Theater in the Sky 2010-10

Uploaded by AAIray on 17.09.2010

Welcome to Theater in the Sky for October 2010 written for the newsletter of Amateur
Astronomers, Incorporated of Cranford, New Jersey
October 2010 presents us with a game of planetary hide-and-seek. With the spectacular exception
of Jupiter, nobody is easy to find.
After being an evening object since January, Venus will pass between us and the Sun at
the end of this month. The month prior to inferior conjunction is usually a big deal
for planet watchers because it gives us a chance to see a bright, crescent planet as
Venus turns most of its dark side toward the Earth. Although this happens every nineteen
months, it occurs near Halloween every fifth time, and then it's a disaster!
Not only is the planet's orbit pressed down against the evening horizon, but the actual
conjunction is a full six degrees south of the Sun.
Venus is essentially invisible the whole month! There are two upsides to this geometry. New
Jersey will get some lovely morning views the whole month of November. If you want to
try for Venus this month, it will be near the two-day-old crescent Moon on the 9th just
after sunset.
As the sky darkens a bit you might be able the catch Mars just above the Moon. both farewells
require binoculars. Mars will not be visible again until late next spring.
You can't miss Jupiter, even if you try. The Giant Planet had its opposition from the Sun
last month, but it seems even more dominant now since it attains its maximum altitude
well before midnight. It is still drifting around the empty border of Aquarius and Pisces.
Uranus is moving off to the right of Jupiter.
Mercury disappears from the morning sky after the first week of the month when it is replaced
by Saturn. As a morning object, Saturn is brighter than it was in the evening because
the rings are more tilted toward the Earth. Porrima (POUR-ee-ma), the number three star
in Virgo, the Virgin, spends the fourth week of October floating just above Saturn in the
morning sky.
Morning events are especially accessible during October. Planetary orbits are steeply inclined
to the eastern horizon. The bright winter constellations are visible before the onset
of colder weather, and Daylight Saving Time pushes everything closer to breakfast!
Please visit for schedules of talks, star parties, special events, directions
and maps. If you are near Cranford, please visit us at Sperry Observatory any Friday
evening between 7:30 and 10:30 p.m.