Wandering through the realms of the cosmos, pondering its huge vastness

Posts tagged “moon and planet conjunctions

Skygazing at Predawn – April 19, 2012

This morning I took the chance to image the close pairing of Mercury and the thin waning crescent Moon.

Mercury an inner or inferior planets like Venus, always appear close to the sun in the sky due to their low elongation (angular separation from the sun as (angular separation from the sun as viewed from earth), hence it’s always interesting to spot this tiny elusive planet near other brighter objects such as the moon.

Neither Mercury or Venus ever appears very far from the sun and consequently never far above the horizon (except Venus at maximum elongation). Both can only appear in the west in the evening and in the east in the morning and only for a short amount of time.

Inferior planet elongation. Image credit: wapi.isu.edu

In the case of Mercury, take note that it will always be located in the sky no more than 28 degrees from the Sun.

After checking Stellarium, I prepared my trusty point-and-shoot camera and tripod and went outside before 4:00 AM.  A view of Scorpius in the southwest greeted me as I set up.

The eastern horizon was fortunately clear that time. In just a little while, a thin golden arc of light began to appear above the horizon. I took my 2-inch Galileoscope out and pointed at the moon.

Thin crescent Moon rising at around 4 AM

It didn’t take long before the twilight began to creep out and push the darkness away. The sky turned blue and soon I noticed the earthshine, the ghostly illumination of the lunar dark side.

Mercury should be located only a few degrees away from the moon. I searched the area just below the lower limb of the moon where this planet was suppose to lie and found its faint shine.

It was barely visible in the images fo it lies above the glow of the rising Sun so I used the dodge tool in Photoshop during the post-editing to make it more visible.

After a few minutes of imaging, the light from the two objects were eventually washed out in the solar glow.

Mars, Regulus and the Waxing Gibbous Moon

Situated well above the 88% illuminated waxing gibbous moon tonight were two bright objects — one is the planet Mars and the other one is the star Regulus in the constellation Leo.

These three formed a nice cosmic triangle in the night sky just like what is shown above. (Please take note that the image was a composite.)

Reddish Mars has been in Leo close to the star Regulus for the past few weeks, and the two will remain companions all April. During May and June, Mars will drift away from Regulus, and will head toward the constellation Virgo where Saturn is currently residing.

Moon and Venus – February 24, 2012

Taken at 6:25 pm from the Gonzales Hall of UP Diliman (Photo details: 7mm,  f/3.7, 1/8 sec. exposure at ISO 100)

Conjunctions of the moon and the planets are quite special events.

Image taken at 6:43 pm (Photo details: 6mm,  f/3.5, 8 sec. exposure at ISO 100)

A conjunction is an alignment of 2 or more celestial bodies (usually the moon and planets) in the sky, from our vantage point on Earth. The objects aren’t necessarily physically close to each other in space, but from where we see them, when the bodies are grouped close together on the sky we call them in conjunction.

When the objects get so close together that one passes in front of the other from our vantage point, we call that an occultation.

A conjunction doesn’t have any particularly special meaning, but they can be interesting to observe because very close conjunctions are quite rare events. It can be very exciting to see two planets in the same field of view of your telescope!

Not only that, but conjunctions, especially with the moon and/or bright planets are involved, are just a lovely spectacle to look at and photograph.

On February 25-26, the crescent Moon will join the other two brightest objects in the night sky to form a spectacular celestial grouping during and after twilight! They’re just a few degrees apart at the time of twilight in the west.

This will be a lovely sight to see.

Clear skies! 🙂

All photos were taken by me using Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 digital camera.

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
14 Saturn Conjunction
15 Waxing gibbous moon near the Pleiades
16 Comet Elenin’s closest approach to Earth
20 Last Quarter Moon 11:30 AM
20 Mercury-Venus Conjunction dusk
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 

*DRACONIDS (Giacobinids)
The Draconids peak will this year on the evening of October 8th with a higher than normal meteor count expected. Periodic (6.6 year orbit) comet 21P/Giacobini/Zinner is the source of these meteors, and this year Earth is predicted to cross a dense debris stream from the comet. Meteor specialists have meteor counts for this pass as high as 500 per hour, radiating from the northern constellation Draco, near the Dragon’s head. This is not without precedent as the Draconids stormed briefly to 10,000 meteors per hour in 1933!

