January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Celestial Highlights for October: Follow the Moon!

Posted: Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

by Robert Victor and Robert D. Miller

Follow the Moon each day at dusk or dawn, and within one cycle it will introduce you to as many as five naked-eye planets and the five bright stars of first magnitude within the belt of zodiac constellations.

New Moon occurs on Oct. 4. Two days later, on Sunday evening, Oct. 6, about 20 minutes after sunset, a thin sliver of a young lunar crescent will appear very low in the west-southwest, 20° to the lower right of the bright “evening star”, Venus.

If you have mountains nearby, you may need to seek out a place with an unobstructed sight line toward the WSW that evening, since the Moon will be less than 6° up, within half an hour after sunset. But the view through binoculars is worthwhile: Flanking the Moon will be Saturn, 3° upper right, and Mercury, 2° to Moon’s lower left, all within a 5° field! Mercury and Saturn are now departing the evening sky (see our evening twilight sky chart), but Venus will remain visible at dusk until early January.

As the Moon withdraws farther from the Sun, the crescent thickens and appears within 8° of Venus the next two evenings, to the planet’s lower right on Mon. Oct. 7 and to its upper left on Tues. Oct. 8.

Source: Abrams Planetarium A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11. http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Source: Abrams Planetarium
A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11.
http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Early in the evening, from Sat. Oct. 12 through Sun. Oct. 20, the famous red supergiant star Antares will appear within 5° of Venus. On Wed. Oct. 16, they’ll be as close as 1.5°, with Venus passing above the distant star.

High in the east in October mornings, another very striking pair, of reddish Mars and blue-white Regulus, takes place. During Oct. 7-23, they’ll appear within 5° apart, and within 1° on Tues. Oct. 15.

Source: Abrams Planetarium A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11. http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Source: Abrams Planetarium
A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11.
http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Continue watching the Moon in the evening sky until it reaches Full on Fri. Oct. 18, when it rises around sunset, and for a few nights beyond, as it rises later each evening.

Look about an hour before sunrise for these events (see our morning twilight sky map): On Oct. 22, Moon very near Aldebaran, eye of Taurus; on Oct. 25 and 26, Moon near Jupiter (the brightest “morning star”) and the Gemini Twins Pollux and Castor. On Oct. 29, exactly two weeks after the close Mars-Regulus pairing, find Moon forming a nearly equilateral triangle with them, 7°-8° on a side. On the same date, Arcturus is 33° due north of the Sun and is equally visible at dawn and dusk, as shown on October’s twilight charts. (On what October date will you first spot Arcturus rising in the ENE? On what date in November will you last spot it setting in the WNW at dusk?) Returning our attention to the Moon, on Nov. 1, look for Spica 9° lower left of the waning crescent Moon. On Nov. 2, about 45 minutes before sunrise, watch for the last thin old crescent Moon rising 4°-5° lower left of Spica.

Source: Abrams Planetarium A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11. http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

 

Source: Abrams Planetarium A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11. http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Source: Abrams Planetarium
A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11.
http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Here is an at-school activity, “Daily Morning Daytime Moonwatch,” which you can hold with your classes at the start of the school day. Conditions are ideal in October each year while daylight saving time is in effect. This year, a morning moonwatch can be held at 9:00 a.m. PDT daily during October 21 through November 1 or 2, a total of 13 or 14 consecutive days, the maximum possible! On the first date, the Moon starts out nearly full, low in W to WNW at 9:00 a.m. on Oct. 21, and is seen near Last Quarter (half full) phase well up in SW to SSW on the weekend of Oct. 26-27, and ends as a crescent in SE on Nov. 1 (the 1-percent crescent on Nov. 2 will likely be too thin to see in daylight but could be seen before sunrise.) Happily, the morning moonwatch period includes ten weekdays, Oct. 21-25 and Oct. 28-Nov. 1, with the Moon going from 93 percent full to 4 percent full. For a daytime moonwatch student activity, it doesn’t get any better than that! Now all we need is several clear mornings, not unusual for California.

New Moon occurs Nov. 3 (with a partial solar eclipse visible from the East Coast). Early in evening twilight on Nov. 4, look very low in WSW for the 1.5-day old very thin crescent Moon, some 28° lower right of Venus. Binoculars may show Antares about 10° to the Moon’s left. On Nov. 5, the Moon will be an easy sight, 15° lower right of Venus. On Nov. 6, the Moon passes a wide 7° north (upper right) of Venus. Spotting the Moon before sunset, can you use it to help you find Venus in the daytime? Telescopes will show Venus is then a fat crescent, nearly half full. On the same evening, Venus sets farther south than it will again until eight years later, on November 6, 2021. In following weeks, as Venus begins its swing between Earth and Sun, it will become an ever larger but thinner crescent, easily discerned with just a pair of binoculars if you observe in daylight or near sunset.

Source: Abrams Planetarium A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11. http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Source: Abrams Planetarium
A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11.
http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Beginning in mid-November, all four of the other naked-eye planets will span the morning sky, and the long-awaited Comet ISON may perform. Check the Sky Calendar website, www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/ison/ for updates. More on those topics here next month, and I hope to see you at CSTA in Palm Springs!

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs. 

 Robert D. Miller, who provided the twilight charts, did graduate work in Planetarium Science and later astronomy and computer science at Michigan State University and remains active in research and public outreach in astronomy.

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.

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