If you plan to do some stargazing this month, this handy guide highlights what to expect when you look to the night sky.
The cool night air draws people outside in October in the Northern Hemisphere. It is time for bonfires, cider, and stargazing. Even if you're in a city, you can view amazing celestial events on clear October nights.
These are some notable astronomical events and happenings this month:
- October 4-10 is World Space Week, as declared the by United Nations General Assembly. Special events are hosted all over the world to recognize and celebrate that we all share one amazing sky.
- Jupiter steals the show this month as it comes closer to Earth than it will be again until 2022.
- The constellations Pegasus, Taurus, Cetus, and Pisces take center stage in the eastern sky this month.
- Saturn becomes a morning planet (PDF) in late October.
I compiled the following calendar to help Geekend readers know what to expect this month when heading outdoors for some backyard stargazing. I also recommend downloading the Google Sky Map app for Android and the iPhone — it makes sense of the night sky for you.
- October 7-8: Draco is expected to spout a bright burst of Draconid meteors on these two evenings. Viewers in Europe have the best chance of getting a glimpse of the brightest of the Draconid meteors.
- October 8 is International Observe the Moon Night. Check out the website to find an event near you, or just plan an outdoor nighttime picnic and bask in the glow of the sun's rays as reflected by the moon.
- October 11: The full moon will be visible.
- October 20-21: Plan to view the Orionid meteor shower on October 20 and 21. Orient your view at Betelgeuse in the early pre-dawn hours to catch this fast-moving meteor show.
- October 26: The new moon comes around again.
- October 28: The crescent Moon will set in the southwest just after sunset. In a particularly spectacular show, Venus will be brightly lit just to the Moon's lower right. Once you find Venus, look just below it to see Mercury.
- October 29: Earth and Jupiter will experience a special event on this day; Earth will pass immediately between Jupiter and the sun. This "opposition" is particularly spectacular because Jupiter will be visible all night in the Northern Hemisphere, rising at dusk in the east, and setting at dawn in the west.
Will you view the night skies this month? If so, did you see lo cast a dot of a shadow across Jupiter on October 4, 2011? Do you use special equipment like telescopes and binoculars, or do you prefer to take in the universe with the naked eye? Share your stargazing tips in the discussion.Also read: Astrophotography: The ultimate geek hobby.