Our closest neighbor, the Moon, is 240,000 miles away—equal to 10 trips around Earth’s equator. The closest planet, Venus, the “evening star,” is always at least a hundred times farther. And the closest star system, Alpha Centauri, is a million times farther still.
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Last Week's Stargazing Tips
October 23: Big Neighbor
October 22: Andromeda
Andromeda is one of the largest constellations. Its main figure is two streamers of stars that form a skinny V. But it takes some patience to find it. Right now, it is well up in the east and northeast at nightfall, and passes high overhead by midnight.
October 21: Almach
The colorful star system Almach climbs high across the sky on autumn nights. A telescope reveals one star that looks yellow-orange, and another that looks blue. Almach is one of the brightest stars of Andromeda, which passes high overhead early tomorrow morning.
October 20: Orionid Meteors
The Orionid meteor shower should be at its best late tonight. Unfortunately, the Moon rises around midnight, so it will cast its glow in the sky during the shower’s peak. The Moon also will be quite close to Orion, making things even worse.
October 19: M31
M31, the Andromeda galaxy, is visible to the unaided eye as a hazy smudge of light. It stands about half-way up the eastern sky as night falls. At a distance of 2.5 million light-years, it’s the farthest object that is easily visible to the eye alone.
October 18: Moon and Aldebaran
The Moon has been playing a game of hide-and-seek all year. Most months it has passed in front of Aldebaran, blocking the bright eye of Taurus from view. It will do so again tonight. The disappearing act will be visible across most of the United States.
October 17: Epsilon Eridani
One of our closest stellar neighbors is just visible to the unaided eye in the constellation Eridanus, well to the lower right of the Moon. Epsilon Eridani, which is about 10 light-years from Earth, rises around 10:30 p.m. The star has at least one planet, and probably more.