OCTOBER 2005 SKYWATCH
by Maya del Mar
Moon and Sun play hide-and-seek this month. On October 3, Moon passes directly across the face of the Sun to create a Solar Eclipse. Because Moon is far from Earth at that time, it doesnt completely cover the Sun. Instead, it leaves a bright ring all around the edge of the Eclipse. This is called an annular eclipse, and it is spectacular in its own right.
The Eclipse path moves across Portugal, Spain, and northeastern Africa, from Algeria to Somalia. For about 4 minutes, 96% of the Sun is covered along the central pathway, and increasingly lesser amounts as one moves northward into Europe, and southward into Africa.
The signs of the Eclipse are subtle until the Sun is about half covered. Look for shadows to sharpen first. Then look on the ground where sunlight filters through the leaves. Youll see hundreds of tiny images of the crescent Sun. DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN WITHOUT SPECIAL GLASSES.
The eclipse begins at 7:35 GMT, central eclipse is at 10:07 GMT, and the Eclipse ends at 13:28 GMT.
Two weeks later, on the morning of October 17, people in most of North America have a chance to see the Moon pass into Earths shadow. (This occurs in Australia, New Zealand, and southern Asia on the evening of the 17th.)
This is a penumbral eclipse, meaning that Moon passes only through the outer edge of Earths shadow. What we will see is a bite taken out of the Moon on the bottom side.
Moon enters penumbra at 9:51 GMT, the middle of the Eclipse is at 12:03 GMT, and the end is at 14:15 GMT. All or part of it can be seen wherever it is nighttime. This means very early morning on the West Coast. Mars is big and bright and orange high in the sky then, and it will stand out, leading the eclipse. Most likely Mars will brighten during the eclipse.
Mars is the starring performer during October and November. It brightens very rapidly now. Mars rises just after sunset, and is at its best after midnight, when it is high in the sky. Another bright orange body is to the east of Mars. This is the fixed star Aldeberan, the Eye of the Bull.
These two red eyes in the sky remind me of Mars in 2003, for weeks hanging out low in the southwestern sky with the orange star, Antares, the major star of Scorpio. In both cases there is a malevolent look to this combinationthe two red eyes. And indeed, all three bodies have a reputation for extra assertiveness. I get the impression that fighting will not cease during these next two years.
Saturn, also bright, rises after midnight in the east. On October 25, Saturn lies a little below Last Quarter Moon. Neptunes station has begun now, and Moon-Saturn indicates hardship for the people with that station.
Venus is setting. If were lucky, we can catch its jewels twinkling low in the southwest shortly after sunset. It is Venus that is now accompanying Antares, again not a peaceful combination. Catch the view on October 6, when Moon lies just west of Venus.