Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, October 26th and 27th

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, October 26th and 27th written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 5:56 PM; night falls at 7:31. Dawn breaks at 5:48 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 7:23.

The Moon turns “Full” on Tuesday morning. On Monday night, it appears in Pisces and sets before sunrise; Tuesday finds it in Aries. Tradition names this Moon the “Hunter’s Moon” because it enabled natives to find prey more easily and stock up before Winter sets in.

Saturn is the next brightest object, but low on the western horizon. Saturn glows at 0.6 magnitude and appears about ten degrees high. Binoculars may be necessary to find it amid the setting Sun’s glare. Our thick atmosphere will ruin views of Saturn’s glorious ring system. Binocular users may want to try to spot Saturn for another reason. It appears two-thirds of a degree from Beta Scorpii, also known as Graffias. Graffias is a double star. This will be tonight’s challenge object. Now is the time for last looks as Saturn, which sets at 7:31.

Nightfall should reveal Neptune in Aquarius, Uranus in Pisces and asteroid Vesta in Cetus. However, the Full Moon will probably overwhelm views of Uranus and Vesta. Neptune, further West, may be observable; but requires a finder chart from an astronomy magazine, website or app. Neptune sets at 2:38 AM, Vesta sets at 4:15 AM and Uranus sets at 6:07 AM.

Early risers will witness a celestial dance between three bright planets, all in Leo. Jupiter, the first to rise at 3:16 AM, shines at minus 1.8 magnitude. Binocular or telescopic views of Jupiter reveal several Galilean moons; astronomy magazines, websites and apps provide tables for these moons. Venus, next to rise at 3:24, outshines Jupiter by blazing at minus 4.4 magnitude; in a moderately powered telescope, Venus appears about half illuminated and is at its greatest elongation from the Sun. Mars rises at 3:36 and shines at 1.7 magnitude. All three congregate around Leo’s hind leg and form a tight cluster, which occupies a binocular or low power telescope view.

As remarkable this scene is, the dance of these planets is even more outstanding. Monday morning, Venus was in conjunction with Jupiter. Tuesday and Wednesday finds it fleeing its companion. Venus is 1.5 degrees from Jupiter on Tuesday, and 2.4 degrees on Wednesday; it also approaches Mars by being three degrees away on Tuesday and 2.5 degrees on Wednesday. Venus meets up with Mars in early November. Mars, also on the move, is one degree from the star Sigma Leonis on Tuesday, and 1.7 degrees on Wednesday. Early risers can enjoy the day-by-day exchange of these planetary positions.

Mercury brings up the rear, rising at 6:11 AM, low on the eastern horizon. Again, binoculars may assist in finding it amid the solar glare. Under high powers, it appears about 88 percent illuminated.

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