With monsoon out of the way, October skies offer up amazing sights
October 2021 brings about some of the best that the night sky can offer up.
With the summer monsoon gone and cooler and cloudless skies just around the corner, we can expect some really cool things to add to your sky observing calendar.
The moon is the nearest of all celestial object and we begin October with a waning crescent moon, slowly moving in towards the glare of the sun.
The “dark of the moon,” or new moon, occurs Oct. 6.
This is without a doubt the best time to prepare your viewing session to search the skies for the most distant and faint objects in our Arizona skies.
Try this: Look low in the south around an hour after sunset, as you get to view the central region on our Milky Way Galaxy. This is best done with a pair of binoculars, as you will be sweeping into the star clouds of the central regions of Sagittarius and Scorpio.
Many great sights there! Here is a graphic which displays the view in detail.
From here, scan above and nearly overhead as you will be looking right down the highway to the heavens along the vast band of the Milky Way. Follow that all the way down to the northeast sky.
The moon returns to the evening sky as a thin waxing crescent by the night of Oct. 7, low in the southwestern sky.
The waxing moon passes bright Venus on Oct. 9 and then it is close to the bright star Antares in Scorpio the next night.
First quarter moon on the night of Oct. 13. This is, in my opinion, the best time to view the amazing detail on the surface of the moon, when the light and shadows are most pronounced along the lunar terminator.
Here is an image of that interesting phase of the moon, along with some of the named features as well.
From here, the moon moves on to a gibbous phase as it looks egg-shaped as we await the upcoming full moon. That takes place on the night of Oct. 20 with the arrival of the full hunter’s moon at 7:57 a.m. Arizona time.
Simply look to the east-southeast sky at 6:08 p.m. Arizona time on for another majestic rising!
The moon then wanes and returns to its last quarter phase Oct. 28, just in time for a dark sky Halloween.
Mercury – Best seen in the predawn skies Oct. 25 as Mercury is at its best elongation and some 27 degrees from the rising sun.
Venus- The brightest of all the planets in our skies…Venus is easy to view in the south-southwest at sunset. It will reach its greatest elongation from the sun Oct. 29 at some 47 degrees from the sun.
Mars – In the glare of the sun.
Jupiter- Bright, high in the south-southeast sky at dusk. Now some 400 million miles from us. Great in the telescope.
Saturn – Easy to view with the naked eye located some 15 degrees to the right of Jupiter, sailing well into the constellation of Capricorn. Amazing in the telescope.
Uranus – Nearing opposition, Uranus is visible in a binoculars and the telescope. Here is a detailed finder chart for Uranus and ways to view it.
Neptune – Faint, but visible in a telescope and the last of the major planets. Locate it here.
More with meteor showers to keep you busy in October.
October will be a great month to view the sky.
Here are two Dr. Sky events going on this month:
Join me at the new Wilde Resort and Spa in Sedona on Oct. 23, at 7 p.m. on the third-floor observation deck with telescopes and lasers. More information here.
Then join us at the great Sky Ranch Lodge in Sedona on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. More information here.
To print your own monthly star chart, click here.
To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.
Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.
Podcasts are available here.