Skywatch Line for Friday, September 24, through Sunday, September 26, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, September 24, through Sunday, September 26, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 6:45am and sets at 6:48pm; Moon sets at 10:18am and rises at 8:43pm.

On Friday morning, watch the Moon sitting below the magnitude 5.7 Uranus in the west-southwestern sky. When they rise again on Friday night, the Moon will sit 5 degrees to Uranus’ lower left, close enough for them to share the view in binoculars. The blue-green dot of Uranus can be seen in binoculars. Note Uranus’ location between the stars of the constellations of Aries and Cetus and seek it out on the weekend when the bright Moon will have moved away from it.

Late at night on Saturday and Sunday, watch as the waning gibbous Moon sweeps in front of the constellation Taurus the Bull. The bright Moon might make it tough to see the starlit figure of the Bull on these nights. But you should be able to make out Aldebaran, Taurus’ brightest star, as well as the tiny, misty, dipper-shaped Pleiades star cluster, also known as Messier 45, the Seven Sisters, Subaru, and Matariki. When the Moon moves away, look for the V-shaped Face of the Bull itself. When the waning gibbous Moon rises in mid-evening on Saturday, it will shine several finger widths below the bright Pleiades star cluster. The broad Hyades star cluster that forms the triangular face of Taurus the bull will be located below the Moon. The Moon and the Pleiades will share the field of view of binoculars. By dawn, the rotation of the sky will lift the Hyades to the left of the Pleiades, with the Moon midway between them.

Venus, brilliant at magnitude –4.1, shines low in the west-southwest during twilight. It sets around twilight’s end. Jupiter, at magnitude -2.8, and Saturn, at magnitude +0.4, shine in the southeast to south during evening. They are 16 degrees apart on opposite sides of dim constellation Capricornus. During twilight bright Jupiter, on the left, is slightly the lower of the two. They level out not long after dark, and later they tilt the other way, with Saturn now the lower one. Saturn sets around 3 a.m. followed down by Jupiter about an hour later.

Bright Arcturus, pale yellow-orange, shines ever lower in the west-northwest after dark. The narrow kite shape of its constellation, Boötes, extends two fists at arm’s length to Arcturus’s upper right. Arcturus is where the kite’s downward-hanging tail is tied on. To the right of the top of the kite, the Big Dipper is turning more level. This is the time of year when, during the evening, the dim Little Dipper “dumps water” into the bowl of the Big Dipper way down below.

Cygnus the Swan floats just about straight overhead these evenings. Its brightest stars form the big Northern Cross. When you face southwest and crane your head way, way up, the cross appears to stand upright. vIt’s about two fists at arm’s length tall, with Deneb as its top.

The Moon won’t rise now until about an hour after dark on Saturday night. If you have a dark sky, take this opportunity to look for the Milky Way running straight up from the west-southwest horizon, along the backbone of Aquila and to the just right of bright Altair high in the south, along the shaft of the Northern Cross overhead, and straight down through Cassiopeia and northern Perseus to the east-northeast horizon.

Skywatch Line for Monday September 20th and Tuesday September 21st, 2021

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday September 20th, and 21st, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 6:56 PM; night falls at 8:21. Dawn begins at 5:07 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 6:42.

The Moon is officially “Full” at 7:55 PM Monday. Which means that it rises in Pisces at sunset (7:14 PM) and sets shortly after sunrise (7:06 AM). Tuesday, the Moon shifts to Cetus, rising at 7:36 PM, 99% illuminated and sets at 8:11 AM, Wednesday.

Southwestern Venus is still the “evening star.” It blazes with minus 4th magnitude, appears 17 arc-seconds in size, 10° low and sets at 8:24 PM. Mercury is barely hanging on; it peeks about 1° above the horizon and sets at 7:30 PM.

While Mercury and Venus are setting, Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon are rising in the Southeast. Saturn and Jupiter share Capricornus. The Ringed Planet shines with zero magnitude, appears 18 arc-seconds in size, is highest at 9:33 PM and sets at 2:20 AM. Jupiter follows, blazing with minus 2nd magnitude, twice Saturn’s apparent size, highest at 10:39 PM and sets at 3:45 AM. Both rise during the afternoon, are about 25° high by nightfall and 16° apart. While both are binocular objects, telescopes magnify the appearance of Saturn’s rings and permits views of Jupiter’s Moon Io at Midnight Tuesday, when Io exits its trek across the planet’s face, at 12:47 AM Io’s shadow does the same and the Great Red Spot (a giant storm on Jupiter) is visible at 3:43 AM.

