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 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.

October 28: Crescent Moon

A thick crescent Moon pops into view low in the south-southwest at nightfall. As the sky grows darker, the entire lunar disk should become visible, because the dark portion of the Moon is illuminated by sunlight reflected off of Earth.

October 29: Pegasus

Pegasus, the winged horse, crosses high overhead this evening. Four bright stars that form a large square outline his body. If you hold your two fists side by side at arm’s length, they will fit nicely into the Great Square.

October 30: Morning Mercury

Mercury is just peeking into view in the morning sky. The planet is quite low in the east-southeast in twilight, so you need a clear horizon to spot it. Although it looks like a bright star, it is tough to find through the glow.

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


©2014 The University of Texas McDonald Observatory