Star Calendar Planets:
Moon ‘s syzygy/perigee is becoming less synchronous now so we will have a respite from tidal inundations for a while. The next large spring tides are expected in late February.
Mercury is at an advantageous position for viewing as the month begins. The not-so-great maximum elongation of 19 degrees on the 1st is to good advantage as the ecliptic is pretty steeply inclined to the eastern horizon in the morning these days.
Venus crosses paths with Jupiter in the obscurity of the Sun this month. Venus, briefly an evening star as 2014 began, was a morning star for most of this year and will reappear in the evening next month – to dominate that position for much of 2015.
Sun is pointing a very large and active sunspot at us as I write. This one should be easily visible to the eye (with the same protection appropriate for eclipse viewing, or with an image projected onto a screen with a lens or pinhole). This spot will rotate away from view on Nov. 1st, but may appear again, mid-month, in some metamorphosed fashion.
Mars will continue to set about three hours after the Sun all of this month and now appears as a “mere” 1st magnitude star, similar to Altair – which stands above him in the evening. Mars can be as bright as -3. and as dim as +1.6, but the range varies greatly from one synodic cycle to another as the maximal and minimal distances change a lot due to its orbital eccentricity and to the highly variable albedo of its ice caps and dust storms. The last opposition was maximally at -1.5, slightly brighter than the brightest star, Sirius. Mars just had a very close encounter with a comet that flew a mere 90,000 miles in front of its path, (perpendicular and south-to-north) – rather like having a bird fly across the windshield as one drives along.
Jupiter slackens pace in its approach to Regulus, coming to a halt in early December. Jupiter will now rise before midnight, but is still to be experienced as a feature of the morning sky.
Saturn crosses the far side of the Sun on the 18th and will become visible in the morning sometime during Advent. Continue reading