SPECIAL EVENTS FOR OCTOBER 2016
Special events for October 2016 and let’s start with the Moon.
We begin the month with a New Moon on Saturday, 1st October at 10:11am (that’s in standard time). First Quarter is then on Sunday 9th at 3:33pm (and now we’re in daylight saving time). Full Moon is on Sunday 16th at 3:23pm. Last Quarter is on Sunday 23rd at 6:14am and finally there is a second New Moon on Monday 31st at 4:38am.
The evening planets this month are Venus, Mars and Saturn. Venus is shining brightly in the western sky at the moment as the “evening star”. It is obvious even during twilight yet it’s still some months before it reaches its brightest. It moves from Libra into Scorpius and then into the constellation Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer constellation, by the end of the month. As Venus passes through Scorpius it moves between the star Antares and the planet Saturn so that on the 28th of the month all three line up perfectly. So on the 28th October look for, from left to right, Antares-Venus-Saturn.
Mars is long past its best now. Its disc appears only half the size it did in May if you’ve got a telescope to view it with. But it’s still bright and its orange-reddish colour is clear. You can see it moving through Sagittarius this month with the crescent Moon nearby on Saturday October 8.
Saturn spends the month in Ophiuchus, not far from Antares. This month is the last chance this year for good telescope viewing in the evening sky before Saturn descends into the evening twilight.
In the morning sky only Jupiter is visible, and then only in the last week of October as it reappears in the dawn twilight after moving out from behind the Sun. It‘s in the constellation Virgo. You can identify it on Friday 28 October when a very thin crescent Moon lies above and left of Jupiter.
This month’s pick of the meteor showers is the Southern Taurids. This meteor shower peaks on Monday October 10, but it’s pretty active throughout the month. In the few hours around and after midnight (say from 11pm to 4am) look to the left of the V-shaped head of Taurus the Bull who is in the north-east and northern sky at those times. Although only a handful of meteors may be visible each hour they can be bright and they’re sometimes colourful. The parent object for these meteors is the comet 2P/Enke.
The Orionids meteor shower is usually good in October (around the 21st) but this year the Moon is bright and interferes with viewing of the Orionids.
Finally this month there are two space events to note. On October 19 (Universal Time), while you’re watching Mars, the European Space Agency’s ExoMars probe will arrive at the planet to test the atmosphere for any gasses that could indicate the existence of life. It will also drop a lander onto the surface to test technologies and techniques for landing a future rover. And on the same day NASA’s Juno probe will pass close by Jupiter once again and begin its series of 2-week Science Orbits flying low over the cloud tops of the giant planet.