Mercury and the sliver moon meet tomorrow at dawn

The thin moon and Mercury tomorrow morning about 30 minutes before sunrise. When you search for it, point your binoculars at the moon and then slide to the lower left to find the planet. Once you know exactly where to look, lower the binoculars and try to see it with your eyes alone. Stellarium

Not one day after Venus and the moon paired up so beautifully, Mercury gets a visit from an skinnier crescent moon tomorrow morning Feb. 27. Seeing the two will take a little more effort than this morning’s duo because they’ll be noticeably lower in the east-southeastern sky, and Mercury’s not nearly as bright as Venus. Still, if you have a clear view in that direction, it’s worth looking if only to see the delicate appearance of the moon.

All John Chumack had was a point and shoot camera when he grabbed this photo of the moon and Venus in a break in the clouds over the campus of the University of Dayton this morning. Credit: John Chumack

Once you’ve found the crescent, glide your gaze a few degrees to its lower left to find the innermost planet Mercury. The planet shines at first magnitude – reasonably bright – but has to fight bright twilight. That’s why binoculars are recommended to get started.

A sampling of craters named after artists and writers on the planet Mercury. Credit: NASA

One of the things I enjoy about Mercury is the naming system for its craters. A quick glance across a map of the planet reveals the names of deceased musicians, artists and writers from around the world. It makes me smile to see some of my favorites composers like Aaron Copland and Bela Bartok and French photographer Eugene Atget memorialized by impacts. Even Walt Disney’s up there.

Mercury brightens as March opens and also moves a little farther up and away from the sun, making it a bit easier to see, but you’ll have to go on it on your own then with no moon to guide the way.

Chasing lunar crescents … and Mercury too!

A sight worth the frozen fingers. The wafer-thin crescent moon alongside Mercury (upper left) over the Duluth, Minn. – Superior, Wis. area last night during twilight. The planet was visible for more than 1 hour 15 minutes after sunset. Details: 150mm lens at f/2.8, ISO 400 and 1/4″ exposure. Credit: Bob King

Hope you saw the pairing of Mercury and the 1-day-old moon last night. If you missed it or had to put up with bad weather, a slightly thicker crescent will hover a “fist” above Mercury in the western sky during twilight tonight. Start looking about 40 minutes after sunset.

The wiry moon sets over Duluth’s Spirit Mountain ski hill – many of the runs were lit up Friday night. Notice the prominent earthshine or darkly-lit moon. This is light reflected off Earth and out to the moon, where it’s reflected back again to our eyes. Details: 350mm lens at f/4.5, ISO 800 and 1-second exposure. Credit: Bob King

Be sure to catch the planet sometime in the next week before it slinks back toward the horizon and disappears in the twilight glow. The moon was so thin that its Cheshire cat smile appeared slightly broken or irregular to the eye. Sure wish I’d brought binoculars for a closer look.

Beautifully composed shot of Venus and the morning crescent on Jan. 28, 2014 on either side of a statue of astronomer Nicholas Copernicus at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Ill. Copyright: Don MacKay

One day before new moon phase, lots of folks reported sightings of a similarly skinny crescent to the lower left of Venus in the dawn sky. I received a couple beautiful images to share with you. Enjoy.

One day later on Jan. 29 the moon had moved to the left and below brilliant Venus. This photo taken from the woodlands of Lakewood Township near Duluth, Minn. Details: 1.6 sec, 70mm F4, ISO 400. Credit: James Schaff

Illustration (not to scale) showing why the evening crescent faces one way and the morning crescent the other. As the moon orbits the Earth, sunlight illuminates its left or eastern edge before new moon. After new moon, the right or western edge is lit. Illustration: Bob King

Tiptoe into the twilight zone to see Mercury at its best

Mercury stands alone low in the sky over grain elevators and freeways in this picture taken last night Jan. 27, 2014 in Duluth, Minn. Credit: Bob King

This week and next Mercury will be brightest and highest in the evening sky. Not until May will skywatchers in mid-northern latitudes have as good an opportunity to spy the planet that spins closest to the sun. That’s what makes it so tricky to see in the first place. Mercury never gets far enough from the sun to appear in a dark sky, forever lurking in the twilight zone.

