October 2014

Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events.

The Calendar

Date Event
1 Wednesday First Quarter Moon
2 Thursday
3 Friday
4 Saturday
5 Sunday
6 Monday Moon at perigee
7 Tuesday Uranus at opposition
8 Wednesday Full Moon in a total lunar eclipse
The Draconid meteor shower is obliterated by the Full Moon.
9 Thursday
10 Friday
11 Saturday
12 Sunday
13 Monday
14 Tuesday
15 Wednesday Last Quarter Moon
16 Thursday Mercury at inferior conjunction
17 Friday
18 Saturday Moon at apogee
19 Sunday Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring will pass within 110,000 kilometres or 68,000 miles of the surface of Mars. That's less than a third of the distance between the Earth and Moon! This comet was discovered on 3 January 2013 by Robert H. McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia and assuming it survives its close encounter with the red planet, reaches perihelion on 25 October.
20 Monday
21 Tuesday Dark skies greet the Orionid meteor shower.
22 Wednesday
23 Thursday New Moon in a partial solar eclipse
24 Friday
25 Saturday Venus at superior conjunction
26 Sunday
27 Monday
28 Tuesday
29 Wednesday
30 Thursday
31 Friday The second Full Moon in a calendar month is popularly known as a 'Blue Moon', but what do you call the second First Quarter Moon in a calendar month?

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. Dwarf planets and small solar-system bodies like comets are not so constrained, often moving far above or below the ecliptic.

Sun VirgoLibra

The Sun and Moon take part in two eclipses this month. Western North America, eastern Russia, northern Japan, New Zealand, eastern Australia and much of the Pacific Ocean will enjoy the complete total lunar eclipse whereas most of North America and eastern Russia will be able to catch a glimpse of the final eclipse of the season, a partial solar eclipse.

Mercury Virgo

Difficult to see from northern latitudes, observers in the southern hemisphere can see this tiny planet plunge towards the Sun early in the month as it heads for inferior conjunction on 16 October. However, the north will be rewarded with superior viewing opportunities later in the month when Mercury reappears in the morning sky ahead of the Sun.

Venus VirgoLibra

The morning star vanishes this month as Venus reaches superior conjunction on 25 October. Northern hemisphere observers may see it near the eastern horizon early in the month but it soon disappears from view. It will reappear in the evening sky next month.

Mars OphiuchusSagittarius

Mars may be found in the west after sunset but don't wait too long to see it as it sets soon after the Sun.

Jupiter CancerLeo

Still a morning sky object, the largest gas giant in the solar system rises at midnight by the end of the month.

Saturn Libra

The ringed planet is getting harder to see as it dips into the Sun's glare at sunset.

Uranus Pisces

At opposition on 7 October, this green-coloured ice giant is at its brightest. Look for it at any time of the night.

Neptune Aquarius

A small telescope is necessary to view the most distant planet in the solar system. It does not set until after 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 and star clusters 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 summer (daylight savings) time is in effect.

Local Time Northern Hemisphere Southern Hemisphere
1730 hours (1830 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
1930 hours (2030 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
2130 hours (2230 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
2330 hours (0030 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0130 hours (0230 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0330 hours (0430 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0530 hours (0630 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S