October 2019: Giant Planets & Bits of Comet

This month's Sky Tour guides you to close pairings of the Moon with Jupiter and Saturn, interesting stars and constellations, and bits of Halley's Comet.

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Moon-Jupiter-Saturn Oct 2-5 480px

The Moon pairs beautifully with Jupiter on October 3rd and with Saturn two evenings later.
Sky & Telescope

As you'll hear during this month's Sky Tour, Jupiter remains the leading light after evening twilight fades, glowing brightly in the southwest. It sets about 3½ hours after sunset as October begins and 2½ as it ends. Keep an eye out for much dimmer Antares several degrees to Jupiter’s lower right. Saturn is dimmer and situated to Jupiter’s left by about 2½ times the width of your clenched fist held at arm’s length. Watch for a stunning pairing of Jupiter and a crescent Moon on October 3rd and an even closer pairing of Saturn with the first-quarter Moon on the 5th.

Do an about-face to look northward, and you'll spot the Big Dipper close to the horizon. Its bowl is on the right, and its handle is sticking out toward the left. The Sky Tour's easy-to-follow narrative tells you how to use the Big Dipper to find Polaris, the North Star, and the distinctive "W" of Cassiopeia.

High overhead are the three widely spaced stars of the Summer Triangle. The corner of the triangle farthest west is marked by Vega in the tidy constellation called Lyra, the Lyre or Harp. Farther east is the star Deneb. It marks the tail of a giant swan, Cygnus. The triangle’s third star is Altair, the head of a celestial eagle called Aquila that’s winging toward the Swan.

Taurid meteor radiants

Skywatchers have determined that two Taurid meteor streams exist. Their respective radiants migrate over a large stretch of sky during October and November.
S&T diagram; source: IMO

October offers a chance to watch two modest meteor showers. First come the Taurids, bits of dust shed by a comet called Encke, which offers one peak on the night of October 10th and a second around October 20th.

The second meteor display, called the Orionids, is another long-running shower that culminates on the night of October 22nd. These meteors are created as Earth crosses the orbit of Halley’s Comet, allowing little bits of dust shed by this famous comet to slam into our atmosphere. When are the best times to look for Orionid meteors? Listen to the Sky Tour to find out!

For a fascinating naked-eye tour of the major sky sights in October evening skies, play or download this month's Sky Tour episode.

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