This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, September 10, 2014. Here is what’s happening in the skies of southern California:
The moon is the dominant object in the sky this week, its phase waxing from gibbous to full on the 8th. On following days the moon will wane to gibbous. The moon reaches its closest point in its elliptical orbit around the earth-its perigee- at 8:38 p.m., PDT on Sunday the 7th. The centers of the earth and moon will then be 222,698 miles from each other. The full moon comes exactly 22 hours later, thus just squeaking in as what is popularly called a “super moon.” While the moon will look about as large as it can, don’t expect it to be gigantic. The range of apparent sizes of full moons over the course of a year is the same as that spanned by a nickel and a quarter viewed side-by-side from a distance of 7½ feet.
Binoculars should aid you in finding the innermost planet, Mercury. Mercury makes its brief appearance about 30 minutes after sunset, only 5 degrees above the western horizon. For a handy comparison, remember that your clenched fist viewed from arm’s length spans about 10 degrees along your knuckles.
Golden Saturn and Red Mars, both in Libra the Scales, appear low in the southwest sky during evening twilight. Mars is to the lower left of Saturn. Both planets will set by about 10:30 p.m.
The giant planet Jupiter, in Cancer the Crab, rises above the east-northeast horizon at about 4:00 a.m. By 6:02 a.m., the start of civil twilight, Jupiter with its four bright Galilean satellites provides the best planetary target for telescope viewing this week.
The brightest planet, Venus, makes its appearance at 5:30 a.m., when it rises, slightly north of east. By the start of civil twilight, Venus is only 7½ degrees high, requiring a clear horizon to be seen.
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.