Sunday, October 4, 2015

This week's astronomy hi-lites

October 4: Last-Quarter Moon
The Moon is at its last-quarter phase at 4:06 p.m. CDT, so sunlight
illuminates half of the lunar hemisphere that faces Earth. The illuminated
portion of that hemisphere will grow smaller each day until the Moon is new
on October 12.

October 5: Double Cluster
Two vigorous young star clusters, known as the Double Cluster, circle high
across the north on autumn evenings. Under dark skies, they are just visible
to the unaided eye as a hazy smudge of light below W-shaped Cassiopeia.
Binoculars reveal many more stars.

October 6: Triangulum Galaxy
The third-largest galaxy in our neighborhood, M33, is in Triangulum, which
is in the east in mid evening. The galaxy is visible through binoculars as a
hazy smudge of light not far from the triangle of stars that gives the
constellation its name.

October 7: Moon and Companions
The crescent Moon drops past two pairs of bright objects in the pre-dawn sky
the next couple of days. The group that is closer to the Moon tomorrow
includes the planet Venus, which shines as the "morning star," and the true
star Regulus, the heart of the lion.

October 8: Moon and More Companions
Mars stands close to the left of the crescent Moon at first light tomorrow.
The planet looks like a modest orange star. The much brighter planet Jupiter
is below Mars and the Moon, with the even brighter planet Venus above them.

October 9: Alpha Persei
Perseus, the hero, is low in the northeast at nightfall. Its brightest star,
Alpha Persei, probably is just one percent of the age of the Sun, yet it
already is nearing the end of its life because it's much more massive than
the Sun.

October 10: Morning Mercury
Venus, the "morning star," is well up in the east at dawn, with slightly
fainter Jupiter to its lower left. The much fainter planet Mercury stands
well below them, just above the crescent Moon. Mercury will climb higher and
shine brighter over the next few mornings.

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