Stargazing Information

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 21: M31

The largest single object visible to the unaided eye is M31, the Andromeda galaxy. It looks like a small, faint smudge of light in the constellation Andromeda. It is high in the east at nightfall and directly overhead around midnight.

October 22: Solar Eclipse

The afternoon sky will get a little darker than normal for most of the United States tomorrow afternoon during a partial solar eclipse. The Moon will cover part of the Sun’s disk for a few minutes, although the Sun will be too bright to view directly.

October 23: Solar Eclipse II

The Moon is “new” at 4:57 p.m. CDT today. At that moment, it will be partially covering the Sun’s disk, creating a partial solar eclipse. The eclipse will be visible across the United States, although the East Coast will miss its final stages.

October 24: Polaris

The Pole Star, Polaris, stands due north every night of the year. To find it, line up the stars at the outer edge of the bowl of the Big Dipper. Then follow that line up and away from the bowl until you come to the first moderately bright star.

October 25: Capella

Capella is one of the brightest beacons in the night sky. The yellow-orange star is in good view in the northeast by mid-evening, and stands high overhead a couple of hours before dawn. It’s the sixth-brightest star system in all the night sky, so it’s hard to miss.

October 26: Lucky Stars

To “thank your lucky stars,” look toward the constellation Aquarius, which is well up in the east by early evening. The names of three of its stars — Sadalmelik, Sadalsuud, and Sadachbia — are from Arabic names that mean “luck” or “lucky.”

October 27: Moon and Mars

Mars is sliding against the background of stars at about the same rate at which that background is moving from night to night. As a result, Mars will appear at almost the same point in the southwest in the evening sky for the next several weeks.

Check last week's tips if you missed a day.


©2014 The University of Texas McDonald Observatory