Astronomical SIGHTS Coming to a SKY NEAR YOU!
CONJUNCTIONS OF PLANETS, THE MOON, LUNAR AND SOLAR ECLIPSES, ETC
Graphics c/o Starry Night Education www.starrynighteducation.com.
This page was last updated Oct 27 and includes events until end of December, 2016.
See the COMING EVENTS page for a shortened version of this list.
For Comet reports go to the CURRENT COMETS page for more details and finder charts.
Contact: for more information on events not listed.
Sky Sights October to December 2016:
Several planets are visible in the west after sunset this fall and into winter. Jupiter is a morning planet now and is finally far enough from the Sun to appear in dark sky before dawn. Mars is still a reddish dot above the SW horizon and will continue to be visible until late winter while Saturn becomes harder and harder to see by late October and disappears into the glow of the setting sun in November.
On Oct 6, Mars was a scant 12 minutes of arc from the top star in the teapot, Kaus Borealis and now it is the turn of Venus. After passing through the gap of Antares and Saturn on Oct 27/28, Venus will appear even nearer to Kaus Borealis on Nov 17, only 7 minutes at 11:30 pm EST (daytime) but 17 minutes by sunset. Venus will be much brighter than Mars, however. Observers who saw the Oct 6 Mars-Kaus Bor close approach reported being able to see both Kaus Bor and Mars as separate objects but this time, since Venus is so much brighter, it may be more difficult.
There are several nice groupings of bright planets in both the evening and morning skies to see in the last months of 2016.
A summary of the entire 2016 year ASTRONOMY events can be found here:
Astro Events 2016
October - December 2016 Sky Events
Mars fading but still prominent above Teapot.
Mars continues cruising along above Capricornus this fall and into Aquarius for winter. Mars continues to appear bright ranging around magnitude 0, but viewing Martian features is difficult because it is small and gibbous. There is an excellent map of Martian surface features here:
ALPO Mars Albedo Map. if you want to give it a try.
Saturn Sinking in West -last chance to view
Saturn is still worth observing but you need to look in twilight before the sky gets truly dark. Still visible are the rings and a few of the brightest moons. The ring tilt is still near maximum and Cassini's division can be glimpsed in steady air. Don't pass up the chance to view it, -it will still be visible above Antares in the Scorpion into the September and October when it sets by about 8 pm local time. Information from EarthSky.org about the current viewing opportunities can be found here: Saturn Viewing 2016 . Venus slips between Antares and Saturn on Oct 27 just like Mars did last August. There is a noce grouping of Saturn with Venus and the crescent Moon on Nov 2.
All October: Venus crosses Libra and head of Scorpius
The planet Venus slips through the gap between Antares and Saturn just as Mars did in August. And just like Mars it is a touch closer to Antares that to Saturn. Venus continues across the sky at about a degree per night until it eventually catches Mars is Feb 2017 when both are in Aquarius. Chart below shows the path of Venus from OCt 1 to Oct 31. It is between Antares and Saturn on Oct 27/28.
Path of Venus in Oct 2016. Note it will be between Antares and Saturn on Oct 27/28.
Oct 27, Thu: Venus between Antares and Saturn (just like Mars in August)
Look about 3/4 hr after sunset because the group sets relatively soon after the sun goes down. Antares disappears first at 7:30 pm local time. The rate of Venus' motion across the sky is a bit faster than Mars and its brightness is much higher (-4.0 vs +0.3 on Oct 27). Both Mars and Venus have been moving horizontally across the SW sky and keeping ahead of the Earth's rotation which carries the stars to the west. The planets appear stuck above the western horizon for a while yet.
Oct 31, Mon: 1-day old Crescent (may be) visible in west.
Tonight is an opportunity to see a very thin 1-day old moon above the western horizon after sunset. Sunset is at 5:09 pm and by 5:45 pm when it has darkened somewhat, the Moon is still 3° high and just 26 ours old. If you see it earlier in daytime skies, you might be able to break the record of 13h 28min by Robert C. Victor using binoculars in 1989 and 15.5 h (naked eye) by Stephen J. O'Meara in 1990.
A chance to see a young (26 hour) Moon above the W horizon around 5:45 pm (sunset 5:09 pm).
