Highlights for 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.
Jupiter: Look to the SSW at dusk and you will see Jupiter shinning brightly. The planet will set shortly after dusk.
Saturn: Look for Saturn just past the meridian in the SSW. The ringed planet shines just above the “Teapot” constellation and will set in the west around 9 pm..
Mars: The “Red” planet loses half its brightness this month. Look for Mars in the SSW in the middle of the constellation Capricornus. At the end of the month it reaches the eastern end of the “Sea Goat.
Stars and Constellations:
The bright constellations of summer are being replaced this month by much dimmer ones. Capricornus, 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?
A few weeks ago Japan made history by landing two small rovers on the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu. The rovers were dropped from their mother-ship Hayabusa 2 less than 100 meters above the asteroid’s surface and they are now hopping across the space rock’s cratered landscape. The rovers must hop because the asteroid’s gravity is so weak so they can’t roll on wheels. Exploring Ryugu is important because this asteroid is classified as potentially hazardous. This 900 meter space rock can theoretically come closer to our planet than the Moon. This was an historic achievement by the Japanese.
Factoid of the Month:
Our observable universe is 93 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)