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Star Trak: October 2020

For immediate release: October 1, 2020

Photo Credit: NASA

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Mars will be at its biggest and brightest during October. Not until 2035 will it be so bright again. The Red Planet will reach opposition on Oct. 13, when it will rise around sunset and journey all night across the sky.

Jupiter and Saturn will be highest in the south at the end of evening twilight in early October and around sunset by the end of the month. Both planets will set after midnight on Oct. 1 and by 11 p.m. local time on Oct. 31. Jupiter will close in on Saturn during the month. By Halloween night the two planets will appear 5 degrees apart in the constellation Sagittarius.

Jupiter will be about the same brightness as Mars and much brighter than Saturn. Both planets will be fine targets for telescopes, which will show Jupiter's four bright moons changing positions from night to night, as well as Saturn's famous rings.

Venus will rise well before the start of morning twilight during October. The brilliant white planet will pass less than 1 degree from the bright star Regulus in the eastern sky an hour before sunrise on Oct. 2.

Mercury will be too close to the sun to be seen during October. It will reappear in the morning sky next month.

Meteor shower

The Orionid meteor shower will peak on the night of Oct. 20-21. After the moon sets around midnight, observers may see as many as 20 Orionid meteors per hour in a clear dark sky. The Orionids appear to originate from the constellation Orion, which will rise before midnight in the east-southeast. The number of meteors will increase as Orion gets higher. The shower will be active for most of October, with meteors gradually increasing from the start and declining after the peak. The Orionid meteors are caused by dust particles from Halley's Comet, left behind in the comet's orbit.

Moon phases

The moon will be full on Oct. 1, at third quarter on Oct. 9, new on Oct. 16, at first quarter on Oct. 23, and full again on Oct. 31.

Author: Hal Kibbey Email: hkibbey [at]

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