October 2014 — Sky Watching


Solar Eclipse


The afternoon of October 23rd brings a partial solar eclipse to the Chicago area.  The eclipse occurs during the late afternoon and is in progress as the sun sets at 5:59 p.m.  A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves in front of the sun and obscures the sun’s light.  The eclipse begins at 4:36 p.m. when the moon begins to cross in front of the sun.  The moon continues to move in front of the sun as the sun descends toward the western horizon.  The chart above shows the eclipse at 5:15 p.m. when the sun and moon pair is about 7 degrees above the western horizon. The eclipse continues through sunset when over 50% of the sun is covered.



Should the sky be clear to the horizon, seeing a setting solar eclipse is a dramatic event.  The image above shows a sunset solar eclipse in May 2012 as seen from Page, Arizona.

It is important to note to not view the solar eclipse directly without a high quality optical astronomical filter that eliminates the sunlight that can permanently damage eyesight.

Sun During October


During the month, the Chicago area loses another hour of daylight as displayed in the chart above.  By month’s end the sun is in the sky for only 9 hours, 23 minutes.  The sun now  rises south of east and sets south of east.  It is less than halfway up in the southern sky at noon.




NASA Photo

NASA Photo



Phase Date/Time Moonrise Moonset
First Quarter 10/01/14 (2:33 p.m.) 1:52 p.m. 11:59 p.m.
Full Moon 10/08/14 (5:51 a.m.) 5:58 p.m. (10/07) 6:03 a.m.
Last Quarter 10/15/14 (2:12 p.m.) 11:13 p.m. (10/14) 1:47 p.m.
New Moon 10/23/14 (4:57 p.m.) 6:51 a.m. 5:58 p.m.
First Quarter 10/30/14 (9:48 p.m.) 1:24 p.m. 12:04 a.m. (10/31)
Times are Central Daylight Time for Chicago, Illinois, from US Naval Observatory calculations. (For mjb)


The moon and Mars were near each other during the lunar eclipse on April 15, 2014.  Click the image to see the eclipsed moon, Spica, and Mars.

The moon and Mars were near each other during the lunar eclipse on April 15, 2014. Click the image to see  the eclipsed moon, Spica, and Mars.

Lunar Eclipse (October 8, 2014)

On the morning of October 8, the full moon moves into our planet’s shadow for a dramatic (and easily seen) lunar eclipse, replicating the lunar eclipse that was visible across North America in April.  (See the image above for the view of that eclipse.)  The total portion of the eclipse is visible across all of North America.  The eclipse is fully observed from the Pacific Ocean and regions nearby, including the Pacific Time Zone.  The total portion of the eclipse lasts 59 minutes, between 5:25 a.m. and 6:24 a.m. CDT.

Here are the events of the night of October 7/8, 2014, as seen from the Chicago area in the Central Time Zone:

  • October 7: Moonrise, 5:58 p.m.
  • Sunset, 6:24 p.m.
  • October 8: Moon begins to enter dimmer penumbra shadow, 3:15 a.m.  This part of the eclipse is not visible for most observers.
  • Partial eclipse begins, 4:14 a.m.  The moon begins moving into the darker core of Earth’s shadow.  Part of the moon is brightly illuminated and the remainder is in brighter sunlight.
  • Total Lunar Eclipse, 5:25 – 6:24 a.m.  The moon is less than 15 degrees above the western horizon and descending as it moon is immersed in the shadow for 59 minutes.
  • Partial eclipse begins, 6:25 a.m.  The moon slowly moves from the darker shadow.  The moon is now less than 7 degrees from the western horizon.
  • Sunrise, 6:57 a.m.
  • Moonset, 7:03 a.m.  The moon sets with the sky brightly illuminated and in partial eclipse.

Evening Sky


Mars and Saturn are low in the southwestern sky as October opens.  Mars is about 4 degrees to the upper left of the star Antares.  Do not confuse the the planet and the star.  Both are about the same brightness and nearly the same color.  Mars’ color is reflected sunlight, Antares from its temperature.  Saturn is about 20 degrees to the right of Antares.  Saturn sets around 8:30 p.m. and Mars around 9:30 p.m.  During the month the sky slowly shifts westward at the same time.


