This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, October 1, 2014. Here is what’s happening in the skies of southern California:
The planets Saturn and Mars are visible in the southwest after sunset, and the innermost planet Mercury may be seen with them until Friday the 26th. You can start looking for the planets at 7:09 p.m., just when the sky becomes dark enough to see them at their highest. Mercury is the lowest of the group, 5 degrees above the west-southwest horizon. Mercury sets by 7:40 p.m. Saturn is located more than 20 degrees to the upper left of Mercury and is 20 degrees above the southwest horizon at 7:09 p.m. Saturn sets at around 8:00 p.m. Orange planet Mars is next in line, 19 degrees to the left of and slightly higher than Saturn. Mars is close to the bright star Antares of Scorpius the Scorpion. Antares means “the rival of Mars” in Greek, and is a reference to the shared red-orange hue of the star and Mars. On Friday night, the 27th, Mars is 3 degrees north of Antares. Mars sets shortly before 10:00 p.m. this week.
The moon, which was new on Tuesday night, September 23, will be hard to see, 6 degrees to the right of and slightly lower than Mercury, when it enters the evening sky on the 25th. It will become easier to find in the southwest on following nights. On the 27th, the Moon appears very close to Saturn, and occults (passes in front of) Saturn as seen from Hawaii that evening. The moon is close to Mars on the 29th, and on October 1, it will be on the meridian, in first quarter phase, at sunset.
The brilliant planet Jupiter, in Cancer the Crab, is eye-catching after it clears the eastern horizon at about 3:00 a.m. The planet is more than 30 degrees high when dawn starts.
The brightest planet, Venus, rises in the east during bright twilight at 6:15 a.m., and is only 7 degrees high at sunrise, making it a challenge to find.
A fine passage of the International Space Station over Los Angeles is expected on Tuesday evening, September 30. The bright satellite will travel from the northwest to the north between 7:07 and 7:10 p.m., moving from the horizon and vanishing into earth’s shadow seconds after passing nearly overhead.
Russia is scheduled to launch its first female ISS crewmember, aboard a Soyuz rocket, on Thursday, September 25 at 1:25 p.m., PDT. Live coverage of the launch activities, starting at 12:30 p.m. will be carried on NASA TV , as will the vehicle’s docking to the ISS, scheduled for 7:16 p.m., PDT that evening.
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 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, October 4.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.