This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch line for the weekend of Friday, October 30, through Sunday, November 1.
First, a reminder that Daylight Saving Time ends early Sunday morning. Don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour before you go to bed Saturday night. In exchange for an extra hour of light in the morning, darkness will fall an hour earlier. Arizona and Hawaii do not change their clocks and stay on Standard Time all year.
Reaching full last Tuesday, a waning gibbous Moon rises late in the evening over the weekend. Moonrise is at 8:50 pm Friday, 9:46 pm Saturday, and 9:44 pm Sunday evening. (Remember that we set the clock back an hour early Sunday, hence it seems like the Moon rises earlier. In reality, it rises 58 minutes later.)
The end of October and the beginning of November feature a modest meteor shower called the Southern Taurids. These meteors, like most showers, occur when the Earth travels through debris, small bits of sand and rock, in the orbit of a comet. In this case it’s debris left by Come Encke as it orbits the Sun.
In late October, 2005, Earth passed through an unusually dense portion of debris from Comet Encke and lucky sky watchers caught some bright fireballs from October 28 through November 10. They were dubbed “Halloween Fireballs.”
The 2005 show was predicted by astronomer David Asher, who works at the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland. He believes we might have another such show when the Earth passes through a denser filament of debris from Comet Encke this weekend. The best time to watch will be around midnight. Don’t expect lots of meteors, but a patient observer might see a bright fireball in an hour or two of watching. A really good fireball is worth the wait. Just be sure to bundle up against the cooler weather.
If you just happen to be outside for a while, even if you don’t plan on a serious watch for Halloween Fireballs, keep your eyes on the sky. You might be pleasantly surprised.
As Venus has been moving lower and away from Jupiter in the morning sky, it has been approaching Mars. If you look toward the east-southeast on Saturday morning at 6:45 am Saturday you’ll easily spot brilliant Venus 34 degrees above the horizon. Bright Jupiter will be just less than five degrees to its upper right, and fainter, reddish Mars just 1½ degrees to its lower left.
If you look at 5:45 am Sunday morning, Mars will be just over a degree from Venus, and not as far below it. By Monday morning the pair will be just under a degree apart.