October offers some of the best skywatching conditions of the year. The nights are getting longer, while the weather is cooler but not yet bitter. The evening sky offers such treats as Andromeda and several other constellations associated with her story, and the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters in Taurus. Jupiter is climbing higher into the morning sky, while Mars is getting ready to exit the evening sky.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
October 1: Fomalhaut
To the people of ancient Persia, four bright stars ruled the night sky — the “guardians of heaven.” The guardian of the southern sky is Fomalhaut, which is low in the southeast not long after nightfall.
October 2: Fomalhaut II
Look low in the southeast this evening and you’ll see a bright white star but not much else. This bright star, Fomalhaut, has no other bright stars around it, so it’s sometimes called the Solitary One.
October 3: Autumn Preview
Autumn is barely underway, but you can get a preview of the winter sky this week before dawn. Taurus, the bull, is high overhead. Orion stands to its southeast, with Sirius, the sky’s brightest star, low in the south-southeast.
October 4: Evening Stars
A handful of bright stars fills the evening sky. Around 10 p.m., yellow Capella is low in the northeast, while bright white Fomalhaut is in the south. In the west, Deneb, Vega, and Altair form the Summer Triangle.
October 5: Moon in Aquarius
The Moon is passing through Aquarius tonight. The water bearer’s two brightest stars, Alpha and Beta Aquarii, are to the upper right of the Moon. They are so faint, however, that they are tough to see through the moonlight.
October 6: Uranus at Opposition
Uranus, the solar system’s third-largest planet, is putting in its best showing of the year. It rises at sunset and is in the sky all night. It’s brightest for the year as well, although you need binoculars to see it.
October 7: Lunar Eclipse
A total lunar eclipse will be visible before dawn tomorrow. It begins at 4:15 a.m. CDT, when the Moon first touches Earth’s dark inner shadow. The Moon will be fully immersed in the shadow about an hour later, beginning the total eclipse.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.