Look southwest and west this month for two planets and two stars. Jupiter still dominates the SW sky around 8 pm in early October and 7 pm later in the month while Saturn shines about 25 degrees above left of Jupiter. Ruddy colored Antares in the constellation of Scorpius gleams 10 degrees below and right of Jupiter. Arcturus shines as brightly as Jupiter above the western horizon. Both Saturn and Jupiter are special treats when viewed through a telescope. If you don’t have a telescope or even if you do, stop by one of the Bell Museum’s star parties or one hosted by another group in your hometown to look through their telescopes.
And while you are out star gazing, look overhead for the bright star Deneb, one of the most distant stars you can see with your naked eye. The even brighter star Vega beams about 25 degrees to Deneb’s west. Deneb lies at the tail of the constellation Cygnus the Swan apparently flying southwest now that fall has begun. When you enjoy one of the star parties, be sure to have someone point out these celestial wonders.
International Observe the Moon Night – Oct 5
Step outside, look up, and take part in a global celebration that encourages observation and appreciation of the Moon—no equipment needed. This annual, worldwide celebration of lunar science and exploration is a chance for us all to look up and feel connected as we all observe the same Moon no matter where we live here on planet Earth. If you happen to have binoculars or a telescope, look along the Moon’s terminator (the dividing line between day and night) to see stunning details of the craters and lunar shadows.
Mercury: Greatest Eastern Elongation – Oct 20
Mercury is never too far from the Sun. Because it’s the closest planet to the Sun, it’s only ever visible just before sunrise or just after sunset. This month, when the planet is farthest from the Sun as seen from Earth, it can be found in the evening sky just 25 degrees east of the setting Sun.
Save the Date: Statewide Star Party – Nov 8-11
Picture this: Thousands of Minnesotans at sites across the state observing the Moon and engaging in hands-on astronomy activities all at the same time. Partners from across the state will be hosting star parties throughout the weekend with a variety of fun learning activities and engaging observations. Get more info at bellmuseum.umn.edu/statewide-starparty.
There’s so much more to see! Use our Minnesota Skies sky map to help guide your sky watching!
October 5—First Quarter Moon
The Moon is one quarter of its way through its orbit around
the Earth, which makes half the Moon illuminated and half
dark from our perspective.
October 13—Full Moon
The Moon is located on the opposite side of the Earth as the
Sun and the side we see is fully illuminated.
October 21—Last Quarter Moon
This phase occurs when the Moon is three-quarters of the
way through its orbit around the Earth.
October 27—New Moon
The Moon is located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun
and is not visible in the night sky. This is the best time of the
month to observe faint objects like galaxies and star clusters
because there is no moonlight to interfere.
Deep Sky Objects
Face northwest and look approximately halfway between the horizon and the zenith for seven bright stars. These stars will stretch out over an entire hand length in the sky and make up the Big Dipper asterism.
If you look around the ladle or bucket of the dipper you can find another dozen stars that you can connect together into the constellation Ursa Major, the Larger Bear. This bear is large: The constellation covers almost two entire hand-lengths in the sky! This constellation can be found across the Northern
Hemisphere, from the Ancient Greek’s story of Zeus and Callisto, to the saptarishi or Seven Sages in the Hindu tradition. Here in the Americas, the Navajo always pair the Big Dipper and Little Dipper together but see them as the Male and Female Revolvers. They continuously rotate in the sky with the First (Central) Fire in between them. Can you guess what star represents the sacred fire to the Navajo?