Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, October 8, 2014

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This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, October 8, 2014. Here is what’s happening in the skies of southern California:

The moon’s phase changes from first quarter to full this week.

The main sky event is a total eclipse of the moon during the early morning hours of Wednesday, October 8. The eclipse will happen when the full moon passes into earth’s shadow, as it did last April. The official start of the eclipse is at 1:15 a.m., PDT, when the east side of the moon moves into the outer, fuzzy part of earth’s shadow, the penumbra. The shading of the penumbra is so subtle, however, that it is unlikely that any dimming of the edge of the moon will be seen until about 1:40 a.m.  A clearly defined dark bite out of the east side of the moon appears at 2:14 a.m., marking the moon’s passage into the umbra, the dark inner shadow of the earth. Over the next 41 minutes, the moon moves completely into the umbra, and the eclipse becomes total at 3:25 a.m. The moon remains totally eclipsed for nearly 59 minutes, but should not disappear. Instead, it remains visible, glowing softly with a coppery-red or deep red hue, and may show shades of blue at the umbra’s edge. The colors are the result of earth’s atmosphere bending the sun’s reddened light around the sunrise-sunset rim of the earth into the umbra. The moon begins its dramatic emergence from the umbra at 4:24 a.m., and is completely out of the umbra at 5:34 a.m., PDT. The subtle penumbral shading will linger for about another half hour.

As seen from southern California, the eclipsed moon is in the southwest sky. Its apparent elevation decreases from 60 degrees to only 5 degrees. No special equipment is needed to see the eclipse, although the different colors present during the total phase of the eclipse are best seen with binoculars or a small telescope. If you have optical aid, look for the planet Uranus, which will appear as a solitary star-like dot, one lunar diameter (half a degree), to the left of the totally eclipsed moon. Uranus is magnitude 5.7, too faint to see by unaided eye in suburban conditions, but easy to spot through binoculars of almost any power.

Due to the late hour, Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park will be closed to the public during the eclipse. More information about the eclipse is available on our special webpage.

The planet Saturn can be found about 16 degrees above the southwest horizon starting 30 minutes after sunset. The orange star, 20 degrees to the left and slightly higher than Saturn is Antares, the brightest star of Scorpius the Scorpion.  The planet Mars appears as a near twin of Antares, and is located 6 degrees to the upper left of the star. Antares is a Greek name meaning “the rival of Mars.”

The largest planet, Jupiter, is brilliant in the eastern sky, before dawn. Located in Cancer the Crab, Jupiter rises above the east-northeast horizon at 2:30 a.m., and is 37 degrees high in the east-southeast when dawn starts at 5:36 a.m.

The International Space Station, now carrying the six crewmembers of Expedition 41, will make its best appearance this week above Los Angeles about six hours before the eclipse, on the night of Tuesday, October 7.  The brilliant satellite will cross the sky from the southwest to the northeast between 7:03 and 7:10 p.m., PDT. The ISS reaches the apex of this pass at 7:07 p.m., when it is 72 degrees high in the southeast.

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