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Star Trak: October 2019

For immediate release: September 30, 2019

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The outer planet Uranus will be higher in Earth's sky during October than it has been in more than 50 years. The icy giant will be bright enough to see with the naked eye from a dark viewing site, but binoculars will be helpful in locating it. Uranus will be opposite the sun in our sky the night of Oct. 27 to 28, when it will rise around sunset and set near sunrise. Observers at 40 degrees north latitude will see the planet 63 degrees above the southern horizon at its peak around 1 a.m. local daylight time. Even a small telescope will show its distinctive blue-green color.

Saturn will glow 30 degrees high in the south as darkness falls in early October, and it won't set until midnight. Any telescope will show the golden yellow planet's system of rings tilted 25 degrees to our line of sight. Saturn's largest moon, Titan, will be north of the planet Oct. 1 and 17 and south of it Oct. 9 and 25.

Jupiter will be 20 degrees high in the southwest an hour after sunset on Oct. 1, setting at 10 p.m. It will lose about 3 degrees of altitude each week, and by month's end it will set at 8:30 p.m. Any telescope will reveal the planet's four bright moons, which change positions from night to night.

After being hidden in the sun's glare since July, Mars will become visible again in October. The Red Planet will rise only about 50 minutes before the sun on Oct. 1 but an hour earlier on Oct. 31, when it will be 7 degrees high in the east at dawn. It will appear small and faint, but it will become much larger and brighter over the next few months.

Venus will set about a half hour after the sun as October begins and a half hour later at month's end. It will be only 2 degrees above the southwestern horizon after sunset, so a clear sky and an unobstructed view of the horizon will be needed to spot it.

Mercury will spend most of October not far to the upper left (south) of Venus, but it will be very difficult to see so low in evening twilight. Mercury will pass less than 3 degrees below Venus on the evening of Oct. 29 very low in the southwest.

Meteor shower

The Orionid Meteor ShowerThe Orionid Meteor Shower is Coming!
Photo Credit: Cylonphoto - Fotolia

The Orionid meteor shower will peak on the night of Oct. 21 to 22. The third-quarter moon will rise around 12:30 a.m. local time, and its light will drown out fainter meteors during the peak observing hours after midnight. Observers can usually see about 20 Orionid meteors per hour in a clear sky, but moonlight will cut that number in half. The best viewing chance will be a site where the moon is behind a building or trees.

The Orionids appear to originate from the 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 be active for most of October, with the number of meteors gradually increasing from the start and declining after the peak. The Orionid meteors are dust particles from Halley's Comet, left behind in the comet's orbit.

Moon phases

The moon will be at first quarter on Oct. 5, full on Oct. 13, at third quarter on Oct. 21 and new on Oct. 27.

Author: Hal Kibbey Email: hkibbey [at] gmail.com

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