Friday, October 18
In Europe and Africa, the penumbral eclipse happens in the middle of the night when the Moon is high: centered on 23:50 Universal Time (GMT). Details and world map.
During this, Jupiter's Great Red Spot is in view. It should cross the planet's central meridian around 3:25 a.m. EDT Sunday morning.
Saturday, October 19
Sunday, October 20
Look almost as far to Altair's upper right for Sagitta, the Arrow, even fainter and smaller.
Monday, October 21
Tuesday, October 22
Last Tuesday morning, Whitman spotted Sirius B surprisingly easily in a big scope: it "was seen immediately in my 16-inch at 261x (7mm orthoscopic eyepiece) with a lunar filter (since I hadn't thought to bring out my occulting-bar eyepiece)." It's possible in much smaller scopes too — given first-rate dawn seeing.
Wednesday, October 23
Thursday, October 24
Friday, October 25
Saturday, October 26
By dawn on Sunday they're all high in the southeast to south, with Procyon now on the bottom and Regulus and Mars off to their lower left.
Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
This is an outdoor nature hobby. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential guide to astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the little Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and once you know your way around, the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders collection (which includes its own charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the beloved if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
Can a computerized telescope replace charts? Not for beginners, I don't think, and not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically (able to point with better than 0.2° repeatability, which means heavy and expensive). As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their invaluable Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand."
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury and Saturn are buried deep in the glow of sunset, sinking away.
Venus (magnitude –4.4) shines brightly in the southwest during dusk, gradually moving higher week by week. Can you still see Antares moving farther to its lower right?
In a telescope Venus appears very close to half-lit. When will (or did) it appear exactly so? Visually, the dichotomy of Venus is seen about a week or ten days before Venus wanes to become geometrically half-lit (which happens on October 30th). We see this offset timing because of the dim lighting at Venus's terminator combined with fuzzy seeing in a telescope and/or a bright sky background.
Mars (magnitude 1.5) rises around 2 or 3 a.m. near Regulus (magnitude 1.4) in Leo. By dawn they're high in the east. Mars and Regulus are moving farther apart now, from a separation of 2.5° on October 19th to 6.5° on the 26th. In a telescope Mars is just a tiny blob 4.7 arcseconds wide.
Comet ISON is also near Mars, but it's still a faint telescopic target at about 10th magnitude. Use the finder chart for it in the November Sky & Telescope, page 50.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.2, in Gemini) rises in the east-northeast around 11 p.m. and blazes high in the south by early dawn. About 8° left of it after it rises are Castor and Pollux.
Uranus (magnitude 5.7, in Pisces) and Neptune (magnitude 7.8, in Aquarius) are high in the southeast and south, respectively, by 9 p.m. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune. See also the October Sky & Telescope, page 50.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.
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