Using the Moon as a Cosmic Guide
The waning Harvest Moon of 2002 and the new Hunter’s Moon in October can help the casual stargazer locate stars and planets during the first weeks of the month.
From October 1st -3rd look east-southeast one hour before sunrise. On October 1st the crescent moon shines just below Pollux and Castor, the twins of Gemini. On Wednesday, October 2nd early risers will be treated to the moon sitting right next to planet Jupiter. Then on October 3rd the even smaller waning moon anchors itself next to the star Regulus, the brightest star in constellation Leo.
The old moon of October 5th is situated next to Mercury 45 minutes before sunrise in the east. Look 5 degrees above Mercury to locate the planet Mars. Keep a watch on Mercury as it brightens rapidly during the week of October 6th -12th.
The moon is new on October 6th so it can not be spotted during the night. The young moon on October 7th can be seen as a very thin sliver hanging to the left Venus and just above the planet on October 8th. Look in the west-southwest sky about 30 minutes after sunset. Venus is very low on the horizon and sets just an hour after sunset.
On Wednesday, October 9th a slightly larger crescent moon, complete with earthshine, will position itself right next to Antares, the heart of the scorpion. Ancient astronomers thought of Antares as the rival of Mars. Both stars appear red but they’re similar in appearance only. Mars is a tiny 4,000 mile wide planet while Antares is a huge star. If Antares replaced our sun it would stretch out past the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth as well as Mars.
As we enter the season of autumn, the moon will wane (get smaller), and then wax (get larger) during the first weeks of October. Use the moon as a cosmic guide to the heavens and locate some spectacular stars and planets.