Stargazing: Orionids and Mars
The annual Orionid meteor shower will peak early on Friday between midnight and dawn. With a dark sky, you could spot 20 to 30 "shooting stars" each hour before dawn. Unfortunately, the nearly last quarter moon rises around 1:30 a.m. and will hide many of the fainter meteors this year. Best viewing will be to the east from a dark location before the moon rises.
The moon has been waning since last Tuesday's full moon, and a thick crescent will sit just 6 degrees to the right of Mars before dawn on Friday morning. By Saturday morning, the crescent will sit 10 degrees below Mars.
Mars has crossed from Cancer into Leo this month and is slowly moving toward an encounter on Nov. 10 with Regulus, Leo's brightest star. The Red Planet is currently shining well below its average brightness at 1.2 magnitude but will slowly brighten to --1.3 magnitude over the next five months when it gets its closest to Earth during opposition on March 3.
-- By Dan Malerbo,
Buhl Planetarium and Observatory
First Published October 17, 2011 12:00 am