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

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 phases of the Moon are

Last Quarter : 2 October
New : 9 October
First Quarter : 17 October
Full : 24 October
Last Quarter : 31 October

The Moon is at apogee on 14 October and at perigee on 26 October.

The Moon occults two planets and two first-magnitude stars in October. Regulus is occulted for the last time this year on 5 October during daylight hours in the northern polar regions. Like the previous six months, Neptune and Uranus are occulted a day apart. Neptune goes first on the 18 October at 6 UT. This night-time event is visible from the Pacific region north of the equator. The occultation of Uranus the following day at 4 UT follows a similar pattern, being visible in the Pacific, Mexico, and the southern United States during the hours of darkness. Finally, Aldebaran disappears behind the Moon on 27 October. Observers in Siberia and the northern polar regions have an opportunity to witness this event at 11 UT.

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.
Mercury appears close to the bright star Spica on the first day of the month. This closest planet to the Sun reaches greatest elongation east on 24 October. Southern hemisphere observers will have the best view of this planet as it leaps high in the western sky at sunset. Mercury can be found in the constellations of Virgo, Libra, and Scorpio.
Now the "morning star," Venus soars high in the morning sky for northern observers but is considerably lower in the east for early-risers in the southern hemisphere. On 30 October, the planet reaches greatest elongation west in the constellation Leo.
Although it begins in the constellation Ophiuchus, Mars can be found just north of the "Teapot" asterism in Sagittarius by the end of the month. The red planet sets mid-evening.
The largest of the planets reaches opposition on 23 October, making this the best time to see it. Jupiter is up all night in the constellations of Aries and Pisces
Saturn rises just after Jupiter in the constellation of Aries.
Uranus sets at midnight with Neptune in the constellation Capricornus. Uranus is occulted by the Moon on 19 October and resumes prograde motion four days later.
Neptune is falling behind Uranus after their triple conjunction in 1993, but they are still found close together in the sky. The blue planet resumes prograde motion on 13 October. Like Uranus, Neptune also is occulted by the Moon, this time on 18 October. On 25 October Neptune reach eastern quadrature. It sets around midnight in the constellation of Capricornus.
Pluto sets mid-evening in the constellation Ophiuchus. However, because it is so small and faint, a large telescope is always needed to see it. The minor planet 3 Juno will appear close by on 6 October.

Minor Planets, Comets and Meteors

Minor Planets
The minor planet 3 Juno appears close to the major planet Pluto in the sky on 6 October.
There are no periodic naked-eye comets visible this month, but comet 10P/Tempel 2 makes its 25th visit to the inner solar system since its discovery in 1873 by Wilhelm Tempel. The comet reached perihelion on last month and may become as bright as tenth magnitude, meaning that you will need a telescope to see it as it moves from Ophiuchus to Sagittarius to Microscopium.
There are two interesting meteor showers this month. The Draconids peak on 9 October. This shower usually only occurs when the parent comet is near perihelion which it was last year. The New Moon that day means that there will be no lunar interference. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Orionids on 21 October. The nearly full Moon may wash out this shower entirely.

The Celestial Sphere

Constellations are patterns of stars in the sky. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) recognizes 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...

Blue moons, eclipses, the dates of Easter and much more can be found at the Interactive Astronomy Pages. For more information about the objects and events described in SkyEye, visit these astronomy-related sites.


Much of this information can be found in this month's issue of Sky & Telescope and in other fine amateur astronomy magazines 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.

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