Venus, Saturn and Regulus cluster before dawn in October

October 1, 2007
Venus
Venus

Venus, Saturn and Regulus will dance a pas de trois low in the eastern sky an hour before sunrise during October, with the crescent moon joining them on Oct 7.

Venus will be the highest it ever gets in the morning sky for watchers at mid-northern latitudes. This dazzling "morning star" will easily outshine its nearby companions.

Saturn will be noticeably dimmer than usual because its rings have now closed to only a few degrees from edgewise for the first time in 10 years.

Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion, completes this spectacular trio of two planets and a star. The group of three objects will be most compact on Oct. 10. As the month progresses, Venus will gradually drop away toward the horizon as Saturn and Regulus move higher.

In the spirit of Halloween, Mars will be a bright, pumpkin-colored point of light rising in the east-northeast in late evening, appearing earlier each week. The planet will be very high in the south just before the start of morning twilight.

Jupiter will gleam lower and lower in the southwest as the month progresses, sinking into evening twilight. By month's end, the giant planet will set less than an hour after dark.

Mercury will be difficult to find for observers in the Northern Hemisphere, hugging the western horizon right after sunset before disappearing into the afterglow. Mercury will pass between Earth and the sun on Oct. 23.

Light pollution

Does the sky at night seem to have a lot fewer stars than it used to? The stars are still there, but a great deal of energy and money is being wasted on inefficient, improperly directed outdoor lighting. To help demonstrate this problem of light pollution, a project funded by the National Science Foundation is recruiting people to see for themselves the effects of excessive artificial light. For the first two weeks in October, you can participate in a worldwide study to determine just how starry the night now is. For details see www.skyandtelescope.com/community/skyblog/observingblog/9875352.html .

Meteor shower

The Orionid meteor shower will peak on the night of Oct. 21-22. The moon will be at first quarter, so if weather permits, observers with a dark sky may see about 20 meteors per hour and perhaps more. The Orionids appear to originate from the familiar constellation Orion the Hunter. Orion will rise before midnight in the east-southeast, and the number of meteors will increase as it gets higher above the horizon. The shower will begin Oct. 2 and end Nov. 7, with meteors gradually increasing from the start and declining after the peak, so skywatchers will see a show each night during the week centered on Oct. 21. The Orionid meteors are dust particles from Halley's Comet, left behind in the comet's orbit.

Moon phases

The moon will be at third quarter on Oct. 3, new on Oct. 11, at first quarter on Oct. 19 and full on Oct. 26.

Source: Indiana University

Explore further: Mars camera makes 60,000 orbits of Red Planet

Related Stories

Astronomers thrilled by extreme storms on Uranus

November 12, 2014

The normally bland face of Uranus has become increasingly stormy, with enormous cloud systems so bright that for the first time ever, amateur astronomers are able to see details in the planet's hazy blue-green atmosphere.

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

April 16, 2014

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical Astronomy ...

Recommended for you

Distant planet's interior chemistry may differ from our own

September 1, 2015

As astronomers continue finding new rocky planets around distant stars, high-pressure physicists are considering what the interiors of those planets might be like and how their chemistry could differ from that found on Earth. ...

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Image: Hubble sees a youthful cluster

August 31, 2015

Shown here in a new image taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is the globular cluster NGC 1783. This is one of the biggest globular clusters in the Large Magellanic ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.