SkyEye

October 2018

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

The Calendar

We bid farewell to the evening star, Venus, this month. However, Uranus is at opposition in late October, just visible to the naked eye under dark skies but more easily seen through a telescope.

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Date Body Event
1
2 Moon last quarter
3
4 Moon ascending node
Moon 0.9° south of the open star cluster M44 (known as Praesepe or the Beehive Cluster)
5 Venus stationary point: direct → retrograde
Moon perigee
6
7 1 Ceres conjunction
8 Earth Draconid meteor shower
9 Moon new
10
11
12
13
14
15 Moon, Saturn 1.8° apart
16 Mercury aphelion
Moon first quarter
136199 Eris opposition
17 Moon descending node
Moon apogee
18 Moon, Mars 1.9° apart
136108 Haumea conjunction
19
20
21 Earth Orionid meteor shower
22
23
24 Uranus opposition
Moon full
25
26 Venus inferior conjunction
27
28
29
30
31 Moon ascending node
Moon 0.7° south of the open star cluster M44 (known as Praesepe or the Beehive Cluster)
Moon last quarter
Moon perigee

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, including comets, are not so constrained, often moving far above or below the ecliptic.

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Sun VirgoLibra

Mercury VirgoLibraScorpius

The closest planet to the Sun appears about mid-month in the west for those looking for it from the northern hemisphere but it never gets very high. Southern hemisphere observers get a much better view of it, starting at the beginning of the month.

Venus LibraVirgo

The evening star is quite low as seen from northern latitudes but is still high in the west early in the month for southern hemisphere observers. It soon plummets toward the horizon and its date with the Sun (inferior conjunction) on 26 October. Earlier in the month, on 5 October, Venus reaches a stationary point and reverses direction from direct to retrograde.

Earth and Moon

The Draconid meteor shower occurs in dark skies this year. The theoretical maximum is around 23:00 UT on 8 October. On 21 October, the waxing gibbous Moon sets around the same time that the radiant of the Orionid meteor shower rises.

Mars Capricornus

The waxing gibbous Moon passes less than 2° north of Mars on 18 October. The red planet is difficult to see from northern latitudes but is still quite high in the west for observers in the southern hemisphere.

Jupiter Libra

Jupiter is close to the western horizon as night falls and is mostly lost to view by the end of the month as it closes in on conjunction with the Sun next month.

Saturn Sagittarius

As has been the case all year, Saturn is best seen from the southern hemisphere. This month it is an evening sky object, setting around midnight. Observers in the north find that the ringed planet is quite low in west at sunset and soon lost to view. The waning gibbous Moon passes less than 2° away from the planet on 15 October.

Uranus Aries

At opposition on 24 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.

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 Mid-month Northern Hemisphere Equator Southern Hemisphere
1730 hours (1830 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
1930 hours (2030 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
2130 hours (2230 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
2330 hours (0030 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0130 hours (0230 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0330 hours (0430 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0530 hours (0630 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S