October's night sky 2012

Last updated 09:34 01/10/2012

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Night Sky

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Sun: Daytime hours begin to noticeably lengthen as spring advances. Throughout the month, the Sun's elevation in the sky increases, reaching over 60 degrees.

Moon: First Quarter is the 8th, with New Moon on the 16th. First Quarter falls on the 22nd and Full Moon follows on the 30th.

Meteor shower: The Orionids peaks on the 21st. This shower can produce up to 20 meteors per hour. The radiant rises around midnight but is best observed around two hours before sunrise.

Planets:

Mercury is now into the evening sky and by mid-month is setting around 9.30pm. The last week of the month will be the best chance to see the planet.

Venus remains in the morning sky, rising around 5am. It appears as a brilliant white star against the twilight.

Mars is in the evening sky, setting just after 11pm. It is best seen once the sky has become dark. Look for the red planet low in the north-western sky.

Jupiter rises around midnight and is easily the brightest star- like object in the heavens. It will be very well placed for observation throughout the oncoming months.

Saturn is sinking lower into the early-evening western sky and will be a difficult object to find by the end of the month. On October 5, it will be in conjunction with Mercury, just over 3 degrees to its north. By the 25th, Saturn is in conjunction with the Sun and then moves into the morning sky.

Stars and constellations:

The western sky is richly populated with the star fields, which Sagittarius and Scorpius contain.

The Milky Way runs from south to west. In the north, the large constellation of Pegasus, the Winged Horse, fills much of the sky. Just below it lies Andromeda.

The bright stars to the west of due-north are Deneb, Vega and Altair.

Our southern sky has the Cross and its Pointers barely above the horizon.

Canopus is extremely low in the southeast, while Achernar is some distance above it.

The eastern sky appears relatively barren at this time of the year, with only Pisces and Cetus rising in the early evening.

Prepared for the Taranaki Daily News by Tom Whelan, Cape Egmont Observatory.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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