Astronomy: the skies over North Essex in October

James Abbott from North Essex Astronomical Society on what we can see this month.

With the fall equinox having taken place, the night hours overtake the daytime hours in October.

The clocks reset to GMT at 2 a.m. on Sunday, October 31. Sunset is as early as 4:30 p.m. at the end of the month, although sunrise returns just before 7 a.m.

Jupiter and Saturn are past their peak but remain prominent in the south in the evening.

At the end of October, they drop in the southwest before midnight.

The waxing Gibbous Moon will pass under the pair on the nights of October 14-15.

Jupiter is by far the largest planet in our solar system and has had a huge influence on its evolution due to its gravitational influence.

On September 13, a Brazilian astronomer spotted a flash of light in the clouds of Jupiter, evidence of an impact from a small asteroid or a comet.

Jupiter regularly sweeps such objects, a spectacular example of which occurred in 1994 when comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was first shattered into pieces by Jupiter’s gravity, then the fragments impacted the planet, leaving large ” bruises ”in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

The full moon occurs on October 20 and will reach 42 degrees above the horizon when it is in the south. This is another “Harvest Moon”.

Looking east at 9 p.m., the Moon will be above the horizon for a week from the Full Moon, moving north on each successive evening.

Venus remains low in the west after sunset but could be seen due to its brightness. The young crescent moon will be close to Venus on the 9th, from 6.30 p.m.

The taurid meteor shower becomes active until October, peaking in the first half of November.

Although the Taurids are less numerous than the Perseids in August or the Geminids in December, they can be seen at a reasonable time as the source constellation Taurus reaches a good height in the sky in the late evening.

Taurid meteors move relatively slowly across the sky compared to most other rain meteors.

The first half of the month will be the best for stargazing in the dark sky.

The ‘asterism’ (shape) of the great Pegasus Square is high in the sky and facing south at 11 p.m. (as seen at the top center of the map which shows the night sky looking south at 11 p.m. the second week of October).

READ MORE:

Astronomy: the autumn equinox, Cassiopeia and the Perseus double cluster

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