It's an exciting week for amateur, professional, and imitation astronomers so let's review the night sky. You'll need to be outside, findable by going outside, through a door or large window. If you're outside, find a building, enter it, then go outside. If you're stuck in the door yet again, try the window. If windows are problematic try a Mac. We leave this space for Linux fanatics to insist that's as good as human-usable operating systems so we don't have to listen to them.
Outside, you'll want to look up, distinguishable by how much it's not down. Down can be identified by dropping your eyeglass case and quickly picking it up, remembering which way they fell, because if you don't floor clutter will swallow them and you'll need weeks of searching to discover somehow they were somehow underneath copies of The New Brunswick (NJ) Banner, which published like three issues back in 1991 for crying out loud. If you don't have eyeglass cases you're risking your ability to see, unless you don't wear eyeglasses. If you don't wear eyeglasses, good, because there's some wonders to see up there. Look in the ceiling's direction and go outdoors and let's not get into that again, shall we?
Dozens of readers have written this office, care of the Banner, asking what may be expected from Mars's abnormal closeness to Earth this month. While Mars is nearer to Earth now than it has been in weeks, what is meant is emotional closeness. There will be little worth watching unless they get into an amusing fight over who loves the other more, which at their normal rate will take place around the end of October, so you don't need to do anything about it at this moment. We'll warn you if they start spitting.
What's not to be missed unless you sleep through it is the chance to see Jupiter appearing as large as the Moon. This is an optical illusion. Although Jupiter is more than ten percent larger than the Moon it's also more than twice as far away. Nevertheless, Jupiter will appear larger because the Moon is going to be very, very tiny. This will be from tonight through to the 28th, when the Moon is taken down for cleaning.
Ordinarily the Moon is cleaned after the 28th of every month, which makes for hurried repair crews whenever the month has only 30 days in it. There's a lot of tripping over one another's feet, which also doesn't help things hurry along. From the end of January through the end of March is worst, naturally, which is why the so-called ``harvest moon'' of late March is so filthy. It's all that gunk to be cleaned out of the Moon.
But wait, you protest, pretty strongly considering the sedate tempo here. The harvest moon hasn't got anything to do with March, not in the northern hemisphere and not so much in the north-northwestern by one point south hemisphere. And so you're right. It would make more sense to have the harvest moon sometime around September or October, but it's too late now. We'll have to find some crop that grows in the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed because they drive on the other side of the road.
There's a rare syzygy this week between Saturn, the Sun, Jupiter, and Uranus, interesting because the dictionary says a syzygy is when microorganisms gather to exchange nucleotides ahead of cellular division, or mitosis, whichever comes first. That's curious since Saturn is usually considered a virus given its cell-free structure and thin protective protein layer. Somebody ought to look into it. We may yet find a cure for outer planets.
The big news is the Autumnal solstice, when the sun reaches the celestial equator, pauses, and heads south to visit relatives who are kind of glad to see it again. Within a week matters have deteriorated into squabbles over who ate the last granola bar without throwing out the box, foolishly, since it was the box that was eaten and the granola bars weren't thrown out, and before long the sun leaves, trekking to the Winter Equinox, sponsored by the Banner.
Trivia: James Craig Watson, planning to use totality of the Great Eclipse of July 1878 to search for the hypothesized planet Vulcan, memorized the relative places of all the stars in the zone he intended to search. Source: In Search of Planet Vulcan, Richard Baum, William Sheehan.
Currently Reading: The First Salute: A View Of The American Revolution, Barbara W Tuchman.