NASA urges stargazers to enjoy ‘evenings with giants’ this month – like major planets Jupiter and Saturn It will appear in the night sky over the next few weeks.
In the early evening, you’ll find them in the southeast, slowly moving westward with the stars throughout the night.
“They form a triangle with the bright star Fomalhaut,” the US space agency website said.
‘As you observe this triad, note how the planets shine with a steady light while the stars twinkle. This might be an easy way to tell if what you’re looking at is a planet or a star.’
At the end of last month, astronomers uncovered it. Jupiter request in its biggest and brightest appearance in decadesAs it made its closest approach to Earth in 59 years.
It’s still about 367 million miles from us, but stargazers haven’t had a chance to spot it in the night sky since October 1963.
Look up! NASA is urging stargazers to enjoy ‘evenings with the giants’ this month, as the major planets Jupiter and Saturn will appear in the night sky over the next few weeks. “They form a triangle with the bright star Fomalhaut,” the US space agency website said.
Astronomers can also detect Mars retrograde this month. The sky map above shows the Red Planet retrograde and then exiting for several months in 2022 and 2023.
JUPITER: THE BASICS
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in our solar system.
It is a huge ball of gas composed mostly of hydrogen and helium, along with some heavy elements.
“The familiar lines and swirls of Jupiter are actually cold, windy clouds of ammonia and water floating in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium,” NASA said.
‘Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot is a giant storm larger than Earth that has raged for hundreds of years.’
The planet is twice as large as all the other planets combined, and the Great Red Spot alone is large enough to contain the entire Earth.
A spacecraft – NASA’s Juno orbiter – is currently exploring this giant world.
Facts and figures
Distance from the Sun: 750 million km
orbital period: 12 years
Surface area: 61.42 billion km²
radius: 69,911 km
Stack: 1,898 × 10^27 kg (317.8 M⊕)
length of day: 0d 9h 56min
Months: 53 picture defined; numerous additional moonlets
The gas giant came closest to Earth in almost 60 years on September 25 and reached opposition 24 hours later, meaning the planet appeared opposite the sun relative to those on Earth.
The planet’s closest approach to Earth hardly coincides with opposition, which NASA says means this year’s views will be ‘extraordinary’.
The coincidence of the two events, which won’t happen again until 2139, means Jupiter will appear brighter and larger in the sky over the next few weeks.
When it comes to other celestial sights this month, Mars, as always, is steadily moving eastward all year with respect to the background stars.
But at the end of October, the Red Planet stops this apparent movement and then reverses course.
For the next three months, from November to late January, the planet moves westward each night, then changes direction again towards the end of January and continues its eastward journey.
This is what’s called the retrograde motion of Mars, NASA said.
“It happens every two years, and it really put the first observers in a loop,” the US space agency wrote.
‘The appearance of Mars changing direction is an illusion caused by the movements of our planet as it passes the Red Planet in its orbit.’
Earth and Mars are on roughly circular paths around the sun, just like cars on a racetrack, but our planet Earth is on the inner, faster track.
About every 26 months, we overtake Mars, which orbits slower. At the time we passed Mars and before it took the bend in our orbit to move away from it, we would appear to be changing direction with Mars in retrograde motion, although it continues to orbit.
Amateur astronomers have been told to note how the position of Mars has changed relative to Betelgeuse, Aldebaran, and Pleiades over the weeks.
NASA added: “You will witness what was once a source of intense curiosity for astronomers, but what we now know is just a sign of two planets passing through at night.”
Late last month, astronomers revealed that Jupiter will appear at its largest and brightest in decades as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 59 years.
Stargazing: In the early evening, you will find Jupiter and Saturn (shown) in the southeast of the sky and slowly move westward with the stars throughout the night.
The Orionid meteor shower is also active throughout October and November and peaks on the night of October 20.
Under a clear, dark sky, it is a moderate rain, usually producing 10-20 meteors per hour at its highest point.
The bad news is that this year the moon will be 20 percent full on the busiest nights, so it will interfere a bit when it rises a few hours before dawn.
However, it should not completely spoil the look.
The shower’s name comes from the fact that you can trace the paths of meteorites to an area in the sky near Orion.
These meteorites are bits of dust that Halley’s Comet leaves behind in a path that runs along its orbit. They tend to be bright and fast-moving and often leave permanent marks that can glow in the sky for a few seconds as they pass.
No special equipment is required to observe meteor showers.
Make sure you’re warm enough and looking from a safe, dark spot away from bright lights. “Then all you have to do is look up and enjoy the spectacle,” the US space agency said.
SATURN: THE BASICS
Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in our solar system after Jupiter.
It is considered the ‘jewel of the solar system’ with sunbathing rings.
It’s not the only planet with rings, but none are as spectacular or complex as Saturn’s.
Like Jupiter, Saturn is a huge ball composed mostly of hydrogen and helium, along with some heavy elements.
Its core extends to cover 60 percent of the earth’s radius.
Similar to the rest of the planet, but made of a ‘slush’-like material made up of gases, metallic liquids, rock and ice.
Saturn, the farthest planet from Earth discovered with the naked eye, has been known since ancient times.
The planet is named after the Roman god of agriculture and wealth, who is also the father of Jupiter.
While the planet Saturn is an unlikely place for life to linger, the same is not true for many of its moons.
Satellites such as Enceladus and Titan that host inland oceans could possibly support life.
Facts and figures
Distance from the Sun: 1.434 billion km
orbital period: 29 years
Surface area: 42.7 billion km²
radius: 58,232 km
Stack: 5,683 × 10^26 kg (95.16 M⊕)
length of day: 0d 10s 42m
Months: 82 with official appointments; numerous additional moonlets
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