Eastern Neptune, in Aquarius, is next, rising during the afternoon, glowing with 7th magnitude, a tiny 2 arc-seconds, highest at 12:28 AM and sets at 6:10 AM. By 10 PM, it is 32° high. The Moon acts as a guide to Neptune and Uranus. Neptune is 8 to the Moon’s upper right. Uranus brings up the rear, rising in Aries at 8:42 PM, shining with 5th magnitude, a slightly larger 3 arc-seconds, and highest at 3:45 AM. Uranus is positioned 45° to the Moon’s lower left and 15° high at Midnight.

The Moon turns “Full” Monday. This is the famous Harvest Moon, defined as the Full Moon nearest the Autumn Equinox. The Harvest Moon is special because the fall harvest could be conducted without daylight. Usually the Moon rises about an hour later each night. However, due to the shallow Moon’s path in the sky, called the ecliptic, this time of the year has the Moon rising between twenty minutes and a half hour later. Pre-tractor farmers had the Moon to work by. This grace period lasts only a few days, when the moonrise gradually lengthens to its normal interval.

Skywatch Line for Friday, September 17, through Sunday, September 19, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, September 17, through Sunday, September 19, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 6:37am and sets at 7:01pm; Moon sets at 2:28am and rises at 5:53pm. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the Moon can guide you to Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter and Saturn shine in the southeast to south. They’re magnitudes –2.8 and +0.4, respectively, on opposite sides of dim constellation Capricornus the Seagoat. On Friday, the bright waxing Moon will sit below and between Jupiter and Saturn among the faint stars of the constellation Capricornus. The trio will shine in the southeastern sky after dusk, and then cross the southern sky overnight. Shortly before 3:30am on Saturday morning, the Moon will be tucked a little closer on Jupiter’s lower left. By Sunday, the Moon will move out of the constellation Capricornus and into the constellation Aquarius.

Look for 1st-magnitude Fomalhaut, the brightest star in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus, “the Southern Fish”, about two fists to Jupiter’s lower left.

Venus, at magnitude –4.1, shines in the west-southwest during twilight. It sets around twilight’s end.

Uranus, at magnitude 5.7 in southern Aries, gets high in the east after midnight. Neptune, at magnitude 7.8, at the Aquarius-Pisces border, is high in the southeast by 10pm.

The French physicist Jean-Bernard-Léon Foucault was born on September 18, 1819. Foucault’s pendulum experiment in 1851 proved that the earth rotates on its axis. Using a long pendulum with a heavy bob, Foucault showed its plane rotated at a rate related to Earth’s angular velocity and the latitude of the site. Foucault invented an accurate test of a lens for chromatic and spherical aberrations. Working with Armand Fizeau, and independently, he made accurate measurements of the absolute velocity of light. In 1850, Foucault showed that light travels slower in water than in air. He also built a gyroscope in 1852, the Foucault’s prism in 1857, and made improvements for mirrors of reflecting telescopes.

Skywatch Line for Monday September 13th and Tuesday September 14th, 2021

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday September 13th, and 14th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 7:21 PM; night falls at 8:59. Dawn begins at 4:58 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 6:34.

The Moon reaches First Quarter on Monday at 4:39 PM; it rises at 2:20 PM, sets at 11:17 PM and appears 51% illuminated, 32 arc-minutes in size and 21° high at 7:21 PM Tuesday. It rises at 3:28 PM, 20° high, 63% lit and sets at 12:13 AM, Wednesday. Monday, Antares, the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter enliven the southern sky with the Milky Way separating the Moon and Saturn.

Venus and Mercury persist low in the western sunset, both in Virgo. Venus is brightest and easiest to spot. Both rose in the morning and set during Civil Twilight. Venus blazes with minus 4th magnitude, is a moderate 16 arc-seconds and sets at 8:34 PM. Mercury glows with zero magnitude, 7 arc-seconds, 57% lit and sets at 7:49 PM. Mercury is at greatest elongation (most distant) from the Sun, but hugs the horizon.

Meanwhile, Saturn and Jupiter are already moderately high in Capricornus, having risen during afternoon. Saturn glimmers with zero magnitude, a moderate 18 arc-seconds, highest at 10 PM and sets at 2:49 AM. Jupiter flashes with minus 2nd magnitude, twice as large as Saturn, highest at 11 PM and sets at 4:16 AM. Both are easily located in the southern sky and present great binocular and telescopic views.

