October is a good month for stargazing, particularly as we’re treated to not one, but two meteor showers this month:
October 5 – Venus and Mars are in conjunction in early dawn, forming a tight pair; they’re only about ¼° apart at dawn. Look low in the east. This evening is the full moon.
October 8 – Draconids Meteor shower. A minor meteor shower producing about 10 meteors per hour. Unlike most meteor showers, the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 17 – the waning moon passes close to Mars in the morning sky. It’s almost worth getting up early for.
October 19 – New moon, and Uranus (snigger) is at opposition. will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun, which makes it visible all night long; it is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
October 21 – Orionids Meteor shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak, or one about three minutes or so. Halley’s comet left the dust which causes the shower; most vexingly, Halley’s comet only shows every 76 years, meaning that I missed it in 1986 due to being tiny, and it won’t be back until 2061 when I’m an old codger. The crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.