SkyEye

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

Full : 2 October
Last Quarter : 10 October
New : 16 October
First Quarter : 24 October

Depending on your time zone, you may see a Blue Moon this month.

The Moon is at apogee on 2 October and at perigee on 16 October.

On 7 October at 19 UT, observers in northeastern Asia will be able to watch Saturn disappear behind the Moon. However, you will have to be in a boat in the south Atlantic to witness the occultation of Mars on 23 October.

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
This is a busy month for the closest planet to the Sun. October begins with Mercury starting retrograde motion. It passes extremely close by the first-magnitude star Spica on 10 October but inferior conjunction is only four days away, making this event extremely difficult to view due to the Sun's proximity. This tiny planet resumes prograde motion on 22 October and attains greatest elongation west one week later. Beginning the month in the evening sky and ending in the morning sky, Mercury will be easiest to see early in the month in the southern hemisphere and late in the month in the northern hemisphere. Try locating it in the constellation Virgo.
Venus
The "morning star" is much better placed for viewing in the northern hemisphere. It spends the month travelling from the constellation Leo to the constellation Virgo.
Mars
The red planet reaches east quadrature on 14 October and is occulted on 23 October by the Moon. Mars can be found in the early evening moving from the constellation Sagittarius to the constellation Capricornus.
Jupiter
Jupiter reaches west quadrature on 7 October, making this an ideal time to watch for interesting shadow effects between the gas giant and its Galilean satellites. Look for it in the constellation Gemini.
Saturn
Rising ever earlier, the ringed planet can be seen for much of the night in the constellation Taurus. Observers in northeastern Asia will have the chance to see the Moon occult Saturn on 7 October.
Uranus
You will need to look for Uranus by midnight in the constellation Capricornus. It resumes prograde motion on 31 October.
Neptune
A telescope will be necessary to find Neptune in the constellation Capricornus. The gas giant resumes prograde motion on 17 October and reaches east quadrature on 29 October.
Pluto
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.

Minor Planets, Comets and Meteors

Minor Planets
A number of interesting minor planets populate the solar system.
Comets
There are no naked-eye comets visible this month.
Meteors
There are two interesting meteor showers this month, but the Moon may interfere with the viewing of the Draconids which peak on 8 October. This shower usually only occurs when the parent comet is near perihelion. This last occurred in 1998. The Orionids peak on 21 October and the waxing Moon should cause no problems.

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...

Credits

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. Used with permission.


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