This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, October 16, through Sunday, October 18, 2015.
The Moon was new last Monday and will reach first quarter next Tuesday so much of the weekend’s nights will be dark and moonless. The Moon sets at 8:37 pm Friday, 9:22 pm on Saturday, and 10:12 pm on Sunday.
Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury now grace the morning sky. Mercury is not far above the horizon and can be hard to spot, but the other three are easily seen and will form an increasingly tight grouping during the coming days.
At 6 am Saturday morning Mercury will be 4 degrees above the eastern horizon (a pinkie held at arm’s length spans 2 degrees). You’ll need a good clear view of the eastern horizon to spot the elusive inner planet. Brilliant Venus, outshining everything else in the predawn skies, will be obvious and easy to spot, just less than 30 degrees above the eastern horizon. Jupiter and Mars will be below and a bit left of Venus, with bright Jupiter just under 7 degrees from Venus. Fainter, reddish Mars will be just half a degree to the upper left of Jupiter.
If you can’t spot Mercury, try again at 6:15 am, when it will be almost 7 degrees above the horizon.
Look at the planetary grouping again Sunday and Monday mornings, and you’ll find Venus is moving closer to Jupiter and Mars, while Mars is pulling away from Jupiter. Keep an eye on the trio during the coming week.
The weather was not very cooperative for last weekend’s star parties at Landis Arboretum. Friday’s was canceled and Saturday’s was held under rather hazy skies. Fortunately, this weekend offers star parties at two locations.
Dudley Observatory will hold a public lecture and star party at 7 00 pm on Friday, October 16, at the Octagon Barn. The barn is located at 588 Middle Road, Delanson, New York 12053. The talk, “Do Black Holes Destroy Information?” by Dr. Oleg Lunin from the University at Albany, will be held rain or shine. If the skies are clear, it will be followed by a star party, where telescope will be set up to provide guests with views of various celestial showpieces. The Octagon Barn is a lovely, dark location for enjoying the night sky, both by eye and through a telescope.
The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers, in association with NYS Parks, will hold a public star party at 6:45 pm on Friday, October 16, at the Deerfield Pavilion in Grafton Lakes State Park. Telescopes will provide guests with views of galaxies, nebulae, star clusters, and double stars.
All ages are welcome and there is no admission charge. For directions visit this web site, call the Park office 279-1155, or use the address 100 Grafton Lakes State Park Way, Grafton, NY, 12082.
The star party will be canceled if the skies are mostly cloudy. If it is canceled and the weather permits, it will be rescheduled for 6:45 pm on Saturday, October 17. (It will only be held Saturday if the Friday event was canceled.) In case of possible cancelation, or for more information, call one of the coordinators, Ray (658-3138) or Bernard (658-9144).