Mercury will be visible for the next week low in the west-southwest sky at dusk. Start looking about 40-45 minutes after sundown. On Friday, a thin day-old moon will join the scene. Stellarium

Still, I was surprised how easy it was to see last night. Higher up than expected too. I bundled up and went out to look 45 minutes after sunset. Nothing. Where was Mercury? It turned out I was looking too low. Once I raised my gaze a bit, a solitary “star” popped into view about a fist above the southwestern horizon.

While the planet shines tonight at magnitude -0.5 (brighter than Vega and Arcturus) the hazier, thicker air near the horizon robs it of 1.2 magnitudes, dimming Mercury to magnitude +0.7 or about as bright as Altair in the Summer Triangle.  Still plenty easy to see with the naked eye.

I kept the planet in view until around 6:20 p.m. or more than an hour past sunset before subzero temps and 20 mph winds forced a retreat back into the car. If you’re in a mercurial mood, start looking about 45 minutes after sunset to the upper left of the brightest part of the lingering solar glow in the southwest. The planet hovers about 10-12 degrees (a little more than one fist held at arm’s length) high. Since Mercury has no bright company, if you see a single star in that direction, you’ve nailed it.

Only a spruce tree separates Venus from the crescent moon this morning Jan. 28, 2014. A similar but thinner crescent will be near Mercury in the evening sky on Friday Jan. 31. Credit: Bob King

To be on the safe side, you might consider toting along a pair of binoculars. I guarantee that once you find it with optical aid, you’ll quickly see Mercury with the naked eye.

Once you’ve fixed in your mind where Mercury is located along your local horizon, get ready for a really fine event. This Friday the 31st, an incredibly thin one-day-old moon will sidle up some 5 degrees to the lower right of the planet. Are you thinking pictures? So I am.

Place your camera on a tripod – or at least wedge it firmly against something – compose a scene including moon and planet and take a series of photos with your lens set anywhere from f/2.8 to 4.5. ISO 400 speed should be fine with exposures ranging from 2 seconds to 1/15 second. While you’ll get a decent photo with a standard lens, a 100-200mm telephoto lens will make for a tighter, more dramatic image.

As you stand in the cold clicking away or simply admiring Mercury, here are some interesting facts about the planet to warm your brain cells:

Color image of Mercury made by the MESSENGER probe. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

* At 3,032 miles (4,880 km) across, Mercury is smaller than Jupiter’s moon Ganymede and Saturn’s moon Titan.

* Mercury’s orbit is the most eccentric or least circular of all the planets. Its distance from the sun ranges from 29 to 44 million miles (46-70 million km).

* While Venus is slightly hotter, Mercury has one of the most extreme temperature ranges of any body in the solar system. With virtually no atmosphere to capture and distribute the sun’s heat, the sun-facing dayside of the planet tops out around 800 degrees Fahrenheit while the nightside dips to -297 F.

All the dayside heat leaks right back into space during the long night. And it is a L-O-N-G night. The sun’s enormous gravity has locked the little planet in a 3:2 rhythm or “resonance”. For every two orbits around the sun, Mercury rotates three times on its axis.

Since the planet completes an orbit in 88 days (one Mercury year), its day is twice as long as its year or 176 Earth days. Mercury’s sunny side bakes for nearly six months and then chills for another six. No wonder it experiences such extremes of hot and cold.

* Mercury’s slight axial tilt of just 0.03 degree means that craters at its poles are steeped in perpetual shadow and never heated by the sun, making them perfect places to trap volatile materials like ice and keep them frozen for a long, long time. New data from the MESSENGER spacecraft now gives strong evidence for ice holed up in some of these craters.

* Mercury has a large (by volume) partially molten iron core and a planet-wide magnetic field, a feature lacking on Venus and Mars.

Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster and a crater on Mercury appear to be related. Credit: NASA

* Mercury is the most cratered planet in the solar system. Unlike Earth, Mars and Venus, which have been extensively resurfaced through volcanic and tectonic processes, Mercury’s retains much of its ancient battered surface.

Mercury and Venus trade places, liven up dawn and dusk this week

Venus is back! This time in the morning sky during mid-twilight. This view shows the planet about 10 degrees high (one fist at arm’s length) 40 minutes before sunrise tomorrow. Stellarium

Like resurrected gods, Mercury and Venus passed closest to the fiery glare of the sun earlier this month and disappeared from view for a time. Now they’ve returned but on opposite sides of the sun – Mercury in the evening and Venus in the morning.

