October 2017

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

The Calendar

Date Event
Sunday 1
Monday 2
Tuesday 3 Moon occults Neptune: visible from Antarctica, Tasmania and New Zealand, and beginning about 11:55 UT.
Wednesday 4
Thursday 5 Full Moon
Friday 6
Saturday 7
Sunday 8 The waning gibbous Moon interferes with visual observations of the Draconid meteor shower.
Mercury at superior conjunction
Monday 9 Moon at perigee
Moon occults first magnitude star Aldebaran: visible from Asia, and beginning about 16:20 UT.
Tuesday 10
Wednesday 11
Thursday 12 Last Quarter Moon
Friday 13
Saturday 14
Sunday 15 Moon occults first magnitude star Regulus: visible from Mexico and the United States, and beginning about 09:10 UT.
Monday 16
Tuesday 17
Wednesday 18
Thursday 19 Uranus at opposition
New Moon
Friday 20 Dark skies greet the maximum of the Orionid meteor shower. The shower can have lesser maxima for several days either side of tonight so it pays to observe the skies both before and after.
Saturday 21
Sunday 22
Monday 23
Tuesday 24
Wednesday 25 Moon at apogee
Thursday 26 Jupiter at conjunction
Friday 27 First Quarter Moon
Saturday 28
Sunday 29 2 Pallas at opposition
Monday 30 Moon occults Neptune: visible from Antarctica, southern Africa and southern Madagascar, and beginning about 21:55 UT.
Tuesday 31

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 VirgoLibra

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 LeoVirgo

The morning star is still quite high in the east when viewed from the northern hemisphere but is much closer to the horizon for those observing it from southern latitudes. It continues to lose altitude throughout the month. On 5 October it makes a fine pairing in the sky with Mars.

Mars LeoVirgo

Mars is a morning sky object and on 5 October, will appear very close to Venus. However, the two planets quickly separate as the red planet heads away from the vicinity of the Sun and the morning star moves toward our star.

2 Pallas EridanusFornax

The second asteroid to be discovered is at opposition on 29 October. Optical aids will be necessary to see this faint eighth magnitude object not far from the somewhat brighter star τ3 Eri.

Jupiter Virgo

Jupiter is at conjunction on 26 October and is lost to view this month.

Saturn Ophiuchus

Look for the ringed planet in the west after dark. It is heading towards an end-of-year conjunction with the Sun and sets well before midnight. Observers in the southern hemisphere get the best views of this stunning object.

Uranus Pisces

At opposition on 19 October, this green-coloured ice giant is at its brightest. Look for it at any time of the night near fourth magnitude star ο Psc.

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 near the fourth magnitude star λ Aqr. It is occulted by the Moon twice, on 3 October and again on 30 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