Asta's Almanac, is based on Whats Up, Ron? a monthly almanac for Northern American astronomersastras

Astra's Almanac

What's Up in the Night Sky?

October 2012 - Vol. 16, No. 10

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Features: Calendar | Lunar Almanac | Monthly Topic

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.

Links to On-line Almanacs

Starry Trails:

Abram's Planetarium
Sky Calendar

Classical Astronomy
The Sky this Month

Angular Measurement Review: It is interesting to note that the relationship between the angle subtended by combinations of fingers on your fully outstretched arm are the same for all viewers. This is due to the fact that the hand's size is proportional to the arm's length. A shorter arm is attached to a smaller hand while a longer arm is attached to a larger hand, thus the angle measured remains the same. If you hold your arm fully outstretched, your little finger, when sighted down your arm, is one degree wide. Your three middle fingers is five degrees, your fist, 10 degrees, and the distance between your little finger and your pointer finger is 15 degrees no matter what your age or size.

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 (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 North.

MERCURY will not be visible this month in the northern hemisphere. VENUS is bright in the morning sky, still in a position that favors observers in the northern hemisphere. The morning star is in Leo and will be less than a degree away from Regulus on October 3. JUPITER is passing through Taurus rising before midnight. MARS moves into Libra and sets in the early evening. SATURN is in superior conjuntion with the sun and will not be visible this month.

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.

Venus .1 deg S of Regulus.
Jupiter occulted by the Moon for oberservers located near the south pole. For observers in the N, it will appear within 1 deg of the lunar disk. From North America, this event takes place in the middle of the day.
Mercury at 3 deg N of Saturn.
The Draconid meteor shower peaks. Last year, some European observers reported over 600 meteors. Look for these meteors on the night of Oct 7 and 8. The moon will be at last quarter, rising after midnight. For more details on this shower, check out EarthSky's Meteor Showers Guide.
Mars near Delta Scorpii puts on a show with Antares. Can you see the "red stars"?
The Zodiacal Light or "false dawn" is visible in the E about 2 hours before sunrise in N latitudes. The 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 for the next two weeks.
Mercury 1.3 deg S of the Moon.
Mars 2 deg S of the Moon.
Moon at perigee. Coastal areas may experience high tides.
Mars 4 deg N of the fist mag star, Antares.
21 The Orionid meteor shower peaks before dawn. Astronomers expect close to 30 events/hour under a dark sky. Since the shower's radiant appears in NW Orion, it will be "up" before the best viewing hours after midnight. The Moon is approaching 1st quarter and should set before the best viewing hours. These meteors are dust ejected from Comet 1P/Halley as they plow into our atmosphere at about 40 miles/second!
Saturn in conjunction with the Sun, will not be visible.
Jupter in Taurus, will be stationed above Aldebaran. While not a true conjunction, it should be a pretty sight with the Hyades and the Pleiadies with the Moon waning from its full disk on Oct 29.
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Lunar Almanac for October 2012

Phases of the Moon Phase and Date(s)

Best viewed before local midnight

new moon icon


Deep Space Objects
first quarter moon icon

1st. Qtr

Planets & Moon
full moon icon


last quarter icon

Qtr 08

Deep Space & Planets

Topic of the month: Cepheus and Cetus

Two interest constellations that were not discussed in detail last month, are the constellations of Cepheus (The King) and the sea monster, Cetus, that are both considered fall constellations. These constellations are not a bright as Cassiopeia or Perseus, but they still have stars and dark sky objects that are of interest to astronomers. These constellations are home to some interesting stars and nebulae, especially because of their locations along one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy.


In Greek mythology, Cepheus and Cassiopeia, king and queen of Ethiopia. The stars of this constellation, form a "house" shape, like one might find in a child's drawing. The most famous star in this constellation is Delta Cephei. It is a pulsating variabe star that varies in magnitude from 3.6 to 4.3. Delta Cephei is a variable star that is considered the prototype of the class. There is a direct relationship between the luminosity of stars of this class and their period. Because of this, cepheid variables enable astronomers to determine their distances, and thus they are called, "standard" candles. By taking careful measurements of stars of this type in distant galaxies, the period-luminosity ratio enables the distance to them to be calculated. Another variable star in the constellation is Mu Cephei, a red giant star that is among the reddest stars in the sky. Cepheus is not without deep sky objects, either. My favoirite is NGC 6946 is a beautiful spiral galaxy, that appears to us with open arms. It is 10 million light-years away and about 40,000 light-years in diameter. NGC 6946 is also called the Fireworks Galaxy. The galaxy was featured on Astronomy picture of the day on January 9, 2012 and the image can be found by clicking on the link.


the constellation of Cetus

The constellation, Cetus, represented the sea monster in the Greek myth as part of the story of Perseus and Andromeda. Today the constellation is thought to represent a the whale. Cetus is located near the constellation of Eridanus, the celestial river. Alpha Ceti, also known as Menkar, is not the brightest star in the constellation. That honor belongs to beta Ceti, also known as Deneb Kaitos. Mira is a binary star system that consists of a red giant, called Mira A, that is losing mass to it's companion, a white dwarf companion star, Mira B. The constellation Cetus has seven stars that have been discovered to have planets. It also includes the nearby star, Tau Ceti, only 12 light years away. Because it is so close, its movement in celestial sphere can be measured by taking careful observations and tracking it against more distant background objects. This is called proper motion of a star. In two thousand years, Tau Ceti will move about a degree against the background stars.

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

The star chart above was generated by Stellarium, a free open source planetarium program. The above image was created by Dawn Jenkins, using Stellarium and a graphic editing program to format the image for this web page. Editing was done for educational purposes only. Stellarium offers much more to amateur astronomers and is being used in planetariums and to guide telescopes in the field. 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 ©2012 by Dawn Jenkins for Astra's Stargate. View Ron Leeseburg's Farewell Issue

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