This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, September 26, 2012. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:
The moon appears in the evening sky, waxing from crescent to first quarter on the 22nd, then becomes gibbous on the nights before it the 29th, when it is full. Look for the crescent moon next to the planet Mars during twilight on the 19th. On Sunday the 23rd, the dark limb of the moon occults (blocks) the 4.9 magnitude star 43 Sagittarii at about 8:13 p.m., P.D.T. throughout southern California. The rapid disappearance of the star can be observed through binoculars or a telescope.
The bright planet Jupiter, in Taurus the Bull, rises in the east-northeast at about 10:30 p.m. It appears high in the south at dawn. Telescope users can see the impressive shadow of Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, as it crosses the disk of the planet between 12:39 and 3:42 a.m. on the morning of the 25th.
Look for the brightest planet, Venus, in the east-northeast after it rises at about 3:20 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.
The space shuttle Endeavour is being delivered to Los Angeles International Airport piggyback on the NASA-747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft on Friday, the 21st. Here is NASA’s official word on viewing the flyover from southern California:
“Anytime after 10:30 am on Friday, September 21, watch for flyovers of Endeavour in the Los Angeles area. You may have an opportunity to see Endeavour passing regional landmarks such as California Science Center, Disneyland, The Getty Center, Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles International Airport and Malibu, among others.”
For those planning to watch the flyovers from Griffith Observatory, the Observatory’s restaurant and gift shop (Café at the End of the Universe and the Stellar Emporium) will open at 10:00 a.m. Griffith Observatory will open to the public at noon. Endeavour’s flight over Los Angeles marks the end of an era, and should not be missed!
Autumn begins in the earth’s northern hemisphere at 7:49 a.m., P.D.T. on the 22nd – the autumnal equinox. Spring begins in the southern hemisphere at the same time. The autumnal equinox is the moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator (the projection of the earth’s equator into space) moving south. For the next six months the sun is south of the equator, shining most directly on the earth’s southern hemisphere. The equinoxes are also the days when the sun rises due east and sets due west. Autumn ends with the winter solstice on December 21.
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, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society is scheduled for Saturday, September 22.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.