October Skies

A very belated post this month. I have been totally occupied with the day job and have neglected the blog for sure. I have also heard from a number of BMP residents who are interested in what goes on in the night sky and also bring excellent wines to Balsam dinners!

The biggest astro news this month is the Orionid meteor shower which peaks the night of October 20/21.  If you stay up late enough, you should see a number of bright streaks peppering the sky. The Orionid meteors belong to an annual shower that peaks the night of October 20/21. The best views will come after the waxing crescent Moon sets around 11 p.m. EDT. At its peak, the shower produces up to 25 meteors per hour radiating from the northern part of the constellation Orion the Hunter. The best way to see meteor showers is to dress warmly and take a blanket out into the driveway or wherever you can get a clear view of the eastern sky. As the meteors appear to come from the vicinity of the constellation Orion, look well away from it to get the best view. No telescope or binoculars needed. Check this link for more observing suggestions. Orionid meteors are the result of dust and debris left over from the last passage of Halley’s comet.

In the planetary department, Jupiter once again rules the night sky and rises after 8 PM as the month progresses. Jupiter is high above the celestial equator and thus well positioned for viewing. See if you can spot any of the four bright Galilean moons ( Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto) with your unaided eye. If not, grab a pair of binoculars and all four should be readily visible.

Mars and Saturn are briefly visible in the west just after sunset but both planets are well past their prime viewing days until they swing around the Sun. Mars will be the easiest view as its eastward motion keeps up about 10 degrees above the southwestern horizon at sunset.  If you rise early, Venus will will brighten the sky about 3 hours before the Sun rises.

Dont forget to turn off those outside lights and enjoy the night sky.

Jim Stratigos, Resident Astronomer

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