The big square of Pegasus is dominant in the South Eastern skies. Try to find the Andromeda galaxy. You can spot this galaxy with the naked eye, but better to see in a binocular or smaller telescope. Once midnight, look for the constellation Orion with its beautiful Orion nebula. Visible with the naked eye but a beauty in the binocular or smaller telescope. Spot also the Pleiades. How many stars can you count?
Before Sunrise watch the dance of the planets. Venus rises first after 4 am, followed by Mars and Jupiter after 5 am, very close together and even just before Sun rise, the smaller planet Mercury. A good opportunity to spot and find Mercury, which if overall always far too close to the Sun. Look towards the East before Sunrise and between 4 and 7 in the morning. The bright star Regulus from the constellation Leo is close to the very bright Venus. Saturn, the planet with the rings, sets shortly after Sun set. Worth a watch as it was New Moon on Tuesday and the Lunar crescent will be a nice view with the planet. Send in your pictures! The “smaller” planets - further away and for which you will need a small telescope - Uranus and Neptune are nearly through the night visible.
The Milky Way is visible in the early evenings towards the West. The Gegenschein is visible just after midnight. It is a faint glowing patch of sky relatively good for observation 46° above the Southern horizon in the constellation Pisces. The Zodiacal Light is good for observation low above the Eastern horizon at about 6 am in the morning. Have a look if you can detect the cone of light and let us know.
The Sun sets at 6.14 pm and rises at 7.32 am. On Tuesday 20 October it is First Quarter Moon.
Wednesday 14 October
It is the late Dwight Eisenhower's 125th birthday. He was born today in 1890.
At 6.35 pm the Lunar Crescent is visible. It is 42 hours after New Moon and is 3% illuminated. The Moon sets in the West South West at 7.06 pm and 51 minutes after the Sun.
The International Space Station (ISS) appears at 7.03 pm in the West. Culmination is at 7.08 pm in the South at 69°. ISS disappears at 7.11 pm in the East when it goes into the Earth's shadow at 15° altitude. After one orbit of about 90 minutes, ISS appears again at 8.39 pm in the West and quickly disappears after a few minutes in the Earth’s shadow at 8.44 pm in the West South West at 37°.
Thursday 15 October
Today in 1928 the airship LZ127 Graf Zeppelin, christened on the 8 July 1928, landed in New Jersey after its first transatlantic crossing from Germany. It was 775 feet long and 100 feet high and had a cruising speed of 73 mph.
At 8.10 am the little planet Mercury is in Dichotomy or Half Phase. Not visible due to day time. The inner planets Venus and Mercury have phases like our Moon. Look for Mercury in the early mornings!
ISS appears at about 6.11 pm in the West South West. Culmination is at 6.16 pm in the South at 62° altitude. ISS disappears at 6.21 pm in the East.
At 6.40 pm the Lunar Crescent is visible and 66 hours after New Moon and 7% illuminated. Look for the star Zuben Elakrab nearby. The limb separation is 3° or 7 lunar diameters away.
ISS appears again after one orbit at 7.47 pm in the West. Culmination at 7.52 pm in the South at 60° and disappears at 7.53 pm in the South East at 36°.
Mercury is at its greatest elongation or the farthest from the Sun at 4.20 am. Try to watch in the mornings.
At 5.48 am a very bright Iridium flare is visible in the South South West at 44° in the constellation Orion.
At 6.25 am the Great Red Spot transits over the giant planet Jupiter. You will need a small telescope or binocular the observe.
Friday 16 October
Today in 1908 the first aero plane flight in England was made by the American Samuel Cody who built his own machines and by trial and error took to the air at Farnborough. Sam Cody arrived in England at the age of 34 as a cowboy and Wild West showman. When he failed to pull the crowds he turned to other interests and activities, one of which was kites and large man-lifting kites.
The Moon is close to the planet Saturn at 6.40 pm. Limb separation is only 2° or about 5 lunar diameters. Look for a clear horizon as the altitude is only 7°. Moon phase is 13%
ISS appears 6.54 pm in the West. Culmination at 7.00 pm in the South at 67°. ISS disappears 7.03 pm in the East South East at 11°. After one orbit of approx. 90 minutes ISS appears once more at 8.31 pm in the West and quickly disappears in the Earth's shadow at 31° at 8.34 pm in the South West.
