Starguide: October

By Jenny Winder

What to look out for in the October night sky

Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
Neath the cover of October skies

(Van Morrison)

The Moon will be new on October 15th so save your Moondance for the  full Moon on October 29th.

There are a number of meteor showers this month so you will need to dance around the Moon to get the best of them. The Taurid meteor swarm  is produced by debris from Comet 2P/Encke and split into two showers: the Southern Taurids are active from September 10th till November 20th and the Northern Taurids from October 20th to December 10th. Though they both have a low Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of about 5 they are typically slow moving  so popular with astrophotographers. Predictions are that this year’s swarm will include some large meteoroids which could produce fireballs from late October until mid November.  Most years the Draconids only produce a few meteors per hour but have been known to unexpectedly throw up hundreds in an hour. They peak during daylight hours but look for these slow meteors before Moonrise in the early evening of October 7th and 8th. The main meteor shower this month is the Orionids, producing typically fast moving meteors, the brightest of which can leave long trains. They result from debris left by Halley’s Comet. This shower is active from October 2nd to November 7th, peaking with a ZHR of 25 on October 20th to 22nd. The radiant lies off the eastern shoulder of Orion to the East. They will be best viewed after Moonset at around 22:00 UTC

Evening planets this month include Mars, look southwest in the early evening in the constellation Ophiuchus and give Curiosity a wave. Mars will dip lower towards the horizon as the month progresses. Jupiter rises in Taurus in the eastern sky during late evening and will be best toward the end of the month when it reaches its highest altitude due south. Uranus in Pisces reached opposition on September 29th and is visible with binoculars for most of the night during October. Look for the Circlet asterism in Pisces below the Square of Pegasus. The two bottom stars of the Circlet point east toward Uranus. Venus lies in Leo to the east before sunrise and will be close to Leo’s bright star Regulus on October 3rd.

Constellations in the sky this month are dominated by the Great Square in Pegasus consisting of four stars, Algenib, Markab and Scheat in Pegasus and Alpheratz in Andromeda, while high towards the zenith sits Cassiopeia the distinctive “W” shaped comprising five stars Segin, Ruchbah, Tsih, Shedir and Caph.

Halfway along the right hand side of the Square of Pegasus lies 51 Pegasi, the first extrasolar, sun-like star, discovered to have a planet  orbiting  it. From Alpheratz in the top left corner of the Square of Pegasus count left along two more stars & then up to find M31. The Andromeda Galaxy is 2.5 million Light years from Earth, the nearest spiral galaxy to our Milky Way but the most distant naked eye object in the sky.  Look also for the nearby dwarf elliptical galaxies M110 and M32. Between Andromeda & Cassiopeia lie two elliptical galaxies NGC 147 and NGC 185, that are part of the Local Group of galaxies. Cassiopiea sits in a rich star field.  Just below the middle of the “W” lies an open custer, NGC 457, the Owl or E.T. Cluster.



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