October is an ideal month for stargazing. The Sun is setting earlier so you don’t have to wait as long to head outdoors, yet, for much of the country, nighttime temperatures are still pleasant. That provides great conditions for watching Pegasus, the flying horse, soar high across the sky, or to pick out the subtle glow of M31 (and perhaps even M33). Jupiter and Saturn remain in view in the western evening sky, while Mars just peeks into view in the morning sky by month’s end.
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In the Sky This Month
October 14: Hamal
The brightest star in Aries, the ram, sweeps across the eastern evening sky this month. Hamal is an orange-giant star about 75 light-years away. It is low in the east early this evening, to the upper left of the Moon.
October 15: Sending a Message
A group of scientists and musicians recently sent messages to GJ 273, a star system that’s about 12 light-years away. It’s near Procyon, the brightest star of Canis Minor, the little dog, which is high in the south-southeast at first light.
October 16: Capella
Capella, one of the brightest stars in the night, is in view in the northeast by mid-evening, far to the left of the Moon. It consists of two widely separated pairs of stars. One pair is bright, but the other is too faint to see without a telescope.
October 17: Moon and Aldebaran
Aldebaran, the eye of the bull, stands quite near the Moon tonight. The bright orange star will be close to the right of the Moon as they climb into good view, around 10 p.m., and a little farther below the Moon at dawn tomorrow.
October 18: Deneb Algedi
Capricornus, the sea goat, is in the south at nightfall. Its brightest stars form a wide triangle, with the star Deneb Algedi at the left point. Its name means “tail of the kid,” which references its position at the tail of the sea goat.
October 19: Orionid Meteors
Earth is running into a celestial sandstorm — a cloud of dust from Halley’s Comet. That produces the Orionid meteor shower. Unfortunately, though, the Moon is in the way, so only the brightest of the “shooting stars” will shine through.
October 20: Lingering Summer
A pair of astronomical markers of the summer season is still in view. As twilight begins to fade, look toward the southwest for the sinuous outline of Scorpius, the scorpion, with teapot-shaped Sagittarius to its upper left.