Venus lingered for months in the dusky dusk until Jan. 11 when it passed between the sun and Earth and disappeared in the solar glare. Now she’s west of the sun, rising at dawn and visible with the naked eye about 40 minutes before sunrise.

Mercury has also stayed “close” to the sun and hidden from northern hemisphere sky watchers’s eyes during the first half of January. Now it’s crawling up the southwestern evening sky and will gradually become easier to see in the next week. While a feeble replacement for brilliant Venus, the solar system’s elusive, innermost planet is a rarer sight by far.

Mercury’s position shown 30 minutes after sunset on three dates. A very thin crescent will pass near the planet on Jan. 31. Mercury’s altitude is about 4 degrees tonight, 8 deg. on the 26th and 10 deg. on the 31st. The map shows the sky facing west-southwest. Stellarium

I’ve prepared simple maps for you to find both of these wanderers. You’ll need a clear horizon to the southeast to spy Venus and the same to the southwest for Mercury. You’ll find Venus much easier to spot because it’s so much brighter than Mercury and somewhat higher too.

In early January Venus lay east of the sun in the evening sky with its horns pointing left; now in late January, it’s swung west of the sun into the morning sky with the tips pointing west. Illustration: Bob King

If you’ve been following the planet over the last month, you’ll notice that the crescent is reversed from its evening appearance, with horns pointing up to the right instead of left. Tomorrow morning the crescent measures 59 arc seconds across or nearly one arc minute (60 arc seconds), equal to 1/30 the diameter of the full moon. 7-10x binoculars will easily show the delicate Venusian crescent.

Venus and Mercury on Jan. 19 viewed through a telescope (or in Venus’ case, also binoculars). Although not shown to scale in this illustration, Venus is more than 10 times larger in appearance than Mercury. Stellarium

Don’t expect to see Mercury’s humpbacked gibbous phase in the old opera glass. The munchkin planet spans only 3,032 miles across (2.5 times smaller than Venus) and is currently on the far side of its orbit 4.6 times farther from Earth than Venus. With a disk just 5.5 arc seconds across, Mercury’s phase will require a telescope magnifying around 100x to see clearly.

Now all you’ve got to do is resurrect yourself from the couch and go out for a look.

Imagine a crater named John Lennon – it’s easy if you try

The 59-mile-wide John Lennon crater on Mercury photographed by the orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/Carnegie Institution of Washington

The International Astronomical Union, the final authority on the names of planets and satellites in the solar system since 1919, recently approved 10 new names for craters on the planet Mercury. All the crater names are in keeping with the established theme of naming features after ”deceased artists, musicians, painters, and authors who have made outstanding or fundamental contributions to their field and have been recognized as art
historically significant figures for more than 50 years.”

The Mercury MESSENGER spacecraft science team proposed the latest bunch, one of which will go to John Lennon (1940-1980), who helped found the Beatles, the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed band in the history of popular music.

Other craters named in the recent update include Capote after Truman Capote (1924-1984), author of “In Cold Blood” and other books, and Caruso, for the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921), whose incredible voice resounded in opera houses across Europe and the Americas.

John Lennon – Imagine video 

Lennon Crater is 59 miles (95 km) in diameter and located in Mercury’s southern hemisphere. The crater is filled with melted rock from the impact and displays a central peak and lovely terraced walls. You can imagine being there by reading by clicking this whimsical version of Lennon’s “Imagine” lyrics that appears on the MESSENGER website:

Imagine some ejecta
It isn’t hard to do
Terraced walls and impact melt
Secondary craters too
Imagine central peaks
Rising above the floor…

You may say I’m a complex crater
But I’m not the only one
Someday more will join us
On the planet closest to the sun.

Mercury, Saturn meet a meager moon / Space station back at dusk

A very nice conjunction/pairing of the moon, Mercury and Saturn happens tomorrow morning Dec. 1. This map shows the sky facing southeast 45 minutes before sunrise. Stellarium

Feeling well rested? If your answer is yes, I invite you to spend some of your sleep surplus watching a wonderful celestial gathering tomorrow morning. Mercury, Saturn and a very thin crescent moon will bunch up low in the southeastern sky at mid-dawn.

