Last Week's Stargazing Tips

October 3: Rare Gems

Aquarius, the water-bearer, is in the southeast as darkness falls and stands highest in the sky, due south, around 11 p.m. Its brightest stars, Alpha and Beta Aquarii, look fairly faint. In reality, both are brilliant supergiants that are dulled only by their great distance of 500 light-years.

October 2: The Plow

Ursa Major hunkers low in the north on autumn evenings. Americans see its brightest stars as the Big Dipper. In England, though, these stars are seen as a plow. October is a good time to visualize a plow because it stands just above the horizon.

October 1: Early Winter

Autumn is just underway, but you can get a preview of the winter sky in the hours before dawn. Taurus, the bull, is high overhead, to the upper left of the Moon. Orion is due south, with Sirius, the sky’s brightest star, in the south-southeast.

September 30: Chasing Dogs

Two “dog stars” chase across autumn’s pre-dawn sky. The brighter one is Sirius, in Canis Major, the big dog. The other is Procyon, of Canis Minor, the little dog. Both are high in the sky at first light, with Procyon far to the upper left of Sirius.

September 29: Mirach

The binary system known as Mirach forms the second-brightest star in the constellation Andromeda, which is in the east and northeast as night falls. The system’s main star is almost 100 times wider than the Sun, and 2,000 times brighter.

September 28: Big Story

Five constellations that form part of the same story spread across the evening. Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Cetus, and Perseus all climb up the eastern side of the sky, telling a story of vanity, sacrifice, and heroism.

September 27: Eclipsed Harvest Super Moon

A total lunar eclipse will decorate the sky this evening as the full Moon passes through Earth’s long shadow. This is also the Harvest Moon, which is the full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox.


©2015 The University of Texas McDonald Observatory