See The ‘Hunter’s Moon’ Pass Saturn And A Super-Bright Jupiter: The Naked Eye Night Sky This Week

Each Monday I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more.

What To Watch For In The Night Sky This Week: October 3-9, 2022

When is the next full Moon? This week the Moon will wax from its seemingly half-lit First Quarter phase to Full, peaking as a fine -looking “Hunter’s Moon” on Sunday. Before it does you can watch it rise later each day, turning from an afternoon Moon to an up-all-night orb. You can also watch it pass the giant planets and, if you’re lucky, glimpse the tiny planet Mercury at the weekend.

Here’s what’s going on in the night sky this week:

Wednesday, October 5, 2022: Moon and Saturn

Look southeast around sunset tonight and you’ll see an 81%-lit waxing gibbous Moon. As the twilight deepens the sixth planet Saturn will emerge about 4° above it. You’ll need a small telescope to glimpse its beautiful ring pattern. Its radius is about 10 times that of Earth.

Saturday, October 8, 2022: A morning Mercury, evening Moon and Jupiter

Get up one hour before sunrise and look due east for a rare chance to easily see Mercury. This morning it’s at its greatest elongation west, about 18° from the Sun. That’s just enough to see it in a reasonably dark sky.

Come back at sunset and look at the same patch of sky for a now 99%-lit waxing gibbous Moon—just hours before turning full—rising while looking a beautiful orangey color. Soon after twilight takes hold you’ll see the emergence of Jupiter, the giant planet, just 2º above the Moon.

Sunday, October 9, 2022: A full ‘Hunter’s Moon’

The first full Moon of fall, the “Hunter’s Moon” in October is sometimes called the Sanguine Moon, the “Dying Grass Moon” and the “Travel Moon.” Watch it majestically rise into a twilight sky tonight, which will occur about 10-20 minutes after sunset across Europe and North America.

Object of the week: the Ecliptic

Are you ready to see the solar system? Go outside in the day. Draw an imaginary line from where the Sun rose in the east, through Jupiter and Saturn, and to where the Sun will set in the west. That line is called the ecliptic. It’s effectively half the solar system. To see the other half, go outside in the dark. The other half of the ecliptic is much lower in summer and fall (for the same reasons that the Sun is low in winter and spring), but it’s only here on the ecliptic that you’ll ever see planets. That’s because the planets orbit in the same flat, fried egg-shaped plane around the Sun.

The Moon’s orbital path around the Earth is tilted 5° to the ecliptic, but intersects it twice each month. When that occurs at New Moon or Full Moon a solar or lunar eclipse occurs—hence the name.

Constellation of the week: Cassiopeia

Here’s a famous constellation you can find almost every night throughout the year. Above the northeast every night this month is the unmistakable shape of a “W” on its side. To check you’re looking in the right place find the the uppermost “V” shape and think of it as an arrowhead. Cassiopeia is always in the northern hemisphere’s night sky because it appears to revolve around the North Pole star.

Times and dates given apply to mid-northern latitudes. For the most accurate location-specific information consult online planetariums like Stellarium and The Sky Live. Check planet-rise/planet-set, sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times for where you are.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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