Once again the Moon dominates the night sky this week, getting progressively brighter and making galaxy hunting almost impossible. The good news is that Jupiter will be rising a lot earlier and will give some good views if you don’t mind staying up after midnight. In addition, Jupiter has a small treat later in the week as Europa passes across the planet and keen imagers and sharp eyed observers might be lucky enough to see it. If you stay up a little longer you’ll get to see Saturn and Mars as well, and remember Mars is getting closer and closer to us so the views are only going to improve as we head into Winter. For deep sky viewing it’s not going to be very good at all with the Moon washing out most of the faint objects for the next two weeks. The good thing about the Moon is it’s a great time to view the Moon so you can try seeing any of the features we described in “Moon Week” including our top five features or any of the other features we described.
Jupiter rises at 9:22pm on Monday night and by the end of the week it is rising at 7:57pm so getting better and better for viewing all the time, though the big difference in the time is mainly due to the end of daylight saving (NZDT)! Mars rises at 11:53pm on Monday and by Sunday it’s rising at 10:44, also making it slightly more favourable, though you will still have to stay up rather late to get good views of the red planet. Saturn is very close to Mars over the next week, getting down to just over 1 degree visually apart by Tuesday the following week. If you don’t mind staying up until about 3:30am then you’re in for a treat with the three planets of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Jupiter will be nice and high at about 55 degrees in altitude with Mars and Saturn at about 27 degrees and improving throughout the week.
One of the sights that Jupiter will deliver this week is Europa crossing the planet’s disk from about 11:53 on Saturday night to about 2am on Sunday morning, with the shadow from 10:11pm on Saturday night until 12:27am on Sunday morning. It’s doesn’t go anywhere near the Great Red Spot unfortunately but will still offer a great chance to get some excellent images, especially of the shadow. Saturn is in a great position to see it’s rings in all of their splendour so well worth a good look now that it is getting higher in the sky. Mars is also looking pretty good so well worth checking out too.
Since you’ll be in the area of Libra to Sagittarius looking at planets, it is worth spending some time to have a look at the large number of Messier catalog globular clusters that are in that part of the sky. Earlier in the week the Moon will be long gone by the time the planets are in a good position so if you time it to get up early you’ll have a treat with all of the globular clusters you’ll be able to observe. Right next to Mars is M22 (the featured image is M22 and taken by the Hubble Space Telescope) which is a bright visual magnitude 5 globular cluster and just above it is M28. Then in the space between Sagittarius and Libra is M14 (though very low to the horizon), M10, M12, M9, M107, M19, M62, M4 and M80. Then a little further to the left under Jupiter you’ll find M5. This is a great opportunity to view so many Messier objects that are all in the same part of the sky. In Sagittarius there is also M69, M70, M54, M55 and M75 (right on the horizon). That’s 17 Messier globular clusters that you might be able to spot if you have a very good Eastern Horizon.
Happy viewing and clear skies!