Saturday 17 October
Today in 1885 the first electric telpher line was opened in Sussex by Viscountess Hampden. The aerial tramway carried clay from pits at Glynde nearly one mile to the railway.
The red planet Mars is in conjunction or close with Jupiter at 11.40 pm and only 25' or less than a lunar diameter separated from Jupiter. Look for this close encounter in the mornings as Mars and Jupiter rises at about 3.40 am.
ISS appears at 6.02 pm in the West. Culmination is at 6.07 pm at 69° and disappears 6.12 pm in the East.
The Earthshine on the Moon is visible at 6.40 pm.
After one orbit ISS appears again at 7.38 pm in the West. Culmination at 7.44 pm in the South South West at 44°. ISS disappears at 7.45 in the South South East at 25°. Again, one orbit and ISS appears again at 9.15 pm in the West and disappears immediately at 9.18 pm at 10°.
Mars is close to Jupiter at 11.37 pm and is only 23' separated. Watch this in the morning. Mars rises at 3.42 am and Jupiter rises at 3.43 am, both in the East North East.
Sunday 18 October
Today in 1922 the British Broadcasting Company was formed, 5 years before it received its first Royal Charter and became the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Moon Earthshine is visible at 6.40 pm. At 7.28 pm the Moon is in maximum declination South. This is the 9th lowest Southernmost Moon position of the last 100 years, the 2nd lowest of the last 10 years, the lowest of the next 10 years, the 2nd lowest of the year, and the 2nd lowest of the decade. The former lower Southern Southernmost Moon position was on 21 September 2015 and the next lower Southern Southernmost Moon position will be on 13 March 2034. Wait and see ...
ISS appears at 6.46 pm in the West. Culmination at 6.51 pm in the South South West at 56° and disappears at 6.55 pm in the East South East at 8°. After one orbit ISS appears again at 8.22 pm in the West. Culmination is at 8.27 pm in the South South West at 21°. ISS disappears at 8.27 pm in the South South West at 21° in the Earth shadow.
The Great Red Spot transits the planet Jupiter at 3.56 am. Look for Venus, Mars and Jupiter rather close together in the early mornings. A beauty to watch. Send in your pictures!
Monday 19 October
ISS appears at 5.53 pm in the West. Culmination at 5.59 pm in the South at 65° and ISS disappears at 6.04 pm in the East South East.
At 6.47 pm a very bright Iridium flare appears in the South at 49° in the constellation Aquila.
The Moon Earthshine is visible at about 7.30 pm.
ISS appears at 7.30 pm in the West. Culmination at 7.35 pm in the South South West at 30° and ISS disappears at 7.37 pm in the South South East at 15°.
A rather bright Iridium flare appears at 8.22 pm in the West in the South East South at 46° in the constellation Pegasus.
The meteor shower called Orionids is best seen from 10 pm to 6.25 am. The local hour rate is 5. The velocity is rather rapid at 67 km/s.
At 10.34 pm the Moon sets in the West South West in the in constellation Sagittarius. Look before as at 11.31 pm, after Moon set, the Moon is in maximum libration West. The crater Grimaldi is tipped into the Earth's view.
At 5.33 am a very bright Iridium flare is visible in the South South West at 42° high in the constellation Orion.
And to close of the morning, at 6.09 am the Jupiter Moon Io begins its shadow crossing the planet. Look with a small telescope or binocular when you see a dark round patch crossing the giant planet's surface. Jupiter is at 22° high.
Tuesday 20 October
ISS appears at 6.37 pm in the West. Culmination at 6.42 pm in the South South West at 40° and ISS disappears at 6.47 pm in the South East.
The Moon is close to the star Rho1 at 6.55 pm. Limb separation is 6° or 11 lunar diameters. Altitude is 19° and Moon phase is 49%. The Moon is in First Quarter Moon at 9.31 pm. This is the 2nd Southernmost First Quarter Moon of the year. The former more Southern First Quarter Moon was on 21 September 2015. The next more Southern First Quarter Moon will be on 9 September 2016.
An Iridium flare is visible at 8.17 pm in the East South East at 46° in the constellation Pegasus.
After a complete orbit, ISS appears again at 8.14 pm. Culmination at 8.18 pm in the South West at 13° and ISS disappears at 8.19 pm in the South South West at 11°.
The meteor shower Orionids is best seen from 10 pm to 6.30 am and the local hour rate is 8.
