Highlights of the October Night Sky
Brought to you by: Bob Haskins @ Waterville Estates
Do your part and help preserve the dark skies that we are fortunate to have
in Waterville Estates. Turn off all unnecessary outdoor lighting
Go outside tonight and discover the night sky
The Planets: “Evenings on the Ecliptic” The planets all follow an imaginary path in the sky called the ecliptic.
Dusk and into the Night:
Venus is back but it sets soon after the Sun, look for it in the SW ½ hour after the Sun sets at the beginning of the month and 1 hour toward the end.
Jupiter is still with us. Look for it in the SW 1 hour after sunset. Also, see if you can spot the red star “Antares” to the lower right of Jupiter.
Saturn is located to the left of Jupiter in the SSW just above the “Teapot” constellation
Stars and Constellations:
The bright constellations of summer are being replaced this month by much dimmer ones. Capricornus “The Boat”, Aquarius, and Pisces (see diagram) all represent mythological figures associated with water. The sky in this region is often referred to as the “Great Celestial Sea”.
However, the “Summer Triangle” is still with us this month. It is high in the sky in the early evening but is sinking fast towards the western horizon. The three stars that make up the triangle are “Vega”,the brightest of the three, “Deneb” and “Altair”. Once you see the Summer Triangle you will never forget it.
This month look low in the South (see diagram) and you will see the star Fomalhaut, the “solitary one”. When you are looking in this direction, at this time of the year, you are looking out of our own galaxy. We have to remember that we are located on the edge of our “Milky Way” galaxy and at this time of the year when we look south we are essentially looking out into the vast emptiness of intergalactic space. If you could travel to Fomalhaut and beyond you would soon leave the stars of our galaxy behind.
Also look for the “Great Square of Pegasus”. Look halfway up in the southeast sky and hold your index and little finger in front of you; that will outline the sides of the square. The constellation represents the front end of a winged horse. Pegasus, which according to mythology, was created out of beach sand and sea form and seems to be rising out of the “Great Celestial Sea”. How many stars can you see inside the square? In many locations the answer is zero. Under ideal dark sky conditions you might see a few. Bring binoculars with you. How many stars do you see now?
In a milestone for exoplanet research, two independent teams of astronomers have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of the planet K2-18b.
The planet is rocky and almost three times Earth’s diameter and between 7 and 10 times its mass, K2-18b is a super-earth. This is intriguing in part because it orbits in the habitable zone of a star. The planet is only 110 light years away and seems like a good candidate for further study.
Factoid of the Month:
Our observable universe is approximately 100 billion light years across and within this sphere lies a 100 billion galaxies each with 100 billion stars and our galaxy is just one of the 100 billion – Amazing.
Astronomy Websites to explore:
- heavens-above.com (satellites that are passing overhead)
- com (The evening sky map for the month)
- nasa.gov (sign up for alerts for the International Space Station as it passes overhead)