Today's conversation started out 'auf Deutsch' as Renee and I chatted a bit together in German language. But then we turned our attention to the magnificent morning sky and the conjunction of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Click here to listen.
With the late onset of sunrise, many people that don't normally see the heavens in the morning are getting a glimpse of a striking alignment of planets that shine high in the eastern sky, rising well ahead of the morning sun. The three planets are Mars, Jupiter and Venus, in order from bottom to top. The top planet, Venus, is by far the most brilliant, a piercing white light that outshines every other object in the entire night sky, with yellow-white Jupiter paler by comparison but nonetheless quite bright itself. Below the two is faint Mars, harder to detect but a beautiful red-orange that completes the trio.
Over the next few days, the trio changes position rapidly, with an extremely close encounter between Jupiter and Venus on Sunday morning October 25th. Check out the changes daily and enjoy this spectacular alignment.
After a long and glorious run in the night sky, Saturn is gradually fading into the west and will fade out of view in the coming weeks. Just before it is gone, the waxing crescent Moon will pass near it this week. For me, the evening sky with a young crescent Moon is always quite beautiful, a gentle curved glow that sometimes includes 'Earthshine' on the unlit part of the Moon visible to Earth.
Find a good southwestern horizon this week and enjoy the Moon as it graces the planet Saturn. Get out your binoculars or telescope for maximum effect!
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. I conduct private star parties for special events and corporate events. Contact me for details.