By month’s end the waxing crescent moon appears near Mars on October 27 and 28.

Morning Sky



Jupiter is the bright Morning Star in the eastern predawn sky.  It is about 14 degrees to the upper right of the star Regulus.


At mid-month the moon passes through the morning sky with the moon near Jupiter on the mornings of October 17 and 18.


Mercury appears low in the eastern sky late in the month.  Find a clear horizon to see the planet low in the sky.  Binoculars may be helpful to see the planet.

Venus is rapidly leaving the morning sky.  On October 25, Venus passes superior conjunction and moves into the evening sky.  See this article for Venus’ appearance in the evening sky.

October 2014 provides several interesting sky events and transitions.  Look for the morning lunar eclipse and use high quality astronomical filters to view the solar eclipse.

Evening Star: Venus in 2014-2015


Venus last appeared in the evening sky in 2013.  It appears as an Evening Star from late October 2014 until August 2015.

Venus disappears into bright morning sunlight during late October 2014 and moves into the western evening sky becoming a brilliant Evening Star by the end of 2014. It becomes visible in the southwestern evening sky during late November.   (Click all the images to see them larger.)  The planet puts on a magnificent display during the April, May, and June, 2015.

Venus at superior conjunction, October 25, 2014.

Venus at superior conjunction, October 25, 2014.

Venus moves to the far side of its orbit and far side of the sun on October 25 (superior conjunction).  At this time, it rises at sunrise; it is south at noon; and sets at sunset.  Venus is not in exact alignment behind the sun, but it is 1 degree above the sun.  Venus is about 160 million miles away at superior conjunction, about 670 times the distance to the moon.

Times are on the diagrams to show the times of noon and midnight.  Additionally the morning side of the sky is distinguished from the evening planets.  These times are referenced from our planet.  Notice that we never see Venus in the midnight sky.  (The midnight arrow never points at or goes through Venus.)


This chart shows the difference in the times of sunset and Venus setting, Calculated from data supplied by the US Naval Observatory.

After superior conjunction, Venus slowly moves into the evening sky. By the end of November it appears low in the southwestern sky, setting about 30 minutes after the sun.  During December it sets about 1 minute later each evening.  By the opening of the new year (2015), Venus sets about 75 minutes after sunset in the west-southwest.  By the Vernal Equinox, Venus sets nearly three hours after sunset in the west sky. The time between Venus set and sunset continues until May 7, when it sets nearly 3 hours, 45 minutes after the sun.  It stands high in the western sky after sunset, displaying its brilliance.

The solar system makes a sharp angle with the horizon so that planets appearing in the western evening sky seem to appear there for long times before they set.  During the spring months, Venus appears high in the sky when the sky is dark.


Venus reaches its greatest apparent separation from the sun on June 6, 2015

About a month later, Venus appears farthest from the sun (greatest elongation east), setting about 3 hours, 10 minutes after the sun.  Red line and yellow line on the chart above create an angle with the earth at the vertex.  The angle formed by Venus, Earth, and the sun is at its maximum.  Venus’s rapid orbital motion is bringing it closer to our planet.

Venus reaches its greatest separation from the sun on June 6, 2015.

Venus reaches its greatest separation from the sun on June 6, 2015.

By mid-July, Venus sets less than two hours after the sun reaching its greatest brightness of this evening appearance.  The brightness of Venus from its distance from Earth and the phase of Venus.  At greatest brilliance, Venus appears as a crescent through a telescope.  At this time, Venus is 41 million miles from Earth.

Through telescope (100x), Venus appears as a crescent at greatest brilliancy.

Through telescope (100x), Venus appears as a crescent at greatest brilliancy.


By August 15, the Venus moves between Earth and Sun (Inferior conjunction).

During the next month, Venus rapidly dives into bright evening twilight.  By August 15, Venus passes between Earth and Sun (inferior conjunction) and moves into the morning sky.

This chart shows the setting position of Venus compared to the position of sunset.

This chart shows the setting position of Venus compared to the position of sunset.

Venus’ changing setting position and sunset are shown in the chart above. Venus sets south of sunset, farther left on the horizon, until late December 2014.  Then until early June, Venus sets north of the sunset point; that is, it sets to the right of the sunset point.  During the remainder of its appearance, it sets south of the sunset point.

