October Sky Chart

All month: The planet scene shifts more prominently to the morning sky this month, leaving only Jupiter in good position as an evening star. You may still see Saturn low in the west after sundown early in October (the crescent moon on the 7th may help you find it), but don't bother looking for it after mid-month. It shifts to the morning sky on the 31st. Jupiter is easy to find at night, so bright in the west that you can't miss it. But it sets early.

In the morning, Venus and Mars are well placed, rising about three hours before the sun and well up in the east as dawn breaks. The brightness of Venus makes it easy to see. It reaches maximum brilliancy on the 1st and is visible in daylight - easily with binoculars and even without if you know where to look - roughly 45 degrees to the sun's right. Try the south, about two-thirds of the way (60 degrees) up the sky around 9 a.m.

Mars is another story, of course. Though well placed, it isn't very bright, just a little better than the North Star. The moon will help on the morning of the 3rd, and so will bright Regulus all month. Venus will also guide you to it late in October.

Mercury is also going through a favorable morning elongation in October, at its greatest distance to the sun's right on the 1st. It rises early enough and climbs swiftly enough to be seen low in the east just before sunrise, at least for the first 10 days of the month.

Events below are stated in local standard time (be sure to correct for daylight).

Oct. 1: The month begins with a morning moon, rising just before midnight on the last night of September, high in the south at dawn this morning, visible during daylight till it sets about 3 p.m. Two of the morning planets reach important milestones today, enhancing their appearance at dawn. Venus, easily seen in the southeast, is at greatest brilliancy in the morning sky, and Mercury , rising just about at daybreak, is at its greatest distance to the sun's right (greatest westerly elongation). Venus is visible well into the dawn, but you will have to look sharply to find Mercury, below bright Venus and a little to its left, before it disappears in the brightening sky.

Oct. 3: The crescent moon is in Leo this morning. If you find it early enough (it rises about two hours past midnight), you can use it as a guide to the nearby planets Mars and Venus - and to Leo's brightest star, Regulus. Just before daybreak, Regulus is below the moon, and Mars is to Regulus's left and a little above it, just about half as bright as the star. Venus, very bright, is below all of them, nearly in line with the moon and Regulus.

Oct. 4: The moon is at perigee, nearest Earth. The crescent, slimmer than yesterday, should still be visible at dawn below Regulus and to the left of Venus.

Oct. 7: Venus, below Regulus this morning, has shifted to the east (left) of the star, passing it at about 2 a.m. EST. The moon, a young crescent to the sun's left (east), may be visible tonight if the western sky is clear. If so, look below it for Saturn; this is the last chance to see it as an evening star. Jupiter is easily seen to the left and higher.

Oct. 9-10: The crescent moon is higher and brighter tonight, pushing across the border between Libra and Scorpius. The bright object close by to its left is Jupiter. In between the two - and invisible unless you can find it in binoculars or a telescope - is the planet Uranus. Tonight, actually during the morning hours of the 10th, the moon moves in front of Uranus (about 3 a.m. EST) and Jupiter (about 6 a.m. EST), occulting each in turn while both are below our horizon.

Oct. 16: The moon is at apogee (farthest from Earth) today.

Oct. 17-19: Four second-magnitude stars (each about as bright as the North Star) form the large boxlike figure known as the Square of Pegasus, above the moon on these nights.

Oct. 21: Tonight's full moon (at 4:53 p.m. EST), in the constellation Pisces, is called the hunter's moon. As with September's harvest moon, the retardation of moonrise (delay from night to night) is much less than the average 50 minutes , making it seem as though a full or nearly full moon lights the early evening sky for several nights in a row. This is hunting season, hence the name. The full moon will spoil viewing of the Orionid meteor shower, at its best (about 25 meteors an hour) after 1 a.m. on the 22nd.

Oct. 27: Look for two bright stars above the rising moon tonight. They should be well up in the east by 10:30 p.m. The stars are Pollux (the lower) and Castor in Gemini.

Oct. 28: Venus passes Mars this morning, moving from right to left below the more distant planet. Brilliant Venus is found in the east several hours before sunrise. Look for Mars, a second-magnitude object, beneath it.

Oct. 30: Communities on daylight time set their clocks back one hour early this morning to return to standard time. Mercury is in superior conjunction today, passing the sun from right to left to enter the evening sky.

Oct. 31: Perigee moon (nearest Earth) occurs tonight.

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