Neptune is at Opposition, residing in Aquarius, glimmering with 7th magnitude, a tiny 2 arc-seconds, highest at 12:56 AM and sets at 7:10 PM. “Opposition” means that Neptune, Sun and Earth are aligned; this also means the Neptune is up all night. However, its small size and dullness means that the observer should have a star chart to find the planet amid similar appearing stars. It is 27° to Jupiter’s lower left. Uranus, in Aries, brings up the rear, rising at 9:10 PM, shining with 5th magnitude, 3 arc-seconds, highest at 4:13 AM and sets during daytime; it is 31° high at Midnight, another planet which requires a chart.

If we look south at about 10:00 PM, a hazy white band of light seems to stretch from the North Pole to horizon. This band is commonly called “The Milky Way” (Latin: Via Lactea). Examination of the Milky Way with binoculars or telescopes reveals it to be a continuous band of stars or clouds of dust or gases. Our galaxy is a gigantic thin pinwheel, with several arms. Our planet is located in one of these arms. When we look at the Milky Way, we are seeing through this arm out into space. From Lyra to Sagittarius the Milky Way seems to divide in two. A giant dust cloud causes this “Great Rift”. We can see these dust clouds on other galaxies. If we follow the Milky Way to the southern horizon, we come upon the constellation Sagittarius. The center of our galaxy is located in that constellation, but we cannot see it due to dense star and dust clouds.

Skywatch Line for Friday, September 10, through Sunday, September 12, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, September 10, through Sunday, September 12, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 6:30am and sets at 7:14pm; Moon rises at 10:32am and sets at 9:21pm.

Look low in the southwestern sky on Sunday evening for the waxing, nearly half-illuminated Moon shining several finger widths to the upper right of Scorpius’ bright, reddish star Antares. The duo will share the field of view in binoculars. Off to their right, spot the vertical row of scorpion’s fainter white claw stars Graffias, Dschubba, and Pi Scorpii. That part of the sky will set after 10pm. Antares is the brightest star to light up the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. The red star Antares is a summer star for the Northern Hemisphere. It is shifting noticeably westward at each new sunset. Soon, it’ll be gone behind the Sun.

Be sure to look for bright Venus this weekend. The Moon and Venus are low in the west after sunset on Saturday.

Fomalhaut, aka Alpha Piscis Austrinus, is sometimes called the Loneliest Star. That’s because it’s the only bright star in a wide stretch of sky. Fomalhaut arcs in solitary splendor across the southern sky in autumn. Some call it the Autumn Star. This year, Fomalhaut isn’t so solitary. Two brighter planets, Jupiter and Saturn, appear near it in the sky. Fomalhaut will be the one that’s twinkling. Fomalhaut is the 18th brightest star in the night sky. It’s part of the faint constellation Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish. In a dark sky, you’ll see a half-circle of faint stars of which bright Fomalhaut is a part. This star pattern marks the open mouth of the Southern Fish. In early September, Fomalhaut is almost opposite the Sun. Therefore, it shines in the sky all night. It reaches its culmination, its highest point in the sky, around midnight in mid-September.
Fomalhaut is of special interest to astronomers because it has a debris ring around it.

On Saturday, the main belt asteroid designated (2) Pallas will reach opposition and its minimum distance from Earth for this year. On the nights near opposition, Pallas will rise at sunset and set at sunrise, and shine with a peak visual magnitude of 8.55. That’s within reach of backyard telescopes. Wait until 9pm or later when the asteroid has risen higher for the best view of it. Pallas will be situated in western Pisces, several finger widths to the right of the medium-bright star Gamma Piscium.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, September 8, and Thursday, September 9, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday, September 8, and Thursday, September 9, written by Alan French.

The Sun sets at 7:18 P.M. on Wednesday and rises at 6:29 A.M. Thursday. Sunset Thursday is at 7:16 and the Sun will rise at 6:30 on Friday.

The Moon was new last Monday and has returned to the early evening sky, although it will be low in the west just after sunset and set early. The Moon will reach first quarter on Monday, September 13.

Remember that angular distances in the night sky are easy to measure using just your hand. If you hold a fist at arm’s length it spans 10 degrees across the knuckles. The tips of your first three fingers, held together, span 5 degrees, and the tip of your pinkie spans 1 degree.

