Mercury is tricky to see this month, while the Moon, Venus and Jupiter offer a celestial treat just in time for Halloween.


This month we have a trick and a treat:  one is in the morning sky and one is in the evening sky.

Hello and welcome.  I’m Jane Houston-Jones at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Early risers will be able to see a tricky target this month.  It’s Mercury!  Mercury is just one-and-a-half times the size of our own moon, and it orbits the sun in 3 months.

In early October, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft flies past Mercury for the second time this year, and in 2011 Messenger will be the first spacecraft to actually orbit Mercury.

Look in the eastern sky 30 minutes before the sun rises from the 16th of the month on.  Mercury can be seen about 20 degrees above the horizon, and it will be easier to see towards the end of the month.

With the unaided eye, Mercury looks like a star, and through a telescope it will look like a tiny version of the first quarter moon on the 16th and like a tiny waxing gibbous moon on the 22nd.

Halloween is a great time to look up in the night sky from your own neighborhoods.  And this year we have more than one treat to offer.  Both Venus and Jupiter are easy to see.

The slender crescent moon joins the two planets a half hour after sunset.

The European Space Agency’s Venus Express is orbiting Venus right now.  And many NASA spacecraft, including Galileo and Cassini, have used the planet’s gravitational pull to get to their destination.

That’s all for this month.  I’m Jane Houston Jones.

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