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.
Saturn is the only prominent planet in the evening sky. Located in Ophiuchus with a magnitude of +0.6. It will be setting around 9pm. The famous rings appear wider open this month. They will be at there best at anytime in the last 14 years. They will be at their maximum opening on the 16th of this month.
Setting at 3.30am, faint Neptune will be found at magnitude +7.8 in Aquarius.
Uranus is at opposition on the 19th of the month. It will be visible all night long in Pisces. At magnitude +5.7, binoculars will be required.
In the morning sky, Venus is resplendent. At magnitude –3.7 it will be rising two hours before the Sun.
On the 5th and 6th of October Mars lies just 20 arc minutes to the right of the morning star. At magnitude +1.8, it over 100 times fainter. The red planet rises just before 5am, and moves from Leo to Virgo as the month progresses.
Mercury and Jupiter are lost in the Sun’s glare this month.
In the early hours of 12th of the month, a space rock some 20 meters across will hurtle past the Earth, probably at less than one tenth the Moons distance. Asteroid 2012 TC4.
There are two meteor showers this month. The Draconids on the 7th and the Orionids on the 21st, before dawn. However neither showers are spectacular, but the Moon is well out of the way of both these showers this year.
Phases of the Moon:-
Full Moon 5th October
Last quarter 12th October
New Moon 19th October
First quarter 27th October