(Still lots to see in the sky, post-eclipse. Monday night moon, by Doug Branch)
By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog
I can see from all the photos here on WSB and on social media that plenty of people enjoyed watching Sunday night’s lunar eclipse, from as close as your own backyard, the sidewalk in front of your apartment, or a quick jaunt down to the nearest park.
What’s next? Three conjunctions in a row and maybe some fireball meteors.
Upcoming Conjunctions and ‘Hey, What’s That?’
You didn’t see it during the lunar eclipse, because the most notable objects in tonight’s sky, besides the eclipse, are rising shortly before the Sun: Venus, Jupiter and Mars are arrayed in the early morning sky. For now Venus — the brightest — is the highest of the three. Jupiter is the closest to the horizon and Mars is inbetween. That will all change in mid-October:
On October 17th, we’ll have a nice close conjunction of Mars and Jupiter, as Mars overtakes Jupiter, making Mars the one closest to the horizon.
Then on October 25th is the second conjunction of this little triad — this time Jupiter and Venus will be close as Venus takes its turn passing Jupiter, making the order from highest to the horizon: Jupiter, Venus, Mars.
Finally, on November 3rd, we have the final conjunction pairing Mars and Venus, as Venus continues to speed past the other planets, this time passing Mars and becoming the planet nearest the horizon.
These three conjunctions in a row cleverly illustrate part of one of the most basic laws of the physics regarding planet orbits — Kepler’s 3rd Law: Planets closer to their star orbit faster, and planets further out orbit slower. So, as Venus is the closest of these three planets, it ends up overtaking both the other two, Mars and Jupiter, even as all three move through our sky.
We’re already in the middle of the Southern Taurid meteor shower, and the Northern Taurid meteor shower begins in just a couple weeks. Both showers last a couple months, and aren’t much to go out and watch on a specific night. They do mean we might see a few extra fireball/bolide meteors during the next couple months though. Both meteor showers will have meteors that seem to radiate from the constellation Taurus.
October 12th — New Moon: The day of the new moon you won’t see the Moon at all, but a day or so before or after you might see a tiny sliver of a crescent Moon as the Sun rises or sets, and a few more days out, you can see the crescent Moon all day long.
October 20th — First Quarter: The first quarter moon is ideal for late afternoon and early evening observation (rising in the early afternoon, setting in the middle of the night).
October 27th — Full Moon and the last supermoon of 2015: The full moon rises at sunset, sets at sunrise and is visible all night. The next full Moon is May 3rd.
November 3rd — Last Quarter: the week around the last quarter moon, it is visible in the early morning sky (rising in the middle of the night, setting in the early afternoon).
Stellarium: Free planetarium software for your home computer, or Android device. Bring up the sky for anywhere in the world, any time and date in history or the future.
Clear Sky Chart: The astronomer’s forecast for the next couple days. Cloud cover, darkness, and “seeing,” which is how nice it is to view the stars, all on one handy chart.
USNO: Dates and times of astronomical happenings.
International Dark Sky Association: How to help your neighbors enjoy the night sky.
Equilibrium Tides from Dr. LuAnne Thompson, Department of Oceanography, University of Washington
WHO IS ALICE?
Alice is many things and works and volunteers for a few notable organizations, but the suggestions and opinions put forth in this article are her own and no one else’s. You can find more about astronomy at alicesastroinfo.com.