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.

Comet Elenin
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.

Full Hunters Moon
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! 🙂


Skywatching Highlights: May 2011


The month of May will show up the finest planetary conjunctions of the year. Naked-eye planets line-up in the eastern horizon before sunrise. On May 1, 9, 13, and 30 at 5:00 AM, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Neptune will be found lining-up above the eastern horizon as shown in Figures 2, 3, 4, and 5  respectively. Uranus and Neptune will be needing a star map and a binocular or a modest-sized telescope for its proper viewing. The planets will lie among the background stars of the constellation Pisces, the Fish, except for Neptune, which will be found at the constellation of Aquarius, the Water-Bearer.

Saturn will be visible in the evening sky throughout the month. The Ringed planet will be located among the background stars of the constellation Virgo, the Virgin.

Date Event Time (PHT)
1 Mars Jupiter at minimum separation dawn
1-2 Mars-Jupiter-Mercury-Venus-Moon conjunction dawn
2 Jupiter 6° south of the Moon 03:00 AM
3 New Moon 04:50 PM
5 The 3% thin crescent Moon will lie in between the star groups Hyades and Pleiades in the constellation Taurus in the west. dusk
7 Jupiter Conjunction  
7 Mercury at greatest western elongation dawn
7 Eta Aquarids : Active from Apr 19 to May 28 —  ZHR 70  
8 Venus Mercury at minimum separation dawn
10-14 Mercury-Venus-Jupiter conjunction dawn
11 First Quarter Moon 04:35 AM
11 Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter Conjunction – The three planets will form a 2-degree long vertical line in the early morning sky. The planet Mars will also be visible nearby. Look to the east near sunrise. dawn
11 Mercury Jupiter at minimum separation dawn
12 Venus Jupiter at minimum separation dawn
14 Saturn 8° north of the Moon 11:00 PM
17 Full Moon (called Full Flower Moon) 07:10 PM
18-26 Mercury Venus Mars conjunction dawn
18 Mercury Venus at minimum separation dawn
22 Jupiter 8° below the Moon dawn
25 Last Quarter Moon 02:50PM
30 Mars-Jupiter-Mercury-Venus-Moon conjunction dawn
31 Mars 4° South of the Moon dawn

Clear skies! 🙂



  • PAGASA Astronomical Diary
  • Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 by PAS
  • 2011 Astronomy Calendar – SeaSky.org

Luna and the Planets in the Dawn Sky

I stayed up until dawn today (May 1, 2011) to watch the beautiful celestial grouping of the thin crescent Moon (5% illuminated) and the morning planets (Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter). Luckily, the eastern sky was not cloudy when I went outside at 4:40 AM. But only the Moon which looked like a yellow crescent and Venus were only visible. The other planets were too dim and too low to be seen over our suburban place.

I saw these two objects rising behind the roof of our neighbors house. At 5:00 AM, the Moon and Venus were roughly 15 degrees above the horizon and were separated apart by 6 degrees.

All pictures were taken using my Kodak C813 Digital Camera.

Clear skies! 🙂

Skywatching Highlights: April 2011

This month’s highlights:

  • Saturn in the evening sky
  • The 2011 Lyrid Meteor Shower
  • Four Planets and a Crescent Moon in the morning sky
Date Event Time (in PHT, UT+8)
3 New Moon 22:30
5 Saturn at Opposition 

— The ringed 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 Saturn and its moons.

6 Jupiter in conjunction with the Sun 23:00
10 Mercury in inferior conjunction 04:00
11 First Quarter Moon 20:05
17 Moon at perigee (nearest distance to Earth) 14:00
18 Full Moon 10:45
21-22 Lyrid Meteor Shower* 

— The Lyrids are an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. These meteors can produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The shower usually peaks on April 21 & 22, although some meteors can be visible from April 16 – 25. This year, the gibbous moon will hide most of the fainter meteors in its glare. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight, and be sure to find a dark viewing location far from city lights.

