October Sky Chart

By , Director, the American Museum of Natural History, New York

The sky chart is designed to correspond to the sky at 10 p.m. the first of the month, 9 p.m. in the middle of the month, and 8 p.m. at the end of the month standard time. All month: October planets are in transition, more or less. Venus and Mars are in the morning sky, but Venus is leaving it and Mars is not yet far enough along in its cycle of configuration to be very interesting. Among the evening stars, Mercury is just beginning its sunset sojourn (it will get better in November), Saturn is ending its (it will be gone next month), and only Jupiter adds any spice to the nighttime.

Venus is still high enough in the morning and bright enough to make an appearance in the southeastern dawn sky before twilight. Much dimmer Mars is close by and should be visible in a binocular field with Venus centered. Both planets will be below the rising crescent moon on the 12th, but increasingly harder to find thereafter. In the evening, Saturn will be difficult to see in Libra, simply too low in the southwest at dusk. Jupiter is in the southeast after sundown and bright enough to follow upw ard to the south and into the southwest, until it sets before sunrise.

(Events in the calendar below are given in local time unless otherwise indicated.)

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Oct. 1: Harvest moon lingers on! Though nearly three days past full, moonrise is only about an hour later than when it was full (Sept. 28).

Oct. 2: Apogee moon (farthest from Earth) crosses into Taurus.

Oct. 3: Jupiter takes up its easterly drift through Capricorn.

Oct. 4: Venus and Mars rendezvous in eastern Leo, low in the southeast this morning.

Oct. 6-7: The moon rises after 10 p.m. in Gemini and reaches last quarter phase just four minutes past midnight, Eastern standard time (EST).

Oct. 10: The morning moon is in Leo, near its brightest star, Regulus.

Oct. 12: The late crescent moon joins Venus and Mars, still not separated by far, in the morning sky.

Oct. 13: New moon is at 11:33 p.m. EST, in Virgo, just above Spica.

Oct. 14: Perigee moon occurs late today, less than 24 hours after last night's new moon. Look for exceptionally high tides to occur on Tuesday morning.

Oct. 15: The moon's disk, barely past new, slips across the face of Mercury to occult the planet over northern Asia and the Pacific.

Oct. 16: The sliver of a crescent moon you may see in the sky after sundown is not quite three days old. Saturn is above to its right, but it may not be dark enough to see it before it sets.

Oct. 17: The moon is near Scorpio's Antares tonight (below and to its right) but the crescent is in Ophiucus.

Oct. 18-19: Look for Sagittarius near the moon both nights. The not-quite-first-quarter moon shouldn't be bright enough to hide the stars of the ``Teapot'' that identify the constellation.

Oct. 20: First quarter moon is at 3:33 p.m. EST, moving from Sagittarius into Capricornus.

Oct. 21: Dust left behind by Halley's comet when it passed through the solar system long ago races toward us out of the comet's orbit each fall and appears as a shower of meteors from the constellation Orion. The Orionids reach maximum this morning, when we may be able to see up to 25 meteors per hour.

Oct. 21-22: The moon accompanies Jupiter as they move across the sky.

Oct. 23-25: The waxing gibbous moon grows fatter nightly and stays up later as it works its way eastward through Aquarius into Pisces.

Oct. 26-27: After passing briefly through Cetus, the moon returns to Pisces these nights as it approaches full phase.

Oct. 27: Communities using daylight time gain an hour when they adjust their clocks to standard time today.

Oct. 28: Full moon (the hunter's moon) is at 12:38 p.m. EST, when it is daylight over most of North America. But over Alaska and parts of northwestern Canada sunrise has yet to occur, so the beginning of a total lunar eclipse can be seen before the moon goes down.

Oct. 29: Apogee moon again.

Oct. 30: Mercury and Saturn are in conjunction but within a very short distance of the sun.

Oct. 31: The moon ends the month in Taurus, not far from its reddish star Aldebaran.

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