Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, October 3, 2012

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This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, October 3, 2012. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:

The brilliant moon is present through most of the nighttime hours this week. Its phase waxes from gibbous to full on Saturday, the 29th. This is the traditional “Harvest Moon,” and is the night of the celebration of the Los Angeles Chinatown Moon Festival. For the remainder of the period ending October 3, the moon will appear in waning gibbous phase.

The bright planet Jupiter, in Taurus the Bull, rises in the east-northeast at about 10:00 p.m. It appears high in the south at dawn. Telescope users can observe shadow transits of Jupiter’s moon Io-the tiny black shadow cast by Io as it crosses the face of Jupiter. The first transit occurs early Friday morning September 28, from 3:18 a.m. to 5:41 a.m., P.D.T. A more conveniently timed transit can be seen between 9:46 p.m. and 11:55 p.m., P.D.T. on Saturday night, September 29.

Look for the brightest planet, Venus, in the east-northeast after it rises at 3:30 a.m. By sunrise, the planet is 40 degrees high in the east, a little less than halfway between the horizon and the overhead point. On Wednesday morning, October 3, Venus will be less than 1/3 degree (less than the apparent width of the moon) from Leo the Lion’s brightest star, Regulus.

A newly discovered comet, designated C/2012 S1 ISON, is generating excitement amongst comet experts. If it behaves according to preliminary predictions, comet ISON could become a bright object a little over a year from now, from November 2013 through January 2014. Another comet, C/2011 L4 PanStarrs is on track for becoming a bright object in mid-March next year. Detailed observing prospects will be provided by Griffith Observatory as the predictions are refined.

Griffith Observatory is posting video and photographs obtained by our staff and by NASA of the flybys and California landings made by the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with the orbiter Endeavour as it was delivered to Los Angeles on September 21. Check them out on our “Griffith Observatory TV” page, linked to our homepage.

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 five days a week (Wednesday-Sunday) through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next Griffith Observatory public star party, hosted by Los Angeles Astronomical Society and the Sidewalk Astronomers is scheduled for Saturday, October 20.

From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at