Looking up at the Night Sky
Sun rises at 6:08am
Sun sets at 5:45pm
Lunar phase: half-moon, second quarter
Moon sets at 12:18am, Saturday
Moon rises at 1:43pm, Saturday
This weekend, enjoy the stars, the moon and a smattering of lovely planets! We just finished a week of falling stars – thanks to the Orionid Meteor Shower. Hope you found time and some clear sky viewing so that celestial display is one for your cherished memories. Let's make some more; break out your binoculars and aim them up!
Just after sunset this weekend, you have a glorious vista – especially to the south – but look all around actually, the full 360 degrees; there should be something to behold and enjoy wherever you gaze.
The Southern sky offers the slightly chubby half-moon hanging near two bright planets placed high in an arc across from the southeast to the southwest. These are Saturn and Jupiter (left to right) which are quite close to the constellation Sagittarius; recall its looks more to our eyes as a teapot than a centaur, oh well. Below the base of the “teapot” is one of my favourite sky shapes: the dazzling half circlet of stars known as Corona Australis or Southern Crown. Turning to southeast, note the constellation Scorpius, with its curled tail menacing and its three-pronged head pointing east towards the sunset point. The bright star Antares marks his eye.
Turn round and look to the east for a view of Mars ascending, the red planet standing alone in a field devoid of other bright lights. Above Mars in the evening sky is the Great Square of Pegasus. Shifting left towards the northeast, one finds the constellation Cassiopeia, the queen upon her throne, recognizable to star gazers as a “W” shape, either upside, backwards, or another orientation as she rotates around the North Star, Polaris, like the hour hand on a clock.
A turn to the north yields our familiar friend Little Dippers; note that the Big Dipper is below our northern horizon at this time of year for our tropical latitude. Continuing around our 360-degree tour of the night sky, look for the longest constellation: Draco the snake, his long tail wrapping around Ursa Minor and looking back to the west the constellation of Hercules reaches down to embrace the other celestial crown: Corona Borealis, beautiful if perhaps less delicately sparkling than the southern version.
Having observed the most eye-catching points of interest for our evening view of the heavens, if there is a clear, cloud-free sky, you may be lucky enough to observe the Milky Way, our own home galaxy extending a hazy swirl across the sky from the southwest horizon through Scorpius, Sagittarius, to overhead and reaching towards Cassiopeia in the northeast. Happy star-gazing – the best show on earth!