SkyEye

October 2019

Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events.

The Calendar

Time to dust off the telescope and point it at Uranus, at opposition late this month and as bright as it gets in the sky.

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Date Body Event
1
2
3 Mercury aphelion
Moon, Jupiter 1.9° apart
4
5 Moon first quarter
Moon descending node
Moon, Saturn occultation of Saturn — visible from the southern Atlantic and southern Africa
6
7 Saturn east quadrature
8 Mars solstice
9 Earth Draconid meteor shower
10 Moon apogee
11
12
13 Moon full: Hunter's Moon
14
15
16
17 136199 Eris opposition
18
19
20 136108 Haumea conjunction
Mercury greatest elongation east: 24.6°
Moon ascending node
21 Moon last quarter
22 Earth Orionid meteor shower
Moon 0.6° north of the open star cluster M44 (known as Praesepe or the Beehive Cluster)
23
24
25 Venus descending node
26 Moon perigee
27
28 Moon new
Uranus opposition
29
30 Mercury, Venus conjunction: 2.6° apart
31 Moon, Jupiter 1.3° apart
Mercury stationary point: direct → retrograde

The Solar System

The word planet is derived from the Greek word for 'wanderer'. Unlike the background stars, planets seem to move around the sky, keeping mostly to a narrow track called the ecliptic, the path of the Sun across the stars. Dwarf planets and small solar-system bodies, including comets, are not so constrained, often moving far above or below the ecliptic.

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Sun VirgoLibra

Mercury VirgoLibra

Another aphelion occurs on the third day of the month. Of more interest is Mercury's attainment of greatest elongation east (nearly 25°) on 20 October and its conjunction with Venus ten days later. Mercury is virtually unobservable from northern temperate latitudes during this apparition, with the planet staying close to the western horizon.

Venus VirgoLibra

The evening star continues to gain altitude above the western horizon, favouring viewers in the southern hemisphere. Shining at magnitude −3.9, Venus appears to be 94% illuminated when observed through a telescope. It appears within 3° of fainter Mercury on 30 October.

Earth and Moon

Both the Draconid meteor shower on 9 October and the Orionid meteor shower on 22 October fall victim to moonlit skies.

Mars Virgo

Now a second-magnitude morning sky object, Mars is just visible low in the east before sunrise. Mars reaches solstice on 8 October, bringing summer sunshine to the northern hemisphere and cold winter to the south.

Jupiter Ophiuchus

The waxing crescent Moon visits Jupiter twice this month. On the third day of the month, the Moon passes less than 2° north of the giant planet. Later, on the last day of the month, the Moon makes an even closer approach. Jupiter is an evening sky object visible in the west after sunset.

Saturn Sagittarius

Saturn is occulted again this month, with the Moon eclipsing the ringed planet on 5 October from about 18:15 UT. Two days later, Saturn reaches east quadrature. Like west quadrature in April, this is an excellent time to observe the planet through a telescope. Saturn is visible in the evening and is best viewed from tropical and southern latitudes.

Uranus Aries

This is the best time to try to observe Uranus. At opposition on 28 October, it is at its absolute brightest, shining at magnitude +5.7, and is visible for most of the night.

Neptune Aquarius

A small telescope is necessary to view the most distant planet in the solar system. At opposition last month, Neptune is an evening sky object, not setting until just before sunrise.

The Celestial Sphere

Constellations are patterns of stars in the sky. The International Astronomical Union recognises 88 different constellations. The brightest stars as seen from the Earth are easy to spot but do you know their proper names? With a set of binoculars you can look for fainter objects such as nebulae and galaxies and star clusters or some of the closest stars to the Sun.

Descriptions of the sky for observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres are available for the following times this month. Subtract one hour from your local time if summer (daylight savings) time is in effect.

Local Time Mid-month Northern Hemisphere Equator Southern Hemisphere
1730 hours (1830 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
1930 hours (2030 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
2130 hours (2230 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
2330 hours (0030 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0130 hours (0230 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0330 hours (0430 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0530 hours (0630 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S