If you have a good view toward the west southwest on Wednesday night, free of obstructions, clouds, and haze, you have a chance to catch a nice grouping of Mercury, Venus, and a slender crescent Moon. Look for the trio at 7:45 P.M. The Moon, just under 5% in sunlight, will be 7 degrees above the horizon. Mercury will be to the lower left of the Moon, 5 degrees away and just only 3 degrees above the horizon. If you can’t see it by eye, and you have a suitable view of the horizon, try with binoculars. Brilliant Venus will be easy to spot, slightly higher than the Moon and 17 degrees to the south (left). Mercury sets at 8:04, the Moon at 8:29, and Venus at 8:45.

With clear skies, Venus is bright enough to spot during the day, but it can be hard to find in the vast expanse of bright, blue sky. Thursday afternoon the crescent Moon is close to Venus, providing a nice landmark – a landmark that is easier to spot by eye, but still somewhat dependent on sky conditions.

At 3:12 P.M. Thursday, the Moon will be due south, highest, and 40 degrees above the horizon. Venus will be 6 degrees to the Moon’s lower left, at about the 7 o-clock position. To hide the bright Sun and make things easier, and insure safety, especially if you wind up searching for the Moon or Venus with binoculars, set up in the shade to the east of a building. The Sun is moving westward, so it will never intrude on your shade or be accidentally spotted with binoculars, which can cause permanent eye damage. A comfortable chair that allows you to sit back and relax makes for easier searching, by eye and with binoculars.

Once you’ve located the Moon, probably higher than you expect, try spotting Venus by eye. If the skies are clear, it should be visible, but your eye has excellent visual acuity only over the central 2-degrees or so – 4 times the apparent diameter of the Moon, so it can take time to spot. (Once spotted, I often wonder why it took so long.) Binoculars, carefully focused on the Moon, can help the search for Venus if it proves elusive by eye alone.

By Thursday evening at 7:45 P.M. the Moon’s eastward motion among the stars, due to its orbital path around the Earth, will have moved it close to Venus. The Moon, now 11 percent illuminated, will be 11 degrees above the horizon. Bright Venus will be just over 4-degrees from the Moon, while Mercury will be 17-1/2 degrees to the lower right of the lunar crescent. The Moon will set at 8:54.

Skywatch Line for Monday September 6th and Tuesday September 7th,

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday September 6th, and 7th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 7:21 PM; night falls at 8:59. Dawn begins at 4:47 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 6:27.

Monday, the Moon turns “New” at 8:52 PM, which means that it is hidden all night. Tuesday, it is found in Virgo, rising at 6:51 AM, 32 arc-minutes large, 1% lit, sets at 8:04 PM and only 7° above the western horizon.

Virgo still houses Venus and Mercury. Venus is brightest and highest, in the West. It blazes with minus 4th magnitude, 15 arc-seconds is size, sets at 8:44 PM and is 14° high at sunset. Elusive Mercury glows at zero magnitude, only 6 arc-seconds, sets at 8:04 PM, is 7° altitude, and 15°

to Venus’ lower right. Mercury is at aphelion on Monday – its greatest distance from the Sun. Both are quite low and require a clear horizon.

By the time Venus sets, Saturn and Jupiter are both well up in the southeast. Saturn rose first at 5:46 PM, glowing with zero magnitude, 14° high and highest at 10:30 PM. Jupiter follows, rising at 6:35 PM, beaming with minus 2nd magnitude, a large 49 arc-seconds, 7° altitude and highest at 11:39 PM.

Neptune is third, rising in Aquarius at 7:38 PM, glimmering with 7th magnitude, a tiny 2 arc-seconds and is highest at 1:25 AM; it lies 7° high and 17° to Jupiter’s lower left. Neptune reaches Opposition on the 13th – prime time for observation. Uranus continues to bring up the rear by rising in Aries at 9:38 PM, shining with 5th magnitude, a bit larger with 3 arc-seconds and highest at 4:41 AM; it is 6° high by 8 PM, and 53° below Neptune. Uranus can be spotted in binoculars all night long, accompanied by star charts.

