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Wednesday, 21 October 2020  •  Wednesday, 5 Ivy Moon 2020

Watching the night sky in Ivy Moon 2020

17 October - 15 November 2020

Map of night sky at full moon: 31 October, 14:49 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Ivy Moon 2020

Jupiter and Saturn look lovely together in the evening sky, low down in the southwest as seen from northern lands. The growing moon is nearby on 22 October. By the end of the month, the two planets are only three degrees apart. On 12 November, Jupiter passes north of faint Pluto once more.

Mars is still very bright and red, and setting in the late night. On the evening of 29 October, the nearly full moon is south of Mars in the sky. For most of the month, Mars appears to move in a retrograde (westwards) direction, because of the faster movement of the nearby Earth, but on 14 November, opposition well past, Mars starts moving slowly eastwards again.

Venus is the morning star, gradually approaching the dawn as it moves towards the far side of the sun. The old crescent moon is close on the morning of 13 November.

Mercury may just be visible immediately after sunset in southern hemisphere skies on the evening of 18 October, below the thin new moon, but then the planet moves rapidly towards the near side of the sun, and out of view. Around 2 November it emerges into the northern hemisphere dawn sky, once more near the star Spica, and below Venus. On 9 November, Mercury reaches 19°W of the sun in the eastern morning sky, still not far from Spica, but with the much brighter Venus approaching it from above. It is a great view from Earth’s northern lands, but a very poor one from the south. On 13 November, the old crescent moon is near Mercury, Venus and Spica, visible in the ESE, with the moon between Venus and Mercury, and Spica to the side of the old crescent. On 14 November the very old crescent is below Mercury, and may be hard to see in the dawn.

On 31 October, Uranus is opposite the sun in the sky, and may just be visible to the naked eye in the constellation Aries. It is also closest to the Earth: 2810.8 million kilometres, or 2.6 light hours away. Look for it with binoculars or a small telescope.

Look out for the Orionid meteors around 20 & 21 Oct, especially after midnight.

The month ahead: Yew Moon 2020

16 November - 14 December 2020

Map of night sky at full moon: 30 November, 09:30 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Yew Moon 2020

At full moon on 30 November, there is a penumbral eclipse of the moon visible from the Americas, the Pacific, East Asia, the Arctic and NW Europe. Maximum eclipse is at 09:43 UTC, when there is some darkening of the moon’s northern limb. However, this is after moonset in NW Europe and South America, and before moonrise in most of East Asia, so in these places there will be very little to see. At maximum eclipse, there is a 91% eclipse of the sun near the moon’s north pole. The next total eclipse of the moon is on 26 May 2021, and the next one visible from Europe is in the morning of 16 May 2022.

At dark moon on 14 December there is a total eclipse of the sun visible from parts of Chile and Argentina, with a partial eclipse seen from southern and central South America as well as parts of Antarctica, the Pacific and the Atlantic.

Total path and nearby, with percentage of the sun eclipsed: Chile: Valdivia 98% at 13:04 (16:04 UTC), Temuco 99% at 13:04 (16:04 UTC) (go just south of the town for totality), Villarrica total at 13:04 (16:04 UTC); Argentina: Junin de los Andes total at 13:06 (16:06 UTC), Bariloche 95% at 13:09 (16:09 UTC), Neuquén 95% at 13:14 (16:14 UTC), San Antonio Oueste total at 13:21 (16:21 UTC), Trelew 92% at 13:22 (16:22 UTC), Bahía Blanca 90% at 13:26 (16:26 UTC)

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (Galápagos Islands) 9% at 08:42 (14:42 UTC), Rikitea (French Polynesia) 52% at 05:48 (14:48 UTC), Adamstown (Pitcairn) 54% at 06:49 (14:49 UTC), Hanga Roa (Easter Island) 81% at 09:57 (14:57 UTC), Guayaquil (Ecuador) 0.9% at 09:59 (14:59 UTC), Lima 16% at 10:18 (15:18 UTC), La Paz 16% at 11:50 (15:50 UTC), Santiago de Chile 77% at 13:03 (16:03 UTC), Asunción 36% at 13:33 (16:33 UTC), Buenos Aires 72% at 13:34 (16:34 UTC), Stanley 64% at 13:36 (16:36 UTC), Esperanza (Antarctica) 28% at 13:36 (16:36 UTC), Montevideo 72% at 13:40 (16:40 UTC), Grytviken (South Georgia) 52% at 15:02 (17:02 UTC), São Paulo 31% at 15:07 (17:07 UTC), Rio de Janeiro 30% at 15:16 (17:16 UTC), Edinburgh of the Seven Seas (Tristan da Cunha) 89% at 17:41 (UTC), Jamestown (St Helena) 50% at 18:02 (18:02 UTC), Georgetown (Ascension Island) 15% at 18:04 (18:04 UTC)

Jupiter and Saturn move ever closer together in the early evening sky, setting two or three hours after the sun, and low down in the southwest as seen from northern lands. The crescent moon is nearby on 19 November. By the end of the month they are merely three-quarters of a degree apart.

Mars is bright in the evening and early night sky. The moon is nearby on the evening of 25 November. Though well past opposition, Mars is still much brighter than Saturn.

Venus is the morning star, gradually approaching the dawn as it moves towards the far side of the sun. On 16 November, it passes 4°N of Spica, the bright star of Virgo. The old crescent moon is near Venus on the morning of 12 December. As seen from parts of Siberia and Alaska, the moon occults Venus with the sun below the horizon: at Nome in Alaska, the moon starts covering Venus at 19:57 UTC 12 Dec, local time 10:57, but ends at 22:52 UTC, 11:52 local time, just after sunrise; from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in Russia’s Kamchatka Krai, the occultation begins at 19:19 UTC 12 Dec, local time 07:19 13 Dec and ends at 20:21 UTC, 08:21 local time, well before sunrise.

Below Venus, Mercury is visible in the eastern morning sky until about the end of November when it heads into the dawn, also on its journey to the far side of the sun. It is much better seen from the northern hemisphere.

Look out for the Leonid meteors around 16 and 17 November, and for the Geminid meteors around 13 and 14 December, in both cases especially after midnight.

William Morris
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