The glories of October’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.
At the start of the month, you may catch Jupiter very low in the south west, at magnitude –1.8 and setting at 8pm in Libra. By the months end its disappeared into the twilight glow.
Saturn at magnitude +0.5 lies in Sagittarius and sets around 9.30pm.
To the left of Saturn, Mars is the brightest planet in the late evening sky. Moving through Capricornus and setting about 0.30am. The red planet fades from magnitude –1.3 to –0.6 as the month progresses.
With binoculars or a small telescope you can spot Neptune lying in Aquarius. At magnitude +7.8 it sets about 4am.
Uranus is at its closest to Earth on the 24th October. At magnitude +5.7, it is just visible to the naked eye, but much more easily seen with binoculars. Visible all night long, you will locate this distant world on the border of Aries and Pisces.
Both Mercury and Venus are too close to the Sun to be visible this month.
There are two meteor showers this month. The Draconids on the night of the 8th into the morning of the 9th and the Orionids on the 21st into the 22nd before dawn. However neither showers are spectacular, and the bright Moonlight will interfere with the Orinids this year.
British Summer Time ends at 2am on Sunday 28th October
Phases of the Moon:-
Last quarter 2nd October
New Moon 11th October
First quarter 16th October
Full Moon 24th October