Since Monday is Labor Day, let us study the 12 labors of Hercules, now 23° high at 11 PM in the western sky. His story is long and convoluted; in short, he killed his wife and children and was seeking redemption by consulting the famed Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle referred him to Eurystheus, who imposed 12 tasks before Hercules would be accepted among the gods. He had to: strangle the Nemean Lion, chop off the 9 heads of the Hydra, return a stag with golden horns, capture and return a giant boar, clean out the Augean stables (which weren’t cleaned for years), drive away the Stymphalian birds, go to Crete to return a bull, drove off the man-eating mares of King Diomedes, capture the girdle of the Amazon Hippolyta, return the cattle of Geryon, retrieve the Golden Apples and finally, go to Hades to free Theseus and bring to Earth the Cerberus, a three-headed dog that guarded Hades. Accomplishing these dangerous challenges restored his standing with the gods and guaranteed his place in the heavens.

Skywatch Line for Friday, September 3, through Sunday, September 5, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, September 3, through Sunday, September 5, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 6:22am and sets at 7:26pm; Moon rises at 2:14am and sets at 6:03pm. For about an hour before dawn on Saturday morning, look in the eastern sky for the slim crescent of the waning Moon shining several finger widths to the left of the huge open star cluster known as the Beehive, Praesepe and Messier 44. Praesepe is Latin for manger. The Moon and cluster will be close enough to share the field of binoculars, but you’ll see more of the open cluster if you tuck the Moon just out of sight on the left.

Above the west-southwestern horizon on the evenings surrounding Sunday, the orbital motion of the very bright planet Venus will carry it closely past Virgo’s brightest star, Spica. At closest approach on Sunday evening Venus will shine only a thumb’s width above Spica, allowing them to appear together in binoculars and low power telescopes. Venus will pop into view first after sunset, but you’ll need to let the sky darken more to see fainter Spica with your unaided eyes. Start looking at about 8pm.

Find the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen with the distinct shape of a W or M in the north-northeast sky in September and October evenings. Cassiopeia is opposite the Big Dipper in the northern sky. That is, the two constellations lie on opposite sides of the pole star, Polaris. So, when Cassiopeia is high in the sky, as it is on evenings from about September through February, the Big Dipper is low in the sky. Use Cassiopeia as a guide to deep-sky beauties. If you have a dark sky, look below Cassiopeia in the northeast for a famous binocular object. This object is called the Double Cluster in Perseus. These are open star clusters, each of which consists of young stars still moving together from the primordial cloud of gas and dust that gave birth to the cluster’s stars. These clusters are familiarly known to stargazers as H and Chi Persei.

O September 3, 1976, the unmanned spacecraft Viking II landed on Mars and took the first pictures of the surface of Mars. Its twin, Viking I was the first to arrive on the surface of Mars on 20 Jul 1976. Each lander housed instruments that examined the physical and magnetic properties of the soil, analyzed the atmosphere and weather patterns of Mars, and determined any evidence of past or present life. Each Viking spacecraft was made of two parts: an orbiter and a lander. The orbiter’s initial job was to survey the planet for a suitable landing site. Later the orbiter’s instruments studied the planet and its atmosphere, while the orbiter acted as a radio relay station for transmitting lander data.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, September 1, and Thursday, September 2, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday, September 1, and Thursday, September 2, written by Alan French.

The Sun sets at 7:30 P.M. on Wednesday and 7:28 on Thursday. Sunrise it at 6:21 A.M. Thursday and 6:23 on Friday. Our daylight hours continue to grow shorter.

The Moon was at last quarter early last Friday and is now moving toward new. A waning crescent Moon rises at 1:17 A.M. Thursday and 2:14 A.M. Friday. Look for a 22% illuminated Moon toward the east at 5:30 A.M. Thursday morning. On Friday morning at 5:30 A.M. the Moon will be lower toward the east and only 14% in sunlight. The Moon will be new early in the evening on Monday, September 6.

By 10:00 P.M. brilliant Jupiter is 28-degrees above the southeastern horizon. Any modest telescope can spot Jupiter’s four largest and brightest moons, looking like stars close to the planet. When away from the bright planet’s limb, they can even be spotted in steadily held binoculars.

The four largest moons of Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, were discovered by Galileo in 1610 and are known as the Galilean moons. From our vantage point, they appear to shuttle back and forth from side to side of Jupiter, sometimes crossing in front of the planet and sometimes passing behind it. When they pass in front of Jupiter, they can be hard to see, but their shadows are quite obvious as inky, black dots. When they pass behind the planet they may move into or out of the planet’s shadow, either disappearing or appearing when some distance away from the planet.

At 10 P.M. Wednesday a telescope will reveal three moons to Jupiter’s west and one moon to its east. A correct image spotting scope, used by birders and others seeking a view that matches what we see by eye, will show the three moons to the right and the single moon to the left. Many astronomical telescopes will show a reversed view, with three moons to the left.

