What to see in October

By Mike Glazier

It seems to have been a long hot summer and the heat was certainly felt during the trek in the mountains which took place over the two away days in Benimaurell!

There are many people whose efforts made the event the success it was, from Christine and David for their wonderful organizing skills which made everything run so smoothly; Geoff for his knowledge of the mountain tracks which most of us trudged over for 2 hours and a bit, Ed and Jane for the very entertaining quiz and John for bringing the group scope and having to leave his own at home. David also took the photos which I am sure you will see some of later in the newsletter. I would like to thank everyone for being such great company and hope we can replicate the experience again in 2012.

My observing experience.

Well the milky way streamed overhead through Cygnus during the second observing session at Benimaurell. The street lighting in most towns and villages have made it all but extinct to the probing eye but from the hotel car park it was a glorious sight. M27, M71, M45, NGC 869 and NGC 884 ( double cluster) and M31,M32 and NGC205 ( the latter being companions to the famous Andromeda galaxy) were clearly visible through Christine’s instrument and the large group scope.

The constellations Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Perseus and Pegasus, all of course related in one mythological story were all on view with queen Cassiopeia lying in her upside down position as placed by the gods as a punishment for the terrible treatment of her beautiful daughter Andromeda. Perseus saved the day after returning home from his killing of the Medusa!

The night sky in October

MERCURY : Following last months superior conjunction Mercury is not visible .

VENUS : The close proximity of the planet Venus to the sun makes it not visible this month.

MARS : Mars will begin to rise and show its face around midnight, so if you want to observe the red planet you should look around Cancer and Leo during the early hours.  

JUPITER : Well it is just there and is impossible to miss! On 29th it will be at opposition and visible all night long in Aries. The recent conjunction between Jupiter and the Moon was a very pretty sight indeed. I wonder how many people turned a camera on it.

SATURN : The ringed planet (not the only one I might add) is unfortunately in conjuction with the Sun mid month and therefore is not observable.

URANUS : One of the other ringed planets Uranus is visible in Pisces during the evening but consult a star map if you intend to search for it. The planets colour is a giveaway.

NEPTUNE : Just another planet with rings, Neptune is visible also in the evening sky in the constellation Pisces. Again the recommendation would be unless you have a GO TO is to consult a star map.

Some guides.

Neptune will be 6 degrees South of the Moon on 8 at 3 am

Uranus will be will be 6 degrees South of the Moon at 11 p.m. on 10th

Jupiter will be at opposition at 3 a.m. on 29th and glorious. Don’t miss it!

Jupiter will also be just 5 degrees South of the Moon on the night of 8th th

To look out for!

One of the best meteor showers of the year, the ORIONIDS peak on the nights of 20-22. As I have mentioned at least one time before, this shower is interesting for the reason that some of the meteors can be see streaking up from below the horizon before the constellation has risen. It really is quite a strange sight. Average ZHR rates of 25 are expected this year and helped by the fact the Moon will be 2 days after last quarter ( waning) The radiant of this shower lies just below the star Betelgeuse.

Whilst thinking about meteors, don’t disregard the Draconid meteors which could possibly give a very reasonable display on the night of 8th of October into 9th. The benefits of this shower are that the radiant is high near the star Mu(v) Draconis in the head of Draco. This area of the sky is close to Ursa Minor. If this is all quite good news to meteor observers, then the bad news must be that the Moon will be gibbous approaching full!

Talking of the Moon

The surface of the Moon can often be quite bewildering. ‘Astronomy Now ‘ magazine are offering a giant Moon disc atlas for just 7.99 sterling The atlas contains a wealth of information for the lunar observer/trekker and if you want to know the names of the craters, details of eclipses, explanation of libration, information on craters and lunar phases, with the best ones to observe specific objects/formations, then it is all there.

Just passing through

Mars the red planet will pass through M44 ( Praesepe) or the beehive cluster during early October but remember this will be an unsociable time of the morning for observing or even photographing the event.

Things often overlooked

  • Remember to watch the 4 Galilean satellites of Jupiter. Watch for transits, shadows on the disc and speeds of their rotation periods around the planet.
  • Observe the lunar surface around the 4th of the month when our neighbour in space will be at first quarter.
  • Watch for sporadic meteors, satellites, the I.S.S. Iridium flares and anything else that moves amongst the stars. Log onto http://www.heavens-above.com for more information.

What’s it all about?

Most people can identify some constellations, and at the same time locate certain objects by using them or their stars as stellar guides.

Constellations are of course patterns in the sky and are seen only as line of sight, because of course their component stars are all at different distances from the others and from us

It is important to remember also that constellations all have stories attached to them and it is quite a good idea to be able to relate these to others whilst observing them. At this time of the year we have King Cepheus, Queen Cassiopeia, Perseus, and Andromeda. Just like a pantomime we have in mythology the goodies and the baddies and amongst all of these players mentioned the goodie won!

International Space Station passes

To see details of ISS passes visible from Denia click here and under Satellites select ISS or any other satellite which interests you.

Happy observing Mike Glazier

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