Astronomical SIGHTS in a SKY NEAR YOU!

Graphics c/o Starry Night Education

This page updated Oct 24, 2019.

See also the HOME page or COMING EVENTS .

VIS. COMETS page has more details and finder charts for currently visible comets.

The Planets for Fall 2019:

Venus by late September is technically an Evening Star along with Mercury but neither get too high above the western horizon for viewing in dark skies. Go-to scopes should be able to locate either planet for you but be careful with looking in the sunward direction! Note that Mercury transits the Sun on Nov 11. See below and WEBLOG for details. Jupiter continues in our evening skies and is well placed for early evening viewing above the SW horizon until well into October.

Mars is too close to the Sun to see and reaches superior conjunction (behind the Sun) at the start of September. It will be a month or so before it can again be seen in the evening sky.

Saturn is also available in our evening sky and it and Jupiter are the main attractions for viewing this fall. Look to the left of the Milky Way in Sagittarius for Saturn and to the right of Sag, above Scorpius, for Jupiter -it is the brightest object in the evening sky except for Venus late in October.

As for the other gas giants, both Uranus and Neptune have returned to evening skies this fall but they are still visible only with optical aid and a star chart. Watch Neptune do a close pass of phi-Aquarii on Sep 6 -less than a minute of arc away when the pair set in the west. Uranus reaches opposition Oct 28 (see below), 7 weeks after Neptune’s opposition Sep 10.

Dwarf planet, Pluto is in Sagittarius near Saturn. Even then, it can be seen only in moonless sky and with larger telescopes. 2019 Finder charts for all planets, dwarf planets and asteroids are found on our CHARTS/FORMS page.

Autumn Sky Sights

Sep 26, 2019 Look for Zodiacal Light before dawn
Zodiacal light is reflection from the dust in our solar system along the plane of the planetary orbits. It is visible for the next 2 weeks or so before sunrise in the east. Look for a pale cone of diffuse light centred along the ecliptic in Leo and Cancer. By this time the Moon is just a thin last crescent and does not brighten the sky as it did a week before. Here is an article from that gives an explanation: Zodiacal Light Try again in October during new Moon, Oct 27 and 28.

Just before sunrise, zodiacal light was observed behind Venus Apr 7, 2011 from Atacama, Chile.
Canon 50D, ISO 2500, 30 s exp. 10 mm lens at f/2.8. Photo by John H.

Oct 20, 2019 Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation (25° W of Sun at sunset)
The elongations of Mercury, where it is the farthest away it can be from the Sun, are the best times to look for it. While this is not the best Mercury could be because it tends to hug the horizon as it slips eastwards, still it is the best of what we will get until circumstances favour the northern hemisphere more. In fact the next elongation, this time in the morning sky in late November will be the best viewing of Mercury for us northerners in a while.

Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 5.36.48 PM
Starry Night view of Mercury at opposition Sep 20. The separation of Sun and Mercury is 25 degrees
but it never gets high enough above the horizon to make for good viewing.

Oct 21, 2019 Orionid Meteor Shower

This is a modest shower of only 10 to 20 shooting stars per hour but worth observing especially since the Perseid peak in August was washed out by moonlight. This time there is a period of darkness before a 49% crescent Moon rises to brighten the sky around midnight. By then, the radiant in Orion which rose about 10:30 pm DST will be well clear of the horizon and about 35° from the Moon. Meteor diehards with and without cameras will likely be camped out at the Fox Observatory until the wee hours (if weather allows) trying to catch those elusive fireballs.

Orionid shower Oct 21:22

Oct 28, 2019 Uranus Reaches Opposition

The brighter of the two distant gas giants, Uranus, takes its turn to reach opposition in late October. It is considerably brighter at magnitude 5.7 than Neptune’s 7.8 and Uranus is also larger than Neptune (3.7” vs 2.4”) was at its opposition, -but then it is only half as far away. There are no bright stars (like phi-Aquarii for Neptune) to aid you in locating it, but it stands out easily in binoculars and some have reported seeing it with the naked eye at very dark sky sites.

Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 5.42.48 PM
Starry Night diagram shows Uranus (and Neptune) on the night of opposition Oct 28.
There are no obvious finder stars, but Uranus stands out well in binoculars.

Oct 29 to Nov 1, 2019 Crescent Moon near 4 planets and Ceres
The crescent Moon re-appears in the evening sky at month-end and makes “passes” at Venus, Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn. Diagram below shows the Moon on successive nights at about 6:30 pm DST about 20 minutes after sunset. The location of Venus on those four nights is shown below as well as a series of dots moving to the east. Mercury shifts a bit as well but not as noticeably as Venus. The Dwarf Planet Ceres is shown as well.

There is a relatively bright sky at this time, but Venus and Jupiter are the two brightest objects in view (apart from the Moon) and it will make for an interesting show. Note also how the Moon’s phase changes from a 2-day crescent Oct 29 to a 5-day old Moon on Nov 1. The Moon is at First Quarter on Nov 4.

Moon Oct 29-Nov 1
Diagram created by John H. from Starry Night

Nov 11, 2019 Mercury crosses the Sun from 7:36 am to 1:04 pm EDT

NOTE: the entire event requires proper solar filters on your telescopes and cameras. Mercury is too small to be seen with the unaided eye. A pair of filtered 15x70 binoculars will show a small dot but a telescope with solar filter at medium power is recommended. Here is an article that explains how to safely watch and photograph the transit: S&T Mercury Transit Guide

And here is an article by Dr. Ralph Chou that deals specifically with safe solar filters:
Safe Filters

This transit of the Sun by Mercury occurs on the morning of Monday, Nov 11, Remembrance Day. The tiny disk of Mercury (only 10 arc-seconds across) starts its pass across the Sun at 7:36 am EST locally and continues for 5 hours 28 minutes until 1:04 pm EST when it finally leaves the Sun’s face.

Mercury is tiny compared to Venus which was 6 times larger in 2012, but the transits of Mercury are more frequent. They occurred in 2003, 2006 and 2016 so far this century and we have 9 more to come. But make sure you observe this one in 2019 since the next does not happen until 2032 and that one will be over before sunrise in North America!

Join BAS members at the Fox Observatory (6:30 am weather-permitting) for live views through our various telescopes.
More on WEBLOG


Nov 28/29: Crescent Moon near Jupiter then Saturn
On Thursday, Nov 28, a crescent Moon only 2.5 days old appears 1° 38 min from Venus and a bit father (6°) fromJupiter. Diagram shows the view at 5:40 pm EST looking to the SW with Jupiter about 4° high and Venus about 6° up. On the next night. Saturn and Venus pair up with a separation of only 1° 45 min.

Moon Ven Jup Sat Nov28-29

This will be a good opportunity to see the third and fourth brightest planets, Venus, at magnitude -3.9 and Jupiter at magnitude -1.8, next to the second brightest object in the sky, the Moon at magnitude -10! Both nights will be good opportunities to catch these objects in a camera -try a long telephotos lens.

A summary of the entire 2019 year of ASTRONOMY events can be found here:
An astronomical calendar for 2018 (with diagrams of sky sights like those above) will be available soon for download from Alan Dyer's website here: (look at the bottom of the "about Alan" page). Or here: Amazing Sky Calendar 2019

Meteor shower calendar for 2019 from is available here:
EarthSky Meteor Calendar 2019