Two sky tips for today. First, as Halloween approaches, try looking for the star Beta Persei, otherwise known as Algol in the constellation Perseus. This star’s proper name comes from the Arabic for head of the ghoul, or head of the demon. That’s why Algol is sometimes called the Ghoul Star. Second, have you been watching the moon lately? Find it near Mars again tonight!
Astronomy is said to be the people’s science in part because anyone, regardless of training, can participate. There is so much you can observe in the sky even without a telescope, and of course meteors – also called shooting stars – are high on the list. Observing planets counts as a big thrill, too. On this late October 2014 night, you can catch the moon and two planets in the evening, sporadic meteors from late night till dawn, plus two planets in the morning sky.
The star Mirach (Beta Andromedae) in the constellation Andromeda acts as the guide star to three different galaxies: M31 (Andromeda galaxy), M33 (Triangulum galaxy), and NGC 404. When you gaze at this star, it might occur to you that – while Mirach lies at a distance of only 200 light-years – it can aid in finding objects that are millions of light-years away.
In 2014, the early November meteor showers will be mostly drowned in bright moonlight. Still, you might see a meteor from the South or North Taurid meteor shower streaking along in the light of the moon in the early part of the month. By mid-November the moon will be mostly out of the way for the annual Leonid shower. Follow the links inside to learn about meteor showers in 2014.
Every year around mid-November, debris left in the orbit of Comet Tempel-Tuttle strikes Earth’s atmosphere and creates the annual Leonid meteor shower In 2014, the slender waning crescent moon moon won’t interfere. Follow the links inside to learn more about the 2014 Leonid meteor shower.
Look in the southwest sky as soon as darkness falls to spot the waxing crescent moon and the planet Mars fairly close to the horizon. Mars shines in front of the constellation Sagittarius, at almost the same point where the sun lodges in front of this constellation on the December solstice.
As soon as darkness falls, look low in the southwestern sky for the waxing crescent moon and the red planet Mars. If you have an unobstructed horizon and clear skies, you might even catch the ruddy star Antares near the horizon with either the unaided eye or binoculars. For the Northern Hemisphere, Antares is a fixture of the summer season, and this star’s fading into the evening twilight is a sure sign of autumn drifting toward winter.
The young waxing crescent moon, Saturn and the star Antares will be tough to spot on October 25, 2014 for N. Hemisphere observers as dusk ebbs toward darkness. Easier from the S. Hemisphere! By October 26 and 27, the moon will be moving upward in the west after sunset, and it’ll soon sweep near Mars.
Deneb Kaitos ranks as the most brilliant star in the constellation Cetus the Whale. This star shines on par with Polaris the North Star. There is a famous variable star also in Cetus, called Mira. And Mira might sometimes brighten up enough to match Deneb Kaitos, though only extremely rarely. Mira typically remains much too faint to see with the unaided eye while, as seen from mid-latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, Deneb Kaitos soars highest in the southern sky in autumn.