Saturn pulls a quadrature
early in the month, which is less painful than it sounds. The ringed planet is 90 degrees (a ‘quarter’
of the way, thus the ‘quad’ part) across the sky from our Sun. It’s time to get our best peek ‘around the
corner’, including seeing the planet’s shadow on its rings.
Get out early, even in the evening twilight, to see Jupiter before it sets about 9pm,
followed by Saturn-set 1¾ hours later. With
the Sun setting just after 6pmEDT, we still have several hours to view the
giant planets. Just come on out and look
at Jupiter’s moons, and sometimes their shadows on the striped planet, while we
still have the King of the Planets for the next month or so!
the month as Saturn’s third brightest moon at magnitude +10.2, looking out of
line with the others, well to the west of Saturn. By the 22nd, Iapetus swings just
to the north of Saturn, a bit dimmer as we see more of its dark side. Saturn
appears with its maximum ring tilt for the year, its sombrero tipped 25 degrees
toward us, giving us a fine view of the rings.
Start making plans to view Mercury’s five-and-a-half-hour-long transit across the Sun’s face on Monday, November 11th, a federal holiday in the USA.
Tune in next month for more about viewing Mercury’s
transit. You will need access to a telescope
with a good, solidly attached, solar filter in front. Mercury will look so tiny you’ll need to use
50 or 100 power or more to see the tiny black dot on the Sun. Mercury will be only 1/10 the apparent size Venus
was during its 2012 transit of the Sun.
In the meantime, no filter needed to watch Mercury get a little high in the
evening sky. The best view of its excursion from the solar glare is from the
southern hemisphere. Mercury will be farthest
from the Sun on the 19th. As
Mercury’s right hand woman this month, Venus
will help us find the fainter inner planet, even though neither gets more than ten
degrees above the horizon, even at sunset.
In a telescope, Venus and Mercury both appear at more than half full
this month. A thin 44-hour-old moon
floats above them on the 29th.
The Orionid meteor
shower peaks during American daytime on the 21st, so best
viewing is pre-dawn on the 21st or 22nd. The 20 or so meteors an hour will be
competing with light scattered from the last quarter moon.
Find the ice giants. Far out Uranus is magnitude +5.7 and opposite
the Sun from us on the 28th.
Only 3.7 arc seconds wide, compared to Jupiter at 35 arc seconds, it’s a
tiny thing to see. But, with a good
finder chart (like Sky and Telescope’s Uranus and Neptune finder charts at https://s22380.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/WEB_UrNep_2019-2020_updated.pdf
), Uranus is worth some study with a telescope, which will show it as a
distinct disk. It’s even farther out
buddy, Neptune, just past last month’s opposition, is well up in the evening
sky at magnitude +7.8 and 2.3 arc seconds wide.
Compare these two disks in a telescope with the point-like stars around
them. Add your observations to the
discussions about the color of these ice giants are and how they differ.
In case you missed it, our
Moon shows the best view of the Apollo 11 landing site on the evening of
the 4th. My favorite phase,
the waning gibbous phase just before last quarter, is highest in the sky this
month on the 19th and 20th. It’ll be a great time to spy the moon in the
morning, even after sunrise. At that
time of the month, we’ll be able to peek at an extra six degrees of longitude
around the western limb of the Moon.
If you want to reconnoiter the upcoming winter sky, the post-midnight sky is the place to watch. It’s easier than usual since sunrise is very
late in October. Thanks to Daylight
Time, the Sun will rise after 7am for most of the month, with total darkness
lasting until 5:30am EDT.
Mars is the only
bright planet up before dawn, showing up low in the east later this month. At +1.8 magnitude, Mars is only about as
bright as the brightest stars in the Big Dipper. Mars is too tiny to see details in a
telescope now, but next October it’ll appear six times wider and four
Mars celebrates its northern hemisphere Summer Solstice on
the 7th. The effects of solstices are
more complicated on Mars than on Earth because Mars’ orbit is much more
elliptical than Earth’s. This solstice,
only two months after Martian apogee, makes for a very cold winter in the
Southern Hemisphere and perhaps a weaker summer for the North. Something to consider when you book your
vacation trip to the red planet.
The International Space Station is visible to the unaided eye sailing across the evening sky through the 11th and the morning sky starting on the 23rd.
Halloween Information for White Plains NY and nearby: Sunset on Thursday, October 31st is at 5:52pm EDT. Bright twilight ends at 6:20pm. A crescent Moon provides a scenic background until it sets at 8:45pm. Can you get a selfie with the slim Moon in the background? It’s not easy since our Moon is smaller than we think it is. We get an extra hour of daylight and twilight in the afternoon, since it is still Daylight Time.