Hopefully you have your calendar ready to take note of all of the upcoming events relating to astronomy in the next month! Here’s another episode of Kelly’s science series! Image obtained through Creative Commons showing the Draconids Meteor shower in 2018.
October 1: Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 25.8 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.
October 7 – Draconids Meteor Shower. The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The Draconids is an unusual shower in that the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers. The second quarter moon will ensure dark skies in the early evening for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be in the early evening from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 13: Mars reaches opposition, which is when its apparent size is at its greatest. The Red Planet is visible for months after opposition, so observe it regularly to see its apparent diameter changing.
October 29, 30 – Southern Taurids Meteor Shower. The Southern Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. This shower is, however, famous for producing a higher than normal percentage of bright fireballs. The Southern Taurids is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 10 to November 20. It peaks this year on the night of the 29th and morning of the 30th. The nearly full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year. If you are patient, you may still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 31 – Full Moon, Blue Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 14:51 UTC. Since this is the second full moon in the same month, it is sometimes referred to as a blue moon. This rare calendar event only occurs every few months, giving rise to the term “once in a blue moon”.
October 31 – Uranus at Opposition. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.