Another frosty morning tells us that it was clear overnight. Clouds keep the heat in, but clear conditions allow daytime warmth to radiate up and away from the ground. When the temperature is around freezing and below, frost forms instead of dew. We’re on a good run here in the Upper Midwest with one clear night after another. This is a great time to get out and enjoy the stars before temperatures become uncomfortably cold. And don’t forget one other blessing – no mosquitoes.
I like to perform reality checks on things I recommend to others to look for in the sky. Yesterday my daughter Maria, her friend and I hiked up in the hills to see the fall color. The sky was a nice deep blue and since it was mid-afternoon, I looked for Venus in the south using the diagram from yesterday’s blog. Nothing showed after a couple tries with just my eyes, so I pulled out my little 8×24 binoculars and swept the spot where the planet was supposed to be. After a minute of searching, there it was! And its crescent shape was as plain as could be. Since I now knew exactly where to look, I lowered the binoculars and found Venus with my eyes alone. Then I lined it up with a tree branch so my daughter could see it. “It’s so bright,” she said when she finally caught it in binoculars. Maria and her friend had no trouble making out the planet’s crescent shape. I hope you’ll also have an opportunity in the next few days.
(All times are Central Daylight. The station will first appear in the western sky and move eastward. All passes except the first one listed will be across the northern sky.)
* Tomorrow morning starting at 5:45 a.m. Brilliant overhead pass that rivals Venus in brightness.
* Wednesday morning Oct. 6 at 6:12 a.m.
* Thursday Oct. 7 at 6:38 a.m. in bright twilight
* Friday Oct. 8 at 5:32 a.m. The station will pop out of Earth’s shadow and first become visible a short distance below the North Star.
* Saturday Oct. 9 at 5:58 a.m.
* Sunday Oct. 10 at 6:24 a.m. in twilight
If you’re up tomorrow morning to watch the space station, check out the scene in the eastern sky. A delicate crescent moon will add its special touch to twilight. This is a sight worth seeing since the moon is only two days before new moon phase and very slender. If the sky is still dark enough, you might catch sight of Leo’s brightest star Regulus, located about one outstretched fist above the moon.
There’ve been several naked eye sightings of Comet Hartley 2 over the past few nights, but I still need binoculars to pick it up from my house. Because the comet’s passing through very rich Milky Way star fields, even in binoculars it’s sometimes tricky to distinguish from clumps of stars. Tonight for a change, it will lie in a relatively star-free patch of sky and may prove easier to find for those of you who’ve tried but not yet met with success. A finder chart can be found HERE.