Zululand Observer - Weekender
What’s in the sky tonight?
AS WE shake off winter, October provides us with the last opportunity to observe the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy, between the constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius (in the western sky after sunset).
By mid-month, the bright red star Antares in Scorpius will set a few hours after sunset, just as the Southern Cross starts to dip below the southern horizon.
In the south, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC, a ‘neighbouring’ galaxy, but an incredible 160 000 light years away!) is just above the constellation Mensa.
This faint group of stars, identified by a French astronomer in the mid-18th century, was named after Table Mountain in Cape Town as the LMC reminded him of the mountain’s occasional cloud cover.
In the East, the constellation Eridanus (the river) winds its way up our night skies, and Pegasus (the winged horse) begins to appear in the North-East, noticeable by its ‘great square’.
Towards the end of October, the planet Venus changes from being a bright evening ‘star’ to a morning ‘star’ where it will remain until October next year.
Mercury then takes the place of evening ‘star’ as it reappears out from under the Sun’s glare towards month-end.
Jupiter and Saturn can be seen in the west after sunset but set well before midnight, and Mars can be seen nestled within Capricornus, almost directly overhead.
The moon will be in the evening sky until month-end, with full moon on the 24th.
Unizulu Science Centre is running a special astronomy programme for schools in October and November.
Enjoy their digital planetarium and ‘Spinning in Space’ show.
Call 035-7973204 to book, or to ask an astronomy-related question.