Deep Southern Skies - VJ #300
Welcome to a monthly description of our night sky for October.
Total eclipse of the Moon (8th).
Uranus at opposition and close to Moon during eclipse.
The Orionids meteor shower.
Comet PANSTARRS at brightest in Puppis.
2nd First Quarter.
6th Moon at perigee (closest to Earth at 362,476 km).
8th 9 pm Full Moon. Total lunar eclipse.
16th Last Quarter.
18th Moon at apogee (farthest from Earth at 404,897 km).
24th New Moon.
31st First Quarter.
Mercury is visible early in the month in the western evening twilight before it descends toward the Sun in inferior conjunction (between the Earth and the Sun) on the 17th. It returns to the eastern morning dawn in the second half of the month reaching its greatest elongation from the Sun at the beginning of November.
Venus is not visible in October, being in superior conjunction (Venus and Earth on opposite sides of the Sun) on the 25th. Moving east of the Sun, the planet returns as the Evening Star in the early western evening sky in late November.
Mars is visible in the western sky, setting in the late evening. Leaving the vicinity of Antares, Mars heads toward the galactic centre and the great star clouds of Sagittarius, passing within 0.6° of the Lagoon Nebula on the 27th and 28th. The Lagoon (M8) is a favourite and a visual delight in any small telescope or binoculars. It is one of the few star-forming regions visible to the unaided eye under dark skies and covers an area approximately three times the size of the Full Moon.
Jupiter rises in the early morning sky, spending half the month in Cancer before crossing over into Leo, its home constellation until February 2015. On the 18th, the 24-day old waning crescent Moon appears 5° directly above the planet. On the following morning the Moon forms a right angle triangle with Jupiter and 1st magnitude star Regulus (Alpha Leonis).
Saturn Is visible in the early western evening sky in Libra. With conjunction (the planet on the opposite side of the Sun from the earth) in November, this is the last opportunity to see the planet in the evening sky this year.
Uranus is at opposition on the 8th, rising in the early eastern sky in Pisces and visible the entire night. On the day of opposition, the rising planet is accompanied by the Full Moon 1.5° to the north about to be eclipsed by the Earth’s shadow.
Neptune, in Aquarius spends October less than 1° from the 5th magnitude star Sigma Aquarii. The planet transits the meridian (is due north) around 9 pm mid-month.
The Orionids are best seen from late evening until dawn and are visible from 2nd Ocober through to 7 November. Maximum activity is expected around the 21st with good rates on several consecutive nights around this date. The Orionids provide a prominent display that has produced rates of 14 to 31 meteors per hour over the past 20 years but has been recorded as high as 50 - 70. The Orionids are typically very swift and often bright, with some leaving trains (long trails).The shower was first observed by Chinese observers in 288 AD, and is associated with Halley’s Comet. The New Moon favours us with dark skies this year.
Comet C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) begins October in Hydra, rising in the early morning hours. Shining at 6th magnitude, PANSTARRS quickly moves into Puppis where it resides for the rest of October. By month’s end, it is visible throughout the night.
Kappa (Ƙ) Tucanae is a beautiful pair. The stars, yellow and orange (magnitude 5.0 and 7.7) are separated by 4.8 arc seconds and visible in binoculars.
Astronomy 2014 Australia. Quasar Publishing 2013.
Sky & Telescope, October 2014.