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Monday, 15 October 2018  •  Monday, 7 Ivy Moon 2018

Watching the night sky in Ivy Moon 2018

9 October - 7 November 2018

Map of night sky at full moon: 24 October, 16:45 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Ivy Moon 2018

Mercury reaches 23.3° east of the sunset on 6 November, but the planets you can see in the evening sky this month very much depend on where you live.

In the southern hemisphere, you may be able to see all five naked eye planets in the evening sky at once if you have a good, clear western horizon. On 10 October, the new crescent moon is in the sky with Mercury, Venus and Jupiter, though Mercury is probably too low in the twilight to see. Spot it, if you can, below and to the left of the moon. Above, and left of the moon is very bright Venus, and above and to the right of that grouping is Jupiter. Saturn, less bright, but easier to see in the twilight, is high in the north-west, and still bright Mars is high in the north. After this, Venus sinks into the sunset, and Mercury rises. It passes north of Jupiter on 28 October. Jupiter then sinks into the sunset around 3 November.

In the northern hemisphere, Venus is already below the horizon after sunset, and Mercury can’t be seen except perhaps around 6 November, very low in the SW. The moon and the other naked eye planets are low above the southern horizon after sunset on 10 October. The moon is in the west-south-west, very bright Jupiter is in the SW, Saturn is just west of south, and still bright Mars is east-south-east. Jupiter slips down to the horizon in late October, and the other two planets move very gradually towards the sunset.

The moon is near Jupiter on 11 October. As seen from the west coast of North America, the moon is just north of Saturn on the evening of 14 October. The moon is near Mars on the evening of 18 October. The two can be seen closest from Asia and Australasia. Mars sets around midnight, depending on your location.

The ice giant planet Uranus comes to opposition on 24 October, after being closest to Earth on 23 October, 2824 million kilometres or 2.6 light hours away. It is pretty much invisible to the naked eye, but easily seen in binoculars on the borders of Pisces and Aries. On the evening of 24 October, the moon is nearby.

Venus passes this side of the sun on 26 October, just 2.26 light minutes from Earth, the closest any planet gets. It just makes it into the eastern morning sky by the end of the lunar month. As seen from the northern hemisphere, the very old crescent moon may be seen above the dawn alongside Venus on 6 November.

Look out for the Orionid meteors on the night 21/22 October, especially after midnight, though the moonlight may hide them somewhat.

The month ahead: Yew Moon 2018

8 November - 7 December 2018

Map of night sky at full moon: 23 November, 05:39 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Yew Moon 2018

Mercury is visible from the southern hemisphere in the western evening sky until about 19 November. Northern hemisphere viewers will struggle to see it, very low in the SW, setting too soon after the sun.

On 8 November, the very new crescent moon is near Mercury in the western evening sky immediately after sunset, best seen from equatorial regions. The moon is more easily visible from Earth’s northern hemisphere, and Mercury from Earth’s south.

Saturn is in the evening sky, in the constellation Sagittarius. On the evening of 11 November, as seen from Europe and Africa, the moon passes very close to the north of the ringed planet, just about close enough to be visible together in a large field of view of a device powerful enough to reveal the rings, especially the further north you are.

On the evening of 12 November, as seen from Europe, the moon occults the very faint dwarf planet Pluto. You will need a powerful telescope to see it. As seen from Penzance, the dark edge of the moon covers Mercury at 18:20. Saltash 18:21. London 18:27. Reappears Penzance 19:28, Saltash 19:29, London 19:30. Glasgow 18:15 to 19:24.

Mars continues to shine less brightly in the evening sky, as its distance from Earth increases. On 11 November it moves from Capricornus into Aquarius, setting in the late evening. The moon is near Mars on 15 November. On 7 December, Mars passes just two minutes of arc north of the ice giant Neptune, visible only though telescopes and good binoculars. This close pass can be seen after dark from much of Asia at 14:10 UTC. With the right equipment, you should be able to see the discs of both planets in the same view. With a powerful telescope and a wide enough field, you should be able to see the moons Phobos, Deimos and Triton as well.

Jupiter passes the far side of the sun on 23 November. Mercury passes this side of the sun on 27 November, and at the end of the lunar month pops up from the dawn into the eastern morning sky, especially as seen from the northern hemisphere.

Venus is the bright morning star, easier to see from the northern hemisphere. On the mornings around 14 November, it passes close to Spica, the bright star of Virgo, but much dimmer than Venus. On the mornings of 3 and 4 December, the old crescent moon is near Venus. From the northern hemisphere, it may just be possible to see Mercury further in towards the dawn. The following morning, 5 Dec, the moon is lower in the dawn, and Mercury a little higher. The moon is between Mercury and Venus.

Look out for the Leonid meteors on the night 17/18 November, especially after midnight.

William Morris
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