There is some great stargazing in October! Grab your telescope and your tent! Enjoy the cool, crisp, super-clear fall evenings – this month we have two meteor showers, a lunar eclipse and some great viewing of Mercury!
October 3 – Uranus at Opposition. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
October 5 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 00:34 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
October 7, 8 – Draconids Meteor Shower. The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 7th and morning of the 8th. The thin crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for optimal observing. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 9 – Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Mercury will be at its furthest angle from the Sun, known as greatest elongation. It will be at its highest point in the night sky after sunset. This is the best time to try to view Mercury since it stays so close to the Sun and doesn’t usually climb very high above the horizon.
October 12 – Astronomy Day Part 2. Astronomy Day is an annual event intended to provide a means of interaction between the general public and various astronomy enthusiasts, groups and professionals. The theme of Astronomy Day is “Bringing Astronomy to the People,” and on this day astronomy and stargazing clubs and other organizations around the world will plan special events. You can find out about special local events by contacting your local astronomy club or planetarium.
October 18 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt.
October 18 – Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth’s partial shadow, or penumbra. During this type of eclipse the Moon will darken slightly but not completely. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of the world except for Australia and extreme eastern Siberia.
October 21, 22 – Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.