Changing Planet

4 Sky Events This Week: Bull’s Red Eye and Green Giant Join Moon

Uranus and its five major moons are depicted in this montage of images acquired by the Voyager 2 spacecraft back in 1986. This week the green ice giant is easily found thanks to its stunningly close encounter with the moon in the night skies.  Credit: NASA/JPL
Uranus and its five major moons are depicted in this montage of images acquired by the Voyager 2 spacecraft back in 1986. This week the green ice giant is easily found, thanks to its stunningly close encounter with the moon in the night skies. Courtesy of NASA/JPL

Starting with a supermoon and ending with planetary encounters, stargazers have some busy skies ahead this week.

Supermoon prime time. Sky-watchers around the world will soak in the light of that moon on Monday, September 8.

Starting just after local sunset, the larger and brighter-than-usual full moon will rise in the eastern sky tonight, officially reaching its full phase at 9:38 p.m. EDT.  The full moon will appear to dominate the overnight hours as it sails high in the southern sky after midnight and finally sets in the west around sunrise on Tuesday. Catch all the details on when and where to best observe this lunar sky show on our supermoon observer’s guide. And if you happen to be clouded out, no fear, we have links to a live webcast of the event.

Moon joins Uranus. On Wednesday, September 10, keen-eyed backyard binocular and telescope owners who are up for the challenge can hunt down the faint greenish disk of Uranus. The ice giant will appear just south of the waning gibbous moon, about one degree apart from the lunar disk.

This detailed finder’s chart shows where to locate Uranus near the moon on the evening of September 10, 2014. Credit: Starry Night Software/A. Fazekas

According to Astronomy.com, lucky sky-watchers in eastern Canada, Greenland, and parts of Siberia will see the green planet hide behind the moon. The lunar occultation of Uranus begins at 8 p.m. EDT, while the moon is still at the horizon, and begin to reappear at 8:40 p.m. EDT when the moon is just over 5 degrees above the horizon. This makes it extremely challenging for observers and will require a completely clear line of sight toward the eastern horizon. Folks in the Atlantic provinces will have a bit of an easier time watching the events with binoculars and telescopes.

For example in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the moon will be 5 degrees above the horizon when Uranus gets covered up by the moon at 9 p.m. local time. It will reappear on the other side of the moon at 9:40 p.m. local time, when the moon is more than 12 degrees above the eastern horizon.

This skychart depicts the soutwestern sky at dusk on September 12, 2014. The brightest star in Scorpius, anchors the triple cosmic alignment. Credit: SkySafari.
This sky chart depicts the southwestern sky at dusk on September 12, 2014. The brightest star in Scorpius, Antares, anchors the triple cosmic alignment. Credit: SkySafari.

Cosmic alignment. Within about an hour after local sunset on Friday, September 12, look for a triple stellar alignment in the low southwestern sky. The bright orange star Antares in Scorpius leads both Mars and Saturn in a stunning lineup, one which will look nearly horizontal for those in the mid-northern latitudes.

This wide-angle sky chart shows the eastern late night sky on Sunday, Septmeber 14, 2014 was the moon has a close encounter with the brightest member of the Taurus constellation - the Red Eye of the bull.  Credit: SkySafari
This wide-angle sky chart shows the eastern late night sky in Europe on Sunday, September 14, 2014, when the moon has a close encounter with the brightest member of the Taurus constellation, the red eye of the Bull. Credit: SkySafari

Moon passes Aldebaran. Finally on Sunday, September 14, the waning gibbous moon will pose next to the bright star Aldebaran. The red eye of Taurus, the Bull, will appear especially close for European late night observers. The two objects will have an apparent separation of less than one degree, equal to the width of your index finger held at arm’s length.

Happy hunting!

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.

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