The Great Red Spot transits the planet Jupiter at 5.35 am. The altitude of the planet is than 18°. Use a small telescope or binocular to see. And at 6.26 am the Jupiter Moon Io reappearance from an occultation behind the planet. Let us know if you managed to see!
Wednesday 21 October
The Moon is close to the star Dabih at 6.55 pm. Limb separation is 5° or 9 lunar diameters. Altitude is 22° and the Moon phase is 60%.
The International Space Station (ISS) appears at 7.21 pm in the West. Culmination or highest point in the sky is at 7.26 pm in the South South West at 19° and ISS disappears at 7.29 pm in the South South East.
The meteor shower Orionids is best seen from 10 pm to 6.30 am and the local hour rate is now 9.
At 5.20 am an Iridium flare appears in the South West at 63° in the constellation Auriga.
At 6.36 am the Jupiter Moon Ganymede reappears from an occultation. Use a small telescope or binocular to see.
And another flare is visible at 7.11 am at 55° in the North in the constellation Ursa Minor.
Get in touch with me via www.patrickpoitevin.weebly.com if you need more information.
Ashbourne SKY WATCH week 14 October Special – Mercury
Mercury is not that easy to spot. O should I say - is not that often observed? It is most of the time too close to the Sun, too early in the evenings, or the early in the mornings …
But this week you have a good opportunity to find the little planet. It is Mercury’s best appearance in the morning sky for all 2015. On Thursday 15 October Mercury rises some 90 minutes before Sunrise. The little planet should remain in good view for another week. This Thursday the little planet Mercury is in Dichotomy or Half Phase and Mercury is at its greatest elongation. Bright Venus and Jupiter, and fainter Mars are close together in East before dawn. Mercury joined now. Saturn is the lone evening planet.
Mercury is our solar system’s innermost planet and always stays near the Sun in our sky. This planet passed out of the evening sky and into the morning sky on 30 September 2015. You might have seen the waning crescent Moon near Mercury in the morning sky on 10 or 11 October last week. Mercury will be easier to spot when it is at its greatest elongation from the Sun in the night from 15 to 16 October.
Look for Mercury over the Sunrise point on the horizon as darkness gives way to dawn. Binoculars are always recommended to enhance sky views! With the help of binoculars Mercury should be visible briefly as a faint star. Mercury will stay in the morning sky until 17 November. Then the planet will pass into the evening sky.
Appearing like a smaller version of the Moon, Mercury's phases are visible in a 3 inch or 76 millimeter telescope at 100x. Of course you need a good clear sky with good seeing. Although it has a reputation as a difficult telescopic target, Mercury is the only planet besides Mars to show details on a solid surface.
But really, it is not hard to see Mercury. This coming week you will have the chance to prove it to yourself. Mercury is in the midst of its best morning appearance of the year. Mercury rises about 90 minutes before the Sun, and it climbs to about 10° above the horizon as twilight starts to brighten. Your fist held at arm's length, covers roughly 10° of sky. So find a spot with a clear, unobstructed view toward the East, and then head out about an hour before dawn.
The smallest planet
Mercury is the smallest and closest to the Sun of the eight planets in the Solar System, with an orbital period of about 88 Earth days. Mercury goes around the Sun the fastest of all the planets. Mercury has no Moons. The radius is 1525 miles or 2440 km and the distance from the Sun is 36 193 750 miles or 57 910 000 km. The mass is 328.5E21 kg or 0.055 the Earth mass. The Length of day on Mercury is 58d 15h 30m.
The Romans believed that gods and goddesses were in charge of everything on Earth. Mercury is named after the messenger for their gods. The Roman Mercury had wings on his helmet and shoes. He could travel very quickly from place to place. The planet Mercury moves quickly around the sun. That is how it got its name.
Mercury is a little bigger than our Earth's Moon. It is made of heavier materials, like iron. But if you could weigh Mercury and the Moon, Mercury would weigh a lot more. Mercury is heavy, but it is small. It would take more than 18 Mercury's to be as big as the Earth.
The surface of Mercury looks like Earth's Moon. It is covered with holes or called impact craters. The craters were made by rocks falling from space. The rocks are going very fast when they hit Mercury. A hole is made where the rock hits. Earth has a blanket of air around it. Mercury does not. The blanket is what helps keep Earth from getting too hot or cold. Because it is so close to the Sun, Mercury can be very hot. At night, Mercury gets very cold. We could not live on Mercury!
