Astronomy: What to look for in the sky in October
James Abbott, North Essex Astronomical Society
- Credit: James Abbott of North Essex Astronomical Society
James Abbott of North Essex Astronomical Society on what can be seen this month.
With the Autumn Equinox having taken place, hours of night exceed hours of daylight by October.
The clocks go back to GMT at 2am on Sunday, October 31. Sunset is as early as 4.30pm by the end of the month, although sunrise moves back to just before 7am.
Jupiter and Saturn are past their best but still prominent in the South in the evening.
By the end of October they are getting low in the South West before midnight.
The waxing gibbous Moon will be passing below the pair on the nights of October 14 and 15.
Jupiter is easily the largest planet in our Solar System and has had a huge influence on its evolution due to its gravitational influence.
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On September 13, a Brazilian astronomer spotted a bright flash in the clouds of Jupiter, evidence of an impact of a small asteroid or comet.
Jupiter regularly sweeps up such objects, a spectacular example of which occurred in 1994 when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was first shredded into pieces by Jupiter’s gravity and then the fragments impacted the planet, leaving big ‘bruises’ in Jupiter’s atmosphere.
Full Moon is on October 20 and will attain 42 degrees above the horizon when in the South. This is another ‘Harvest Moon’.
Looking to the East at 9pm, the Moon will be above the horizon for a week from Full Moon onwards, moving northwards each successive evening.
Venus remains low in the West after sunset but might be seen due to its brightness. The young crescent Moon will be close to Venus on the 9th, best seen from 6.30pm onwards.
The Taurid meteor shower becomes active through October, peaking in the first half of November.
Although the Taurids are less numerous than the Perseids in August or the Geminids in December, they can be observed at a reasonable time as the source constellation of Taurus reaches a good height in the sky by late evening.
Taurid meteors move relatively slowly across the sky compared to most other shower meteors.
The first half of the month will be best for dark skies star gazing.
The ‘asterism’ (shape) of the Great Square of Pegasus sits high in the sky and due South at 11pm (as seen at top centre in the map which shows the night sky looking South at 11pm in the second week of October).