Tonight’s Sky: October 2013
Your guide to constellations, deep-sky objects, planets and events, Tonight’s Sky, Highlights of the October Sky
Venus hovers low over the southwestern horizon in the early evenings of October. Use a telescope to get a better view of the planet.
Constellations and Deep-Sky Objects
Pegasus, the great winged horse of Greek mythology, prances across the autumn night sky. His body is denoted by a large area of stars known as the “Great Square.”
Pegasus hosts 51-Pegasi, the first Sun-like star known to have an extra-solar planet.
The brightest corner of the Great Square, Alpheratz, is also the brightest star in the constellation Andromeda. In Greek mythology, this princess was chained to a rock near the sea to appease a sea monster.
Within Andromeda’s boundaries, look for M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, an island of billions of stars. On a clear, dark night it appears as a faint smudge of light.
Approximately 2.5 million light-years away, M31 is the closest spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy and the most distant object you can see with your eyes alone. Binoculars and small telescopes reveal M31’s glowing nucleus and spiral arms.
A smaller companion galaxy, M110, appears as a faint spot near the large galaxy. The Andromeda Galaxy is slowly pulling in, and will eventually consume, another one of its small companion galaxies, M32.
Jupiter rises around midnight to dominate the sky throughout the morning hours.
Use binoculars or a small telescope to admire the giant planet’s features. Before sunrise, look for Mars above the eastern horizon. During mid-month it dances close to bright star Regulus. A telescope will help you to glimpse some of the planet’s features.
An interesting meteor shower peaks on the night of October 21st to 22nd.
After midnight, look to the east, where the constellation Orion is rising. Every few minutes you may spy a tiny remnant of Halley’s Comet burning up high in the atmosphere. This is the Orionid meteor shower.
A penumbral eclipse of the Moon occurs on the 18th, visible to watchers in North and South America, Africa, Europe, and most of Asia. The Moon will darken slightly as it passes through the outer edges of Earth’s shadow.
The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.
CreditsProduced by the Space Telescope Science Institute, Office of Public Outreach Starfield images created with Stellarium Mythological constellation forms from Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, courtesy of the United States Naval Observatory Venus image courtesy of Mario Weigand Andromeda Galaxy (M31) image based on an image courtesy of Naoyuki Kurita
Jupiter image courtesy of Todd Gross Mars image courtesy of Matt Wedel
Narrated by Nancy Calo Music written by Jonn Serrie
Production: Lucy Albert, Greg Bacon, John Bintz, John Godfrey, and Vanessa Thomas