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Astronomy

October Skies

Evening Planets:

Mercury starts the month off in the SW in its highest sky position for this evening showing. On 1 Oct, Mercury will be in his highest position for this showing which isn’t that good. The planet sets about ½ hour after Sunset. The planet will be extremely difficult to see. After 1 Oct, the planet will quickly loose brightness and altitude. By 7 Oct or so, Mercury will move into the glare of Sunset and be lost from view. This month showing of Mercury is terrible and its one of Mercury’s worst appearances in years.

Jupiter and Saturn are at their highest position for the night as darkness falls. Both planets will be in the South as evening twilight fades away. The planets are not that high up in the sky. Both planets will lose some brightness as the month progresses. Both these planets will set around Midnight.

Mars has an extremely favorable evening showing in October. This is the best showing of Mars until 2035. During the 1st two weeks of October, Mars will be at his brightest for this evening showing. The planet will rise in the East during the Evening twilight. Mars however will not hold its brightness for long. As the month comes to a close, Mars will start to lose some brightness.

Morning Planet:

Venus is still the sole bright morning planet. Venus rises in the East about 3 hours before Sunrise. Venus manages to hold on to its brightness and position all month long. So, enjoy this planet’s fine morning showing because changes are coming to Venus within the next few months.

1 Oct Full Harvest Moon

2 Oct Almost Full Moon below Mars, Evening

6 Oct Mars nearest Earth; Waxing Gibbous Moon left of bright star Aldebaran, Evening

10 Oct Last Quarter Moon left of bright star Pollux, Dawn

13 Oct Crescent Moon below Venus, Dawn

20-21 Oct Orionids Meteor Shower

22 Oct Almost 1st Quarter Moon, Jupiter and Saturn form a triangle, Dusk

23 Oct 1st Quarter Moon

29 Oct Nearly Full Moon below Mars, Dusk

31 Oct Full Blue Moon

October’s Terrible Moons:

Not only the Planet Mercury is having a bad month but the Moons of October will have a bad showing as well. October’s 1st Full Moon on the 1st of October is not going to be a good showing. This Full Moon is smaller than normal and dimmer than a normal Full Moon. The next Moons are even worse off than this 1st Moon.

The 1st Quarter Moon on 23 Oct puts on a terrible show. This Moon is dimmer and smaller than a normal 1st Quarter Moon. This Moon is in a bad (low) position in the sky. This is the lowest position of a 1st Quarter Moon for the year and it’s the worst 1st Quarter Moon of the year. This Moon is in a bad position for observations. The sky position of this Moon is so low that it may be blocked by tall objects such a tree on the horizon.

The 2nd Full Moon of October or “The Blue Moon” will happen on the night of Halloween, 31 Oct 2020. This “Blue Moon” on Halloween will also be smaller and dimmer than normal. This Full Moon will also have a fairly low position in the sky. This is the first Full Moon we have had on Halloween Night in 19 years. (The last one was in 2001). A Full Moon on Halloween Night is a rare event. The “Halloween Full Moon” will rise just after 6 pm. This Full Moon may add to the eeriness and spookiness of the Halloween Night. The next time a Full Moon will happen on Halloween Night will be in 2039.

Mars Fine Showing:

The Planet Mars puts on a fine evening showing during October. The planet is the brightest of all the evening planets. The bright orange – yellow color of Mars may match some of the colors of the autumn leaves. The planet is closest to Earth on 6 Oct 2020.  On 1 Oct, the planet rises around 7:30 pm. On 13 Oct, the planet is up about 6:30 pm.  On Halloween Night, Mars will be already risen when evening twilight fades. This month is a great time to observe Mars in a good planetary telescope. Did you know that Mars is (besides Earth) the only planet in our Solar System that we can have some reasonable views of its surface features in a telescope? This Mars showing is favorable for our viewing area. However, this fine show won’t last long. Next month Mars will decrease in brightness and shrink in apparent size.

Orionids Meteor Shower:

The annual Orionids Meteor Shower will happen on the night of 20 -21 October. The evening showing of the Orionids will be hampered by a Waxing Thick Crescent Moon. About 5 meteors per hour are predicted. The morning showing is favorable for our viewing area. The Moon will set before midnight and leave the morning sky Moon free. The Orionids is predicted to peak around 2 am. About 15 fast meteors per hour are predicted around peak time. The Orionids Meteor Shower are known to produce meteors which occasionally leave smokey trails behind them.

Gary T. Nowak

Vermont Astronomical Society