StarWatch: Moravian College Astronomy
OCTOBER 5, 1997: Ares Near to Antares
- The week begins with a thin crescent moon above Venus in the west
after sunset. On Monday the moon is above and to the left of Mars as
it heads for first quarter on Thursday morning. The moon continues
its eastward trek passing above Neptune and Uranus on Friday. It is
to Jupiterís right on Friday evening, and left of Jove by Saturday.
On Saturday, right after dusk, return back to the western sky to view
Mars. Just below and to Marsí left, you will come across a reddish
star known to the Greeks as Antares. Itís the brightest star of
Scorpius, the Scorpion. Hercules or Xena fans will already
recognize that Ares was the God of War to the Greeks. The
Romans called him Mars. Antares is Greek for the "rival of
Ares," or the rival of Mars. Both Mars and Antares should
appear equally bright, but Mars will shine with a steadier
light. Binoculars will help make your observations more
OCTOBER 12, 1997: Days of the Week Honor the Gods
- The seven days of the week were named after the five naked eye
planets, the sun, and the moon. It is obvious where Sunday and Monday
came from, and Saturday was named after the Roman god of the harvest,
Saturn. But what about the other four days, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, and Friday? These corresponding English words were derived
from the Germanic (Norse) gods, Tiw, identified with the Roman god
Mars; Woden--Mercury, Thor--Jupiter, and Freyja--Venus. While the
year and month had direct relationships to the period of Earthís
orbit around the sun, and the duration of the moonís cycle of phases,
the week was strictly arbitrary. The Egyptians favored dividing
their month into thirds, while the Greeks avoided the week altogether.
The Judeo-Christian tradition of a seven day week was officially
adopted by the Roman Emperor, Constantine and solidified under
the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The moon, this week, is very
near Saturn on Mercuryís day; thatís Wednesday evening. View
OCTOBER 19, 1997: Venus Passes Mars
- Two weeks ago, I spoke about the red planet Mars being close to the
red star, Antares, in Scorpius, the Scorpion. In fact, Antares is Greek
for the rival of Mars. Presently, Mars and Venus have passed Antares.
At the start of this week, Venus lies between these two objects. View
with binoculars, about 45 minutes after sunset, if you want to see Mars
and Antares clearly. You will also need a good southwestern horizon.
From left to right or above to below, the line-up will be Mars, Venus,
and Antares. Now the race begins, because as the week progresses,
youíll note Venus slowly gaining on Mars and the two objects continuing
to pull away from Antares. By next Sunday, October 26, Venus will
appear only two degrees below Mars--thatís only four moon diameters away.
If you continue watching during the following weeks, Mars will be left
farther behind as Venus takes a commanding lead. Youíre watching the
rhythmic dance of the planets. Enjoy!
OCTOBER 26, 1997: Fall Back to Standard Time
- This morning at 2:00 a.m. Allentown and the rest of the East Coast
quietly slipped back from Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) to Eastern
Standard Time (EST). We should have all caught up on that extra
hour of sleep which we were denied last spring when time jumped
ahead by the same amount. The whole concept of EST and EDT is
to bring the daylight hours more in line with our daytime activities.
We want to be up and about when the sun is around. Without EDT the
sun in June would rise at 4:30 a.m. and set at 7:30 p.m. With EDT
it rises and sets one hour later: 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.,
respectively. Now it is time to readjust ourselves to a more
"standard" sunrise as the daylight hours shrink with the coming
of winter. By the time of the New Year, the sun will be rising
at 7:30 a.m. and setting at 4:30 p.m. Remember itís fall behind
and spring ahead for the timekeeping changes which regulate our lives.