A giant story unfolds across the evening skies of October. It involves Andromeda and four surrounding constellations. They tell us of the mother who angered the gods, the father who ordered Andromeda sacrificed to appease them, the sea monster that tried to destroy her, and the hero who saved her. And in the morning sky, Venus, Jupiter and Mars all congregate within the borders of Leo, adding some zest to the chilly autumn mornings.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
October 5: Double Cluster
Two vigorous young star clusters, known as the Double Cluster, circle high across the north on autumn evenings. Under dark skies, they are just visible to the unaided eye as a hazy smudge of light below W-shaped Cassiopeia. Binoculars reveal many more stars.
October 6: Triangulum Galaxy
The third-largest galaxy in our neighborhood, M33, is in Triangulum, which is in the east in mid evening. The galaxy is visible through binoculars as a hazy smudge of light not far from the triangle of stars that gives the constellation its name.
October 7: Moon and Companions
The crescent Moon drops past two pairs of bright objects in the pre-dawn sky the next couple of days. The group that is closer to the Moon tomorrow includes the planet Venus, which shines as the “morning star,” and the true star Regulus, the heart of the lion.
October 8: Moon and More Companions
Mars stands close to the left of the crescent Moon at first light tomorrow. The planet looks like a modest orange star. The much brighter planet Jupiter is below Mars and the Moon, with the even brighter planet Venus above them.
October 9: Alpha Persei
Perseus, the hero, is low in the northeast at nightfall. Its brightest star, Alpha Persei, probably is just one percent of the age of the Sun, yet it already is nearing the end of its life because it’s much more massive than the Sun.
October 10: Morning Mercury
Venus, the “morning star,” is well up in the east at dawn, with slightly fainter Jupiter to its lower left. The much fainter planet Mercury stands well below them, just above the crescent Moon. Mercury will climb higher and shine brighter over the next few mornings.
October 11: Uranus at Opposition
The planet Uranus is putting in its best showing of the year. It rises at sunset, is in the sky all night, and is brightest for the year. In fact, under dark skies, those with keen vision might just make out the planet with the unaided eye.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.