The Night Sky This Month

October 2014

Lunar EclipseOctober 2014 welcomes the Hunter Moon, the first full Moon of northern autumn. By chance, this month’s full Moon passes into eclipse by the Earth for observers in most of North America, eastern Australia, and all of Hawaii and New Zealand. Later in the month, the Orionid meteor shower graces near-perfect sky as the Earth passes through the debris-strewn path of Comet Halley. And an astonishing encounter: a tiny comet grazes the planet Mars, an event which will make news all over the world.  Here’s what to see in the night sky this month…

* * * An Expert Tour of the Deep Sky This Month* * *

“What To See In A Small Telescope” takes you to nearly 100 deep-sky sights in the night sky from October through December. Includes maps and instructions to find every object, and tips on what to look for. Now available from Stargazer University. Click here to learn more…

* * * * * * * * * *

1 Oct. First Quarter Moon, 19:32 UT

8 Oct. Full Moon, 10:50 UT. (“Hunter’s Moon”).

8 Oct.  A total lunar eclipse is visible in much of North America, all of Hawaii and New Zealand, and eastern parts of Australia. In eastern North America, the eclipse peaks near dawn, but observers in western North America and the Pacific see the eclipse in darkness.  The partial lunar eclipse begins at 09:15 UT, the total eclipse begins at 10:25 UT and ends at 11:24 UT.  This site will help you convert to your time zone.

8 Oct. Look for the planet Uranus just 1º from the eclipsed full Moon (see below). The planet is a little brighter than 6th magnitude, so you can easily see it in binoculars.

Uranus is within 1 degree of the eclipsed Moon on October 8, 2014.

Uranus is within 1 degree of the eclipsed Moon on October 8, 2014.

15 Oct. Last Quarter Moon, 19:12 UT

18 OctLook for Jupiter in the eastern sky before dawn. It’s close to the waxing crescent Moon. Jupiter is slowly brightening and getting closer to Earth and will be a fine sight in a telescope in the coming months.

19 OctComet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring passes within 132,000 km of Mars. That’s very, very close. Spacecraft on Mars and in orbit around the Red Planet will attempt to get images of the comet, so look for news reports of the encounter. The comet is about 9th magnitude as seen from Earth. It will fit in the same low-power field of view of Mars, which is setting in the southwestern sky at nightfall. At about 18:00 UT on the 19th, the comet will appear to pass within 2′ (that’s 1/30th of a degree) from Mars. The planet is too far away to reveal much detail in a telescope.

The path of Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) as it passes Mars on October 19, 2014.

The path of Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) as it passes Mars on October 19, 2014.

21-22 Oct. The Orionid meteor shower peaks in very dark sky just before the new Moon. The Orionids usually yield about 20-30 meteors per hour, though some years get as many as 50-70 per hour. These meteors trace their paths back to a point in Orion near the border with Gemini. The Orionids occur when Earth passes through the path of Comet Halley and encounters fine grains of dust ejected by this venerable and ancient cosmic snowball.

23 Oct. New Moon, 21:56 UT

23 Oct. A partial eclipse of the Sun occurs for observers in North America. More about the eclipse here…

25 OctLook for Saturn fading in the southwestern sky after sunset. Today it’s very close to a waxing crescent Moon.

31 Oct. First Quarter Moon, 02:48 UT