The Moon heralds the return of mighty Jupiter to our evening skies. As October nears its end, the giant planet Jupiter is arriving in the evening sky earlier and earlier each evening, now shining brightly soon after 9:00 pm. Jupiter is dazzling in its new perch for the coming months high above the constellation Orion near the bright star Aldeberan. Jupiter will be approaching its brightest of the year in the coming weeks, as we move into an alignment of Jupiter at opposition in early December. Watch the nearly Full Moon glide past Jupiter early next week. And with the late sunrises that we experience this time of year, Jupiter is visible nearly overhead in the early morning hours before sunrise.
This week, the dusk sky features alignments of planets, stars and the Moon that will accentuate the western horizon with two red ‘stars’ glowing in the colorful haze of twilight. The two ‘stars’ are a planet and a star, but both are quite distinctive because of their orange-red tinge. Mars is passing near the red supergiant star Antares, and the Moon will be sweeping past the two on the evenings of the 17th and 18th.
If you have an extra-clear western horizon, you can try to locate the faint Mercury and the very young Moon shortly after sunset on Tuesday 16th. This will require the use of binoculars to spot them, but if conditions permit, it will be quite impressive to see.
In 2005 I began writing a column for the San Francisco Waldorf School newsletter called "The Urban Astronomer." I started this blog in 2007 as a place to archive my articles and to offer additional insights on the night sky - even if you live in a big city. In 2008 I became an occasional guest on the KFOG Morning Show, and more recently on KALW and KGO. Archived shows are posted on the blog.