The crescent, just a day and half before new, passes almost directly between the two planets some 2 degrees below Saturn and 3 degrees to the right of Mercury. To see the trio, find a place with a wide-open vista to the east-southeast and start looking about an hour before sunrise.

As always, bring binoculars to help out in case Mercury’s too low to see at first. A little bit of optical aid will also show the full outline of the moon more clearly. This dim part of the lunar globe is illuminated by sunlight reflected off Earth or earthshine.

ISS astronauts, including guitar-playing Chris Hadfield, in festive spirits last Christmas. Credit: NASA

The International Space Station (ISS) got a visit this week from the Russian cargo craft Progress 53 Friday. The unmanned delivery vehicle ferried 2.9 tons of food, fuel and supplies for the station crew, including 1,763 pounds of propellant, 48 pounds of oxygen, 57 pounds of air, 925 pounds of water and 3,119 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and holiday gifts.

Last month, the ISS cruised the morning skies. Now it’s back in the evening for many locations and easier to see at dusk. But only for a few brief nights. I’ve listed all evening pass times for the Duluth, Minn. region below, but you can always find out when and where it flies over your house simply by dropping by Heavens-Above or typing in your zip code on Spaceweather’s Satellite Flybys page.

The station travels from west to east and can take anywhere from a couple minutes to 5 minutes to cross the sky depending on its angle to the horizon. A small telescope magnifying around 40x will easily show the shape of the ISS if you’re quick enough to track it.

* Tonight Nov. 30 starting at 7:35 p.m. Low, brief pass above the planet Venus in the southwestern sky. Maximum altitude: 33 degrees. One fist held at arm’s length equals 10 degrees.

* Sunday Dec. 1 at 6:46 p.m. Bright pass from southwest to southeast. Max. altitude: 42 degrees

* Monday Dec. 2 at 7:35 p.m. Very low pass across the western sky. Max. altitude: 14 degrees

* Tuesday Dec. 3 at 6:45 p.m. Travels from southwest to north-northeast. Low. Max. altitude: 32 degrees


ISON update / Dusk till dawn bright planets / Mercury and Saturn meet

Nice! Watching Comet ISON rise along with Mercury and Saturn, outside the Isaac Newton Telescope, Observatorio del Roque de Los Muchachos on a mountaintop in La Palma Saturday Nov. 23 at 6:45 Greenwich Time. Details: Canon 7D, 70mm f/4, 10 seconds at ISO 400. Credit: Alan Fitzsimmons

Another beauty. This one taken from a mountaintop observatory with a 300mm lens by Juan Carlos Casado of Spain on Sunday Nov. 24. He “stacked” or composited four photos to enhance the brightness of the comet against twilight. Click to enlarge.

Comet ISON is now next to impossible for many of us to see as it competes with morning twilight and horizon haze. Some of you tried for the comet Saturday morning without success, but those in more tropical latitudes had the edge. Two contributors combined the best of two worlds: low latitude and a view from a mountaintop! The pictures they took show ISON with a pinpoint head and thin tail glowing at about magnitude 3.

Comet ISON will now be under constant view by NASA’s sunwatching spacecraft. This picture was taken on Nov. 23 at 3 a.m. CST by a coronagraph on the STEREO A (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) and shows the comet, Mercury and Earth. The sun is hidden off to the right; gases expelled from its corona spread to the left. Click to see more photos. Credit: NASA

NASA’s STEREO Ahead spacecraft has also been shooting high resolution images of the comet as it tracks across the same field of view as Earth and Mercury. We should be able to follow ISON in good resolution via space telescopes and coronagraphs (instruments designed to block the glaring solar disk) all the way through the end of the month, when it finally return to view at dawn.

Venus in a blue sky just 5 minutes after sunset on Nov. 23, 2013. Credit: Bob King

As we await ISON’s next move, five bright planets await your eyes the next clear night. We’ll begin with Venus. Yesterday it took little effort to spot this sapphire just five minutes after sunset a fist and a half high in the southwestern sky. A half hour later even those who pay little attention to the sky couldn’t have missed it. On Dec. 10 Venus reaches its greatest brilliancy for the year.

