What's Up in the Night Sky?

October 2015 - Vol. 19, No. 10

Astra's Star Gate

This Month's Night Sky - NOTE: The next paragraph describes the sky as it appears at 10 pm EST (11 pm EDT) near mid- month. The sky also looks this way at 11 pm EST (midnight EDT) during the beginning of the month and at 9 pm EST (10 pm EDT) by month's end.

Although the Summer Triangle is still visible in the W, the Square of Pegasus is now prominent high in the S. Far below, lonely Formalhaut [FOE-ma-lot] of Piscis Austrinus still glitters near the S horizon. Between Pegasus and the N pole star, Polaris (Ursa Minor), find the familiar "W" shaped asterism of Cassiopeia. If you are fortunate to be viewing from a dark site, you will also see the constellations, Perseus and Auriga, with its bright star, Capella, embedded in a starry band stretching across the night sky from E to W. You are looking at the Milky Way, one of the spiral arms of our galaxy. In the E the constellations, Gemini, with its bright twin stars, Castor and Pollux, and Orion, with its distinctive hour glass asterism, rise above the E horizon. Now the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) dips low in the N.

MERCURY will shine in the morning sky beginning on the second week of the month, check the calendar below for details on a lunar occultation of the fleet-footed planet for the southern hemisphere. VENUS will shine brightly in the morning sky. MARS is still also in the morning sky and will approach JUPITER on the 17th. JUPITER meet up with VENUS a few days later. SATURN is setting in the early evening. URANUS reaches opposition on the12th. This month brings a fantastic dance of the planets, so take some time to get up and watch the morning sky.

Review how to determine Angular Measurement.

Calendar of Events

NOTE: For those observers not in the ET zone, convert the calendar times to your zone's time by subtracting one hour for CT, two for MT and three for PT. Don't forget to adjust for Daylight Savings Time when necessary by subtracting one hour from your planisphere's time. Dawn and dusk times must also be corrected. See your local newspaper, TV news, or cable TV's Weather Channel for sunrise and sunset times. Unfortunately some of these events may occur during daylight hours in your area.

02 Aldebaran 0.5 deg S. of the Moon occultation from Micronesia, Japan and North America.

The Draconid meteor shower peaks. This is considered a minor show although outbursts have been recorded. Its parent is thought to be Comet Giacobini-Zinner. This meteor shower may be best seen in the evening.

Venus .7 deg S. of the Moon, occultation from Australia, New Zealand, Victorialand.

09 Mars 3 deg N. of Moon.
10 Jupiter 3 deg N, of Moon

The Zodiacal Light or "false dawn" is visible in the E about 2 hours before sunrise. This pyramidal glow is caused by meteoroids, dust particles spawned by passing comets, etc., that have settled into the ecliptic plane (path followed by the Sun, Moon and planets), reflecting the Sun’s light before it rises here. This phenomenon will be visible through October.

Moon at apogee.

08 The Draconid meteor shower peaks. This is considered a minor show although outbursts have been recorded. Its parent is thought to be Comet Giacobini-Zinner. This meteor shower may be best seen in the evening.
12 Uranus at opposition.
16 Saturn 3 deg S. of Moon. Mercury greatest elongtion W. (18 deg)
17 Mars .4 deg N. Jupiter.
21 Orionid meteor shower peak This shower can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak.
26 Venus at greatest elongation W (46 deg), still shining brightly in the morning sky. And what a show in the morning sky on this day! Venus 1.1 deg S of Jupiter, the two brightest planets of the solar system seem to approach each other. The Moon is at perigee and large tides may be expected. .
29 Uranus .9 deg N. of Moon, occultation from Southern South America, Falkland Islands and E.Antarctica.
30 Aldebaran 0.6 deg S. of the Moon occultation from E. Antarctica, New Zealand.

Lunar Almanac for October 2015

Phases of the Moon Phase and Date(s) Best viewed before local midnight
new moon New
Deep Space Objects
first quarter moon 1st. Qtr
Planets & Moon
full moon Full
last quarter moon Last Qtr
Deep Space & Planets

Topic of the month: The Summer Triangle, Cygnus

The Summer Triangle is an asterism, a group of stars that are not a constellation, but have earned a popular nickname. It is formed of three bright stars that dominant the summer sky, Vega, Deneb, and Altair. Each of these stars is the brightest member of its constellation, thy are Lyra, Cygnus, and Aquila respectively. This year, What's Up in Night Sky will pay tribute to the three constellations that are part of the Summer Triangle. This month features Cygnus, home of the well known blue giant, Deneb.

cygnus Deneb is the brightest star of the constellation Cygnus, the swan, a high flying bird that dominates the night sky and the summer Milky Way. Deneb is a blue giant that is among the 20 brightest stars in the night sky Deneb is designated Alpha Cygni. The constellation is so far north that it spends a lot of time in the northern sky, visible all year round from northern locations. (Although it may not be visible all night.) If you have trouble seeing a bird, you may resonate with Cygnus's other identify, the constellation is often called the Northern Cross. If you watch the cross all night from the northern hemisphere, you will notice that it twists in the sky, so that by the time it sets, it appears to hang upright over the western horizon. It is rather fascinating that the cross takes this position in the inky evening sky on December 25 right after sunset.

Another star in the constellation is Beta Cygni, known as Albireo. Albireo is a beautiful double star, in a small telescope the stars appear bright yellow and blue. The pair may also be split with binoculars. The central star of the Northern Cross is the second-magnitude star, Sadr, interesting to view in a small telescope. The star fields of the Milky Way between Albireo and Sadr are magnificent. Notable galactic clusters in Cygnus include M29, M39, NGC 6819 and NGC 6866.

The Milky Way in the constellation of Cygnus offers much in the way of bright and dark nebulae, for it is here that the "Great Rift" of the Milky Way begins. This rift is the same dark lane that we can observe in distant spiral galaxies, for the dark material of the rift absorbs light from the stars. It is composed of gas that some day may form new stars in our galaxy. For deep sky observers, Cygnus offers one of the finest supernova remnants known as the Veil Nebula. The star that formed this magnificent nebula exploded over 5,000 years ago, it's spreading debris field now covers over 3 degrees of the sky for Earth based observers. This expanding wreath of gas has two separate designations, NGC 6960 and NGC 6992. The western portion of the veil (NGC 6960) is located near the star 52 Cygni while the eastern portion displays fabulous filamentary structure. For bright nebulae, Cygnus offers NGC 7000, the North American Nebula approximately 3 degrees E of Deneb. So called for it's resemblance to the continent, this bright field may be noted with the naked eye at a dark site. It is often seen in binoculars and a small telescope will reveal its brightest jewels.

--See You Under the Stars!
Astra for Astra's Almanac

The star chart above was generated by Stellarium, a free open source planetarium program. This image was created by Dawn Jenkins, using Stellarium and a graphic editing program to format the image for this web page. Stellarium offers much to amateur astronomers and is being used in planetariums. Simple charts like the one above can be used on the internet for non-profit, illustration purposes. Proper credit is due of course! Thank you to the makers of this fine program from Astra's Star Gate.

This installment of "Whats Up?" is ©2015 by Dawn Jenkins for Astra's Stargate. View Ron Leeseburg's Farewell Issue for information on where to find information such as is presented in this almanac.