Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events. All dates are based on Universal Time (UT).

Brief Calendar of Events

2 Thu First Quarter Moon
6 Mon Saturn at west quadrature
Moon occults Mars
8 Wed Draconids meteor shower
10 Fri Full Moon
13 Mon 2 Pallas at opposition
14 Tue Moon at apogee
18 Sat Last Quarter Moon
21 Tue Orionids meteor shower
25 Sat Mercury at superior conjunction
New Moon
Moon occults Mercury
26 Sun Moon at perigee
Moon occults Venus
28 Tue Comet 2P/Encke at opposition

The Sun and Moon

There are no eclipses this month.

As seen from the Earth, the Sun is moving from the constellation Virgo to the constellation Libra.

The Moon occults three planets this month but only the first one is visible. On 6 October, Mars will glide behind the disc of the Moon at around 15 UT for observers in New Zealand (and Antarctica). The occultations of the two inferior planets take place at or near New Moon and thus cannot be viewed due to the proximity of the Sun.

The Planets

The word planet is derived from the Greek word for "wanderer." Unlike the background stars, planets seem to move around the sky, keeping mostly to a narrow track called the ecliptic, the path of the Sun across the stars.
Northern hemisphere observers will have the best opportunity to spot this elusive planet during the first half of the month when it rises into the sky just before sunrise. Never far from the Sun, Mercury is at superior conjunction on 25 October and is occulted by the New Moon on the same day. This tiny planet races through the constellations Leo, Virgo and Libra.
Southern hemisphere planet watchers have the best chance to look for the "evening star" as it gets ever higher above the western horizon just after sunset. However, this bright planet remains stubbornly low in the sky for viewers in the northern hemisphere. It is occulted by the nearly New Moon on 26 October and is located in the constellations Virgo and Libra.
The red planet is occulted by the Moon on 6 October at around 15 UT. This event is visible from New Zealand and parts of the Antarctic. Mars does not set until after midnight in the constellation Aquarius.
Rising as Mars sets, Jupiter will be visible from the early morning hours in the constellation Leo.
With west quadrature occuring on 6 October, this is the best time to look for the interesting interplay of shadows on the planet's disc, rings and satellites. Saturn rises in mid-evening in the constellation Gemini.
Also found in the constellation Aquarius, Uranus sets with Mars in the early morning.
Optical aids will be necessary to locate Neptune before it sets around midnight in the constellation Capricornus.
Pluto sets early in the evening in the constellation Ophiuchus. However, because it is so small and faint, a large telescope is always needed to see it.

Minor Planets, Comets and Meteors

Minor Planets
2 Pallas arrives at opposition on 13 October in the constellation Cetus. It will be no brighter than eighth magnitude so a telescope will be necessary to see it.
There are no naked-eye comets visible this month but 2P/Encke reaches opposition on 28 October in the constellation Andromeda. It is inbound and should put on a fine show for southern hemisphere observers as it approaches perihelion in December.
The Full Moon seriously compromises the Draconids meteor shower but the Orionids are luckier. The radiant of this shower rises several hours before the waning crescent Moon

The Celestial Sphere

Constellations are patterns of stars in the sky. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) recognises 88 different constellations. The brightest stars as seen from the Earth are easy to spot but do you know their proper names? With a set of binoculars you can look for fainter objects such as nebulae and galaxies or some of the closest stars to the Sun.

Descriptions of the sky for observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres are available for the following times this month. Subtract one hour from your local time if daylight savings time is in effect. (Note: These times are approximate.)

Northern Hemisphere : 45 N

Southern Hemisphere : 30 S

For More Information...


Much of this information can be found in this month's issue of your favourite amateur astronomy magazine available in your local bookshop. Another excellent source is the current edition of the Astronomical Calendar by Guy Ottewell and published by the Universal Workshop at Furman University.

The image of the Sun in the SkyEye banner is courtesy of the SOHO/EIT consortium. SOHO is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA. Used with permission.

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Last modified on 30 September 2003