This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through October 26th, 2016. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
The planet Venus is the brilliant object in the west-southwest sky after sunset. As the sky darkens, golden planet Saturn and orange planet Mars become visible in the southwest and south-southwest, respectively. Venus sets at 8:00 p.m., followed by Saturn at 10:30 p.m., and Mars at 11:00 p.m.
The outer planets, Uranus and Neptune, are available for observation through telescopes in the late night and early morning hours. Uranus, in the constellation Pisces the Fishes, and Neptune in Aquarius the Water Bearer, can be pinpointed by using Sky and Telescope magazine’s online finder maps.
The largest planet, Jupiter, in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, rises above the eastern horizon at about 5:30 a.m. It is more than 15 degrees above the horizon at sunrise.
The Moon changes from waning gibbous to waning crescent between the 19th and 26th, and over the same period the time of moonrise changes from 10:53 p.m. to 4:15 a.m. The Moon’s last quarter phase is on the 22nd.
Bright moonlight will hinder observations of the Orionid meteor shower, which peaks before 5:40 a.m., the start of dawn, on Friday the 21st. From a dark sky free from moonlight, the shower usually produces about 20 meteors per hour, but the moonlit sky this year will reduce their visibility. Orionids appear when Earth encounters the inbound stream of debris that roughly follows the orbit of comet Halley, next due to visit the inner solar system in 2061.
Two space stations orbiting the Earth are now housing a combined total of eight people. Both satellites will pass over Los Angeles this week. The International Space Station is scheduled to have an international crew of six on board by the time it appears on Monday evening, the 24th. It will cross the sky from northwest to the south-southeast between 6:30 and 6:37 p.m. The ISS will appear overhead and nearly as bright as Venus, at 6:34 p.m. On the next evening, Tuesday the 25th, China’s Tiangong 2 space station with its crew of two astronauts will move from the southwest to the east-northeast sky between 6:34 p.m. and 6:39 p.m. This space station will appear at its highest, 63 degrees above the southeast horizon, at 6:37 p.m., and should appear as bright as a first magnitude star.
Free views of the Sun during the day and of the Moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes from Tuesday through Sunday, before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for the schedule. The next free public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, November 5.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at email@example.com