Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, September 4, 2013

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This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, September 4, 2013. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:

The planet Venus is the brilliant white light in the west-southwest sky during twilight. Planet Saturn is the brightest object to the upper left of Venus in the southwest sky. Saturn appears to close in on Venus this week, starting 22 degrees to the upper left of Venus on August 28th. Saturn ends up 15 degrees to the upper left of Venus on September 4th. Also on the 4th, Virgo the Maiden’s brightest star Spica will be 2˚ to the lower left of Venus. A telescope is needed to see Saturn’s spectacular rings and the ¾-illuminated phase of Venus.

Last quarter moon occurs on Wednesday morning, August 28. On following mornings the moon’s phase is waning crescent and it can be seen until Tuesday, September 3. The moon will appear near the brilliant planet Jupiter on Saturday, August 31, and the orange planet Mars on Monday, September 2.

Mars is still too far away to show telescopic detail, but Jupiter displays four bright moons that are visible in binoculars, and a wealth of cloud details visible through telescopes.

Comet ISON (C/2012 S1), which was promoted widely last year as the upcoming “comet of the Century,” is in Cancer the Crab, to the lower left of Mars at dawn. The comet glows feebly at magnitude 14, one thousand times fainter than the faintest star visible to the unaided eye, and several times fainter than most predictions had anticipated. As a result, the comet remains visible only to experienced amateur and professional observers at this time. As observing prospects become clearer before the comet ISON’s close encounter with the sun on Thanksgiving Day, Griffith Observatory will provide detailed observing information, assuming the comet eventually brightens enough to observe easily.

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 Tuesday-Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next 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, September 14.

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