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Current Astronomy "Headlines"

Last Quarter October 04

New Moon October 12

First Quarter October 20

Full Moon October 27

Listed below are notable astronomical events coming up for the month of
October 2015:

Naked-Eye Planets

Mercury begins October in the constellation Virgo, just a day past inferior conjunction, and will therefore rise in the morning sky just a hair before the Sun, deep in the solar glare, initially. However, Mercury rapidly moves to greatest western elongation (roughly 18 degrees) on the 15th of the month, with the waning crescent Moon bypassing the swift little planet on the morning of the 11th. Mercury finishes the month rising at a little before 6:45 a.m., about 5 degrees NNE of the Star Spica.

At the start of October, Venus rises at about 3:45 a.m. in extreme SW Leo, about 8 or 9 degrees away from the star Regulus. The waning crescent Moon bypasses at about 5 degrees away, and Venus approaches Regulus at a range of about 3 degrees, all on the morning of the 8th. Then, on the mornings of the 25th and 26th Venus comes into a 1-degree conjunction with the planet Jupiter! By the end of the month, Venus comes into about a 1-degree conjunction with the planet Mars! Many planetary meetings this month are forthcoming in the early morning sky…!

At the beginning of October, Mars rises at about 4:25 a.m. in the constellation Leo, just under 5 degrees ENE of the star Regulus. Mars, the crescent Moon, and Jupiter make a nice celestial triangle in the sky on the morning of the 9th and on the morning of the 17th Mars comes into a less than ½ degree conjunction with Jupiter! Finally, Venus catches up to about a degree from Mars in a Halloween conjunction!

Jupiter rises at 5 a.m. at the beginning of October in the constellation Leo in a rather curved line with Mars, the star Regulus, and Venus. The Moon and Mars make a triangle with Jupiter in the morning sky on the morning of the 9th, and on the mornings of the 17th and 18th Jupiter and Mars pair up less than half a degree (i.e. – a full Moon diameter!) apart in the pre-dawn sky! Then, on the mornings of the 25th and 26th Venus brushes to within about a degree away from Jupiter in yet another planetary conjunction! By the end of the month, Jupiter rises at 3:30 a.m.

Saturn begins October quite low in the SW in the constellation Libra, just 2 ½ degrees west of the stars of the head of Scorpius the scorpion. On the evening of the 16th, the waxing crescent Moon passes about 7 degrees away from Saturn for a pretty conjunction. By the end of the month, Saturn sets at 7:45 p.m., less than half a degree away from the star Acrab (Beta Scorpii) in the head of Scorpius.

Telescopic Planets

At the beginning of October, Uranus rises in the constellation Pisces all month long just a bit after sunset. Uranus comes to solar opposition in our sky on the evening of the 11th, making it visible all night long – from sunset to sunrise! For the rest of the month thereafter, Uranus will already be above the horizon at sunset. The waxing Full Moon bypasses closest on 10/25, and Uranus finishes the month moderately high in the east about an hour after sunset. It is possible to observe Uranus through binoculars or telescopes as a pale blue, steadily-shining “star” in binoculars, and a small telescope at moderate-to-high power (about 75x or more) will reveal its disc (magnitude 6.05, and 3.7 arc-seconds on 10/31).

Neptune moderately high in the SE an hour after sunset at the beginning of the month in the constellation Aquarius. The waxing gibbous Moon bypasses closest on the night of 10/23. Neptune appears as a slightly deeper blue-hued “star” in binoculars than Uranus normally does, and also much less bright. A telescope will barely reveal a very small disc (magnitude 7.67, and 2.3 arc-seconds on 10/31) at high power (150x or more).

Dwarf Planets

Ceres is approaching meridian an hour after sunset at the beginning of October in the eastern Sagittarius, pretty far from the Teapot asterism. Just like last month, another way to describe its position is that it is just SW of the constellation Capricornus. The Moon makes its closest approach on the night of 10/20, and not a close pass either – just under 15 degrees north of the nearest “dwarf planet!” By month’s end, it is just past meridian at about an hour after sunset, at the extreme eastern border of Sagittarius. An observer will be able to view Ceres with a telescope (although a detailed star chart will be necessary to pinpoint its position), although far from glaringly, and even then Ceres’ disc is too small to be seen through any but the largest professional ground-based telescopes. Ceres should appear as a “dot” of a star, much like Pluto, only it will be visible with MUCH more modest viewing equipment! It is actually dimmer than Neptune is on 10/31 at magnitude 8.35.

Pluto is in the constellation Sagittarius for the month of October, and is just past meridian about an hour after sunset at the beginning of the month. The near-first quarter Moon makes its closest pass (about 5 degrees) on the evening of 10/19, and Pluto finishes the month at just over 20 degrees above the SW horizon locally at an hour after sunset. However, seeing it in a backyard telescope is another matter…! The icy dwarf planet is only visible as a very modest, slight “dot” of a star in a telescope of at least 8”-10” aperture. A very detailed star chart (as well as a great amount of patience and endurance!) is vitally necessary in order to spot it! Pluto glows feebly at magnitude 14.17.






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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