By Mike Glazier
Welcome to the October night sky. I have to admit that when writing up the events for the month in question I use two sources; the first is ‘Collins guide to the night sky’ which although only a paperback does cover things pretty well in most areas needed to enjoy the night skies. The second source is ‘Stellarium’ an on-board planetarium which I use as a back up to confirm what information is obtainable within the pages of the first source ie Collins.
I have found the Collins guide to the night sky to be a first class ‘stocking filler’ at Christmas which as you will be aware is not that far off. I already have my 2018 edition.
One thing to remember about this October is that British summer time ends on 29th so we revert to amending slightly our observing times to U.T or G.M.T. in England and Central European Time C.E.T. here. Changing the clocks can produce slight deviations in observing times so local times of any event should be checked against any publication or planisphere being used.
Lastly I would like to say how much I personally enjoyed the talk ‘What has space done for us?’ at the Casa de Cultura last Saturday It was a very educational presentation and delivered in an easy to understand way about many aspects of current satellite technology and what is being planned for the future. A little mention of climate change, global tracking, history going back to the second world war in terms of rocketry and a taste of what is to come. Altogether very interesting and thanks to the astronomical society for arranging the theme.
Two things about certain observations this month need to be clarified. The first thing is that on October 9th there is a lunar occultation of Aldebaran, but this is only observable from the United States, secondly the lunar occultation of Regulus in Leo on 15th again is only visible from the U.S. and Canada. These mentions are in case you see any reports of the occultations and begin planning.
Constellations for this month begin to get interesting because overhead we will have Cepheus the king, Cassiopeia the Queen and Perseus who saved Andromeda from the jaws of the sea monster. Taurus the Bull and Pleiades otherwise known as the seven sisters will be to the East while Orion and Gemini will just be poking their heads above the Eastern horizon around dawn.
The Orionid meteors are pretty reliable and originate from comet IP/Halley. The one amazing thing which I remember from an Orionid watch which I did one year from Cambridgeshire, was that some of the bright meteors rose swiftly up from below the horizon before the constellation of Orion had actually risen, just proving that meteors don’t always originate from high up in the heavens. This year there will, for all intents and purposes, not be a Moon around for the dates of maximum, ie October 21st-22nd, in fact the Moon will only be seen as a very thin phase emerging from new and lost before darkness falls
Full phase will be on 5th Last quarter on12th
New Moon will be on 19th First quarter on 27th.
Mercury will be in Virgo during October and too close to the Sun as to be visible. (superior conjunction)
Venus is the usual searchlight in the sky during the month at magnitude -3.9; visible in the East and in the dawn sky it will actually be close to Mars, so two for the price of one. Later in the month however Venus will become ‘blended in’ to the morning skies.
Mars as mentioned above will be close to Venus at magnitude 1.8. but as the month progresses it will move from Leo into Virgo.
Jupiter will be too close to the Sun as to be observable especially so by the 26th when it will be in conjunction.
Saturn at magnitude 0.5 will be disappointing as it moves slowly into Ophiuchus which will be in the southwest after sunset
Uranus will be in Pisces at magnitude 5.7 on the 19th and at opposition.
Neptune even more difficult will be at 7.8 in Aquarius. A good indicator as to where to search for these last two planets will be found in the website Stellarium.
Around the time of the Orionid meteors, in fact with a maximum around the same date, the southern Taurid meteors will produce some members for you to see and add to the confusion as to which meteor is from which shower. Rates for the southern Taurids are low but fireballs are not unusual.
The Northern Taurids begin in November but in both cases the parent comet is Encke’s.
Not too much to write home about this month except that we are about to have darker skies which makes observing a little more sociable.