October is a great month for night sky events, and it kicks off right away. The Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, will be ideally placed for viewing on the night of October 1st.
At approximately 2.5 million LY away, Andromeda is our closest neighboring galaxy and has been an object of mystery for astronomers for 1,000 years. Because it can be seen with the naked eye, Andromeda has been observed and studied for years, but originally was thought to be a nebula. This belief was held all the way up until 1923, when Edwin Hubble discovered its true nature as a Galaxy. Today, Andromeda remains a focal point of the night sky and a wonderful glimpse outside of our own Milky Way.
On October 15, you have the chance to spot two galaxies, Andromeda (M31) and the Triangulum Galaxy (M33). To help you find Triangulum, look for Andromeda near the zenith around midnight. Triangulum (M31) will be close by but you will need binoculars.
The references to M31 and M33 refer to the Messier Catalogue, which contains locations and detailed descriptions of 110 of the brightest deep sky objects in the Universe. It has become a favorite among amateur astronomers throughout the world. Charles Messier, was a French Astronomer whose work on the discovery of comets led to the compilation of a catalog of deep sky objects known today as the Messier Catalogue of nebulae and star clusters. His true passion was finding comets. He considered all the objects he encountered when "comet hunting" to be a time wasting experience and made the list in order to avoid them in his pursuit of comets. The Messier catalog developed by him from 1750-1780, is considered by many to contain the best deep sky objects visible in the northern hemisphere. Today there are a total of 110 objects in the Messier catalog. Seven of these objects were added in the twentieth century.
October close encounters with the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn
A couple of close encounters with the Moon also occur early in the month. Jupiter will make a close approach with the crescent moon on October 3rd. The moon will be 31% illuminated when Jupiter and the moon will pass within 1°50′ of each other. Make sure you have a clear view to the southwestern horizon. The pair will appear only 14° above the horizon. Since an adult fist marks off about 10° of sky, the pair will be about a fist and a half above the horizon.
If you miss this close encounter you will have another chance on October 31, Halloween. Since the Moon will be only three days old it will be a sliver of light allowing Jupiter to shine more brightly to our eyes.
Earlier in the month Saturn will also be close to the Moon. On October 5th Saturn will make its closest approach to the Moon.
Look first for the moon and that nearby bright “star” will be the planet Saturn.
October Meteor Showers
October 9th is the peak of the Draconid Meteor shower. This meteor shower radiates from the constellation Draco, the dragon, which is near the bright star of Vega. It may be harder to spot Draco, but it is easy to find Vega, which is the brightest star of the asterism known as the Summer Triangle. While the Draconid Meteor Shower is not as active as some Meteor showers, it is possible to see up to five meteors (some say shooting stars) per hour. The moon will be nearly full (83% illuminated), which may interfere with your ability to see the Meteor shower. However,if it is a clear night, it is worth the effort.
The real show stopper for the month will be the peak of the Orionid Meteor shower that occurs October 21. This meteor shower occurs from October 16 to the 30 but on the 21st there may be nearly 25 meteors per hour. The best time to watch the Orionids is from 3:30a.m. to 5:00 a.m.
For more information about this family-friendly event, contact Imaginarium Manager Dineene O‘Connor at 808-235-7350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.