During the 2014-2015 evening apparition, Venus appears in a part of the sky that has mainly faint stars.  Below are some notable events of Venus as an Evening Star in 2014-2015.

Appearances With the Moon

  • December 23, 2014
  • January 21, 2015
  • February 20, 2015
  • March 22, 2015
  • April 21, 2015
  • May 21, 2015
  • June 20 and June 21, 2015
  • July 18, 2015

Appearances With Bright Planets and Stars

  • Mars, February 21, 2015
  • Pleiades, April 15, 2015
  • Aldebaran, April 19, 2015
  • Elnath, May 1, 2015
  • Beehive Star Cluster, June 13, 2015
  • Jupiter, June 30, 2015
  • Regulus, July 13, 2015

Please bookmark this page and return to it throughout the apparition as we chronicle Venus as an Evening Star with photos of the events.


Jupiter and Venus This Morning, September 13, 2014


As Venus rapidly descends into brilliant sunlight, Jupiter shines from the eastern sky this morning as seen from the Chicago area.  (Click the image to see it larger.)  Venus is nearly 27 degrees to the lower left of Jupiter this morning.  The pair continues to separate at about 1 degree per day.  This week Venus rises about an hour before sunrise.  The difference is decreasing about 2 minutes each day.  By month’s end, Venus rises about 35 minutes before the sun.

For more about the planets

Venus, Jupiter and the Starry Morning, September 7, 2014


Brilliant Morning Star Venus and bright Jupiter shine in the eastern sky this morning as seen from the Chicago area. (Click the images to see them larger.)  Venus continues its rapid descent into bright sunlight.  This morning the two planets are 20 degrees apart and separating at about 1 degree each day.  The star Regulus is nearby, 2 degrees to the upper right of Venus.


Meanwhile, several bright stars appear in the southeastern sky in the predawn sky.  Sirius is brightest on the image above, yet dimmer than Jupiter and Venus.  Sirius is about the same height as Jupiter but in the southeast.  Betelgeuse and Rigel, stars in Orion, appear above Sirius.  Notice their contrast in star color.  Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, and the Pleiades star cluster are nearly overhead.  The image was composed of two separate images.

For more about the planets

Mars and Saturn Tonight, September 6, 2014


Mars and Saturn shine from the southwestern sky this evening after sunset.  (Click the image to see it larger.)  Mars is nearly 8 degrees east of Saturn and nearly 15 degrees west of the star Antares.  During this month, watch Mars approach and pass Antares.  A year ago, Venus  shared the evening sky with Saturn.  Notice where Saturn was a year ago compared to Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali in this posting from 2013.

For more about the planets in September 2014.

September 2014 Sky Watching

Video Source


As our planet revolves around the sun, the sun appears to rise and set in different locations along the horizon and appears at different heights in the southern sky at noon.  Twice during the year, the sun rises precisely east and sets precisely west.  As seen from the equator at noon, the sun appears overhead.  The sun never appears at the zenith, directly overhead, as seen from the mid-northern latitudes.  The moment when the sun appears above the earth’s equator is know as the “equinox,” signalling a shift of seasons.  From the autumnal equinox (northern hemisphere), the sun appears farther south, lower in the sky at noon, and rises and sets south of east and west, respectively, until the next equinox in March.  The equinox occurs at 9:29 p.m. CDT on September 22.


This chart show the hours of daylight during September in the blue shaded area.  (Click all images in this article so see them larger.)  The red curve on the chart shows the daylight throughout the year. During the month, the Chicago area loses about 80 minutes of daylight.  The loss of daylight during the month is the backwards of the increase of daylight from March 10 through early April each year,


Phase Date/Time Moonrise Moonset
First Quarter 09/02/14 (6:11 a.m.) 2:07 p.m. 12:09 a.m. (9/25)
Full Moon
(Harvest Moon)
09/08/14 (8:38 p.m.) 6:52 p.m. 7:04 a.m. (09/09)
Last Quarter 09/15/14 (9:05 p.m.) 11:38 p.m. 2:26 p.m. (09/16)
New Moon 09/24/14 (1:14 a.m.) 7:01 a.m. 6:54 p.m.
Times are Central Daylight Time for Chicago, Illinois, from US Naval Observatory calculations. (For mjb)

 Evening Sky


Evening planets Mars and Saturn appear in the southwest as the month opens.  On the diagram above, a nearly first quarter moon appears in the region near Antares.  Mars and Saturn are to the lower right of the planet.  The two planets are about 5.5 degrees apart.