In order of their distance from the planet, nearest to farthest, the three moons are Io, Ganymede, and Callisto. The lone moon is Europa.

At 10:00 P.M. Thursday night, a telescope will show two moons, spaced well apart, to the west, and two close together to the east. The well-space pair is Europa and Callisto, and the closely spaced duo is Io and Ganymede.

It’s fun to watch the changing positions of the Galilean moons. How fast their positions change reflects their distance from Jupiter. Io, orbiting closest to the planet, orbits the planet every 1.769 days. Next farthest out, Europa, takes 3.551 days to make one orbit, and Ganymede completes one orbit every 7.155 days. Farthest out, Callisto takes 16.69 days to make one circuit around Jupiter.

No other Jovian moons are visible in modest telescopes. Other star-like points of light near Jupiter are just that – stars.

Skywatch Line for Monday August 30th and Tuesday August 31st, 2021

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday August 30th, and 31st, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 7:33 PM; night falls at 9:14. Dawn begins at 4:38 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 6:19.

The Moon, in Taurus, reached Last Quarter on Monday; it rises at 11:46 PM in the Northeast, 29 arc-minutes large, 44% illuminated and sets at 3:35 PM Tuesday. The Moon doesn’t rise again until 12:27 AM Wednesday.

Western Virgo houses Venus and Mercury. Mercury sets first at 8:17 PM and appears 5 arc-seconds in size. Venus sets next at 8:55 PM, blazing with 4th magnitude, a large 15 arc-seconds and 73% lit. Both planets are very low and require an unobstructed view. Venus is 10° high while Mercury is only 3° above the horizon and 16° to Venus’ lower right.

Capricornus contains Saturn and Jupiter in the darkening southeast. Saturn appears first already up. By 8 PM, it is 15° high, shining with zero magnitude and is highest at 11 PM. Jupiter trails Saturn by 17° to Saturn’s left. The Gas Giant flashes with minus 2nd magnitude, a large 49 arc-seconds and highest at 12:14 AM. Both planets are in retro-grade, which means they both seem to temporarily back up westward.

Neptune, in Aquarius, is next, rising at 8:06 PM, glowing with 7th magnitude, a tiny 2 arc-seconds. Neptune is 10° high by 9 PM, 20° at 10 PM and highest at 1:53 AM. Neptune is nearing Opposition, which means almost ideal position for viewing. Uranus is last to rise, in Aries, at 10:05 PM, glimmering with 5th magnitude, 20° high at Midnight and is highest at 5:09 AM. By 1 AM, Uranus is 33° to the Moon’s upper right. At 5th magnitude, Uranus is visible through binoculars all night, but a sky chart is necessary to find it amid similar looking stars.

At 1 AM on Tuesday, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and the Moon are arrayed in a straight line – the Ecliptic where the Sun, Moon and planets travel.

While looking at the Ecliptic, turn your binoculars to Mira, in Cetus. This star dims from third magnitude to 9th in a period of 333 days. The star reached maximum earlier in August and lies to the lower left of Uranus. Star charts help find it.

Ancient peoples saw the sky as the realm of the gods and told stories about their constellations. By midnight, all the constellations that make up the Andromeda story are visible. We previously mentioned Cassiopeia and Cepheus. Cassiopeia angered some gods and Ethiopia was subjected to severe calamities. An oracle told Cepheus that disasters would end if he chained Andromeda to a seaside rock to be eaten by the sea monster Cetus. Perseus was returning from a mission to kill the Medusa, a woman so hideous that her visage turned people to stone. One version of the myth has Perseus returning by his horse Pegasus. He hears Andromeda’s cry for help. The parents, nearby, promise her hand in marriage if he saves her. He kills Cetus and frees Andromeda. “W” shaped Cassiopeia and Cepheus, shaped like a stick drawing of a house, are visible overhead. Pegasus, the flying horse, is a Great Square high in the eastern sky, flying upside down; his neck begins at the lower right star of the square. Andromeda’s chains flow from the upper left star in the square and continues eastward. The famous Andromeda Galaxy lies above the upper chain and is visible to naked eyes in rural skies. Perseus appears to the east of Pegasus, resembling a stick drawing of a man with one long and one short leg. The brightest star in the short leg is Algol, the “Demon Star.” It represents the evil eye of the Medusa. Cetus lies beneath Pegasus and Pisces. It is a dim constellation low on the horizon for our latitude.