The glories of this month’s night sky can at best be described as ‘Subtle’. The dull autumn constellations are already being challenged by the brilliant lights of winter. Spearheaded by the beautiful star cluster of the Pleiades.
Ursa Major, or the Plough, is to all intents and purposes at its lowest in the North. The ‘W’ of Cassiopeia is not far from the overhead point.
The summer triangle of Altair, Deneb and Vega remains high up. The barren square of Pegasus dominates the southern sky, with Andromeda attached it its side. The bright star Capella in the constellation of Auriga the Charioteer is becoming more noticeable in the east. It will be overhead in winter evenings.
Although the four stars that form the Square of Pegasus are not the brightest, once found they will be easily recognised again. If you use the two right hand stars of the square and draw a line to the south you will reach a bright star very low in the sky. This star is Fomalhaut, in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish.
Mercury is a pre-dawn object this month becoming visible with a magnitude of –0.8. Low in the sky rising at 5.20am.
Venus dominates the western sky after sunset. At magnitude –3.9 the evening star sets about 7pm. As the month progresses she surges leftwards in the sky and passes between Saturn and Antares on the 28th.
The red planet lies in the constellation of Sagittarius. With a magnitude of +0.2 Mars will be setting about 3am this month.
Jupiter is another of the pre-dawn planets that we can observe this month. Shining at magnitude -1.5 it starts the month low in the sky in the constellation of Virgo. Moving upwards as the month progresses, growing ever more prominent. By the months end the gas giant will be rising as early as 4.15am.
The Ringed planet starts the month, well to the left of Venus. Shinning at magnitude +0.6. Setting around 8pm the ring world can be found in the constellation of Ophiuchus, lying just above the red giant star of Antares
Even Neptune and Uranus will be visible this month, better still with binoculars or a low power telescope.
There are two meteor showers this month. The Draconids on the 7th and the Orionids on the 22nd, before dawn. However neither showers are spectacular, and the Moon light will obscure the view, but a few meteors might be seen.
On the night of the 18th to 19th of October, just after midnight, the Moon occults the Hyades star cluster. The Moons brilliance means you’ll need binoculars or a small telescope to view the event, and the stars reappearance at the dark limb of the Moon will be more spectacular than their disappearance.
Phases of the Moon:-
New Moon 1st October
First quarter 9th October
Full Moon 16th October
Last quarter 2nd October
New Moon 30th October