BOSTON (CBS) – Fall evenings are some of the best of the year to watch the skies. The crisp and clear nights, free of summer haze and pollutants, make for amazing conditions to see all sorts of funny things in the night sky. From space station fly-bys to meteor showers and various planets, there’s a LOT going on this month!
You may have noticed some bright stars near the moon in the past few nights. In fact, these are not stars at all, but planets! If you look southwest tonight after sunset, it is best to wait until about an hour after sunset (approx. 530 a.m.), you can clearly see three planets in a diagonal line along with the first quarter moon! The great thing about it, you don’t need a telescope or even binoculars, you can see everything with the naked eye. . . Trust me you can’t miss it!
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I have more good news: if you miss it Wednesday night, the show will continue for the next few nights.
The planets will stay in roughly the same position every night, but the moon moves up diagonally every night. Venus is the planet closest to the horizon, followed by Saturn in the upper left. Jupiter completes the list in the top left next to Saturn. The moon will be to the left of the diagonal, but higher and higher every night. A few hours after sunset on Wednesday night, it appears next to Saturn. At the same time, it will appear closer to Jupiter on Thursday and it will be higher than all planets on Friday, essentially joining the lineup!
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Something to think about as you look at the moon and planets for the next few nights: the moon seems pretty close to Saturn and Jupiter, but it’s not, just a matter of perspective. According to the Sky and Telescope, Saturn is about 4,000 times farther from Earth than the Moon and about 35 times larger in diameter. Jupiter is a whopping 1,900 times farther from Earth than the Moon and 41 times bigger!
Next week is the Leonid Meteor Shower – one of the most popular of the year. The Leonids have produced some of the best shows in recent years, at times up to several thousand an hour. This year is unlikely to be nearly as dramatic, and the waxing moon will tarnish the show a little too. Under the best conditions, some of us can see 5-10 “shooting stars” an hour. The best time to see her next week is the hours before dawn on November 17th, just after the moon has set. More on that next week!
If you take pictures of the moon, planets or meteorites, we’d love to see them! Send them to email@example.com.
Have fun watching!
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