Searching the Sky: Planet Parade Begins with Pluto

David Baumgartner wrote that several planets will be visible this month.

This column was introduced by San Benito County-based amateur astronomer David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.

October is a good thing A month, no, it’s a wonderful month, getting out about 45 minutes after sunset and looking east to see the start of a special offer being made available to us by our solar system.

Nothing consists of nothing more wonderful than a series of gems. We know these gems as planets, and it’s not every evening we take our chairs out into the backyard, and sit back and watch these astronomical gems emerge one by one from the eastern horizon until they fill the sky.

The only thing we missed in our parade was the Hollister Baler, a few decorated old carriages, some cowboys riding their horses, followed by town employees cleaning up their litter as they passed. (This would be horse droppings, not cowboy droppings, well it doesn’t matter.)

Our parade starts right after sunset with Pluto. Yes, Pluto, it’s still a planet, grated on a small planet of sorts, that goes hand in hand with the larger asteroids that orbit between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Of our nine major planets, Pluto is the farthest from the Sun, about 2.76 to 4.59 billion miles away. Just compare that with the distance from the ground; 93 million miles from the sun.

To say Pluto is hard to find is nice. If you don’t have a fairly large telescope, and have no idea where to locate Pluto, I wouldn’t spend much of your time looking for it. It took astronomers hundreds of years to finally come up with this little pup. (Get it; Pluto, puppy…don’t bother.)

But our next gem is something you don’t want to miss, and it will be Saturn. It is true that Jupiter with its clusters of clouds and four of its large moons orbiting this huge planet is in itself a wonderful sight, but you have to admit that it does not stand a chance of competing against Saturn, the wonder of all of them.

Apparently, Jupiter has always been number one when it comes to most of the moons in our solar system. Well, I just heard that the beautiful planet Saturn has overtaken its neighbor and reigns in this department.

Next in view is the large planet Neptune, just behind Jupiter. These are two large gas giants, the other two being Saturn and Uranus. Jupiter is so large that you can stuff all bits of other matter orbiting the sun, including all the planets, into the center of Jupiter. You can put eleven terrestrial planets on the face of Jupiter, and then put the king. It’s starting to feel a little more important, isn’t it?

Next comes Uranus behind the city employees. Uranus is the third largest planet surpassing Neptune. Uranus is about 1.78 billion miles from the sun and Neptune is 2.83 billion miles away. We have Mars next right behind the real estate float. I won’t say much about Mars this time because in the next few months this red planet will be closer to Earth than it was in two years. So we will talk about Mars on a large scale. Our last planet is Mercury, and it may not have been the most exciting element in the sky this month. The best time to discover Mercury would be around 16The tenth Just before sunrise, but don’t calm down, it’ll be gone before you know it.

Well, that’s about our gem walk. But wait, she says; Don’t we miss one? Yes we are, well done. And that would be Venus, the brightest of the planets. Venus is hidden near the sun at this time so we can see it. But there is no need to worry. Will be back soon.

Is that for our gem thread, you say? Well, I have to say no. There is still one left. Which one could it be? Let me give you a little hint. You can see this planet not only at night, but also during the day.

I must admit that this is a good trivial question. The answer is land. Well, don’t forget that Earth is a planet too. And don’t forget to take advantage of this show that will take place in your backyard in the next couple of months to show these gems to your kids.

This might be the last chance you get before your kids disappear into their bedrooms so they won’t be seen or heard again until they get out of that dark room one day to go to college. Then you’re never seen again until they stop by to drop off your grandchildren on one of their many babysitting adventures. You know you will love him; Grandchildren, not children.

the scent of roses

Last night we had some friends over for dinner and I thought our guest would like to get a glimpse of Jupiter and Saturn through the binoculars. So the endoscope focused on the two gaseous forms. Planets and not our guest. I was very surprised by how excited they were. It made me realize how one can take things for granted until someone else comes along and makes a big deal out of it. It’s like taking your beautiful tree outside for granted until your neighbor tells you how beautiful it looks. You think; You know he’s right, he’s beautiful. So when our guest made a big deal from Saturn I almost took the binoculars out of his hands to see he was right. I actually had a really hard time returning the binoculars to my guest. Under my breath I tell myself “Get what you want.” But being the good host that I am, I have returned the binoculars to them, but only for a short time. As a child, I was never one to share, and I seem to have maintained the same attitude as an adult.

So I guess my point here is to not forget to smell the roses now and then, maybe not right after you fertilize them.

month constellation

The Big Dipper is undoubtedly the most famous constellation in the sky, even more so than Orion or the Pleiades. This is how all amateur astronomers find the North Pole Star by first finding the Big Dipper and the two bright stars at the end of the bowl that point directly at Polaris.

This group of stars has many names around the world. In England it is called the plow. Other people call it Wayne Charles, or Wayne Chorl. (Wain is a chariot; churl is a peasant.) But the official name used is Great Bear. In Latin it is Ursa Major. This is somewhat strange because a bear is something it doesn’t look like.

But the Big Dipper is only a part of the main constellation Ursa Major. There is a large area to the right and below that also belongs to this constellation. If you try to draw a bear from this group of stars, then the Dipper is its back and tail. I have never seen a bear with a tail so long as it is depicted on maps of the sky. But the shape looks like a dipper. This must be why it is known in modern times as the Big Dipper.

The Big Dipper is good to use as an eye test. Take a look at the star at the bend in the handle. If you have good eyesight you can see Mizar and his little companion Alcor. But it would take a telescope to split Mizar itself into a double star just fifty miles from Mizar and Alkur.

That’s it for October. Hope you enjoy the gas giants.

What’s up in October

October 4 Moon at perigee (229,488 miles from Earth)

October 5 The moon passes 4 degrees south of Saturn

October 7 The moon passes 3 degrees south of Neptune

October 8 The moon passes 2 degrees south of Jupiter

October 9 full moon

October 12 The moon passes 0.8 degrees north of Uranus

October 15 The moon has passed 4 degrees north of Mars

October 17 Moon at aphelion (251,238 miles from Earth)

October 17 last quarter moon

October 20 JoAnne’s Wife And My 60The tenth Anniversary

October 21 Tops of the Orionid meteor shower

October 25 new Moon

October 25 81 my countryStreet birthday

October 29 Moon at perigee (228,845 miles from Earth)

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