Dark Skies October Update
The chart shows the sky at mid month around 21.00 BST.
Planetary wise, Venus is struggling to pull away from the solar glare in the evening twilight, still just a couple of degrees above the western horizon at sunset. We’ve lost Saturn from view by the time of the sky chart while Mars is only just hanging on, low in the south-west skies. As with last month, Uranus and Neptune are only visible with tripod mounted binoculars or telescopic aid.
The morning sky offers a view of the elusive Mercury at the beginning of the month. Rising in the eastern sky over an hour before the sun, Mercury should be around 14 degrees above the horizon at sunrise so quite easily seen to those with a good low easterly view and the second brightest object in the area. Jupiter is brighter, but is located just a couple of degrees above the horizon at sunrise so is unlikely to be seen in the bright dawn sky. As the month gets underway, Mercury will drop quickly down towards the eastern horizon while Jupiter pulls slowly away from the sunrise glow, this planetary pairing becoming only a degree apart from each other around the 10th October. Try looking out around 30 mins prior to sunrise for your best chance at seeing this match up.
The autumn months are often referred to astronomically as the “wet months”, not as you may think to do with the amount of rainfall to be anticipated, but actually referring to the “wet constellations” coming on show. Low down in the south we have “Piscis Austrinus”, the Southern Fish, slightly higher in the sky we have “Capricorn”, the Sea Goat and “Aquarius” the Water Carrier, rising in the south-east skies is “Cetus” the Whale and above that constellation is “Pisces” the Fish. Above these “wet constellations”, the Milky Way cascades across the sky from the north east, passing overhead and tumbling down to the south-west horizon.
Looking at the meteor situation for the month, the main activity will be from the Orionid shower, active throughout October with the maximum of 15-20 meteors per hour around the 20-21st of the month. Best views of the shower will be in the pre dawn hours from 2am onwards, but be warned, the last quarter Moon will drown out some of the fainter shower members around the time of maxima, so don’t expect to see quite the predicted numbers of meteors.
Well, there you have it. Good hunting and clear skies until November.