October 2016

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

The Calendar

Date Event
1 Saturday New Moon
2 Sunday
3 Monday
4 Tuesday Moon at apogee
5 Wednesday
6 Thursday
7 Friday
8 Saturday The waxing crescent Moon interferes with visual observations of the Draconid meteor shower.
9 Sunday First Quarter Moon
10 Monday
11 Tuesday
12 Wednesday
13 Thursday Moon occults Neptune: visible from eastern Russia, Alaska and northwestern Canada, and beginning about 04:25 UT.
14 Friday
15 Saturday Uranus at opposition
16 Sunday Full Moon at perigee: expect particularly extreme tides
17 Monday
18 Tuesday
19 Wednesday Moon occults first magnitude star Aldebaran: visible from Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, most of the United States and southeastern Canada, and beginning around 04:35 UT.
20 Thursday The Orionid meteor shower also suffers from moonlight, with the waning gibbous Moon illuminating the sky after midnight.
21 Friday 1 Ceres at opposition
22 Saturday Last Quarter Moon
23 Sunday
24 Monday
25 Tuesday
26 Wednesday
27 Thursday Mercury at superior conjunction
28 Friday
29 Saturday
30 Sunday The second Full Moon in a calendar month is popularly called a Blue Moon but what is the second New Moon in a month called?
31 Monday Moon at farthest apogee of the year

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

Mercury LeoVirgoLibra

The nearest planet to the Sun is well-placed for viewing above the eastern horizon before sunrise from the northern hemisphere, at least until mid-month. It is soon lost to view as it undergoes superior conjunction on 27 October. Viewers in the southern latitudes will struggle to see this tiny planet this month.

Venus LibraScorpiusOphiuchus

The evening star is high in the sky for those seeing it from the southern hemisphere but Venus remains quite low in the west when viewed from northern latitudes.

Mars Sagittarius

The red planet maintains its distance from the Sun in the sky, setting well after sunset.

1 Ceres Cetus

The first and largest asteroid discovered and the only dwarf planet in the asteroid belt, Ceres reaches opposition on 21 October. Optical aids will be required to see as it reaches only seventh magnitude. The spacecraft, Dawn, still in orbit about Ceres, continues to send back fascinating and unexpected data from this distance world.

Jupiter Virgo

At solar conjunction late last month, the king of the planets is lost to view in the Sun's glare. It reappears in the morning sky next month.

Saturn Ophiuchus

Look for the ringed planet in the west after sundown before it gets too low to the horizon to be seen.

Uranus Pisces

At opposition on 15 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. At opposition early last month, Neptune is still up for most of the night. It is occulted by the Moon on 13 October.

The Celestial Sphere

Constellations are patterns of stars in the sky. The International Astronomical Union 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