This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through October 5th, 2016. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
The brightest planet, Venus, is easy to see in the west-southwest sky for more than an hour after sunset. A telescope can show the gibbous phase of Venus. The planet now appears 85-percent illuminated.
As the evening sky darkens, the golden planet Saturn appears in the southwest sky, above the bright star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion. Brighter planet Mars, in Sagittarius the Archer, is located about 20 degrees to the upper left of Saturn in the south-southwest sky. A telescope is needed to see Saturn’s spectacular rings.
The waning crescent Moon appears below the planet Mercury, low in the eastern sky, before sunrise on Thursday morning, September 29th, and is new at 5:11 p.m., PDT on Friday, September 30th. The waxing crescent Moon will appear to the right of Venus starting 30 minutes after sunset, at 7:05 p.m., on October 2nd. By the 4th, the Moon will set at 9:01 p.m.
During the night that starts on Tuesday, October 4th, amateur astronomers located along a broad path that stretches from the central Atlantic states to border of California and Mexico–including Los Angeles– may be able to watch an asteroid briefly pass in front of, or as astronomers say, occult, a star. The occultation causes the star to vanish for up to several seconds and then re-appear just as suddenly. A telescope of at least three-inch aperture is required to observe the occultation. As seen from the Los Angeles area, magnitude 11.4 asteroid, 451 Patientia, should occult the magnitude 9.7 star, TYC 6978-00854-1, a few seconds after 11:08 p.m., PDT on Tuesday the 4th. The star is located about two degrees from the first magnitude star Fomalhaut in the constellation Pisces Austrinus the Southern Fish. Finder charts, maps, and predictions are available on a Webpage of the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA). IOTA also has information about how to observe, record, and report asteroid occultations. Carefully timed visual or video observations from different locations can allow the size and shape of the asteroid to be measured.
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. Because of evening heavy traffic, we advise arriving in the afternoon! 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, October 8th.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org