This Week’s Sky at a Glance, October 28 – November 4

Aquarius the Water Bearer is the source of all the water associated with our southern autumn constellations. It is situated among Pisces to the east and Capricornus to the west, with Pegasus north and Pisics Austrinus south. Its western end stretches over top of the Sea Goat. Most of the stars of Aquarius are relatively dim but one asterism stands out, the tight group of four stars that forms the Water Jar. Resembling a circle with three spokes, this asterism is also called the Steering Wheel.

One tale from mythology has Aquarius representing Ganymede, the handsome son of a Trojan king. Zeus was attracted to the lad and sent his pet eagle to kidnap him. Ganymede was given the important position of cup bearer (wine pourer) at Olympian feasts. There may have been another motive of the kidnapping, for the moons of planet Jupiter are named for Zeus’s lovers and Ganymede is the largest of those moons.

A few Messier objects lie within Aquarius, the best being the globular cluster M2. I usually star hop to this one by going from a star in the neck of Pegasus to its ear, and extending that line an equal distance. A fainter globular cluster, M73, is above the back of Capricornus, and just to its east is enigmatic M73. Stargazers wonder how this four-star asterism made it to the Messier list. Nearby to the northeast a moderate-size telescope might reveal the Saturn Nebula, the glowing gaseous remnant of a dead star that somewhat resembles the ringed planet.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:54 am and sunset will occur at 6:10 pm, giving 10 hours, 16 minutes of daylight (7:58 am and 6:17 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 8:04 am and set at 6:00 pm, giving 9 hours, 56 minutes of daylight (8:07 am and 6:07 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full on Saturday, November 4, the Hunter’s Moon or the Mi’kmaq Rivers Freezing Moon. Binoculars are required to spot Mercury before it sets a half hour after the Sun midweek. Saturn follows Mercury to the horizon two hours later. Mars is an early riser, three hours before sunrise, followed by Venus an hour and a half later. This Tuesday, set up your scope and give your masked visitors and their parents views of Saturn and the waxing gibbous Moon while handing out goodies. It will be a welcome treat for all.

International Observe the Moon Night is on Saturday, October 28. Members and guests of RASC NB will have telescopes and binoculars set up at the Irving Nature Park in Saint John for this event on Friday, October 27 from 6:30 pm to 9 pm, with a back-up date of Saturday. There will also be public observing at the Moncton High School Observatory on October 27 from 7:30 pm to 9 pm. The Saint John Astronomy Club meets at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on November 4 at 7 pm. All are welcome.

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