Will we ever get bored of looking at crescent moons? No way. There can never be too many. Lots of times, crescents meet planets and booya, we get a pretty pairing called a conjunction. That happens tonight when the 2-day-old moon joins Saturn and Mercury low in the southwestern sky at dusk.
The moon will be about a fist high a half-hour after sunset and 2° (four of its diameters) to the upper right of Saturn. Since the scene will unfold in twilight, Saturn might be tricky to see, so bring along binoculars just in case. Much lower, and requiring a good horizon view, Mercury peeps into view. Although bright, the planet will almost certainly require binoculars. Once you find Saturn and moon, point your glass toward the horizon. Mercury lies at the apex of a skinny triangle with the other two celestials.
I finally got my first look at Jupiter at dawn this weekend after a long cloudy spell. I saw from the front window in morning twilight very low and practically hidden by trees. A couple more weeks, and it will be high enough for a good view in a small telescope. Mars, in Virgo and about three fists to the upper right of Jupiter, is slowly brightening but still far away and tiny. Can you believe it has almost the same apparent diameter right now as the planet Uranus, located a billion miles from the sun? In just 10 months, the Red Planet will be its closest to Earth since 2003 and brighter than Sirius.
The zodiacal light, that big thumbprint of comet dust now standing tall in the pre-and-early-dawn sky looked fantastic Sunday morning even from moderately light-polluted skies here in Duluth. At least the east is dark, and that’s where to look to see this special phenomenon that appears brightest and highest in October and November for observers in mid-northern latitudes.
I’ve been crazy busy the past few months finishing a new book, titled, OK, get ready: 70 Night Sky Wonders You Must See Before You Die: The Guide to the Most Extraordinary Curiosities of the Universe. I’m out of breath just writing it. Because of that work, I’ve been unable to update this blog as often as I’d like. That should change now.
American novelist Don DeLillo said: “Writing is a concentrated form of thinking …” and I agree. It’s also work, and like work, can done on a schedule and regularly. At least that’s how it is for me. The book should be available next May. In the next few days, I’m going to re-meet my wife, watch a few Curb Your Enthusiasm, walk with no particular destination in mind and continue to find inspiration under the stars.