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David Mayeux
Planetarium Director
(505) 566 - 3361

 

 
 

Current Astronomy "Headlines"


First Quarter
October 1


Full Moon
October 8


Last Quarter October 15


New Moon
October 23

Listed below are notable astronomical events coming up for the month of
October 2014:

Naked-Eye Planets

Mercury
In October, Mercury begins the month in the evening sky, close to 20 degrees from the Sun. Unfortunately, almost none of that translates to height above the Sun over the western horizon after sunset. Therefore Mercury will be very difficult to see at that time, and indeed throughout the rest of the month. In fact,
Mercury soon begins a plunge toward the glare of the Sun due to its orbit being so small and its orbital speed so swift. By mid-month on the 16th Mercury reaches inferior conjunction with the Sun, thereafter rising in the morning sky before the Sun. At first Mercury is far too deep in the glare of the Sun to see, but by about the last week of October, Mercury will be progressively higher in the morning, thus affording an opportunity to view it then.

Venus
Venus begins October rising only about 6 degrees west of the Sun, and so will be difficult to spot in the morning sky all month long, starting in the constellation Virgo. Venus will thereafter be hidden ever more deeply in the Sun’s glare for the entire month, coming to superior conjunction on the 25th of October. Venus will be on the evening side of the Sun for many months after that, although too close to the Sun to see through the end of this month. However, Venus will henceforth be a beautiful “evening star”, becoming progressively brighter and farther from the Sun starting next month!

Mars
In October, Mars is about 4 degrees east of its rival star Antares, as the name suggests, in the constellation Scorpius at the beginning of the month. It is rather low (less than about 20 degrees) over the WSW horizon about an hour after sunset at the beginning of the month. However, while Antares of Scorpius descends into the solar glare, Mars pulls away, losing ground only slowly while it traverses Scorpius, Ophiuchus, and ends up in Sagittarius, just above the lid of the Teapot asterism at the end of the month.

Jupiter
Jupiter starts October rising just before 3 a.m. in Cancer, somewhat east of the Beehive Cluster M44. At about mid-month, Jupiter crosses over into the constellation Leo and spends the rest of the month treading that part of the sky. The waning crescent Moon bypasses Jupiter on the 17th and 18th. By month’s end, Jupiter rises at about 1:20 a.m.

Saturn
In October, Saturn begins the month very low in the sky after sunset in the constellation Libra, and Ceres around 1 degree away! However, Ceres pulls steadily away from the much slower Saturn all month long, while Saturn sinks ever deeper into sunset during that same time span. If you have an extremely flat WSW horizon and clear viewing conditions, Saturn and the very slim, young crescent Moon make a nice pairing on the evening of the 25th. By the end of the month, Saturn has sunk so deeply into the glare of the Sun that viewing it with the naked eye in the evening will likely prove impossible until spring of 2015.

Telescopic Planets

Uranus
In early October, Uranus rises just after sunset in the constellation Pisces, and comes to opposition on the 7th of the month. Therefore, Uranus is visible virtually all night long for pretty much all of the month. Uranus can be viewed with optical aid, such as binoculars or a telescope using a star chart as a guide. With 75x or greater, one can usually resolve a sky-blue disk for Uranus real-time through the eyepiece, under good viewing conditions.

Neptune
Neptune is in the constellation Aquarius in the month of October, moderately high in the SE sky after sunset, and visible with the right optical aid for most of the hours of darkness. The nearly Full Moon makes its closest approach to Neptune for the month on the evening of the 5th, about 8 degrees NE of the distant blue giant. By the end of the month, Neptune is rather high in the southern sky at an hour after sunset.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres
Ceres starts in the constellation Libra, less than 1 degree NW of Saturn at the beginning of October. Ceres outstrips Saturn all month long, moving somewhat slower than Mars, but far faster than Saturn as it loses distance from the glare of the Sun after sunset. On the evening of the 25th of the month, the young crescent Moon passes very close to the largest asteroid, probably about 3 degrees, and at month’s end, Ceres sets at a little after 7:30 p.m. Optical aid will be needed to spot the asteroid / dwarf planet.

Pluto
In October, Pluto is in the constellation Sagittarius, slightly past meridian at about an hour after sunset, only a couple of degrees away from the First Quarter Moon on the first of the month. The Moon comes around again for another visit on the 28th of the month and by Halloween it sets at around 10:15 p.m. Optical aid will be even more desperately needed to view Pluto than was so for Ceres! A minimum of an 8 or 10 inch aperture telescope and a pristine night of viewing conditions is required for live viewing.

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Partial Solar Eclipse on the Afternoon of October 23!

In the mid-afternoon on Thursday, October 23, Farmington and other Four Corners’ residents will be able to view a partial solar eclipse, weather permitting, of course! In a partial solar eclipse, the Sun is not completely covered by the disk of the Moon, but part of the lunar disk passes across the face of our star. The leading edge of the Moon’s disk will start to obscure the solar disk at 3:22 p.m. MDT. From there, ever more of the Moon’s silhouette will cover the Sun until it reaches maximum at 4:38 p.m. After that point in the eclipse, the Moon’s disk will slowly uncover that of the Sun’s until 5:46 p.m. At this time, the eclipse will end, since the Moon will no longer cover any part of the Sun.

During the eclipse, the Sun will not be safe to view directly without some kind of protection for your eyes. NEVER stare directly at the Sun during an eclipse without a safe solar filter. Sunglasses, for instance, are NOT enough protection. Welder’s glass of at least 14-grade or higher are considered safe enough, as are of course, properly-filtered solar telescopes. One can also use pinhole projection, with a stick-pin hole through a piece of rigid material, such as cardboard. When using this method, you let the Sun shine against your cardboard piece, with the sunlight shining through the small hole onto a light-colored surface. Usually when doing this, you would see a miniature replica of the Sun’s disk as a tiny little dot or circle of light. However, during a solar eclipse, you will see a miniature replica of the disk of the Sun being covered by a silhouette of the Moon’s disk! Again, you do NOT look straight at the Sun through the hole, but rather let the Sun’s light fall THROUGH the hole onto a light surface. Even spaces between the leaves on trees will show multiple miniature projections of the Sun’s disk being covered by the Moon!

At San Juan College, the Planetarium will offer free, telescopically-filtered observing of this eclipse event from 3:15 p.m. until 5:45 p.m., weather permitting. The eclipse viewing will be held on the west-facing hill right outside the west classroom complex, behind the educational services / clock tower building. The observing site will be best accessed from parking lot F. In the event of cloudy, or otherwise inclement weather, the observing session will have to be cancelled.

For more information, please call David Mayeux at 505-566-3361.

 

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Meteor Showers - http://amsmeteors.org/showers.html

Viewable Comets - http://cometography.com/current_comets.html

Special events - http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/highlights

 

 

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