By mid-month, the annual track of the Earth around the sun places the view lower in the southwest. Mars is moving east and by September 15, it is about 13 degrees east of Saturn and 9 degrees west of Antares. Watch Mars approach and pass Antares during the remaining days of this month.


Mercury skirts along the western horizon during bright twilight during the month.  Use binoculars to look for it low in the west-southwest on September 21 when it is less than 1.5 degrees from Spica


Late in the month, Mars passes the star Antares.  While the pair appear to be close, within about 3 degrees of each other, Antares is over 25 million times farther away than Mars.  Mars shines by reflected sunlight and Antares is shining as a very distant star.  While it appears small in our sky, Antares is large enough to cover the orbits of the inner planets in our solar system.  The chart above shows the passing of the planet and the star,along with the appearance of the crescent moon.

Sometimes Antares is known as the “Rival of Mars” because it has nearly the same color and brightness.  The Greeks knew Mars as “Ares,” their celestial manifestation of their god of war.  So Antares can be interpreted as “Rival of Mars,” “The Opposite of Mars,” or “Not Mars.”  Antares is not Mars.

Morning Sky

Venus, the brilliant Morning Star appearing in the eastern predawn sky, is rapidly disappearing into the glow morning light this month.  On September 1, Venus rises 1 hour, 15 minutes before the sun.  By month’s end, it rises merely 34 minutes before sunrise.  The planet passes superior conjunction, on the far side of sun, late next month and moves into the evening sky.  For more about Venus as a morning star, see this article.


Early in September, Venus and Jupiter are over 15 degrees apart and the separation grows about 1 degree — twice the apparent size of the full moon — each day.  The chart above shows them on the morning of September 2.  Find a clear horizon to see Venus.


Venus passes the star Regulus in bright twilight on the morning of September 5.  As the diagram above indicates, the pair appear low in the sky.  Find an observing spot with a clear eastern horizon.  Binoculars will help with the view.

As Venus disappears into the sun’s glow, Jupiter reigns as the bright Morning Star for the the remainder of 2014.  It shines in front of the dim stars of Cancer.  On September 1, it rises in the east-northeast at 4 a.m. and is about halfway up in the eastern sky as dawn approaches.


The crescent moon is near Jupiter on the morning of September 20.  The pair is separated by about 6 degrees.

Solar System

sol_system_140915On the chart above, the planets visible without a telescope are shown along with Earth in their respective orbits around the sun as seen far above the solar system on September 15, 2014.  The planets move in a counterclockwise motion. The line between the sun and Earth indicate time, noon and midnight.  Venus and Jupiter appear on the morning side of the line.  Venus is approaching the “noon” line indicating that it is moving into the sun’s bright glow becoming invisible to us.  Mars, Saturn and  Mercury are in the evening sky.  Mercury always appears near the timeline making it difficult to view.  From Earth, it never appears in the midnight direction.



Venus, Jupiter, Orion and Sirius This Morning, August 28, 2014


Brilliant Morning Star Venus and bright Jupiter appear in the eastern sky this morning during twilight. (Click the images to see them larger.)  Venus is now well past Jupiter.  The planetary pair is 10 degrees apart.  Venus is rapidly moving to the far side of its orbit nearly behind the sun.  During the next six weeks it rises later and appears lower in the sky.  It passes superior conjunction and moves into the evening sky later this year.  Venus appears dimmer than Jupiter as it is clearing a cloud bank in the image and is obscured by low-level haze.  Meanwhile, Jupiter appears higher in the east each morning.   The pair continue to separate.

Orion and Sirius appear in the southeastern sky at the same time as Venus and Jupiter are in the east-northeast.   Sirius, the brightest star, appears near the horizon.  Jupiter, shining by reflected sunlight, appears about 40% brighter than Sirius.  Betelgeuse and Rigel, Orion’s brightest stars, above Sirius.

More about the planets:


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