Thursday evening October 17th look for the 19-day old waning gibbous Moon to be rising with the stars of the open star cluster the Hyades. The Moon will be about 3-4o from the reddish star Aldebaran. Aldebaran represents the ‘angry eye’ of Taurus the Bull, and is at the end of the v-shaped asterism, the Hyades.
Wednesday October 16th the 18-day old waxing gibbous Moon will rise in the east near the two open star clusters in the constellation of Taurus the Bull. These are the Hyades, a v-shaped asterism making up the face of the Bull, and the Pleiades (aka the 7 Sisters) a small dipper-shaped group of stars on the shoulder of the Bull.
Every once in a while the planets arrange themselves along the horizon and when that happens visualizing the ecliptic is somewhat obvious. For the next week or so all of the naked-eye visible planets except Mars, plus Neptune and Dwarf Planet Ceres, will be above the horizon at sunset local time. If you wait about an hour the Moon and the planet Uranus will rise above the eastern horizon as Mercury and Venus have set in the west.
The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit and it is used as a reference ‘line’, properly known as the plane of the ecliptic, for all of the Sun orbiting objects. Since few if any Sun orbiting objects have orbits that are on the same plane as the Earth but rather these objects are tilted or inclined either above or below the plane of the ecliptic. This is know as inclination. (Table Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_inclination)
Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), for this orbit, on Thursday October 10th. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 31.82 Earth diameters 252,216 miles (405,902 km) from the Earth.
On the day of the apogee Moon the 12-day old waxing gibbous Moon rises about 1-2 hours before sunset local time and is above the horizon the remainder of the night hours, setting at around sunrise the following morning.
Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*
*Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)
Saturday October 5th the Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic.
On the day of the node crossing the 7-day old first quarter Moon will be over the southwestern horizon and will be about 1-2o to the east from the ringed planet Saturn. Jupiter shines brightly further to the west near the reddish star Antares. With binoculars or telescope the dwarf planet Ceres may be visible.
Saturday evening is also International Observe the Moon Night. There may be a telescope set up in your area for observing the Moon, Saturn, and Jupiter. Depending on local weather of course!
Wednesday evening October 3rd the 5-day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 1-2o from -2 magnitude Jupiter. Should make for a great view using binoculars. Keep an eye on the Moon over the next few days as it continues moving eastward and waxing toward first quarter phase and the planet Saturn.
Tuesday evening October 2nd the 4-day old waxing crescent Moon will be in the claws of Scorpius the Scorpion, and about 6-7o from the heart of Scorpius, the reddish star Antares. The Moon will be about 8o from 8th magnitude Dwarf Planet Ceres, and about 11-12o from -2 magnitude Jupiter.