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 still with us at twilight and will be well into January of 2022. Our sister planet shines brightly at -4.1 fairly low in the SW. Venus is hard to miss. Also look a little to the left and you will spot the star Antares, the brightest star of the constellation Scorpius.
Jupiter & Saturn both shines brightly in the SSE around 9PM. Jupiter will be the brightest of the two, both planets fall on the ecliptic. Stretch a string tightly between your hands wide apart and hold it up to the three planets and see for yourself.
Mercury is the star of show at dawn this month. This will be its finest dawn showing of 2021. Mercury rises 1-1/2 hours before the Sun rises
Full on the 20th
New on the 6th
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?
NASA is naming its next-generation space telescope, currently under development, in honor of Nancy Roman. It is to be called the Roman Space Telescope and the launch date is set for 2025. Considered the “mother” of the Hubble Space Telescope, Roman tirelessly advocated for new tools that would allow scientists to study the broader universe from space.
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)