pm daylight saving time, so start looking about half an hour earlier. For exact timing at major cities see here.

Comet 103P Hartley above the northern horizon at 4:30 am ACDST (3:30 non-daylight saving time) as seen from Adelaide on October 18, similar views will be seen from other places at equivalent local time.

Comet 103P Hartley 2 enters the southern skies this week. The comet may be between magnitude 5-4, and so should be seen as a faint fuzzy dot by the unaided eye. The comet will be best seen from dark sky sites. It will be easily seen in binoculars, and it races through the sky through some pretty territory (lots of binocular friendly open clusters).

Unfortunately Moonlight will begin to interfere by the end of the week. Click the link for Printable maps comet 103P/Hartley.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm ADST, Western sky at 10 pm ADST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch. Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.


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