This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, October 31st, and Thursday, November 1st, written by Louis Suarato.
The Third Quarter phase of the Moon occurs at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday. The Moon will reach perigee, its closest distance from Earth during this lunar cycle, at 4:05 that afternoon, at a distance of 230,032 miles. The Moon will set at 2:15 p.m., and rises again at 20 minutes past midnight in the constellation Cancer. Cancer is the home to two deep sky objects in Charles Messier’s catalog. M44, also known as the Beehive Cluster, is an open star cluster about 600 light-years away, making it one of the nearest star clusters to Earth. Documentation of this star cluster can be traced back to 260-270 B.C. when Aratus referred to it as “Little Mist”. The second Messier object in Cancer is M67, the Golden-Eye Cluster. Discovered by Johann Gottfried Koehler in 1779, the stars in M67 range in age from 3.2 to 5 billion years. This open star cluster contains approximately 500 stars. Look 8 degrees to the right of the rising Last Quarter Moon for this oldest of close star clusters. When the Moon isn’t there to guide you, find M67 halfway between the stars Regulus and Procyon, and 2 to 3 degrees above the center of that imaginary line.
Mars, in Capricornus, and Saturn, in Sagittarius, remain the only easily visible planets in the night sky. The second half of November will welcome Venus back as a morning star. Mars orbits the Sun once every 687 days. It has the most eccentricity of any planet, other than Mercury. The eccentricity of a planet’s orbit is the degree of which it deviates from a perfect circle. The extremes in Mars’ orbit range from its aphelion of 154 million miles, to its perihelion of 128 million miles. The planet with the lowest eccentricity is Venus. At an eccentricity of 0.007, Venus’ orbit is almost circular.