Sky Lights ~ Scorpio

October 23 - November 22, 2010

Mars and Mercury hug the southwestern horizon and are challenging to see in the twilit sky. You'll need right timing, clear skies, a flat horizon, aided vision and good luck!!! Mars sets about an hour after the Sun, at 7:30pm Daylight Time in the beginning of Scorpio and at 6:00pm Standard Time by its end. Mercury sets less than an hour after the Sun during Scorpio. 11/7 the youngest, thinnest Moon, Mars and Antares are in close proximity; will you see them? 11/7 Dusk Map/Text If you're up for another challenge, Mars and Mercury are at their closest 11/20 in the deepening twilight. Mercury is 5x brighter than Mars. 11/20 Map Bring along binoculars for these observations, the stronger the better!   

Jupiter is eye-catching and easily seen in the southeast about 30 minutes after sunset. The planet is at its highest in the south around 8:00pm. Jupiter sets in the west at 4:15am Daylight Time in the beginning of Scorpio and at 1:45am Standard Time by its end. Jupiter, moving further from the Earth, dims during Scorpio from magnitude -2.8 to magnitude -2.6. Its disk size shrinks about 10%. The planet remains the brightest point of light in the night sky until it sets. Jupiter's retrograde motion (7/23-11/17) increases its distance from nearby Uranus during Scorpio. Uranus at magnitude 5.8 can now be seen with binoculars and without an optical aid in a dark sky. 11/15 Uranus, Jupiter and the waxing Gibbous Moon are in close proximity. 11/15 9pm Map

Venus retrograde (10/8-11/17) is in inferior conjunction 10/28. A few weeks before and after this conjunction Venus is at a close approach to Earth and briefly beams its striking, bright light very close to the horizon, piercing the twilit glow. Inferior conjunction marks Venus' switch from the evening sky and the sunset horizon to the morning sky and the sunrise horizon. Begin looking for morning Venus 11/7, around 5:45am, in the east-southeast; Spica and Saturn lie above. Mid-November Map Evening Venus was at greatest brilliancy, magnitude -4.8, 9/23; morning Venus achieves greatest brilliancy 12/4 at magnitude -4.9. Venus has phases like the Moon. Before inferior conjunction, in the evening sky, Venus gets bigger in disk size and its illuminated phase decreases; afterwards the opposite occurs in the morning sky. You can see this demonstrated in APOD's animation of the phases of Venus. These phases and more can be seen in this 2010 Evening Animation of Venus. Also check out this montage, which shows Venus approaching inferior conjunction in 2004. During Scorpio, morning Venus waxes to a 15% illuminated Crescent.

Saturn appears in the morning sky, low in the east at the end of October. Look about an hour before sunrise. Brighter Arcturus lies to the north (left) of Saturn Late October Map 11/3-4 look for Saturn and the waning Crescent Moon. 11/3-4 Dawn Map As the days unfold, watch Saturn climb higher before dawn. By mid-November Saturn is almost 1/3 of the way to the zenith. Spica and Venus lie below the ringed planet at this time and Arcturus lies to the north. Mid-November Map The planet shines at magnitude 0.9, brighter than Spica at magnitude 1.0. Saturn rises at 5:30am Daylight Time in the beginning of Scorpio and at 3:15am Standard Time by its end. Saturn's telescopic rings are tilting open, revealing more and more of their northern face. The planet's ring tilt is 9 in November. Saturn's Rings 11/15 Generate images of Saturn's ring tilt as seen from Earth with the Solar System Simulator.

Vega is the brightest star in the northwest, setting in the beginning of Scorpio at 2:00am Daylight Time and by its end at 11:30pm Standard Time. It is the western point of the Summer Triangle, which is slowly sinking on the western horizon giving way to the autumn stars overhead. Altair is the triangle's southern point and Deneb the eastern point.

Fomalhaut is the brightest star low on the southwestern horizon, setting in the beginning of Scorpio at 2:00am Daylight Time and by its end at 11:30pm Standard Time (same as Vega). It is the Southern Royal Star and the brightest star in the constellation Pisces Austrinus below Aquarius. In 2010 brilliant Jupiter lies diagonally to the northeast of Fomalhaut Star Chart It is part of the celestial sea constellations.

Capella is the bright star in the northeast. Capella is the brightest star seen the most often.

The Great Square of Pegasus is a sure sign of autumn. Look for the four stars almost overhead as night begins. Stars of Autumn Also see Autumn Dipper? A Flying Horse?.

The Pleiades star cluster is another sign of autumn. Look east as the Sun sets for Taurus the Bull and its bright red Bull's eye, Aldebaran; then look a little west to find the mini dipper-shaped, sparkling Pleiades, the Bull's shoulder. Stars of Autumn


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