Look east before dawn, where bright Venus and Jupiter – and fainter Mars – shine close together. Mercury joins in mid-month. Saturn is the lone evening planet.
It’s true there is a far side of the moon – a side that remains hidden from Earth. But the moon doesn’t have a permanent dark side.
Tonight – October 1, 2015 – you’ll have to stay up late or wake up early tomorrow to see the waning gibbous moon near Aldebaran. This star represents the fiery eye of the Bull in the constellation Taurus. From far-western North America, the moon will pass in front of Aldebaran before dawn on October 2.
Although Gamma Cephei – also known as Errai – rates as only a third-magnitude or moderately bright star, it is easy to find and quite visible in a dark country sky. To many stargazers, the constellation Cepheus the King looks like a child’s depiction of a house, with Gamma Cephei marking the peak of the roof. This is a fascinating star – a future North Star. It also plays an important role in this history of our understanding of extrasolar planets, that is, planets orbiting distant stars.
On September 30, 2015, Mercury – the sun’s innermost planet – passes in between the sun and Earth. Mercury, named for a fleet-footed messenger god, speeds around the sun rapidly, taking only 88 days (less than three earthly months) to travel around the sun once. So it won’t surprise you to learn that Mercury was last at inferior conjunction – last between us and the sun – on May 30, 2015. It’ll reach inferior conjunction again, gaining yet another lap on Earth in the endless race of the planets, on January 14, 2016.
The Northern Hemisphere’s full Harvest Moon has passed. Now the moon is in a waning gibbous phase, which means it rises in the east later and later each evening. Look east before going to bed tonight to catch the moon over the eastern horizon. Then look in the west after sunrise tomorrow, or in the next few mornings, to see the daytime moon over your western horizon.
Fortunately, the Harvest Moon isn’t just a one-night event, even though the full moon (the Northern Hemisphere’s full Harvest Moon) came to pass on September 28 at 2:51 Universal Time. Watch for a bright moon tonight and tomorrow. The Harvest Moon is known for rising shortly after sunset for several evenings in a row, especially at more northerly latitudes. Every full moon rises around the time of sunset, and on average each successive moonrise comes about 50 minutes later daily. But, on these early autumn evenings – because of the narrow angle of the ecliptic to the horizon – the moon rises sooner than the average. So, instead of rising 50 minutes later in the days after full moon, the waning moon might rise only 35 minutes later or so for a few days in a row (at mid-northern latitudes). At far northern latitudes – like at Fairbanks, Alaska – the moon rises about 15 to 20 minutes later for several days in a row.
Look for the Harvest Moon to shine on the night of September 27-28, 2015. It’s not just any Harvest Moon. It’s also a supermoon – closest one this year – that’s staging a Blood Moon eclipse. Follow the links inside to learn more.
There is a total eclipse of the full moon – the Northern Hemisphere’s full Hunter’s Moon – on the night of September 27-28, 2015. For North America, the total lunar eclipse happens in the evening hours after sunset on September 27. For Europe, Africa and the Middle east, the total eclipse is seen after midnight and before sunrise on September 28. Details … inside.
There are many superlatives to describe the September 27-28 full moon. It’s the biggest, closest and brightest supermoon of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, this full moon enjoys the title of Harvest Moon. Last but hardly least, this supermoon will feature a total eclipse. This post focuses on “closest supermoon” aspect of this fascinating, upcoming full moon.