StarWatch 894 for the week of Oct. 6, 2013
In astronomy it can be honestly said that what goes around almost always comes back around. The sky is full of repeating patterns, and early sky watchers mastered these designs and brought order to the heavens as well as to the Earth in the form of calendars and other timekeeping devices.
On Oct. 8, a configuration repeats a Sept. 8 design that was well observed around the world. Both the moon and Venus will again share the spotlight in the darkening evening sky. The moon revolves eastward around the Earth in a period of 27.3 days.
While that is happening, the Earth continues trekking around the sun, causing the sun and Venus to move in an eastward direction among the background stars. When the moon finally completes its orbit around the Earth, it has a little catching up to do, not quite three days’ worth, in order for the configuration to repeat itself.
This time, when the moon passes Venus on Oct. 8, it will be positioned above the Goddess of Love because the moon’s track is tilted about eight degrees to the orbital path of Venus. The conjunction of Venus and the moon on the 8th will not be nearly as close as it was last month, but it will still be a very beautiful apparition.
Be at your observing location with a good SW horizon about 30 minutes after sundown. The 18 percent lit, waxing crescent moon should be an easy target. Look underneath the moon and ever so slightly to its right to find starlike Venus. Binoculars will always make the viewing experience more enjoyable, but they will not be a necessary requirement for this super bright pair to be seen.
Check the sky on Oct. 7, and you’ll see Luna approaching Venus. On Nov. 6, Dec. 5, and Jan. 2, about 30 minutes after sundown, the cycle repeats itself, but Venus and the moon will be slightly farther apart.
Next week, a lunar eclipse comes to the East Coast.