Babe Among the Stars: Close Encounter with a Comet

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Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy

Close Encounter with a Comet

It's taken the Rosetta spacecraft more than ten years to reach its destination and cost over a billion Euros. I hope the information it collects on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will be worth the outlay.

September 2014 Diary Dates

Two 1st-magnitude objects line up this month - Mars and Antares (alpha Scorpii). On 27 September look southwest about an hour after sunset, the matching-coloured pair will be within 3° of each other. You should also be able to see the 3-day-old crescent Moon in the neighbouring constellation Libra. Saturn is so close to the Moon that from the vantage point of the Hawaiian islands there will be an occultation. As if you needed an excuse to head for Hawaii!

For readers in the Southern Hemisphere, Comet Oukaimeden (C/2013 V5) spends September aligned with Hydra, the 'sea serpent' and will have a close encounter with spiral galaxy M83 towards the end of the month. The comet is only predicted to be 6th magnitude but it could have an outburst and thus brighten considerably.

  • 01: Aurigid meteor shower peak
  • 05: Venus and Regulus (alpha Leonis) are within a degree
  • 07: The Moon is at perigee (closest to Earth)
  • 07: Asteroid 2014 RC will pass Earth just one-tenth lunar distance. At its closest approach the 20m-wide asteroid will pass only 40,000km above New Zealand.
  • 08: The Moon passes 5° north of Neptune
  • 08: Full Moon - the Harvest Moon
  • 09: The 3m-wide asteroid 2013 RZ53 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 09: The 1.8km-wide asteroid 2002 CE26 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 10: The Moon and Uranus are just over a degree apart
  • 16: The 34m-wide asteroid 2009 RR will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 19: The 1.1km-wide asteroid 2006 GQ2 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 20: The Moon passes 5° south of Jupiter
  • 20: The Moon is at apogee (furthest from Earth)
  • 20: Mercury passes within a degree of Spica (alpha Virginis)
  • 22: Autumnal equinox
  • 24: New Moon
  • 25: [Southern Hemisphere] Comet Oukaimeden passes 1° south of M83
  • 26: The 1.1km-wide asteroid 2009 FG19 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 26: The Moon passes 4° north of Mercury
  • 27: Mars and Antares line up
  • 27: The Moon passes within a degree of Saturn (occultation from Hawaii)
  • 29: The Moon passes 6° north of Mars
  • 30: The 1.1km-wide asteroid 2014 NE52 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon

Name That Planet

The IAU (International Astronomical Union) are now accepting nominations to name extrasolar planets. If you wish to call one 'Bob' after your uncle, then you'll need to read these instructions carefully.

  • Chat about your celestial observances at the H2G2 Astronomy Society. Comment on anything in this edition of Babe Among the Stars by starting a new conversation below.

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