The autumn constellations — Capricorn, Aquarius, Aries, Perseus and Pisces — are now becoming prominent along the zodiac in the south and east. The giant square of Pegasus appears due east shortly after dark and at the zenith (directly overhead, also called the transit) by midnight this time of year. Jupiter will grace the eastern night sky at 10:01 tonight and will be at the zenith at 5:35 a.m. Friday. Jupiter will be easy to spot as it will be very bright in the east within 16 degrees below the open star cluster the Pleiades. Incidentally, the Pleiades is also known as the Seven Sisters, and is the logo of the Subaru automobile.
To find Andromeda Galaxy, look about 11 degrees north of the Pleiades open star cluster (or one fist width at arm’s length). In dark and clear skies, it can be seen with the naked eye. If you have a smartphone using the Google Sky app, just point north of the Pleiades and Andromeda will appear. The Andromeda Galaxy is a beautiful sight in a good pair of binoculars. It’s way too big for any telescope. The light you see in your binoculars left Andromeda 2.9 million years ago. Likewise, if astronomers in Andromeda had a powerful telescope, they would see us as we were 2.9 million years ago.
The moon will be waxing gibbous (more than 50 percent illuminated) tonight, rising at 5:29 p.m. and setting at 4:30 a.m. Friday. The full moon will be at 7:41 a.m. Saturday morning. The full moon is the second-brightest object in the sky and deep space objects will be “washed out" during the full moon.
It is the worst time to observe the surface of moon with a telescope or binoculars because there is no contrast and no shadows. Craters and mountain ranges are next to impossible to see.
Many amateur and professional astronomers study only the moon. It is interesting to note that the moon “rocks" back and forth several times a month, revealing craters and landscapes on the limbs, or east-west edges of the moon. This rocking motion is call libration, a slight tipping and tilting of the moon from week to week that brings various features into better view. The best time to view the moon’s limbs is during the full moon. For a detailed explanation of these librations, go to www .spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/star gaze/Smoon4.htm. For a libration schedule, you can consult most astronomy magazines.