Changing Planet

5 Sky Events This Week: Morning Comets and Solar Eclipse

 On February 21, 2012, the Moon moved in between NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite and the Sun (seen here in extreme ultraviolet light) and produced a partial solar eclipse from space. Earthlings will get their chance to see a solar eclipse this week. Credit: NASA/SDO
On February 21, 2012, the Moon moved in between NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite and the Sun (seen here in extreme ultraviolet light) and produced a partial solar eclipse from space. Earthlings will get their chance to see a solar eclipse this week. Credit: NASA/SDO

The Earth’s moon plays hide and seek with distant stars and our sun this week, and the nighttime sights include a double comet show in the pre-dawn skies.

Lunar Trio. In the early morning hours of Tuesday, October 29 the moon will form a stunning triangular pattern with ruddy Mars and blue-white star Regulus in the constellation Leo, the Lion.

Pre-dawn Comets.  On Friday, November 1, and for the rest of the month, the much-talked-about comet ISON will be visible in the predawn sky. At the beginning of the month ISON shines at about 9th magnitude making it visible as a faint fuzzy speck in binoculars. Expectations are that it will continue to brighten, possibly reaching naked-eye visibility by the end of the month when it reaches its closest approach with the sun on November 28.

Joining ISON just a few binocular fields to its far lower left is another icy interloper, the comet 2P/Encke, which will also be visible a couple hours before local sunrise. Flying through the constellation Leo, the Lion, Encke shines at about 7th magnitude, making it the brightest comet in our skies for now. For sky-watchers this means that Encke is an easy target to see with binoculars and small telescopes. The two comets appear about 20 degrees apartequal to the width of two side-by-side fists at arm’s length.

Double comet show in the pre-dawn skies. Looking easter about 2 hours before sunrise Mars and Arcturus help guide observers to comets ISON and Encke. Credit: Starry Night Software/ A. Fazekas
Double comet show in the pre-dawn skies. Looking easter about 2 hours before sunrise Mars and Arcturus help guide observers to comets ISON and Encke. Credit: Starry Night Software/ A. Fazekas

Zodiacal Lights.   From Saturday, November 2, and the following two weeks, keen-eyed skywatchers in the mid-northern latitudes will witness the ghostly glow of the zodiacal lights about one to two hours before local dawn in the eastern sky.

The glow results from sunlight reflecting off the countless dust particles floating in space, leftovers from the formation of the planets formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

The best chances to catch this pyramid-shaped beam of light will come in the dark countryside.  Helping to track it down, Mars will be shining just above its apex.

Moon and Spica: Saturday morning also offers an extreme observing challenge with the razor-thin waning crescent moon pairing up with the Virgo constellation’s brightest star Spica. Spica will be very low in the eastern horizon before local dawn.  The moon will only be about 20 hours from its new moon phase.

For observers in central and northern Europe and Asia, the moon will actually appear to eclipse or occult Spica. Here are the times and chart of this lunar occultation.

Solar Eclipse.  At sunrise on Sunday, November 3, a partial solar eclipse will greet skywatchers along North America’s East Coast.  How big of a bite out of the sun’s lower left limb you get to see depends on your location.  From Montreal, about 32 percent of the sun will appear covered, while coverage in Boston will be 63 percent and Miami will be 43 percent. However, you will need to be observing from a site with a totally clear view of the eastern horizon. Remember NEVER look directly at the sun without special solar filter protection.

Those lucky enough to be in Africa along the narrow path of totalitywhere the entire disk of the sun is covered by the moon’s silhouette – will witness a total solar eclipse on Sunday afternoon. Total eclipse will be visible from parts of Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.


Tell us—what amazing sky phenomena have you seen lately?

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.
  • Babu G. Ranganathan

    SCIENCE SHOWS THAT THE UNIVERSE CANNOT BE ETERNAL because it could not have sustained itself eternally due to the law of entropy (increasing energy decay, even in an open system). Einstein showed that space, matter, and time all are physical and all had a beginning. Space even produces particles because it’s actually something, not nothing. Even time had a beginning! Time is not eternal. Popular atheistic scientist Stephen Hawking admits that the universe came from nothing but he believes that nothing became something by a natural process yet to be discovered. That’s not rational thinking at all, and it also would be making the effect greater than its cause to say that nothing created something. The beginning had to be of supernatural origin because natural laws and processes do not have the ability to bring something into existence from nothing. What about the Higgs boson (the so-called “God Particle”)? The Higgs boson does not create mass from nothing, but rather it converts energy into mass. Einstein showed that all matter is some form of energy.

    The supernatural cannot be proved by science but science points to a supernatural intelligence and power for the origin and order of the universe. Where did God come from? Obviously, unlike the universe, God’s nature doesn’t require a beginning.

    EXPLAINING HOW AN AIRPLANE WORKS doesn’t mean no one made the airplane. Explaining how life or the universe works doesn’t mean there was no Maker behind them. Natural laws may explain how the order in the universe works and operates, but mere undirected natural laws cannot explain the origin of that order. Once you have a complete and living cell then the genetic code and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells, but how could life or the cell have naturally originated when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature? Read my Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM.

