T5P (Autumn, 2009)

Posted September 26, 2009 by User 1


The following is textual information to be used to identify the 5 brightest planets in the sky in addition to bright comets which may be passing by. Data in this report has been gathered from Aciqra: http://aciqra.caglow.com For more precise calculations, please use Aciqra.

Highlights
-Mars gets steadily bigger and brighter
-Saturn returns to visibility with knife-thin rings in the morning

Sun
Solar cycle 24 is beginning to take hold with the appearance of more major sunspots producing a C-class flare in the process (see http://spaceweather.com/glossary/flareclasses.html for definition). Activity is expected to remain very low but gradually increasing through next year. We are still in solar minimum.

Mercury
Look for this speedy planet in the early morning skies in October and in the evening skies in December as it zips through its final orbit of the year.

Venus
Viewing of Venus will be difficult during this season as it heads out behind the sun. It won't return to favorable viewing until the end of next year.

Mars
Mars remains small but is now large in diameter for medium-sized telescopes to see detail on the disk. Peak size will be in January of next year at 15". The planet will grow to over 10" in December. It is currently, as of late September, in the constellation of Gemini but will be moving through Cancer into Leo at the end of the year. Look for it in the east past midnight rising earlier with each passing night.

Jupiter
The giant of the solar system is winding down from its opposition in August. It should be visible throughout the next few months as the brightest "star" in the evening sky. It is currently, in late September, in the last loop of a retrograde loop in the constellation of Capricornus. It will move through towards Aquarius coming into its third and final conjunction with Neptune in the second half of December.

Saturn
Saturn should emerge from behind the sun into visibility by the middle of October in the constellation of Virgo. Because Earth has recently passed through its ring plane (http://www.caglow.com/news/17), Saturn's rings will appear barely visible as a thin streak even in the most powerful of telescopes. This will also be the first opportunity to see the blue north pole of the planet (http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/imagedetails/index.cfm?imageId=3390).


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