Hello everyone! You can still see two bright planets in the early morning sky, Venus and Jupiter. Venus will be hard to miss above the eastern horizon if you get up while the sky is still dark. Jupiter will be close to the western horizon and it’s also very bright.
Saturn is in the evening sky and will be four fist-widths to the right of due east and five fist-widths up from the horizon. Although our autumn skies don’t have many bright stars, there are a couple in the southern sky that you’ve probably never heard of.
After you find Saturn, measure two fist-widths back down toward the horizon and a fist-width to the right, and you’ll see one of them. That’s Fomalhaut, (pronounced Fomal-ought or Fomal-lo) the 19th brightest star.
Now, face due east again and turn 90 degrees to your right. You’ll be facing due south and if you measure two fist-widths straight up from that point, you may spot a star that’s flashing bright colors. That’s Pavo, the Peacock Star.
It was probably named somewhere near our latitude because all bright stars flash colors here when they’re close to the horizon. That’s because all the water in our air breaks the star’s light into the colors of the rainbow. Pavo is the brightest star in the constellation Pavo the Peacock. Pavo is a fairly large constellation that fills most of the sky below the star to the horizon.
Our southern sky is full of birds. They’re made of faint stars for the most part but they’re fun to find. Measure one fist-width down from Pavo and two fist-widths to the left and you’ll be right in the middle of Tucana the Toucan. Tucana only has two visible stars and they aren’t very bright, but I bet you didn’t know there was a toucan in the sky. The Toucan’s body hangs all the way to the horizon from the left star.
To the left of the Toucan is a mythical bird, Phoenix the Phoenix. It also doesn’t have many bright stars. But a fist-width above the Toucan and slightly to the right, you should see two fairly bright stars that look like eyes. They’re the brightest stars in Grus the Crane. The long neck stretches upward from the right star and the two feet hang from the left one. The rest of the body is an arch of stars above them.
Grus the Crane can help you locate the position of two of the dimmest constellations although you may not see any stars. Measure two fist-widths to the right of the bright stars of Grus, and just above and to the left of the Peacock star is the location of Indus the Indian. It was named in the late 1500s by Petrius Plancius although no one is quite sure why he used that name.
To the left of the Crane is the very dim constellation Sculptor the Sculptor. It was named by Louis de la Calle and it contains no bright stars at all. This can be explained by the fact that this constellation contains the south galactic pole and since our galaxy is a flattened spiral, there are very few stars above it or below it.
I told you how to find the Milky Way earlier in the month. So find it, and then find its southern pole. It’s a magnificent sky, enjoy it tonight!
Pam Eastlick was the coordinator for the former University of Guam planetarium since the early 1990s. She has been writing this weekly astronomy column since 2003. Send any questions or comments to email@example.com and we will forward them to her.