Skywatching Highlights: October 2011
As the nights get longer in the northern hemisphere, the skies are filled with good observing opportunities.
Meteor showers, a comet, and Jupiter at opposition are the highlights for October.
|2||Mars in the Beehive Cluster in Cancer|
|4||First Quarter Moon||11:15 AM|
|8||Draconid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 6-10, ZHR up to storm levels)|
|8||International Observe the Moon Night 2011|
|12||Full Moon (Hunter’s Moon)||10:05 AM|
|13||Jupiter and the waxing gibbous moon is about 5 degrees apart|
|15||Waxing gibbous moon near the Pleiades|
|16||Comet Elenin’s closest approach to Earth|
|20||Last Quarter Moon||11:30 AM|
|22||Orionid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 17-25, ZHR=20)|
|27||New Moon||04:00 AM|
|28||Mercury-Venus Moon at minimum separation||dusk|
|29||Jupiter Opposition (closest approach to Earth)||08:40 AM|
Two meteor showers: Draconids & Orionids
The Orionids will peak this year on the evening of October 21/22 . Periodic (76 year orbit) comet 1P/Halley is the source of these meteors. Meteor specialists have meteor counts for this pass averaging a modest 20 per hour, best visible before dawn under dark skies. These meteor fragments radiate from the top of Orion’s upraised club, near the Gemini border. The waning crescent Moon this year should not interfere much with your observing of these shooting stars.
Newly discovered comet Elenin will make its closest approach to the Earth on October 16. The comet was discovered on December 10, 2010 by Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin. It is estimated that the comet will reach 6th magnitude as it makes its closest approach. This will make it just barely visible to the naked eye. With a good pair of binoculars and a little determination, you may be able to get a good look at this new comet during mid October.
Jupiter at Opposition
The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons. The giant planet will be a big and bright as it gets in the night sky. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet.
This month’s full moon is called Hunter’s Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This will also be the smallest full moon of the year because it will be near apogee, its farthest point from the Earth.
Mercury-Venus & Moon at minimum separation
This is a wonderful conjunction of 2 planets, the waxing crescent Moon and the red giant star Antares about 30 minutes after sunset on the nights of October 28 & 29th. You will need an unobstructed view low to the SW. Use binoculars or a small telescope to locate challenging Mercury.
International Observe the Moon Night 2011
Join people from all over the world to celebrate the second annual International Observe the Moon Night on Oct. 8, 2011. InOMN is an annual event celebrated globally to encourage people to go out and observe Earth’s nearest neighbor in space — the Moon.
For more information and resources for planning your own International Observe the Moon Night event, visit: http://observethemoonnight.org/. The website features activities, educational materials, multimedia and much more!
Happy skygazing! 🙂
- PAGASA Astronomical Diary
- Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 by PAS
- 2011 Astronomy Calendar – SeaSky.org