Weekly Sky Report
The Griffith Observatory Sky Report
This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through the period ending October 31st, 2020. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
The giant planets Jupiter and Saturn appear in the south during evening twilight, and they set in the west-southwest by about midnight. Jupiter is the brightest of the pair, and Saturn appears about seven degrees to Jupiter’s upper left.
The coppery glow of the receding planet Mars appears in the east after sunset, where it outshines Jupiter until the end of the month. Mars reaches the meridian, high above the southern horizon, at 12:26 a.m. on the 16th and at 11:12 p.m. on the 31st. Mars sets in the west at between 6:41 a.m. and 5:26 a.m. throughout this period. The planet continues to be an excellent target for telescopic observation, and only shrinks by about twelve-percent from the maximum size that it displayed when it was closest to Earth on October 6th.
The brightest planet, Venus, appears in the east where it is easy to find by 4:45 a.m. A telescope may reveal the gibbous phase currently displayed by Venus.
The annual Orionid meteor shower is expected to reach its climax before dawn on October 21st, when up to 20 meteors per hour may be seen from dark skies, far from urban light pollution. Observe from wilderness conditions if possible. The numbers of meteors should increase as the point they appear to stream from—the shower’s radiant—in the direction of the stars marking the “club” of the constellation Orion the Hunter, moves higher in the sky between the time the radiant rises in the east, at 11:20 p.m. on the 20th, until dawn, when the radiant is high in the south, at 5:40 a.m. on the 21st. The crescent moon will set before the shower is active and will not be present to interfere with observations.
The Orionid shower is one of two meteor showers produced by Earth’s encounter with particles shed by comet Halley, the other is the Eta Aquariid shower of early May. Decreasing numbers of Orionid meteors may continue to appear through November 7th.
The moon is new on the 16th, and it will reappear as a slender crescent above the west-southwest horizon after sunset on the 17th. it reaches first quarter on the 23rd when it is highest and due south at sunset. October has a second full moon on the morning of the 31st. The rare occurrence of a second full moon in a calendar month is traditionally called a “Blue Moon.”
The moon is crescent when it is poised below Jupiter and Saturn on the 22nd. It’s phase is gibbous when it passes by Mars on the 28th and 29th.
Because of measures in place that are intended to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 Corona virus, Griffith Observatory remains closed until further notice. Please check the Griffith Observatory homepage for current information and continued updates of the situation.
Because of my imminent retirement from Griffith Observatory, this shall be my last Sky Report, but I expect the Sky Report to continue with a new posting by October 31st. From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can, for now, still be reached at Anthony.Cook@lacity.org.