Jupiter comes up around 9 p.m. local time in Gemini the Twins. Because we see it against a dark sky, the planet appears almost as bright as Venus but it’s really about 6 times fainter.

You can use Jupiter to help you connect the “dots” to Gemini the Twins, a constellation with two bright stars representing the brothers Castor and Pollux. The pair lies just to the upper left of Jupiter. Once you’ve spotted them, follow the trickles of fainter stars to the right of each star fill in the rest of the constellation.

Jupiter clears the trees and buildings around 9 p.m. local time. Watch for it in the dual stick-figure constellation Gemini the Twins across from Orion. Stellarium

Next up is Mars which rises in the constellation Virgo around 1 a.m. My recommendation? Don’t bother with it until an hour before sunrise when the planet’s high in the southeastern sky above Mercury and Saturn. That way you get to see all three morning planets at the somewhat reasonable hour of 6 a.m.

To find Mercury, Saturn and Mars at dawn, look high in the southeast for Mars. Reach your balled fist to the sky and slide 3 fists down to Spica and another two fists to Mercury and Saturn. Stellarium

Find a place with a wide view to the southeast. Mars is easy to see by color and brightness, but Mercury may require binoculars at first until you know just where to look. Saturn will appear dimmest in part because it’s so low in twilight.

On Tuesday morning Nov. 26, the two planets will have switched positions and still be close.

Tomorrow morning the two will be very close together and nearly in conjunction. The time of closest separation is 7 p.m. CST Monday when neither is visible from the western hemisphere. Skywatchers in the eastern hemisphere will see them at dawn on the 26th separated by only 1/3 of one degree.

Spica and Mercury to the rescue as Comet ISON battles moonlight, twilight

Comet ISON this morning Nov. 16 taken by Michael Jaeger of Austria.

Just when Comet ISON came to life, the moon crept back into the morning sky to rob the comet, at least temporarily, of its splendor. With a full moon on tap for tomorrow, expect the comet to get harder to see.

Comet ISON battles moonlight now until it’s too low to see at dawn later this month. This map shows the two on opposite sides of the sky tomorrow morning Nov. 17. While the moon’s phase will begin to wane next week, it will move closer to the comet each morning. Stellarium

Pity. Moonlight, while among the most lovely of lights we know, reduces contrast and makes it impossible to see faint stars and wispy things like comet tails. Twilight’s no friend of comets either. Tomorrow morning, Comet ISON stands only about 11 degrees (one fist held at arm’s length) above the southeastern horizon at the start of dawn. In three days that shrinks to just 6 degrees as the comet rapidly approaches perihelion on Nov. 28.

We peer through much more air and haze near the horizon than higher up. Notice the moon’s lower edge is dimmed more than the top for this reason. Credit: Bob King

When you tilt your head to look straight up you’re looking through what’s defined as “one airmass”. An airmass includes the air we breathe plus additional haze and suspended particles called aerosols. Now tilt your head down to look 30 degrees or three fists above the horizon and you’re peering through 2 airmasses.  At 10 degrees, that increases to 5.6 airmasses.  Every additional airmass dims the comet by 0.4 magnitudes. That means Comet ISON appears two magnitudes or about 6 times fainter now than if it were high in the sky. I’m telling you all this so you don’t blame yourself if you’re having difficulty finding the comet. Thick air and moonlight are the culprits.

This map will help you find the comet in binoculars and telescopes in the coming mornings. It shows the sky about 75 minutes before sunrise CST facing southeast. We’re fortunate to have bright Spica and Mercury nearby as guides. The comet will look like a small, dense, fuzzy glow in binoculars. Mercury’s position shown for Nov. 17. Click for large version. Created with Christ Marriott’s SkyMap program

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try for it. You can wait until early twilight when the comet’s higher up. The brightening sky will eventually compromise your view, but fuzzballs as bright as ISON (now around magnitude 5) aren’t too hard to see in early dawn light. The advantage here is that the comet is higher.

Zoomed-in version of the map above showing both Comet ISON and the more challenging Comet Encke. Time is about 75 minutes before sunrise CST. Stars are shown to magnitude 7. Since Mercury’s on the move just like the comets,  its position is shown on two dates. Click to enlarge.