Mercury is hard to study because it is so close to the sun. People have never gone to Mercury. Spacecraft without people have gone. Mariner 10 was the first to visit Mercury. It flew by in 1974 and 1975. Not even half of Mercury was seen then. After that nothing was sent to Mercury for more than 30 years. NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft flew by Mercury in 2008 and 2009. In March 2011 it began to orbit Mercury. MESSENGER studied parts of Mercury that had not been seen before. It did let scientists learn many new things about the planet.
Some more facts...
For every two orbits of the Sun, Mercury completes three rotations about its axis and up until 1965 it was thought that the same side of Mercury constantly faced the Sun. Thirteen times a century Mercury can be observed from the Earth passing across the face of the Sun in an event called a transit, the next will occur on the 9th May 2016. A Transit of Mercury picture attached. Taken by myself in Gibraltar on 7 May 2003. Nearly in the middle you can see a Sun spot, while Mercury is top right at about 2 O'clock.
Even though the planet is small, Mercury is very dense. Each cubic centimeter has a density of 5.4 grams, with only the Earth having a higher density. This is largely due to Mercury being composed mainly of heavy metals and rock. As the iron core of the planet cooled and contracted, the surface of the planet became wrinkled. Scientist has named these wrinkles, Lobate Scarps. These Scarps can be up to a mile high and hundreds of miles long.
In recent years scientists from NASA have come to believe the solid iron core of Mercury could in fact be molten. Normally the core of smaller planets cools rapidly, but after extensive research, the results were not in line with those expected from a solid core. Scientists now believe the core to contain a lighter element such as sulphur, which would lower the melting temperature of the core material. It is estimated Mercury’s core makes up 42% of its volume, while the Earth’s core makes up 17%.
Despite being further from the Sun, Venus experiences higher temperatures. The surface of Mercury which faces the Sun sees temperatures of up to 427°C, whilst on the alternate side this can be as low as -173°C. This is due to the planet having no atmosphere to help regulate the temperature.
Unlike many other planets which “self-heal” through natural geological processes, the surface of Mercury is covered in craters. These are caused by numerous encounters with asteroids and comets. Most Mercurian craters are named after famous writers and artists. Any crater larger than 156 miles or 250 kilometers in diameter is referred to as a Basin. The Caloris Basin is the largest impact crater on Mercury covering approximately 969 miles or 1550 km in diameter and was discovered in 1974 by the Mariner 10 probe.
Owing to its proximity to the Sun, Mercury is a difficult planet to visit. During 1974 and 1975 Mariner 10 flew by Mercury three times, during this time they mapped just under half of the planet’s surface. On August 3rd 2004, the Messenger probe was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, this was the first spacecraft to visit since the mid 1970’s.
Mercury has just 38% the gravity of Earth, this is too little to hold on to what atmosphere it has which is blown away by solar winds. However while gases escape into space they are constantly being replenished at the same time by the same solar winds, radioactive decay and dust caused by micrometeorites.
Astronomers didn’t realize that Mercury was a planet until 1543 when Copernicus published his Sun-centered model of the Solar System by putting the Sun as the center of the solar system rather than the previously believed center, the Earth.
And more ...
If you moved to Mercury you would not weigh as much as you do on Earth. Not because you would lose weight on the spaceship, but because Mercury is smaller, and so has less gravity. If you weigh 70 pounds or 32 kg on Earth, you would weigh only about 27 pounds or 12 kg on Mercury.
The planet Mercury is the closest of the planets to the Sun. Because this planet lies so close to the Sun, and as a result somewhat near to Earth, it is visible to observers on Earth in the late evening or early morning sky. Because of this, Mercury has become a part of the mythology and legend of almost every culture throughout the history of the Earth.
Mercury's orbit is not a perfect circle like most of the other planets. It's actually egg-shaped. At times, Mercury's orbit brings it closer to the Sun than other times, while all the other planets that have circular orbits are always the same distance from the Sun.
In cosmic terms, Mercury is one of our closest neighbors, but it is only in the last 5 years that we have found out very much about it. That's thanks to a NASA probe called Messenger, which spent 4 years studying the planet, and finished in May 2015.
Let us know if you managed to see the little planet Mercury. And … send in your pictures!