22 Mercury-Venus-Mars-Jupiter visual alignment 

— Visible from April 25 to May 30

23 Venus at Uranus at minimum separation (0.9 degrees) dusk
25 Last Quarter Moon 10:45
27 Neptune 6 degrees south of the Moon 21:00
29 Four Planets and Crescent Moon in the morning sky 

— On the last two mornings of the month, given a clear low eastern horizon, there will be four planets and a thin crescent Moon visible just above.   You will need binoculars, so cease looking when the Sun has risen.

31 Moon at apogee (farthest distance to Earth) 02:00

*Check out the following links for more info:

Lyrids Quick Facts:

The red dot shows the "radiant" for the Lyrid meteor shower. The radiant is the spot in the sky that the meteors seem to fan out from. (Image courtesy of NASA)

Lyrid meteor streaks | Image credit: Wally Pacholka

A video guide on finding the constellation Lyra:

HubbleSite – Tonight’s Sky: April 2011


Clear skies to all and happy observing! 🙂




Final Close Pairing of Jupiter and the Moon for 2011

A few minutes after sunset tonight, find the thin waxing crescent Moon near Jupiter in the western sky. Degree of separation is ~8 degrees.

For Philippine skywatchers, Jupiter can be found hanging about 13 degrees above the horizon at 6:40 PM just as shown in the picture. Jupiter is right at the end of this memorable apparition so spot it while you can. It will be lost to the twilight by the third week of the month and in solar conjunction in early April.

Also, if the sky condition tonight is good we may also have the chance to see the earthshine — a smoky glow on the dark portion of the crescent Moon. It is caused by sunlight that reflects off the Earth onto the Moon’s night side and occurs when the Moon is a thin crescent.

Clear skies! 🙂



image created using Stellarium

Crescent Moon-Jupiter Conjunction — February 7, 2011

I and my friends were about to have our dinner at the very nice Casa Verde Restaurant in Cebu City when we spotted this close pairing of the Moon and Jupiter last February 7, 2011. 🙂 These two objects were roughly about 7 degrees apart.

We were lucky to have seen this conjunction despite the poor sky condition that night. 🙂

Venus-Moon Conjunction – March 1, 2011

Last March 1, the 12% illuminated Moon was about 2 degrees close to the bright planet Venus in the eastern sky during predawn hours.

Due to thick clouds over our place at the time of this celestial conjunction, I did not have the chance to catch a glimpse of  it.

Fortunately, one of my orgmates in U.P. AstroSoc — Anthony Urbano of Eteny Works — was able to observe and take a picture  of these two objects amongst partly cloudy skies.

Venus-Moon Conjunction | March 1, 2011 | Manila, Philippines | credit: Anthony Urbano

I really like this image because of its nice purplish color.

Thank you, Kuya Ets for letting me repost your photo. 😀

Clear skies to all!

Astronomy Highlights – December 2010

A total lunar eclipse, meteor showers, and the Winter Solstice are the highlights of this month’s stargazing. 🙂

