Every week, SkyNews publishes a list of key events in the Canadian sky in This Week’s Sky. This series gives you all the latest news in Solar System movements, including where the planets are in our sky and Moon phases. From eclipses to meteor showers, This Week’s Sky keeps you updated on the best in upcoming astronomical highlights.
Tuesday, October 11 – Bright Moon approaches Uranus (late night)
On Tuesday evening, October 11 in the Americas, the very bright, waning gibbous moon will shine a short distance to the upper right (or celestial west) of the blue-green, magnitude 5.7 speck of Uranus. When the pair clears the eastern rooftops in the Atlantic and Eastern time zones, the moon will be positioned several degrees from the planet.
Since the moon’s orbital motion (green line) will be carrying it steadily eastward, observers looking later, and in the more westerly time zones, will see the moon progressively closer to Uranus.
Around 06:00 GMT, telescope-owners in the northwestern part of the United States, Alaska, northern and western Canada, and Greenland will be able to see the moon occult Uranus — the tenth in a series of consecutive lunar occultations of that planet. The rest of North America will only see the moon pass closely above (north) of Uranus.
Telescope-owners can use Starry Night to look up their timing for the event.
Friday, October 14 – Waning Moon near Mars (overnight)
When the waning gibbous moon clears the treetops in the east-northeastern sky around 10:00 p.m. local time on Friday, October 14, it will be accompanied by the bright, reddish dot of Mars shining several finger widths to its lower right (or 3 degrees to the celestial south). The pair will be close enough to share the view in binoculars (green circle) all night long — but by sunrise, the moon will be farther from, and directly above, the planet.
Saturday, October 15 – Mars passes the Crab Nebula (all night)
For about 10 nights surrounding Saturday, October 15, the easterly motion of Mars will carry it closely past the Crab Nebula, otherwise known as Messier 1, in Taurus.
Mars will move to within a thumb’s width above (or 1.5 degrees to the celestial northwest of) M1 on October 11 — close enough to share the view in a backyard telescope (green circle). At their closest approach on Saturday, Mars will be positioned about a finger’s width to the upper left of the magnitude 8.4 supernova remnant. On the following nights, Mars will shift more to the nebula’s upper left (or northeast).
The relatively faint Crab Nebula is best viewed in larger telescopes under dark skies. Since the waning moon will pass close to the pair on October 14, plan to view the nebula before the crescent moon rises on October 17-20.
Sunday, October 16 – Moon meets Castor and Pollux (overnight)
When the waning crescent moon rises in the eastern sky at around 11:00 p.m. local time on Sunday, October 16, it will be forming a triangle to the right (or celestial southwest) of the up-down pair of bright stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux. During the night, the moon’s easterly orbital motion will carry it closer to Pollux (the lower, more easterly star), allowing all three objects to share the view in binoculars (green circle) until dawn.
Chris Vaughan is a science writer, geophysicist, astronomer, planetary scientist and an “outreach RASCal.” He writes Astronomy Skylights, and you can follow him on Twitter at @astrogeoguy. He can also bring his Digital Starlab portable inflatable planetarium to your school or other daytime or evening event. Contact him through AstroGeo.ca to tour the Universe together.