Harvest Moon and ISS in the evening sky each night

This week we have the Harvest Moon on Thursday and the International Space Station makes early evening passes each night this week, so you have many chances to see it. Here is your guide to the sky for October 2-8, 2017

Harvest Moon and early sunsets

The Harvest Moon this year us is on Thursday at 2:40pm, and it is a bit later than usual this year.  The Harvest Moon is the closest Full Moon to the Autumnal Equinox.  Normally the Moon rises on average 50 minutes later each day, but during Harvest Moon, the Moon’s orbital path is lower on the horizon, so the average is more like 35 minutes later each day.  This means you see the Moon for a bit longer and this was used in earlier times to assist in the harvest.  The Moon seems to glide along the horizon.  Sunrise this week is at 6:38 am and sunset is 6:08 pm and even though we are just past the Equinox our sunsets are noticeably earlier and the cool longer nights are great for stargazing.

Planetary Sights…

Saturn is in the southwest at sunset and sets around 9:45 pm.  The ringed jewel is well placed for checking out and halfway between it and the spout of Sagittarius teapot asterism is the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.  Venus and Mars rise around 4:30 am in the East.  Venus is exceptionally brilliant, while Mars is relatively faint.  Both Jupiter and Mercury are lost in the glare of the Sun this week.

ISS in the early evening sky all this week

Monday night there are two bright passes of the International Space Station.  See it first in evening twilight from 6:38 to 6:45 pm moving from west to northeast.  It makes a second pass from 8:16 to 8:19 pm northwest to north.  Tuesday evening see it from 7:23 to 7:28 pm from west to northeast.  On Wednesday see it from 8:08 to 8:11 pm moving from northwest to north.  Thursday see it from 7:16 to 7:21 pm moving from west northwest to northeast.  Friday see it from 8:00 to 8:03 pm from northwest to north.  Saturday it is visible from 7:08 to 7:13 pm moving from northwest to northeast.  Finally Sunday evening see it from 7:52 to 7:56 pm moving from northwest to north.

Clash of the Titans – Part 1

The Fall skies have the constellation of the classic “Clash of the Titans”.  Begin by looking for Cassiopeia in the northwest.  This “W” shaped group of stars is the Queen of Ethiopia who  once boasted she was more beautiful that the sea nymphs.  They reported her boasting to Poseidon who decided to punish the queen by destroying her kingdom.  The only way to save the kingdom was to sacrifice her daughter Andromeda to the sea monster Cetus.  If you find Cassiopeia, just to the east is her daughter Andromeda which is a fainter elongated “V” shaped group.   The “V” is attached to Pegasus, and just past the second set of stars is the Andromeda Galaxy.  It is the farthest thing visible to the human eye being 2.1 million light years away.  This hazy patch of light is nearly twice the size of the Milky Way.  Do check it out with binoculars if you have a chance.  In future installments we’ll find out what happens to Andromeda and her braggart mother Cassiopeia.

Enjoy the cool evenings of Autumn, check out ISS and the Harvest Moon or see if you can find Cassiopeia and Andromeda.   Keep your eye on the sky!

Shawn Laatsch

About Shawn Laatsch

Shawn Laatsch is the director of the Emera Astronomy Center and Jordan Planetarium at the University of Maine. He started his astronomy education career in 1984 and has directed planetariums in university and science center facilities, taught undergraduate astronomy courses, and given numerous lectures around the globe. He serves as President (2017 & 2018) of the International Planetarium Society, Inc. the world’s largest organization of planetarium professionals. Shawn has a passion for sharing astronomy and stargazing with people of all ages.