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Tuesday 6 October 2015  •   22 Vine Moon 2015 (night)

Viewing the night sky in Vine Moon 2015

14 September - 12 October 2015

Map of night sky at full moon: 28 September, 03:51 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Vine Moon 2015

The morning sky is full of planets, and at full moon on 28 September, there is a total eclipse of the moon visible from Europe, parts of the Middle East, most of Africa and the Americas (exc far NW North America). The total eclipse lasts from 02:11 to 03:23 UT (03:11 to 04:23 in Britain and Ireland), with the partial phase starting at 01:07 UT (02:07 in B&I) and finishing at 04:27 UT (05:27 in B&I). Before the partial eclipse starts, the Earth’s penumbra begins to darken the left edge of the moon (right edge as seen from the southern hemisphere), as the Earth’s penumbra begins to cover the moon.

Venus, Jupiter and Mars climb further from the sunrise, with Venus much the brightest of the three. On 25 September, Mars passes three quarters of a degree north of Regulus, the bright star in Leo, currently brighter than Mars.

The best views come towards the end of the month, when the planets rise earlier before the sun, and thus are in darker skies. In addition, the old moon swings past, as it does late in the month, and Mercury emerges rapidly into the pre-dawn sky, well seen from the northern hemisphere.

On 8 October, the moon is near Venus and occults it just before sunrise over central and eastern Australia, and during daylight over New Zealand. As seen from Sydney, the moon covers Venus at 05:31 (18:31 UT, 7 Oct) and uncovers it at 06:54 (19:54 UT), with the sun now above the horizon.

On the morning of 9 October, the waning moon is in a very pleasing grouping with Venus, Jupiter, Mars and the bright star Regulus. Mercury is between this group and the dawn.

On the morning of 11 October, the very old moon is beside Mercury, a great chance to see the innermost planet. The moon occults Mercury just after sunrise over far SE South America.

Saturn is fading from the evening sky, and is especially hard to see from the north of Earth, low down in the SW. The crescent moon is nearby on 18 and 19 September.

Uranus comes to opposition on 12 October. At its nearest to Earth on 11 October, it is 2840 million kilometres or 158 light minutes away. Before sunrise on 29 September, the moon occults Uranus over extreme SE Africa.

The month ahead: Ivy Moon 2015

13 October - 11 November 2015

Map of night sky at full moon: 27 October, 12:05 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Ivy Moon 2015

This is a brilliant month to get up early and look into the eastern morning sky. There you can see the wonderfully bright Venus along with Jupiter, Mars and Mercury. Venus, Mars and Jupiter form a close group for most of the month. Mercury is between the sunrise and the trio. On 16 October, Mercury reaches 18.1°W of the sun in the morning sky, well seen from the northern hemisphere, but falls into the twilight again before the end of the month. Jupiter passes less than half a degree south of Mars on the night of 17/18 October. Through binoculars and small telescopes, look out for Jupiter’s large moons, strung out either side of the planet, and for the star Chi Leonis just east of Mars (towards the dawn).

On 23 October, the three planets are evenly spaced, with both Venus and Mars less than 2.5° from Jupiter. On 25 October, Venus passes less than a degree south of Jupiter. On 26 October, Venus gets to its furthest west of the sun: 46.5°. On 28 October, the planets are again evenly spaced, this time with Jupiter and Mars within three degrees of Venus. On 3 November, Venus passes half a degree south of Mars. On 6 November the waning moon is near Jupiter, and on 7 November it is near Venus and Mars.

On the morning of 19 October, as seen from Japan, Korea, the Philippines and eastern China, Mars occults the star Chi Leonis at about 03:30 Beijing Time.

Saturn is low down in the evening twilight, and especially hard to see from northern lands. Try seeing it when the new crescent moon is to its north on the evening of 16 October.

On the evening of 26 October, the nearly full moon occults Uranus over New Zealand (exc far north). As seen from Wellington, the moon covers Uranus at 22:52 (09:52 UT), and uncovers it at 23:38 (10:38 UT).

Look out for the Orionid meteors on 21/22 October, especially after the moon has set.

William Morris
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