Planets light the morning

By Deane Morrison

In October Saturn drops into the sun’s afterglow, but its fate may go unnoticed, given everything the morning planets are up to.

The month begins with three planets and one bright star stacked up in the eastern predawn sky. Look an hour before sunrise to see, from top to bottom, brilliant Venus; Regulus, the heart of Leo, the lion; dim Mars; and Jupiter, bright but no match for Venus.

By the 8th, Earth’s orbital motion will have pushed Regulus higher than Venus. On that morning, a waning moon hangs above Venus and Regulus, poised for a three-day plunge through the line-up. On the 9th the moon is closest to Mars, on the 10th it appears below Jupiter, and on the 11th a very old sliver of moon, along with Mercury, just make it over the eastern horizon before the sun’s rays overpower them.

Regulus keeps climbing, but Venus, Mars and Jupiter spend most of the month drawing closer together. Jupiter climbs past Mars in mid-month, coming closest on the 17th and 18th, then proceeds to Venus, passing about two full moon widths from the queen of planets on the 25th and 26th. Meanwhile, Venus and Mars close in on each other.

As a bonus, the familiar winter stars are up in the south an hour before sunrise, with the brightest of all—Sirius—at about the same altitude as Venus. This makes for a great chance to compare the brightest star and planet.

wwBut the evening sky does have its attractions, especially during the first two full weeks of the month, when no moon interferes. Try “star hopping” to the Andromeda Galaxy, our Milky Way’s closest large neighbor. Starting with the Great Square of Pegasus high in the south-southeast, find the line of stars extending northeast from the Square’s upper left corner. From the second star in the string, extend an imaginary line perpendicularly northward, to a nearby but fainter star. Extend the line the same distance again, and you should see a fuzzy oval patch; this is the Andromeda Galaxy. Binoculars are highly recommended.

October ends with Halloween, an old Celtic holiday known as Samhain (rhymes with HOW-when). It was one of four “cross-quarter days” falling midway between an equinox and a solstice. At sunset that night, evil spirits that had been cooped up since May Day were freed to wreak havoc on humankind. People lit candles inside gourds to ward off the spirits and bribed them with gifts of food, two traditions that survive in the lighting of jack o’ lanterns and the handouts to trick-or-treaters.

The University of Minnesota offers public viewings of the night sky at its Duluth and Twin Cities campuses. For more information and viewing schedules, see:

Duluth, Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium: www.d.umn.edu/planet . Twin Cities, Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics (during fall and spring semesters): www.astro.umn.edu/outreach/pubnight. Check out the astronomy programs at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum ExploraDome: www.bellmuseum.umn.edu/ForGroups/ExploraDome/index.htm.

Contact: Deane Morrison, University Relations, (612) 624-2346,morri029@umn.edu . Find U of M astronomers and links to the world of astronomy athttp://www.astro.umn.edu.

Mower County

Waters drop around Austin, clean-up begins

Mower County

Walz authorizes Minnesota National Guard to support emergency flood operations

Mower County

Afternoon storms brings more flash flooding to Austin

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

Austin man injured in Friday evening crash

Mower County

Photos: Flooding creates issues across the area

Mower County

Area copes with aftermath of heavy rains, flooding

Mower County

Sargeant man involved in five-car crash in Olmsted County

Mower County

Photos: Llama Party — Lamapalooza settles in for another year at the fairgrounds

News

‘Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ begins June 27

Education

Apply for free during Minnesota State Week

Education

Austin grad part of SDSU team comes up just short for quarter-scale tractor threepeat

Education

Education: Accolades

Mower County

In Your Community: Duplicate Bridge

Mower County

In Your Community: Mower County Senior Center

News

Judy Garland’s hometown is raising funds to purchase stolen ‘Wizard of Oz’ ruby slippers

News

Historic Superior lighthouse sold at auction 5 years ago is available once again

News

NY prosecutors urge judge to keep gag order blocking Trump from criticizing jurors

Mower County

Humane Society recommends tips for keeping your pet safe during hot weather

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

Convictions: June 10-17

News

FEMA is ready for an extreme hurricane and wildfire season, but money is a concern, Mayorkas says

News

The Supreme Court upholds a gun control law intended to protect domestic violence victims

Business

New liquor store opens at Clark One Stop Liquor & Tobacco

Mower County

UPDATE: Flood watch, flood warning put into effect for Cedar River, Turtle Creek

Agriculture

Heavy rains and climate change troubling for agriculture industry, emerging BIPOC farmers