SkyEye

Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events. All times and dates are given in Universal Time (UT). Daily darkness estimates are calculated for Greenwich, London (51.5 N, 0 W).

Calendar of Events - October

DateEvent
5Tue Mercury at superior conjunction
Moon at apogee
6Wed Last Quarter Moon
8Fri Dark skies aid observations of the Draconids meteor shower which is expected to peak at about 1000 UT.
13Wed Comet C/2003 K4 (LINEAR) may brighten to as much as fifth magnitude as it reaches perihelion and passes near M104, the Sombrero Galaxy. Great care should be exercised when observing this comet due to its proximity with the Sun.
Moon occults Mars
14Thu New Moon
Partial solar eclipse
17Sun Moon at perigee
20Wed First Quarter Moon
Saturn at west quadrature
21Thu Fortunately, the waxing gibbous Moon will have set by the time the radiant of the Orionids meteor shower is at a useful height for observing.
28Thu Total lunar eclipse
Full Moon

The Solar System

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.
Sun
Location: Virgo -> Libra
Mercury
Location: Virgo -> Libra
With Mercury at conjunction early in the month, this elusive planet is unviewable all October from northern latitudes. For planet watchers in the southern hemisphere, it appears in the west after sunset late in the month and climbs rapidly.
Venus
Location: Leo -> Virgo
The "morning star" is quite high in the east from the vantage point of the northern hemisphere but it is getting lower every day. This nearby planet does not appear nearly so high for southern hemisphere observers and it looks to be sinking slightly as the month goes on.
Mars
Location: Virgo
The red planet is very difficult to observe this month due to its proximity to the Sun. It is occulted by the Moon during daylight hours on 13 October.
Jupiter
Location: Virgo
By late in the month, Jupiter will emerge from the Sun's glare to appear in eastern skies before sunrise.
Saturn
Location: Gemini
Saturn is a particularly interesting telescopic object this month since its position at west quadrature makes makes for intriguing shadow effects between the planet's disc, satellites and rings. Look for Saturn to rise just before midnight.
Uranus
Location: Aquarius
Look for this faint object in the evening because it sets around midnight.
Neptune
Location: Capricornus
Like its neighbour Uranus in the outer reaches of the solar system, this blue gas giant must be observed before it sets in the late evening. Binoculars or a small telescope will be necessary to view this distant object.
Pluto
Location: Serpens (Cauda)
With a brightness of around fourteenth magnitude, the smallest planet in the solar system can be seen only through a good-sized telescope. Look for it in the west because it sets well before midnight.

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...

Credits

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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