Dec. 1 Moon at perigree (nearest distance to earth)
Dec. 1-4 Catch Venus, Saturn, Spica and the Crescent Moon in a celestial grouping during the predawn sky. Best time to observe will be an hour or two before sunrise. The star Arcturus could also be found just about 30 degrees away in the northeast.
Dec. 1-8 Dark Matter Awareness Week
Dec. 2 Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation (21 deg.)
Dec. 4 Venus at greatest illuminated extent. Check eastern sky a few hours before sunrise.This morning Venus will be at its most brilliant, exposing the largest area of sunlit clouds of the current apparition. Two things are going on. The illuminated crescent of Venus is getting larger, percentage wise, as the planet moves towards full sunshine. At the same time, Venus is receding from the Earth, and so getting smaller in diameter. On this date the two balance out, giving Venus its greatest illuminated extent, and making it appear at its brightest, magnitude –4.9.
Dec. 7 Mercury is 1.8° south of the thin crescent Moon. Check the western sky a few minutes after sunset. A pair of binoculars would help you see these two objects better.
Dec. 10 Monocerotid Meteor Shower
Dec. 10 Chi Orionid Meteors
Dec. 11 The nearly first-quarter Moon this evening forms a roughly equilateral triangle with bright Jupiter to its upper left and Fomalhaut to its lower left.
Dec. 13 A twilight challenge! Mercury and Mars appear closest, 1° apart, very low in the southwest after sunset. A pair of binoculars would help you see these two objects better.
Dec. 13-14 Jupiter and Uranus  just 10 degrees away from the First Quarter Moon
Dec. 13-14 Geminid Meteor Shower
Dec. 19 Moon near Pleiades Open Star Cluster in Taurus
Dec. 20 Delta Arietid Meteors
Dec. 20 Mercury in Inferior Conjunction
Dec. 21 Total Lunar Eclipse*
Dec. 21 Winter Solstice (23:38 UT)
Dec.22 Ursid Meteor Shower
Dec. 25 Moon at Perigree
Dec. 30 -31 Moon and the Predawn Planets
Dec. 31 Jupiter and Uranus less than 0.5 degrees of each other

*Total Lunar Eclipse

A Total Lunar Eclipse will darken the Moon on December 21. The entire event will be visible from North America with areas to the east, such as South America, Europe, and western Africa, catching the eclipse during Moonset and areas to the west, such as Australia and eastern and northern Asia, seeing the event at Moonrise. Only southern and eastern Africa, the Middle East and India and surrounding countries will miss out on the eclipse entirely. The limb of the Moon begins to fall into the dark shadow of Earth at Dec. 21 6:32 a.m. UTC. The total stage, when the Moon is completely within Earth’s shadow, lasts for approximately 73 minutes, from 5:40 a.m. to 8:53 a.m. UT. During totality, the Moon can take on strange shades, from orange to red to violet, depending on the particulates in the atmosphere at different locations. The event is over by 10:02 a.m. UT.

A total lunar eclipse happens when the moon is full and passes exactly through the line connecting the Earth and the sun.


Rising partially-eclipsed Moon at 5:45 p.m. PST. Click to enlarge.

For Philippine observers, this event will be witnessed as a Partial Lunar Eclipse at moonrise. In Manila, the moon will rise at 5:36 P.M. on December 21 and will set at 6:57 A.M. on 22 December. The major phases of the eclipse are as follows:

Penumbral eclipse begins 1:29 PM (PST)
Partial eclipse begins 2:32 PM (PST)
Greatest eclipse 4:16 PM (PST)
Partial eclipse ends 6:01 PM (PST)
Penumbral eclipse ends 7:04 PM (PST)

Lunar eclipses are safe to watch and observers need not use any kind of protective filters for the eyes. A pair of binocular will help magnify the view and will make the red coloration of the Moon brighter.

Winter Solstice

The Sun will reach the Winter Solstice on December 22 at 7:38 a.m. PST (23:38 UT). This marks the time when the Sun lies at its farthest point south of the equator. It signals the onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Nights in the Philippines will be longer than daytime. Earth has now completed another annual circuit around the Sun.

The 2010 Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminids is described by the International Meteor Organization (IMO) as “one of the finest, and probably the most reliable, of the major annual showers presently observable”, and this year’s shower is set to put on a good show. This shower is known to produce colorful bright fireballs that often leaves smoky trails along its way. (For those enthusiast meteor observer, you can report your observation using the methods and report forms at the IMO’s  site. You can also read the IMO’s rather technical summary of the 2010 Geminids from there.) It spans from December 7 – 15 and peaks the evening of December 13-14.

Meteors or “falling stars” can be seen at an average rate of sixty meteors per hour under a dark and cloudless sky which the Quarter Moon set just after midnight. If you trace the paths of all the Geminid meteors backward, they appear to radiate from the same point in front of Gemini. This point is called the meteor shower radiant, and is located near the star Castor. But you don’t have to find the meteor shower radiant to see the Geminid meteors, for these meteors shoot all over the sky.