Nov 2, Wed: Venus groups with Saturn and crescent Moon
The crescent Moon is 3 days old and Venus is a week past the passage through the Antares-Saturn gap when all three make a nice photogenic grouping in the western sky after sunset. Diagram below from Starry Night Pro 6 shows the group about an hour after sunset and they have another hour to go before they touch the horizon. This is one of the prettiest groups of the whole year and worth going out for a look and maybe catching a green flash of Venus in the process. Note that the crescent slides along the ecliptic about 12° each night and by Nov 5 is up near Mars. After that it starts to brighten the sky more and interfering with deep-sky viewing. Venus is moving eastwards along the ecliptic as well but only about a degree or so per night, but even at that rate it noticeably changes position each night. In 2 weeks it will be sitting very close to Kaus Borealis, again just like Mars did last month. See the next entry for details.
Note: Times for Sky Sights that follow are given in Easter Standard Time (EST) from Nov 6 on. If you need to convert from UT or Greenwich Mean Time to local EST time, subtract 5 hours.
Nov 14, Mon: Perigean Full Moon (2nd of 3)
The Full Moon in November again occurs quite close to its orbital perigee point, so FM will be larger than average. This event has become known as a "supermoon" and will occur next month (Dec 14) as well. After that the phase and orbital separation start to become un-synchronized and we get apogee at FM about 6 months later. The apogean FM should be called a "mini-moon" but the media will not likely tout this event as much as the "supermoon". Mini-moons just don't get any respect. Image below shows FM at perigee in June 2013 and again at apogee in December 2013. There is quite a difference, but the difference to the human eye is not really that obvious since we never see both side-by-side. In addition, the moon illusion (where objects near the horizon look larger) also confuses the issue. Images below by John H.
Nov 17, Thu: Venus very close to Kaus Borealis
Venus moves eastward and generally upwards in the sky all winter long, and just like Mars, this motion prolongs the visibility of the two planets in our sky until early spring in 2017. On Nov 17, Venus passes Kaus Borealis, λ-Sagittarii, the top star of the Teapot.
During daylight hours (around noon) it is closest at about 7 minutes of arc (half of the Mars closest approach) and by sunset, the spacing has increased to about 17.5 minutes. By an hour after sunset (4:53 pm EST), when it is good and dark, the separation is just over 20 minutes of arc and in the same field are the Lagoon and Trifid Nebulas. It is pretty dark by 6:30 pm and they would be visible except that both are only 4° above the western horizon. See diagram below which shows Venus about 6° from the Lagoon at 6:30 pm EST Nov 17
Nov 25, Fri: Crescent Moon, Jupiter and Spica in morning sky
The planet Jupiter is visible well away from the sun in November and December skies, rising by 4 am or so. On Nov 25, the last crescent Moon (3 days before new) meets up with Jupiter and Spica in the dawn sky for a pretty grouping which also includes the second brightest star in our (northern) sky Arcturus off to the north (leftwards) of the group. If you have a reason to be up anyway, have a look eastward for the pretty conjunction. An even younger crescent appears below and left of Spica Nov 26. A one-day old moon may be visible on Nov 27.
Dec 12/13, Sat: Almost FM occults Aldebaran
The star Aldebaran has been undergoing a series of occultations by the Moon in the last few years and we (in Bruce-Grey) get to see a second one and it is even earlier than the Oct event. Just before midnight on Dec 12 (the occultation continues over midnight into Dec 13) Aldebaran passes behind the gibbous Moon. Disappearance according to SN Pro is at 11:00 am EST Dec 12 and reappearance is at 12:15 am EST Dec 13.
These times are for Owen Sound and if you are elsewhere your local times can be quite different, so use these as a guide and go out several minutes before hand to locate the scene of the action. Aldebaran is a big star (42xSun) and there may be a prolonged dimming (on disappearance) or brightening (on reappearance) that may be about a third of a second. Most people will not see the difference with the naked eye but a light cell with high resolution (like those used by the International Occultation Association) can see the change. The disappearance will be more interesting because the star winks out against the dark limb which is only a 2% sliver of darkness but enough to make the star easily observed even near the brightly lit moonscape nearby. More info about this event and other occultations can be found at the IOTA website: IOTA Note: a quick check of Aldebaran occultations for next year, show nothing except two occultations in Nov and Dec, 2017.
Dec 22, Thu: Quarter Moon, Jupiter and Spica in morning sky
The planet Jupiter rises well before the sun in November and December dawn skies, rising by 4 am or so. On Dec 22, the last quarter Moon again meets up with Jupiter and Spica in the dawn sky for a pretty grouping which also includes the second brightest star in our northern sky, Arcturus, off to the north of the group. If you have a reason to be up anyway, have a look eastward for the pretty conjunction.