The sky this week for October 24 to 28
The Orionid meteor shower, a slew of bright planets, and an asteroid for good measure, all in the sky this week.
By Richard Talcott
Wednesday, October 24
Full Moon officially arrives at 12:45 p.m. EDT, but it should look completely illuminated all night. You can find it rising in the east around sunset and peaking in the south around 1 a.m. local daylight time. It dips low in the west by the time morning twilight starts to paint the sky. The Moon resides in the northern part of the constellation Cetus. October’s Full Moon also goes by the name “Hunter’s Moon.” In early autumn, the Full Moon rises about a half-hour later each night compared with a normal lag close to 50 minutes. The added early evening illumination supposedly helps hunters track down their prey.
Thursday, October 25
Saturn continues to be a standout object in the early evening sky. The ringed planet stands about 20° above the southwestern horizon an hour after sunset and remains on view until nearly 10 p.m. local daylight time. The ringed planet shines at magnitude 0.5, more than a full magnitude brighter than any of the background stars in its host constellation, Sagittarius. If you own a telescope, there’s no better target than Saturn. Even the smallest instrument shows Saturn’s 16″-diameter disk surrounded by a dramatic ring system that spans 36″ and tilts 26° to our line of sight.
Friday, October 26
The waning gibbous Moon rises in the east around 8 p.m. local daylight time. Wait about an hour for it to climb well clear of the horizon and you’ll see it perched just west of the Hyades star cluster in the constellation Taurus the Bull. Binoculars will deliver the best views of this pretty conjunction. If you keep watching throughout the night, you’ll see the Moon pass in front of the V-shaped Hyades.
Venus reaches inferior conjunction at 10 a.m. EDT. This position places the inner planet most nearly between Earth and the Sun (precisely 6° south-southwest of our star), so it is lost in the glare. But the brilliant world orbits the Sun quickly, and it will return to view before dawn in about 10 days.
Saturday, October 27
This week offers evening skywatchers a final chance to see Jupiter before it disappears in the Sun’s glow. Use binoculars to locate the giant planet some 6° above the southwestern horizon 30 minutes after sunset. Jupiter shines brightly at magnitude –1.7 and should stand out if you have a clear and unobstructed horizon. As a bonus, you might also catch a glimpse of Mercury. The innermost planet lies 3.4° (about half a binocular field) below Jupiter. At magnitude –0.2, Mercury appears about one-quarter as bright as its companion.
Sunday, October 28
Mars continues to put on a great show these October evenings. The Red Planet appears more than 30° above the southern horizon once darkness falls. The world shines at magnitude –0.7, significantly brighter than any star visible on October evenings, against the faint backdrop of Capricornus. A telescope reveals a disk that spans 12″ and shows several subtle surface features.