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In the Sky This Month

The longer, cooler nights of October offer some pleasant skywatching. Some of the signature constellations of autumn, including Pegasus and Andromeda, are in good view at nightfall and climb high across the sky around midnight. Under dark skies, look for the Andromeda galaxy, the most- distant object that is easily visible to the unaided eye — a whopping 2.5 million light-years away. On the planetary front, Venus is climbing into better view as the Evening Star, while Jupiter, the next-brightest light in the night sky, climbs into view in the dawn twilight by the middle of the month.

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 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 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 23: Big Neighbor

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.

October 24: Moon and Regulus

Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, the lion, will crouch close above the Moon at dawn tomorrow. Regulus actually consists of at least four stars, which are split into two close pairs. The system is almost 80 light-years from Earth.

October 25: Cepheus

Cepheus the king stands high in the north this evening, and looks like an upside-down child’s drawing of a house. It was passed down to us from ancient times through the Almagest, a famous text written almost 2,000 years ago by Claudius Ptolemy.

October 26: VV Cephei

Cepheus the king wheels high across the north on autumn evenings. It hosts one of the largest stars in the galaxy, VV Cephei. If it took the Sun’s place, it would swallow Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and maybe Saturn.

Current moon phase

First QuarterFirst Oct. 8, 11:33 pm

Full MoonFull Oct. 15, 11:23 pm

Last quarterLast Oct. 22, 2:14 pm

New MoonNew Oct. 30, 12:38 pm

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Apogee October 4

Perigee October 16

The full Moon of October is known as the Hunter’s Moon or Dying Grass Moon.