Don’t expect to see much of a tail in binoculars at this time unless ISON has another major surge. Recent reports from amateur astronomers using 10×50 binoculars indicate the tail is dim or invisible due to the double whammy of twilight and moonlight.

The moon will be with us until twilight gobbles up ISON, so views of it will be comprised until some days after perihelion when it once again becomes visible in a dark sky. Assuming the comet has survived the sun’s heavy-handed cooking, it should return bright and glorious.

Mercury enters early morning comet traffic jam

Mercury is now visible low in the southeastern sky below Virgo’s brightest star Spica. The planet will rise higher in the coming days and get easier to see. To find it, sweep the area to the lower left of Spica 5-10 degrees above the horizon with binoculars. This map shows the sky about 50 minutes before sunrise facing southeast. All maps: Stellarium

As the arc of dawn swelled in the eastern sky, we thought we were done observing. Jim, Eric, Greg and I had come to this dark place Sunday morning to look for comets in our telescopes. Clouds were causing trouble, but we exploited every starry hole we could find, eventually adding Jupiter, Mars and double stars to our list.

Comet ISON lines up with the planets Mercury and Saturn 5-10 degrees above the southeastern horizon on Nov. 23. Don’t take the comet’s appearance too literally. It’s hard to know how bright it will be on the date.

Then Mercury showed up. Sure enough, below Spica in Virgo, a tiny “star” winked between cloud banks barely bright enough to see with the naked eye. Binoculars made quick work of it, and through the telescope we saw a thick crescent made gooey by atmospheric turbulence.

Mercury pairs up with Saturn on the 25th and 26th. The wire-thin crescent moon joins the crew on Dec. 1.

Mercury enters a traffic jam of early dawn sights: comets ISON, Lovejoy, Encke and the planets Mars and Jupiter. Any more and I think I’ll bust.  But there will be more. Much more. As Comet ISON speeds sunward toward its close with our star on Nov. 28, it will join Mercury and the planet Saturn. Once ISON’s departed the scene, Mercury and Saturn will have a close conjunction on Nov. 25 and 26. And it’s capped off finally on December with the crescent moon passes between the two planets before sunrise. Wow! I’m out of breath and I haven’t even stepped outside yet.

Missed last night’s Venus-moon show? Here’s a consolation prize

Last night during twilight many of you watched a pretty conjunction of the crescent moon and Venus. From parts of South America the moon occulted the planet as shown in this sequence taken in Florencio Varela, Buenos Aires. Credit: Alejandro Arias and Paula Andrea Ramos

Many of you saw the remarkable pairing of Venus and the crescent moon last night, but some were less fortunate. We had cloudy skies at my house. For North America the moon slid by the planet; for parts of South American however the crescent passed directly over Venus. Skywatchers there witnessed a rare occultation.

Use the moon tonight to find Saturn low in the southwestern sky. This map shows the scene about a half hour after sunset facing west-southwest. You might even spot Mercury in binoculars to the lower right of Venus. Stellarium

Tonight the moon fattens and moves on to the east. While I dissed Saturn the other day, saying it was too faint and low to see well from mid-northern latitudes, that doesn’t mean it’s absent. Using the moon tonight, you may well get your last easy view of the ringed planet at dusk with binoculars. Observers living in the southern U.S. may even spot Saturn briefly with the naked eye before it sets.

Mercury will be more challenging – a first magnitude glimmer to the lower right of Venus only a few degrees above the sunset horizon.

The International Space Station returns to morning visibility this week from many locations. Watch for a brilliant, yellowish “star” moving from west to east across the sky around the start of morning twilight. Click over to Spaceweather’s Satellite Flybys or login to Heavens Above to get times and viewing directions for your town.

Here are a few passes visible from the Duluth, Minn. region:

* Thurs. Sept. 12 starting at 6:05 a.m. Low pass from southwest to northeast. Max. altitude: 14 degrees (one fist held at arm’s length against the sky equals 10 degrees).

* Fri. Sept. 14 at 6:03 a.m. starting in the southwest below Orion and moving northeast. Max. altitude = 33 degrees

* Sat. Sept 15 at 5:15 a.m. similar to above. Max. altitude: 21 degrees

* Sun. Sept. 16 at 6:02 a.m. Passes high in the southern sky moving from southwest to northeast. Brilliant! Max. altitude: 74 degrees