saturday 9 october
Mercury reaches a conjunction below 12:00 p.m. EDT. This essentially places it directly between the Sun and the Earth, making the tiny planet invisible. But don’t worry, she’ll escape our star’s glare only to reappear in the morning sky later this month.
Instead, try searching the morning sky for Comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which hovers over 1.2 ° northwest of the famous Crab Nebula (M1) in Taurus the Bull. The rest of the magnitude 8.4 supernova lies directly between the comet and the 3rd magnitude Alheka (Zeta [ζ] Tauri), which marks one of the Taurus horns. 67P is a magnitude 10 fuzz about 6 feet in diameter; you should be able to get it and the nebula in one telescope field. The binoculars will display an even wider field of view.
While you are here, follow the line from 67P to M1 and Alheka another 11 ° southeast and you will fall squarely into comet 4P / Faye, which is about 1.5 ° northeast of 4th magnitude Xi (ξ) Orionis to Orion the Hunter. Faye is a bit smaller (magnitude 11) than Churyumov-Gerasimenko, but roughly the same diameter. It is moving southeast relative to the stars in the background, relative to the Churyumov-Gerasimenko path, further northeast.
Sunrise: 7:05 am
Sunset: 6:29 p.m.
Moonrise: 10:50 a.m.
Moon setting: 8:43 p.m.
Moon phase: Wax Crescent (14%)
Sunday 10 October
Saturn is still at 10 p.m. EDT tonight, when its retrograde motion against a background of distant stars stops. In the next few days, it will appear to turn around and start moving east, although the movement will be difficult to see with the naked eye.
The second largest planet in the solar system is currently located in Capricorn, the goat of the seas; it rises in the south at sunset and is visible all evening, setting just before 1 a.m. local time. It’s the best time to see him around 8 p.m. local time when he’s highest in the sky. Bright at magnitude 0.5, it is on the opposite side of the brighter constellation Jupiter, which shines at magnitude –2.6. Saturn sits just below the middle of a line drawn between Theta (θ) and Beta (β) Capricorni.
Zoom into the planet tonight and you will see that its two-sided moon Iapetus is also in upper conjunction. It now sits about 40 “north of Saturn and has a magnitude of about 11. Over the course of the month, it will decrease to magnitude 12 as it nears its maximum elongation on the 29th. Several other moons are also floating in the air. around the planet, including Shining Titan 2.5 ‘to the southeast and darken Rhea, Tethys, Dione and Enceladus closer to Saturn and its magnificent ring system.
Sunset: 6:27 p.m.
Moon setting: 9:30 p.m.
Moon phase: Wax Crescent (24%)
Monday, October 11
The Moon tonight sits right next to the spout of the Sagittarius teapot asterism in the south. Use a telescope to zoom into lunar north to find Mare Frigoris, an elongated sea draped over the larger and rounder Mare Imbrium and Mare Serenitas.
Just below Mare Frigoris is the 87 km wide Aristoteles crater. To its immediate east is the small Mitchell crater, and to the southeast is Exodus. Really zoom in on these craters to drink in their immense detail. Aristoteles does not have a central peak, but instead has several small mountain peaks that rise from its flooded soil. Lighter colored ejecta are projected north of the crater. Then, take a close look at the edge of Exodus to see if you can make out its many terraces. This crater, too, has no central peak; instead you will see some low hills in the middle of its bowl.
Of course, what you will see and how you will see it will change as the angle of the Sun also changes over the next few hours and days. You’ll want to come back to this location tomorrow and the day after to see how these features seem to change as the Sun moves across the lunar landscape.
Sunset: 6:26 p.m.
Moonrise: 1:18 p.m.
Moon setting: 22:25
Moon phase: Wax Crescent (34%)