Open post

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2020 October 24 – October 31

The western side of the Square of Pegasus points southward to the solitary bright star Fomalhaut in the mouth of Piscis Austrinus the Southern Fish. Fomalhaut is the 18th brightest star in our night sky, and astronomers have known it is surrounded by discs of debris for many years. In 2008 an exoplanet was imaged near the inner edge of a disc but more recent images suggest it could be an expanding disc of dust caused by a collision. The eastern side of Pegasus points down to Diphda, the brightest star in the tail of Cetus the Whale. A circlet of stars well to the east forms the head of the whale.

Between Piscis Austrinus and Cetus is the dim constellation Sculptor, which is a shortened version of its original name, Apparatus Sculptoris (the Sculptor’s Studio), given by Louis de Lacaille in the 18th century. By 11 pm it is low in the south but it does have a prominent marker. Use binoculars to seek out a long triangle of dim stars stretching eastward from Fomalhaut, but don’t be discouraged if your attempt to locate Sculptor is a bust.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:49 am and sunset will occur at 6:16 pm, giving 10 hours, 27 minutes of daylight (7:52 am and 6:23 pm in Saint John).  Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:59 am and set at 6:05 pm, giving 10 hours, 6 minutes of daylight (8:02 am and 6:12 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter phase on October 23 and the Puny Full Moon occurs on October 31, it being the most distant full Moon of the year. Watch it rise; it will still look big. Mars is past opposition but still about as bright as Jupiter, and it gives views of its ice cap and basaltic areas through a telescope when our atmosphere is steady. On Thursday the Moon passes below Mars in the early evening. For an observing challenge, use the Moon to locate Mars in binoculars before sunset. Jupiter has moved close enough to Saturn that they should fit within the same field of view of low power binoculars. Venus dominates the morning sky, while Mercury is at inferior conjunction this Sunday and moving into the morning sky late in the week.

With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm, and view archived shows, on YouTube at:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAEHfOWyL-kNH7dBVHK8spg

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2020 October 17 – October 24

With the Square of Pegasus appearing higher in the east after twilight, look under it (or outside the first base line of the diamond) for a circle of fainter stars. This asterism is the Circlet of Pisces and forms the head of one if the two fish that make up this zodiac constellation. Below left of the circle is the Vernal Equinox, the point where the Sun crosses the equator to mark the beginning of our spring season. It is still at times called the First Point of Aries despite having moved well to the west of the zodiacal ram.

The fishes represent Aphrodite and her son Eros, who tied their ankles together with a cord before leaping into the sea and changing into fish to escape the fearsome monster Typhon. The star where the fishes’ tails meet is called Alrescha, which means “the cord.” This autumn Pisces is hosting a prominent visitor: the planet Mars.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:39 am and sunset will occur at 6:28 pm, giving 10 hours, 49 minutes of daylight (7:43 am and 6:34 pm in Saint John).  Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:49 am and set at 6:16 pm, giving 10 hours, 27 minutes of daylight (7:52 am and 6:23 pm in Saint John).

With the new Moon at perigee on October 16, we can expect extreme tides this weekend. The Moon passes below Jupiter and Saturn on Thursday, and at the first quarter phase on Friday a telescope will reveal the Lunar X just inside the shadow line around 8 pm. Mars is now in the eastern sky at sunset, attracting attention throughout the night. Jupiter continues to edge toward Saturn, and this Saturday telescope users might catch the shadows of Jupiter’s moons Callisto and Io on the planet’s cloud tops until 8:42 pm. Venus dominates the morning sky and rural stargazers might see it within the zodiacal light 90 minutes before sunrise. The Orionid meteor shower peaks on Tuesday night, best seen Wednesday morning when Orion is highest.

With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm, and view archived shows, on YouTube at:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAEHfOWyL-kNH7dBVHK8spg

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2020 October 10 – October 17

The Pleiades star cluster, which is located in the shoulder of Taurus the Bull, is rising by 8 pm now as a harbinger of winter. In a month it will be rising at sunset. Due to its shape, this eye-catching cluster has been mistaken for the Little Dipper. Most of us can count six stars in the Pleiades under good conditions but keen-eyed wonders have picked out twice that number from a dark sky. A low power view of it in binoculars will show a couple of dozen stars and it is one of the prettiest sights you will see in the night sky. I always look for the hockey stick in the binocular view.

According to Wikipedia, the name Pleiades likely comes from the ancient Greek word “plein,” which means “to sail.” Sailing season in the Mediterranean Sea typically began when the cluster was first spotted before sunrise. In mythology it became the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, hence its common name of the Seven Sisters. Somewhere along the way one of them got lost. Astronomers also know it as M45 from the Messier catalogue. The cluster played a significant role in marking time for several ancient cultures, including the Maori, Mayan, Aztec and some First Nations.

Perhaps you have seen the Pleiades while stuck in traffic and just haven’t realized it. The six-star logo of Subaru automobiles depicts the Pleiades, as Subaru is the Japanese name for the cluster. The name, which means “united,” was chosen because the company was formed from a merger of several

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:30 am and sunset will occur at 6:41 pm, giving 11 hours, 11 minutes of daylight (7:34 am and 6:46 pm in Saint John).  Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:39 am and set at 6:28 pm, giving 10 hours, 49 minutes of daylight (7:43 am and 6:34 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is near Venus Wednesday morning; and it is new and at perigee on Friday, October 16, giving extreme tides next weekend. Mars is at opposition on Tuesday, a week past its closest approach to Earth, but it will be at least as bright as Jupiter for the rest of the month. Jupiter and Saturn are at their highest for observing in twilight. Telescope users might catch Jupiter’s stormy Red Spot between 8:30 and 9 pm on Wednesday and between 10 and 10:30 pm on Friday. Venus dominates the morning sky and, starting late in the week, rural stargazers might see it within the zodiacal light 90 minutes before sunrise.

With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm, and view archived shows, on YouTube at:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAEHfOWyL-kNH7dBVHK8spg

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

Share
Scroll to top