Saturday: Since Halloween is later this month; the stores are filled with bags of candy clusters. Use this reminder to take time to look at a star cluster. The Hyades cluster is an open star cluster that represents the V-shaped face of Taurus the bull. It is one of the biggest and nearest star clusters with about 200 stars 150 light years away. The Hyades cluster was the first cluster to be the subject of detailed motion studies. These studies allowed astronomers to pinpoint the distance to the Hyades and provide important information about the scale of the universe. Aldebaran, nearly two and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above the eastern horizon at midnight, is a foreground star and not a part of the Hyades cluster.
Sunday: According to the “One world, group hug, love everyone” philosophy, political borders are human-made and can’t be seen from space so why can’t we all just get along. According to real world pragmatic discoveries, some human-made political borders CAN be seen from space. Since 2003, India has illuminated its border with Pakistan to prevent illegal crossings. In 2011, astronaut Ron Garan took a picture of that border from the International Space Station. For more information, including the photo, go to http://goo.gl/mY8xG.
Monday: At 10:00 p.m., Uranus is two fists above due east and two fists below the bright, orange-ish star Hamal. You’ll know you have found the planet in your binoculars when you revisit that location for the next few nights and see that the point of light has moved up and to the right.
Tuesday: Coffee. First scientists say it’s good for you. Then they say it is bad for you. Recently, the same argument was applied to an exomoon, a moon orbiting a planet outside our Solar System. No, astronomers are not debating whether exomoons are good for you. Of course they are. But there are conflicting reports over whether the initial exomoon observation shared a year ago was real or just a blip in the data. Astronomers studied the light of a star as a Jupiter-sized planet and then its Neptune-sized moon blocked it. This transit method is one of the most popular ways to observe exoplanets… and maybe exomoons. Read more about the debate at https://www.sciencealert.com/the-first-known-exomoon-is-called-into-question-in-follow-up-studies.
Wednesday: Saturn is less than a fist to the upper right of the Moon at 10:00 p.m. in the southern sky. At this same time, Jupiter is nearly three and a half fists above due southeast and mars is rising above the east-northeastern horizon.
Thursday: In 1987, the rock group Def Leppard sang “Pour some sugar on me, in the name of love. Pour some sugar on me, come on, fire me up”. In 2012, some European astronomers “found some sugar near stars, they were very young. Found some sugar near stars, out where planets formed.” Astronomers observed molecules of glycolaldehyde, a simple form of sugar, in the disk of gas and dust orbiting young binary stars. This is the first time astronomers have found this simple sugar so close to a star indicating that organic molecules can be found in planet-forming regions of stars. For more information, go to http://goo.gl/tfwy1.
Friday: Mercury is a fist above the eastern horizon at 6:30 a.m.
The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week. For up to date information about the night sky, go to https://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm.