October 2014

To see a video of this information, go to my YouTube Channel


October is an exciting month this year!  It brings us the second of four total lunar eclipses in this current tetrad, along with a partial solar eclipse and dark skies for the annual Orionid meteor shower. Also, Mars is visible in the evening and Jupiter is visible in the morning.


PLANETS...well, the ones visible with your naked eye

Planets you can see around Sunset – Mars (SW), Saturn (SW)

Planets you can see throughout the night

Planets you can see in the Morning – Jupiter (E)


Mercury – Not really visible until the end of the month in the East in the morning

Venus Venus is now in the Sun’s glare this month.

Mars – Look in the SW after sunset and look for the visibly red “star”.  It’s hanging out in the relative middle of the Milky Way.  Get out before 9pm, since that’s about when Mars sets or is too low to be seen.  If you’ve got a good view of Mars, you’ll also have a good view of the Milky Way and the many star clusters and nebulae in that area of the sky, so bring binoculars or a telescope along with your sky chart.  Close to the Moon on the 27th and 28th.

Jupiter – The best time to look for it in the E is after 2:30am with a clear horizon until sunrise. Look between Cancer and Leo.  Don’t forget the binoculars or telescope for the Galilean Moons and the cloud bands on its surface.  Closest to the Moon on the 17th and 18th. 

Saturn – Look in the SW after sunset and look for the brightest “star” in that area. It’ll be tough to find in the twilight, but get out before 7:30pm, since that’s about when Saturn sets or is too low to be seen.  Close to the Moon on the 25th.  Try taking out your binoculars or telescope to find the rings at its side. 


First Quarter Moon – 1st (Visible until midnight)

Full Moon – 8th (Visible all night)

TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE – 8th – For those of us on the East Coast of the US, we’ll see about the first half of the eclipse, those further west will see all of it nice and high in the sky, with the best observing out in Hawaii.  Sky and Telescope has more details here, but I’ll talk about what it looks like for East Coasters (using Eastern Daylight Time).  They’ll find it in the West in the morning.

                        5:15am – first able to see Earth’s Shadow touching the Moon (Partial)

                        6:25am – Total Eclipse starts, all of Moon in Earth’s Shadow

                        6:55am – Mid-eclipse – darkest the Moon will get, but dawn has arrived

                        7:08am – The Sun rises, the Moon sets and is no longer visible

                        7:24am – Total Eclipse ends, the Moon is still mostly covered in Earth’s shadow           

Last Quarter Moon – 15th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

17th – 18thClose Encounter – Moon, Jupiter – In the morning, get out after 2:30am and look East for a crescent Moon with Jupiter 9˚ down and to the left on the 17th. On the 18th, Jupiter will be 6˚ up and to the left of the Moon.  Also on the 18th, the Moon, Jupiter, and Regulus (Leo’s brightest star) make a nice triangle.

20th – 22ndOrionid Meteor Shower - Technically it’s active all month, but during the peak it’ll produce about 20 fast and faint meteors under dark skies.  The Moon won’t really be out, making this a good year for checking them out.  The best time to look for these are in the early morning.  If you’ve got the patience (and a jacket), go out on the mornings of the 20th – 22nd and look above Orion to his “club” asterism.

Some advice for watching:

Find a dark location, Lie down in a reclining chair or swimming pool floaty

Look toward Orion. That is where the radiant is - where the meteors will appear to be coming from.  Keep a wide eye and try to take in the whole sky, instead of staring at one spot or through binoculars or a telescope.

Dress in multiple layers and bring hot chocolate Check the weather to see if the skies will be clear (weather.com has a good map here)

Adapt your eyes to the dark by staying away from light sources or using a red light if you need to look at a star chart or not trip over something. 

New Moon – 23rd (darkest skies) – AND PARTIAL SOLAR ECLIPSE – East Coasters – not much luck with this one, as the partial part of the eclipse will start right before sunset.  If you want to see this and you live on the East coast, then you’ll have to find a location with a VERY clear view of the Western horizon, go out after 5:00pm, and wait for the eclipse to start around 5:50 or so (exact time depends on your exact location).  BUT DON’T LOOK AT IT WITHOUT PROTECTION FOR YOUR EYES!!!  How do you look at this without destroying your vision? Click here.  The further West and the further North you are, the better the eclipse will be.  For further details, check out the bottom this article from Sky & Telescope.

25thClose Encounter – Moon, Saturn – Get out after sunset but before 7pm on the 25th and look West to find a VERY thin crescent Moon with Saturn 3˚ down and to the right.  This will be a tough one to find – binoculars might help, and make sure you have a VERY clear horizon

27th – 28thClose Encounter – Moon, Mars – Get out after sunset but before 9pm on the 27th and look Southwest to find a thin crescent Moon with Mars 10˚ to the left.  On the next night, the 28th, the Moon will have moved to be 8˚ above Mars.

First Quarter Moon – 30th (Visible until midnight)

31st – HALLOWEEN – A good night with a quarter Moon, Mars, the Summer Triangle, and Pegasus out for all to see.


CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb)    Look straight up and you'll see...

Just after Sunset (sunset is around 6:30pm) – Cygnus the Swan and Lyra the Harp

Between Sunset and Midnight – Lacerta, Pegasus (the Great Square)

Midnight – Pegasus, Andromeda - Extra Challenge!  Using your naked eye (dark-adapted and in a dark area) or binoculars under normal conditions and a star chart, try finding our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy.  It’ll be a faint, but bigger, fuzzy in the constellation Andromeda.

Early Morning – Auriga, Gemini - Extra Challenge!  Using binoculars, find the bright and open cluster M35.  Find Gemini, look at the rightmost leg, go down to the foot, and move 2-3 degrees to the right (W).


Summer Constellations: Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, Delphinus

Look up after sunset and you’ll be able to see Lyra (the Harp), Cygnus (the Swan), Aquila (the Eagle), (and Delphinus the Dolphin.)  These three constellations have the three brightest stars of the summer constellations (Vega, Deneb, Altair – respectively.)  Those bright stars create the summer triangle.  Off to the east of this is the small but beautiful constellation of Delphinus. Being summer constellations and it being fall right now, they are setting and are visible for a shorter period of time each day.  If you’re under dark skies (away from city lights) you may just catch a glimpse of the Milky Way passing through Cygnus and Aquila.

Fall Constellations: Andromeda, Pegasus

If you can find the Summer Triangle and Delphinus, about 40˚ to the East (leftish) will be the Great Square of the fall constellation Pegasus.  Perhaps you’ll even see the two curves of Andromeda off of one side, with the Andromeda Galaxy as a small, faint fuzzy nearby (you’ll need dark skies to see it).  A sky map will help you tremendously in finding these.  You’ll see these in the East after sunset, straight above you around midnight, and in the West in the morning.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.