Every year, it seems like theres always some astronomical event going on in the night sky. With so many stars and planets, theres always something fun to see if you have the right tools and know where to look! In fact, right now three of the most powerful planets in our solar system are gathering together just after sunset Venus, Saturn and Jupiter and you can view all three with nothing more than a pair of binoculars!
Why Planets Are So Important to Witchcraft
This marks the first time since December 2013 that all the three visible planets (Saturn, Venus and Jupiter) have been available at any one time to the naked eye in the evening sky. This remarkable occurrence occurred on three consecutive nights. Venus gained its maximum elongation from the Sun on Thursday, October 19th, making it highest for this year and (for those south of the equator) the highest since the summer of 2015. Since Venus does not appear at such an elongated position every year (due to its slow movement away from the Sun), this is an especially good year to look for the planet. By using the brightest and smallest of the three objects, Venus will serve to highlight the other two.
Whats Happening in the Night Sky This Month
On October 9 and 10, the planet Venus rises around midnight local time in most areas, and Jupiter and Mercury about four hours later. In addition, the moon passes first near the planets Mars and Saturn on October 12 and 13; Mars will be close to brilliant Jupiter on the 15th and 16th. Mars passes closest to Earth on the 21st. Jupiter will be in conjunction with the sun on the 29th. Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation on the 26th. Venus has some of the brightest Venus meteors, though they seem faint against the brighter background stars. Since it is an orange-hued star in the constellation of the Phoenix, meteors may be spotted in the southwestern sky from late fall through the beginning of winter. On October 31, Mercury and Venus will be closest to each other.
How to Spot Venus, Jupiter and Saturn Easily
Spotted now, Venus is a magnitude -4.5 and Jupiter is magnitude -2.8. Once the Earth returns to the eastern sky and the Sun rises, Venus’ arc-to-ecliptic elongation will improve to 50 degrees and Jupiter’s arc-to-ecliptic elongation will improve to 30 degrees, making for a pair of constellations more easily sighted in the sky. With the advent of Venus’ less elongated appearance, both will become rather difficult to spot; the biggest challenge will be spotting Jupiter at all. That said, our advice is to give Venus a look as soon as possible if you’ve only managed to snag a peek through the dusk. Beyond its increasing elongation, we’ll soon be witnessing a brilliant Venus in all her glory in the morning sky. Likewise, Saturn remains more visible in the morning than the evening.
Other Planets of Interest
Mercury is making a good case for us to rethink the name of our innermost planet. This slow-moving, brilliant “evening star” has now risen over the eastern horizon during the latter part of October. That means it now sets before it has risen! Mercury, when seen from the northern hemisphere, is up for more than an hour after sunset. As of this date, it has been out more than two hours more than any other planet. Unfortunately, it remains stubbornly close to the horizon until about the end of the month when its altitude climbs gradually. Venus, when viewed from the northern hemisphere, sets by 6 a.m. and has returned to the southeastern sky just before sunrise. During the month it appears as a faint red-hued star and for much of October it sits closer to the horizon.
Despite their superior beauty and relative ease of viewing, these three planets have been largely ignored by popular culture. They have also been largely neglected by astronomers for some time. But as people’s interest in astronomy increases, they are becoming just as popular and accessible as the planets of the sun. Having devoted considerable effort in recent years to promoting the two comets and asteroid that actually carry our attention, it is only fair that now we extend our similar efforts to our tiny fellow travelers, who, after all, have fascinated people throughout history.