Geminids 2010 - Looking East at 11 PM local time. Lines indicate the radiant. Click on the image to enlarge.

The zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) is the number of meteors that a single observer would see per hour if the radiant were at the zenith and +6.5 magnitude stars were visible. For your count to be corrected to this standard, note your naked-eye limiting magnitude for stars in the part of the sky you are watching. Record the beginning and end times of each of your observing periods to the minute.

All the other known meteor showers were believed to have been produced by debris left behind by comets, but the asteroid 3200 Phaethon is probably the parent of the Geminid meteor shower.

Also during the same night, watch out for Jupiter and Uranus near the Moon before they set after midnight.

Other Meteor Showers for December

Observe when the moon does not interfere and attempt to observe AFTER midnight for most meteors to be seen!

MONOCEROTID meteors – A fair year to explore this minor meteor shower, since the nearly first quarter moon will hamper observations early in the evening during its mid-peak on Dec. 10. However observations in the later hours of the night should reveal several more of these elusive meteors. Look for these meteors as early as December 1 and lasting through the 17th. They emanate very close to the Gemini-Monoceros border, rising in the SE sky at dark local time and overhead/south about 1:00 a.m., very favorable for both southern and northern hemisphere observers but attempt to observe when the moon is not in the sky. In some years up to a dozen meteors per hour can be seen from this shower; the point of radiant is: RA 06h 50m; DEC +10d.

CHI ORIONID meteors – like the Moncerotid meteors that peak on the same night, the light from the moon will hamper observations until moonset just before midnight. It is very interesting that the Monocerotid and this shower both peak at nearly the same night….as its name implies,the CHI ORIONID stream has its radiant very near that fairly bright star, and thus the shower members from both showers are hard to differentiate many times; even more interesting is that the Chi Orionid meteors have TWO radiants apparently, one very close to the “horns of the bull” in Taurus and the other further into the constellation of Orion.

DELTA ARIETID meteors – If you want one early in the evening, this is IT!; look for about 10 meteors per hour (the moon this year will be a full one during this meteor shower, so only the brightest of these should be seen this year)  coming from the tiny constellation of Aries.  Overall a poor year for this minor shower.

URSID METEORS – This meteor shower, coming from within the “Little Dipper” will never rise nor set and you can watch it all night; however, best observations would be about 11 p.m. local time and into the early morning hours. However, the light from the full moon this year will blind out all but the brightest meteors. The meteoroids in this group have origins with the famous Comet Tuttle, and leave many spectacular wakes and smoky trails in their wakes. Up to 20 meteors per hour under dark skies can be see to any observer looking nearly due north and “up” a bit!


Mercury will be an “evening star” at the very beginning of the month, but will be too close to the Sun to observe for the rest of the month. This is an unfavorable apparition for observers in the northern hemisphere, but a good one for southerners.

Venus is a brilliant “morning star” all month. It reaches greatest brilliancy on December 4.

Mars is pretty much lost in evening twilight, on the far side of the Sun.

Jupiter is well placed all evening, dominating the southern sky. It is in the constellation Aquarius for the first half of the month, moving into Pisces on December 17. It sets around midnight.

Saturn is now a morning “star” in Virgo. Its rings have returned to their usual glory after being on edge for the last two years.

Uranus is in Pisces all month, and remains within a few degrees of Jupiter.

Neptune is in Capricornus and sets around 10 p.m.


Moon Phases (PST = UT+8)

New Moon: Dec. 5 at 17:36 Universal Time (UT)

First Quarter: Dec. 13 13:59 (UT)

Full Moon: Dec. 21 08:13 17:27 (UT)

Last Quarter: Dec. 28 04:18 (UT)


To remind you of the important astronomical events this month, here is a poster created by UP Astronomical Society member, Carlo Selabao.

Clear skies to all!



Stellarium Planetarium Software

PAGASA Astronomical Diary – December 2010


Space.com Sky Calendar


October 2010 Night Sky Guide


October is my favorite month when it comes to sky gazing 😀 My favorite constellation, Orion, starts become visible again during this time of the year.

