The sky chart at the top of this post shows the waxing crescent moon, dazzling planet Venus and the star Antares as they appear from North America at dusk and early evening on October 8, 2013. No matter where you live on Earth, though, look first for the moon and Venus, the brightest and second-brightest celestial bodies to light the nighttime, tonight. Then look for the nearby red star Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. As night deepens, watch for Draconid meteors! The shower probably peaked last night, but you still might catch some stray Draconids flying on October 8.
Keep your eye on Venus and Antares in the week ahead. Venus edges closer to Antares day by day, and will be in conjunction with the star Antares in mid-October 2013. Although Antares rates as one of our sky’s brightest stars, it pales next to Venus, which outshines Antares by a hundredfold.
North American viewers will see the waxing crescent moon making a picturesque triangle with these two luminaries this Tuesday evening, with the moon shining roughly midway between Venus and Antares. In the world’s Eastern Hemisphere – Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and new Zealand – the moon will appear closer to Venus. In the Southern Hemisphere, the moon, Venus and Antares will beam rather high up in the western sky at nightfall and will stay out until late night.
At mid-northern latitudes all around the world, Antares sets fairly early at this time of year. Farther north, Antares sets even earlier, and at places farther south this star sets at a later hour. In fact, at temperate latitudes south of the equator – such as in southern Australia and New Zealand – Antares stays out well over twice as long after sunset than it does at mid-northern latitudes.
As the star Antares sets in your southwestern sky this evening, turn in the opposite direction, and look for the Pleiades star cluster – also known as the Seven Sisters. The Pleiades cluster rises in your east-northeastern sky as Antares sets in the west-southwest.
With the eye alone, you can easily spot the Pleiades in the east-northeast at mid-evening. It looks like a tiny misty dipper of stars. The image at right shows the Pleiades star cluster as seen through a telescope.
One thing remains constant, no matter where you live worldwide. Whenever Antares sets in your southwest sky, the Pleiades star cluster in the constellation Taurus the Bull rises into your northeast sky. Another thing remains constant as well. Antares sets four minutes earlier every day while the Pleiades star cluster rises four minutes earlier daily.
By mid to late November, Antares will disappear from the night sky, while the Pleiades star cluster will shine all night long! After the moon, Venus and Antares follow the sun beneath the horizon this evening, the Pleaides star cluster will be out for rest of the night.
Bottom line: On the night of October 8, 2013, watch the western sky after sunset for the waxing crescent moon near the brilliant planet Venus and bright star Antares, heart of the scorpion in the constellation Scorpius. You might also see more meteors tonight in the annual Draconid meteor shower. Info and charts here.