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 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.
October 31: Samhain
Halloween has ancient roots. One of its traditions dates to the Celtic new-year festival of Samhain, which was celebrated at this dark time of year. Celtic tradition held that spirits could walk the Earth, while the living could visit the underworld.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.