Sky at a Glance 2020 October 17 – 24

Photo showing location of the Circlet of Pisces which forms the head of one of the two fish of this zodiac constellation.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2020 October 17 – 24 ~by Curt Nason

With the Square of Pegasus appearing higher in the east after twilight, look under it (or outside the first base line of the diamond) for a circle of fainter stars. This asterism is the Circlet of Pisces and forms the head of one if the two fish that make up this zodiac constellation. Below left of the circle is the Vernal Equinox, the point where the Sun crosses the equator to mark the beginning of our spring season. It is still at times called the First Point of Aries despite having moved well to the west of the zodiacal ram.

The fishes represent Aphrodite and her son Eros, who tied their ankles together with a cord before leaping into the sea and changing into fish to escape the fearsome monster Typhon. The star where the fishes’ tails meet is called Alrescha, which means “the cord.” This autumn Pisces is hosting a prominent visitor: the planet Mars.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:39 am and sunset will occur at 6:28 pm, giving 10 hours, 49 minutes of daylight (7:43 am and 6:34 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:49 am and set at 6:16 pm, giving 10 hours, 27 minutes of daylight (7:52 am and 6:23 pm in Saint John).

With the new Moon at perigee on October 16, we can expect extreme tides this weekend. The Moon passes below Jupiter and Saturn on Thursday, and at the first quarter phase on Friday a telescope will reveal the Lunar X just inside the shadow line around 8 pm. Mars is now in the eastern sky at sunset, attracting attention throughout the night. Jupiter continues to edge toward Saturn, and this Saturday telescope users might catch the shadows of Jupiter’s moons Callisto and Io on the planet’s cloud tops until 8:42 pm. Venus dominates the morning sky and rural stargazers might see it within the zodiacal light 90 minutes before sunrise. The Orionid meteor shower peaks on Tuesday night, best seen Wednesday morning when Orion is highest.

With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm and view archived shows.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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