Also, the famous Orionids – which I consider as one of the best meteor showers because of the high chance of “fireballs” lighting up the sky during this shower – make their appearance during this month.

Aside from these, the night sky is usually clear during October. Rain is infrequent and nights become longer and colder. As soon as early evening comes, the stars of different noticeable colors fill the sky like scattered jewels. Sagittarius, Scorpius and Corona Australis in the southwest, Bootes in the west, the royal family of Cepheus, Cassiopeia, and Andromeda with winged-horse Pegasus on the northeast, and the very prominent Summer Triangle up high, fill up the sky dome. As the evening wears on, more and more interesting constellations also show themselves like the Charioteer Auriga beside Taurus which contain the spectacular open star clusters, Hyades (the V-shaped one) and Pleiades (the rosary-like group).

So there. 🙂 I hope I have somewhat convinced you why I love this month. If you’re interested to do your own skygazing at your own backyards, I have compiled here a list of other special astronomical highlights for October 2010 as a guide in observing the night sky and to encourage more people to look up and appreciate the awesome sky display this season.

All dates are set for Philippine sky observers. (Note: PST is equivalent to UTC+8)


This month’s observing highlights:

Oct 7-8 : Draconids Meteor Shower (Expect a peak rate of 10 meteors per hour under clear, moonless conditions.)

The Draconids will start on October 6th and will continue until October 10th, when the Earth passes through the dust from the comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner.

Although this particular meteor shower may not present a lot of meteor activity this year, it has been known to produce hundreds of meteors in an hour at times.

We are  in luck with the Draconids meteor shower this year for the new moon is scheduled for October 7, promising darkened conditions for easy observation. One of the best parts is that activity occurs earlier in the evening, so no one has to stay up till after midnight to catch a glimpse or obtain a full view, of the meteor shower.

Some people had reported to have seen 2 or more meteors during early this month in the northwestern direction around 6:30 – 7:00 PM.

Try to find these yellowish, slow-moving meteors around your area, too. Use the picture as a guide to locate the radiant point of the Draconid meteor shower which almost coincides with the head of the constellation Draco the Dragon, in the northern sky.

phtoto credit: meteorblog.com


Oct 6-9 : Comet Hartley 2 (officially designated 103P/Hartley) which is said to be the brightest comet this year, will be near the double cluster in Perseus.

Comet Hartley is expected to reach magnitude 5 during month. It is said to be large and diffuse, meaning its light is spread out over a wide area. You will definitely need a dark  sky – free of city lights – to see it. Also, when searching for the comet, remember to use averted vision. That’s the technique of looking to one side of the faint object you seek on the sky’s dome, instead of directly at it. Through binoculars, it should look like a smudge of light, like a faint, fuzzy green star against the dark sky background.

To find the comet near the the double cluster in Perseus, first find the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen, that is shaped like the letter M or W. Draw an imaginary line downward through the Navi (Gamma Cassiopeiae) and Ruchbah (Delta Cassiopeiae) just like the one shown below. It will point to the double cluster and Comet Hartley will be just within its vicinity.

Guide to finding Comet Hartley during early October


Comet Hartley 2’s path as shown against the background of constellations (click to enlarge view)


Oct 10 : Moon – Venus Conjunction

The Waxing Crescent Moon and Venus are both very close to the southwestern horizon at sunset.

Oct 11 : Moon near red Antares in Scorpius

Oct 20: Comet Hartley 2 will make its closest approach to Earth.

For a few days around October 20, the comet should be bright enough to view with the naked eye in the early morning sky. Look to the east just before sunrise.

This comet will be near the bright star Capella in the constellation Auriga. Capella is about 30 degrees above the northeastern horizon at 11 PM (PST) on this date.

Oct 20 : Waning Gibbous Moon – Jupiter Conjunction

These two will be less than 10 degrees apart. Check the eastern sky after sunset.

Oct 21-22 : Orionids Meteor Shower peaks

The Orionids is an average shower producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. Best viewing will be to the east after midnight. The radiant of the shower will be observed north of Betelgeuse, the brightest star in the constellation Orion, the Mighty Hunter.

