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The Sky This Week, 2010 November 2 - 7

Crescent Moons in the morning and evening, and don't forget to set your clocks!

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 Jupiter, with Europa and Io
Imaged with USNO's historic 12-inch f/15 Clark/Saegmüller refractor,
2010 November 2, 03:01 UT


The Moon passes from the morning to the evening sky this week, with New Moon falling on the 6th at 12:52 am Eastern Daylight Time. Look for the waning crescent Moon in the pre-dawn sky near the rising golden glow of Saturn on the mornings of the 3rd and 4th. Observers with a clear view to the southwest should be able to glimpse the Moon’s slender 1.7 day-old crescent about 7 degrees above the horizon half an hour after sunset on the evening of the 7th. If you have a pair of binoculars, see if you can spot ruddy Mars about two degrees above the lunar crescent and the star Antares just over two degrees to the left of Luna’s disc. Two nights later the Moon is perched near the top of the "Teapot" asterism of the constellation Sagittarius.

The hour of sleep that we "lost" back in March is regained in the annual change of our clocks back to Standard Time. Officially this occurs at 2:00 am on the morning of the 7th. Set your clocks back one hour before you retire on Saturday night and you’ll wake up on Sunday in synch with the rest of the nation. Even though we move back to "Standard Time", we now spend more of the year observing Daylight Time, which makes me wonder which system should now be considered as the "Standard". Luckily, the Department of Transportation has the responsibility to keep this all sorted out; the U.S. Naval Observatory just provides the reference time-scale!

The second week of the Great World Wide Star Count continues this week, taking full advantage of the absence of the Moon for folks to head outside and see how many stars they can find from their back yards or favorite dark-sky locations. After the first week of observations, nearly 500 people have reported their findings on the project’s website. This program not only gives you the opportunity to learn some of the more easily recognized constellations, it also serves to raise awareness of the night sky that’s vanishing under the onslaught of poorly designed outdoor nighttime lighting, one of the single biggest sources of wasted energy in society today. Help the project move along with your participation.

Apart from the very brief appearance of Mars near the crescent Moon, the only bright planet in the evening sky is giant Jupiter. Old Jove is on the meridian at around 10:00 pm EDT as the week opens, but once we switch to Standard Time he is at his best in the earlier evening hours. His westward drift against the dim stars of Aquarius has now slowed to a crawl, and he will reach the second stationary point in his current apparition in another few weeks. Despite the fact that he’s now almost 28 million miles (45 million kilometers) more distant from us than he was at opposition in late September, Old Jove still presents a fine target in the telescope eyepiece. His ample disc still shows off ever-changing cloud patterns in modest backyard telescopes.

Saturn is now climbing in the pre-dawn sky, preceding the bright star Spica over the horizon by about an hour. If you brave the morning chill and set up a telescope in the gathering twilight Saturn will display his familiar rings in the eyepiece. They are gradually opening after their near edge-on appearance last year.

By the end of the week keep your eyes peeled for the return of Venus to the morning sky. The dazzling planet passed between Earth and Sun last week, and she’s on her way to a spectacular year-ending morning show.

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