    WHAT IS SCIENCE? Science simply is knowledge based on observation. No one observed the universe coming by chance or by design, by creation or by evolution. These are positions of faith. The issue is which faith the scientific evidence best supports.

    Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION

    Babu G. Ranganathan*
    (B.A. Bible/Biology)


    *I have given successful lectures (with question and answer period afterwards) defending creation before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities. I’ve been privileged to be recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who in The East” for my writings on religion and science.

  • Dario Impini

    The Ethiopian eclipse will be stunning. Would like to have gone there for more of my style of shooting but I’m thinking that would be an extraordinarily unsafe move.

    This is what I got in Albuquerque in 2012:

  • Maria P.

    Last night around 6:45 -7 pm we saw a fire ball. It looked amazing I took pics and video. Any one else see this?

  • Tasiu Sani Habib

    what hv u prepared 4 it?

  • Anoop Rangaswamy

    This is great… nothing more to say……, love you guys…….., awsme…… ,:)

  • João Solimeo

    It would be great if you wrote about the South Hemisphere as well. Thanks.

  • david

    Is it possible to see any of those from israel with a naked eye?

  • Francisco Lopez

    The sky is so blue, that the Planet Jupiter can be seen in the day time with binoculars or 20 20 eyesight, using the moon as a reference point.

  • olfa

    waiting from Tunisia! i think it happened once during my’s when i was a child ..

  • Steve
  • Abdul

    No doubt God created them all, and that God can’t a be a statue a human being or any thing limited in its nature. No doubt that God is there and he has unlimited powers because he him self is unlimited.
    Subhan Allah wa Subhan Allah Alazim.

  • Lisa

    So, what about Minnesota? Will we be able to see the eclipse?

  • jaden

    this is really neet i cant wait to see it november 1 to the 28 of november.

  • Glorious Nature

    “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Wonder what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And as difficult as life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

    Professor/Astrophysicist/Cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who has lived with ALS for over fifty years

  • Dylan Hall

    Any chance folks in New Zealand will be able to witness some action?

  • habada cheena

    I’m gonna line up on my backstep to watch this with all my family and of course my extended family, the gators. I am just so damn excited for this rootin tootin event. i think i just might pee my pants… lots of love all the way from the swamp…

    habada cheena

  • Albert Savage

    @Babu, I have always wondered if the physical universe is infinite or has limits? Thinking about the answer to this is more
    than I can comprehend.

  • lizzie yoder

    We are constantly seeing chemtrails in the sky as though things are falling from the sky or in some cases as though some one set off a rocket. What is that?

  • lizzie yoder

    Why does the sky always look as though someone blasted off a rocket.

  • al jablan

    Actually evolution and creation don’t contradict one another at all. Evolution of the universe and of living things rather suggests order in the universe not disorder or blind chance.
    Evolution is simply not arguable it is about the only thing that makes any sense. We are part of the great chain of being as we share our bodies with the rest of the natural world. We belong here.
    Neither Einstein nor Newton nor Galileo nor Archimedes or Aristarchus even ever thought of this simple experiment which does not prove the existence of God but it proves that the universe is orderly and knowable. It could have been random meaningless and unknowable but it isnt.
    Very simple. Take a ball into your hand and open it. It will fall onto the ground. Do this once a thousand times a million times it will always fall to the ground.
    I am not here interested in gravity as such as Newton let him explain that but in the fact that the experiment is repeatable and unchanging immutable.
    It could have been that the ball would fall up or start spinning or disappear in a puff or go random like a pinball or circle the globe or each time do something different unpredictable and random. Not so it will forever at least until you the ball and the planet you are standing on exist it will always always always fall to the ground.
    That to me means that the universe is orderly predictable and uniform and rationally knowable. We have science or knowledge only because the universe is knowable rational and comprehensible.
    Imagine one minute water freezes at 1OOo next at 1OOO then at -1OO. Well that doesn’t happen. Other things being equal it will always freeze at Oo and boil at 1OOo.
    And water is always HO-H never OH=O or anything else (except for deuterium or heavy water or tritium).
    BTW one of the most beautifully ordered things is the periodic table. It just makes so much sense. It might have been possible that elements might have been totally insanely random but that doesn’t happen, they are very orderly so much so that their existence and properties were predicted before being discovered.
    So gravity exists everywhere chemical rules and laws exist as general rules because it all makes sense and all is rational. Except we don’t know everything yet so some of it still seems random or chancey. Only because we are ignorant.


    I am lucky that this solar eclipse is going to occur in my presence and most of all the total eclipse will be viewed from exactly where I’m seated now(Uganda). I am grateful to God for that. That will be a story to jazz my next generation.

  • olawale ridwann

    experienced the solar eclipse here…so magnificient it was…wish i could share the pics with you

  • Debbie

    There was a cresant moon in the sky. The great of the glow was visible. Between 8 and 8:30 pm we saw an orb pass from the bottom to the top. In about five minutes it went from top to bottom. Very sharp, round object. Any idea what we saw?

  • Murad Uddin

    The world’s largest solar plant began producing electricity this week in California’s Riverside County desert, as a series of successful, federally-backed utility projects show sunlight becoming an increasingly competitive energy source.

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