Happy Fall, night sky watchers!
So far in Michigan, the nights have been balmy and beautiful. Hopefully the upcoming dates will be perfect for star gazers to enjoy the awesome, October celestial views. This is what you have to look forward too...
October 6 ~ New Moon
Look for October constellations and celestial objects on the night of the New Moon. For northern hemisphere sky watchers look for constellations Lacerta, and Pegasus, whereas Aquariaus, Grus, Octans, and Piscis Austrinus will be visible from the southern hemisphere.
While using binoculars or a small telescope, sky watchers in the north should look for the Great Pegasus Cluster (a glob of over 100,00 stars) within the constellation Pegasus.
Stephan’s Quintet is a grouping of four galaxies that may be visible with a 6” telescope as a glowing blob, but a 12” telescope helps discern each one. A telescope with a better aperture provides an even closer look.
If viewing from the south, look for exciting celestial objects within the constellation Aquarius including two supergiant stars, globular clusters, galaxies, and nebulae.
October 6-10 ~ Draconids Meteor Shower
Expect to see 10 meteors per hour during the Draconids Meteor Shower made up from the leftover dust from Comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner. Considered a minor shower, this meteor shower is best viewed in the early evening and peaks on the night of the 7th.
Best viewed from the northern hemisphere, Meteors may appear anywhere in the sky, but originate from the constellation Draco which can be located above the Big and Little Dippers in the northwest sky. This shower is worth a look since there have been instances in the past where stargazers say Draco the Dragon awakens, spewing his fiery blaze across the night sky with hundreds of meteors in a single hour.
October 9 ~ Venus & the Crescent Moon
Look for the planet Venus low in the western sky to appear bright and starlike just below the crescent moon. Spot the bright planet with the naked eye, or use a pair of binoculars during daytime hours or right after the sun sets around 7:30pm
October 13, & 14 ~ Saturn, Jupiter & the First Quarter Moon
Watch as the first quarter Moon passes Saturn and Jupiter. The moon reaches its first quarter at 11:35pm on the 13th, passes Saturn at 7:00pm EST on the 14th, and glides by Jupiter at 6:00am EST on the 15th. The trio will be located low in the sky to the south from the northern hemisphere, and high in the sky from the southern hemisphere.
October 20 ~ Full Moon
October’s Full Moon is referred to as the Hunters Moon by Native Americans and has also been referred to as the Travel Moon and Blood Moon. The Full Moon occurs at 10:57am EST if you’re located in Michigan.
This full moon will appear low in the sky for several evenings in a row which makes it perfect for moon photography, so make sure you’re ready for it!
Need some tips? Read “Quick and Easy Moon Photography Tips” for a quick, moon photography reference.
October 21-22 ~ Orionids Meteor Shower
Look for up to 20 meteors per hour during the Orionids Meteor Shower – leftovers from the comet Halley. Annually running from October 2 – November 7, these showers peak this year on the night of the 22nd as meteors radiate from the constellation Orion.
Try and find a dark location in which to catch a glimpse of meteors anywhere in the night sky, but this year the Full Moon will compete with all but the brightest ones.
October 25 ~ Planet Mercury
Spot the planet Mercury low in the eastern sky about 45 minutes before sunrise. It will be the best time of year to view the red planet because it will be at its highest point above the horizon.
Being never far away from the sun, on this date, Mercury will rise first as the sun follows allowing viewers the best look at the red planet before the sun obscures the view in the northern hemisphere.
Which event will you be looking forward to most?
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Byrd, Deborah & Goss, John Jardine, October 1, 2021, Visible planets – and more – in October 2021, https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/visible-planets-tonight-mars-jupiter-venus-saturn-mercury/
Constellation Guide, 2021, October Constellations, https://www.constellation-guide.com/constellations-by-month/october-constellations/
Farmer’s Almanac, 2021, Full Moon Dates For Detroit, MI, https://www.almanac.com/astronomy/moon/full/MI/Detroit
McClure, Bruce & Byrd, Deborah, October 6, 2021, Draconid meteor shower 2021 will peak October 8, https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/everything-you-need-to-know-draconid-meteor-shower/
The Sky, 2021, October, http://www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2021.html
Whitt, Kelly Kizer, October 21, 2021, Mercury before sunrise: Start watching after mid-October 2021, https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/mercury-before-sunrise-greatest-elongation-west/