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5 Sky Events This Week: Red Planet, Bull’s Eye, and Jovian Giant

Three neighboring worlds align this week when Mars, the moon, and Jupiter form a a diagonal  lineup in the early morning skies. Credit: NASA/A. Fazekas/Starry Night Software
Three neighboring worlds align this week when Mars, the moon, and Jupiter form a a diagonal lineup in the early morning skies. Credit: NASA/A. Fazekas/Starry Night Software

Heading into the final days of September and first week of autumn sky-watchers will find the moon dancing with celestial luminaries like planets and stars.

Mercury and Spica. Within a half hour after sunset on Tuesday, September 24, look toward the very low southwest horizon for planet Mercury making a remarkably close encounter with Virgo constellation’s brightest star Spica.

The cosmic pair will appear to squeak past each other—well within 1 degree—the closest conjunction between a planet and such a bright star in 2013.

The innermost planet, Mercury will make an unusually close pass by the bright star Spica after sunset on Sept. 24th. Bright planets Venus and Saturn will act as a convenient guidepost to tracking down this challenging conjunction. Credit: A.Fazekas/Starry Night Software
The innermost planet, Mercury will make an unusually close pass by the bright star Spica after sunset on Sept. 24th. Bright planets Venus and Saturn will act as a convenient guidepost to tracking down this challenging conjunction. Credit: A.Fazekas/Starry Night Software

This cosmic duo, however, will be a real observing challenge because of its proximity to the horizon—so find a location that has a totally clear view of the southwest horizon and use binoculars. Also use Venus and Saturn as a convenient guidepost to tracking down Mercury/Spica. They will be about 22 degrees apart—little more than the width of two side-by-side fists at arm’s length.

The further south your observing location, the higher the pair will appear in local skies.

 

Moon and Aldebaran.  Near midnight on Tuesday, and into the early morning hours of Wednesday, September 25, look towards eastern and southern skies for a stunning waning moon passing the left of the red giant Aldebaran—the bright “eye” of Taurus.

The near quarter moon joins Aldebaran - the brightest star in the constellation Taurus - the bull on Sept.24/25. Credit: A.Fazekas/Starry Night Software
The near quarter moon joins Aldebaran–the brightest star in the constellation Taurus–on Sept. 24/25. Credit: A.Fazekas/Starry Night Software

Earth’s natural satellite will appear less than three degrees from the 68 light-year distant star—equal to the width of your three middle fingers at arm’s length.

Continue watching the moon during daytime Wednesday as it glides through the southern sky and try your hand at catching sight of Aldebaran with the help of binoculars.

 

Last Quarter Moon. Last-quarter moon occurs on Thursday, September 26 at 11:56 pm EDT (Friday, 3:56 am UT). The moon rises in the east around midnight, so look for it passing between winter constellations Gemini, to the left, and Orion, on its right.

 

Moon joins Jupiter. At dawn on Saturday, September 28 the waning crescent Moon glides only five degrees south of the beacon-like Jupiter. The two will appear particularly pretty with binoculars, which if you hold steady enough will show off the gas giant’s four biggest moons.

 

Worlds Align. By next morning, Sunday, September 29, early bird skywatchers gazing towards the eastern sky will notice that the moon will have sunk between bright Mars, near the eastern horizon, and Jupiter, more than halfway near the zenith, forming a diagonal alignment of neighboring worlds not to be missed.

 

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.

Comments

  1. Ajita
    Delhi
    September 25, 2013, 3:06 am

    Nice Article

  2. 666666
    United States
    September 24, 2013, 11:40 pm

    5

  3. Ray
    September 24, 2013, 3:15 pm

    Times and degrees, rather than approximations, would be more useful.

  4. Alex
    Kazakhstan
    September 24, 2013, 10:56 am

    Great!

  5. Dr Suvarna Nalapat
    India
    September 24, 2013, 6:21 am

    Aldebaren in Sanskrit Rohini, Thiruvathira . Taurus is Rishabha , the bull seen in Indus valley seals and Harappan seals and is Nandi of Siva and Aldebaren is the giant red eye of bull. Budha (Mercury) and Sukra (Venus) Sani (saturn) Kanni ( Virgo) Swathi (spica) are the other members (in Sanskrit) of these

  6. Tara
    Toronto Canada
    September 24, 2013, 2:17 am

    I love star watching even though I am in a big city, I can see many constellations. I am an astrologer and Astronomy and Astrology were once the same science.We are in a intimate relationship with the Moon and the planets and the stars. we have free will but we are affected by these alignments. As above so below, the ancient hermetic maxim.

  7. teresa roleau
    new hampsire...usa
    September 24, 2013, 1:07 am

    I know now why ive been a terrible mood ….it’s beautiful and it’s colorful all around the moon it’s awsome …..teresa

  8. Nedko Angelov Vitamina
    Bulgaria
    September 23, 2013, 4:08 pm

    mm very interesting, but whether Bulgaria will be seen?

  9. Chinta Waney
    Yogyakarta, Indonesia
    September 23, 2013, 3:18 pm

    Really marvelous!
    Praise GOD…
    TFI, National Geographic! ^^ (y)

  10. kuldeep krishnani
    karachi pakistan
    September 23, 2013, 2:05 pm

    Great job

  11. Dean Harding
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    September 23, 2013, 12:28 pm

    Awesome information, but I guess specific to Northern Hemisphere stargazers?

  12. Muhammad
    September 23, 2013, 11:47 am

    great Article