Oct 26 : Moon in between Pleiades and the star Aldebaran in Taurus


* * * *


Mercury will be a “morning star” at the very beginning of the month, then will be too close to the Sun to observe for the rest of the month.

Venus sinks ever closer to the Sun as the month begins, making it very hard to observe in the Northern Hemisphere. Experienced observers with accurate setting circles or goto can follow it quite close to the Sun but should use extreme caution. The narrowing phase of Venus will be visible even in binoculars if you block the Sun with a rooftop or chimney. Inferior conjunction is on October 30.

Mars is pretty much lost in evening twilight.

Jupiter is just past opposition and visible most of the night, dominating the southern sky. It is in retrograde motion, so spends the first half of the month in the constellation Pisces, moving into Aquarius on October 15.

Saturn is in conjunction with the Sun on October 1, and reappears as a morning “star” late in the month. Its rings have now returned to their usual glory after being on edge for the last two years.

Uranus is in Pisces all month, and remains within a few degrees of Jupiter.

Neptune is visible most of the night in northeastern Capricornus.

* * * *

Moon Phases

October 7 – New Moon

October 15 – First Quarter Moon

October 23 – Full  Moon

The Full Moon of October is usually known as the Hunter’s Moon. This will spoil the Orionid meteors, which peak the night before.

October 30 – Last Quarter Moon




Clear skies and happy observing! 😀





In astronomical terms…

+ Conjunction – two celestial bodies appear near one another in the sky

+ Radiant – (meteor shower) is the point in the sky, from which (to a planetary observer) meteors appear to originate. An observer might see such a meteor anywhere in the sky but the direction of motion, when traced back, will point to the radiant. A meteor that does not point back to the known radiant for a given shower is known as a sporadic and is not considered part of that shower.


sources: SPACE.com, EarthSky.org

October 2010’s night sky :)Oct 7 : New Moon
Oct 7-8 : Draconids Meteor Shower (Expect a peak rate of 10 meteors per hour under clear, moonless conditions.)
6-9 : Comet Hartley 2 near the double cluster in Perseus [to locate
this, draw an imaginary line downward through the Navi (Gamma
Cassiopeiae) and Ruchbah (Delta Cassiopeiae)]
Oct 10 : Waxing Crescent Moon-Venus Conjunction (check western sky a few minutes after sunset)
Oct 11 : Moon near red Antares
20 : Comet Hartley 2 will make its closest approach to Earth ( For a
few days around October 20, the comet should be bright enough to view
with the naked eye in the early morning sky. Look to the east just
before sunrise)
Oct 20 : Waning Gibbous Moon – Jupiter Conjunction (check Eastern sky)
21-22 : Orionids Meteor Shower Peak (The Orionids is an average shower
producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. Best viewing will be
to the east after midnight.)
Oct 26 : Moon in between Pleiades and the star Aldebaran
Clear skies!=====
*conjunction – two celestial bodies appear near one another in the sky

October 2010’s night sky 🙂

Oct 7 : New Moon

Oct 7-8 : Draconids Meteor Shower (Expect a peak rate of 10 meteors per hour under clear, moonless conditions.)


… 6-9 : Comet Hartley 2 near the double cluster in Perseus [to locate

this, draw an imaginary line downward through the Navi (Gamma

Cassiopeiae) and Ruchbah (Delta Cassiopeiae)]

Oct 10 : Waxing Crescent Moon-Venus Conjunction (check western sky a few minutes after sunset)

Oct 11 : Moon near red Antares


20 : Comet Hartley 2 will make its closest approach to Earth ( For a

few days around October 20, the comet should be bright enough to view

with the naked eye in the early morning sky. Look to the east just

before sunrise)

Oct 20 : Waning Gibbous Moon – Jupiter Conjunction (check Eastern sky)


21-22 : Orionids Meteor Shower Peak (The Orionids is an average shower

producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. Best viewing will be

to the east after midnight.)

Oct 26 : Moon in between Pleiades and the star Aldebaran

Clear skies!


*conjunction – two celestial bodies appear near one another in the sky