Star Calendar Planets:
Moon and Earth play hit-or-miss with their shadows this month. The Moon sets an hour before sunrise on the 8th,just as it is engulfed by the shadow of the earth. Two weeks later, on the 23rd, we just miss a partial Sun eclipse because the Moon’s shadow approaches just as the Sun sets. Those substantially west of here will have an annular solar eclipse. The first sighting of the Moon in Egypt, following this event begins the Islamic year 1436 A.H.
Mercury pulls a rapid switcheroo this month, moving from evening to morning, and will have a decent showing near the end of this month. He is stationary to retrograde on the 4th, crosses the nearside of the Sun on the 16th, and reverts to normal motion on the 25th.
Venus makes a more lugubrious counter-switch and is invisible all month as she crosses the farside of the Sun on the 25th.
Sun gives us another hour and eighteen minutes less daylight over the course of this month. U.S. “Daylight Time” does not end until November 2, but the clocks are turned back in Europe on the 26th of this month – probably because the center of population there is further north.
Mars has passed Antares and relaxes into the wintry realms of Sagittarius while slightly dimming. Mars is above the horizon fewer than 9 hours a day this month – rising after 11:AM, setting around 8:PM. Mars crosses the winter colure on the 26th and will emerge from below the celestial equator next on Feb. 21, 2015.
Jupiter crosses into Leo on the 14th and is seen gradually nearer Regulus, both being higher each morning. He is still well north of the celestial equator and will not cross south of it for another two years.
Saturn eventually succumbs to the overtaking Sun and will not be seen again until some morning in late November. Saturn is in the midst of a long decline into the lower realms of the sky, not crossing the winter colure until Dec. 2017.
Uranus is in opposition and at its brightest this month. It should be visible with binoculars as a slightly greenish spot in Pisces, appearing in the SE about halfway up the sky, and below Alpheratz of the Square of Pegasus around 10 PM. It is necessary to avoid a moonlit sky, so looking after the 14th or so would be best. This is an object at the threshold of perception – theoretically a rare naked-eye object – but somehow missed by the keen observers of antiquity. Most people still never see it in their lifetime.
Star Calendar Days:
1 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 6:53/18:38 EDT (11h45m daylight)
4 Mercury begins retrograde motion (moves to right against starry background)
8 Full Frost Moon at 6:51AM, setting at 5:55AM in total eclipse
13 Begin looking for Uranus in dark, clear late evenings; see above
16 Mercury at inferior conjunction with Sun
18 Moon below Jupiter SE at 6:AM
20-22 Orionid meteors may peak, shooting up from the ENE in late evening
23 Moon’s disk just touches Sun as they set. Partial eclipse for those further West.
24 Sun is halfway to its most southerly declination
24-25 Islamic New Year 1436 A.H.
25 Mercury resumes direct motion, increasingly visible 6:15AM+ in east
Venus at superior conjunction with Sun
26 Mars crosses winter colure, 25 degrees below celestial equator
Summer Time ends in Europe
28 Moon above Mars SW 7-8:PM
31 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:26/17:53 EDT (10h27m daylight)
Halloween illuminated by waxing gibbous Moon