by Maya del Mar
Its not too late to observe the brilliant early morning sky show. Three planets in a row rising from the eastern sky clearly mark the Ecliptic, the path of the Sun and planets. At the bottom is Venus, the jewel of the sky. Venus in the morning sky is considered quite assertive, and in my observation does seem to mark more aggressive historical periods. Check it for yourself. Venus will be in the morning sky through November, but by then it may be impossible to observe. Its getting closer and closer to the Sun, and probably some time in October the bright sun will obscure Venus.
Catch Venus now, and especially catch it in the early morning of September 10, when we have a very special sky show. On that morning the Last Quarter Moon will slide in front of Saturn. This occultationor eclipse of Saturnis visible in Mexico and the U.S. Its best on the West Coast where its still dark. Central eclipse is 4:54 a.m. PDT. Check for accurate timings for your location at www.lunar-occultations.com.
Saturn is top dog in the ecliptic trio. Saturn is dull and orange-ish, and right now is close to the star Aldebaran, the red eye of the Taurus bull. Its hard to tell that Saturn is a planet rather than an ordinary staruntil full dawn lights up the sky and the stars fade out. Saturn, like all of the planets, is one of the last to fade.
Aldebaran is one of the four royal stars, the guardians of the four directions of the sky. It has a Mars-like nature, and Saturn hanging out in its vicinity will give an aggressive Martian cast to the current Saturn-Pluto opposition. This will be strongest in December, January, and February. We can see it happening in the sky, although by January 1 we see the action in the evening sky.
Saturn is about 60 degrees above Venus. In between them is bright Jupiter, unmistakable as the sky god it is. Jupiter, too, will disappear from the morning sky before the end of the year. August and September are the two best months to see this early morning trio sparkle.
The early mornings of not only September 10, but the following 5 mornings, are spectacular, as we watch the balsamic crescent moon majestically sail through our planetary trio, to end up at the bottom of the line on September 16, showing us another ecliptic marker4 planets in a row. At dawn on Sunday morning, Moon is just about to be reborn at New Moon early Monday. Watch for this.
I must say that the sight of this thin, thin crescent, the very old moon, ghostly with earthshine as it rises above the eastern horizon is one of the most special sights of nature. It has the awesome magic of celestial birth, as the old and the new cycles merge. The early morning of Sunday September 16 is the day. This time of year the lighting is perfect for this sight. It wont be as good for another year. If you want some sky magic in your life, see it!
Moon passes over Jupiter before sunrise on September 12. This occultation is visible in Alaska at approximately 3:18 a.m. local time. Again, check the website above for the exact time in your location. Jupiter in the sky is close to the stars of Gemini, the Twins.
On the morning of September 15, Moon is very close to Venus.
Morning skies are very magnetic. They seem to have an extraordinary brilliance, and each star or planet shines with a special aura of its own.
However, its easier for most of us to view the evening sky. We have only one planet there now, reddish Mars, who can be spotted in the southern sky right after sunset. Mars will set a couple of hours later. Mars brightness is now fading fast. This is because the distance between earth and Mars is rapidly increasingjust during September from 65.3 million miles to 80.6 million miles.
If youre lucky, you might see Mercury this month. Fleet-footed Mercury is very elusive and difficult to see. It hangs out close to the horizon, which is often hazy or lit by the setting or rising sun. This month you need a clear shot of the western horizon just after sunset. Mercury this month is close to the bright bluish star, Spica. On the evening of September 18, try to spot the delicate new moon just north of Mercury. I used to see Mercury regularly when I lived on the west coast of Mexico, looking out to the ocean. But since then, try as I might, I rarely spot it. And of course here in the Bay Area, there is nearly always fog oceanward, to the west.
I do urge you to take the time to admire our spectacular early morning sky. You wont regret it.