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What's In The Sky - October 2023
What's In The Sky - October 2023

October nights will full of celestial treats to see with binoculars and telescopes. Here are some of our top October stargazing suggestions:

Deep Sky Treats of October
In early October, catch your last glimpse of the year of the galactic center in the constellation Sagittarius, low in the southwestern sky, where you can track down four great emission nebulas ? M8, the Lagoon; M20, the Trifid; M17 the Omega; and M16, the Eagle.

Two great planetary nebulas are still well-placed in October skies ? M57, the Ring Nebula in Lyra; and M27, the Dumbbell Nebula in Vulpecula.

Look for interesting galaxy NGC 7331 in the northwestern section of Pegasus. With a 12" or larger aperture telescope and good seeing conditions, you may be able to tease out the galaxy's faint spiral arms.

Annular Solar Eclipse
October 14 is a "Ring Of Fire" solar eclipse, properly called an "annular eclipse," not an "annual eclipse." You should use solar safe gear, rated safe for looking directly at the Sun. If you are near the path of the eclipse, and especially on the narrow centerline, you will see the Moon pass in front of the Sun, covering all but the Sun's outer portion, forming a "ring." This occurs when a solar eclipse takes place with the Moon far enough from the Earth to show the Sun around the Moon's perimeter. Even if you see a partial eclipse, it is an interesting sight. Just make sure your filter/eyewear is solar safe! For more information on the annular eclipse, download our free Solar Eclipse Viewer's Guide.

Time to (Star) Party
Get ready to stargaze on October 14th since the night sky will be free of the Moon's bright glare thanks to the New Moon. This will be the best night of the month to use a telescope to go after views of faint deep sky objects. Make the most of the New Moon and plan a trip to your favorite dark sky site with friends and family.

Planets in November
On the evening of the first is a close approach of Jupiter and the Moon. Next day the Moon is near the Pleiades star cluster. The 10th brings us a conjunction of Venus and the Moon in the early morning hours. Venus will be at its highest in the morning skies of the 21st. The Moon teams up with Saturn on the 24th and Jupiter again on the 30th.

Fabulous Fall Star Clusters
Nestled between constellations Aries and Taurus is the famous "open" star cluster M45, also known as the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. The Pleiades cluster is an excellent target for binoculars, since telescopes are usually too powerful to provide a view of the entire cluster in one field-of-view.

About a hand's width southeast of the Pleiades is an association of brighter stars called the Hyades, which covers about 5 of the sky with stars laid out in the shape of a "V," pointing west and slightly south. Since it covers such a wide swath of sky, the Hyades are another great object to explore with big binoculars.

Low in the northeast skies of October, pick out the constellation Auriga; then using a star chart, see if you can pick out the three star clusters Auriga hosts ? M36, M37 and M38 ? all in a row. While these clusters are all visible with a telescope, you can also explore them with 50mm or larger binoculars from a dark sky site.

Orionid Meteors in the Sky
The Orionids is a medium shower that can display anywhere from 10 to 20 meteors per hour at maximum. While the peak of the Orionids shower is hard to precisely predict, the best time to look for meteors will be after midnight on the evening of October 21st into the morning of the 22nd after Moon set. Meteors will appear to radiate outwards from the upraised club section of our namesake constellation, Orion the Hunter.

A Grand Galaxy
Located in the tiny constellation of Triangulum and just opposite the star Beta Andromeda is the splendid galaxy M33. While the galaxy is visible in binoculars with 50mm or larger lenses from a dark sky site, a telescope at low power will provide the best views. M33 has very low surface brightness, so look when the Moon is down and from the darkest sky site you can find!

A Challenging Nebula
Making a small equilateral triangle with the stars Eta and Alpha Cassiopeia is the elusive Pac Man Nebula, NGC 281. The Pac Man is a famous target for astrophotographers, but it's not very easy to observe visually. From dark sky locations, you can pick out its faint glow with large binoculars, but a telescope at low power with the help of an Oxygen-III filter will show it best.

All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.

Date Taken: 09/30/2023
Author: Mark Wagner
Category: Seasonal

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