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The Night Sky Tonight: October 19 – October 27

By Mark Wagner

Mark Wagner brings us highlights of what's happening in the sky each night this week. Click on each image to enlarge the view. Happy gazing!

Friday, October 19
The waxing gibbous Moon has moved into Aquarius, 10.6 days new and 77.5% illuminated. 10X binoculars give a great view of Sinus Iridum (1), the Bay Of Rainbows with ?lava waves? outside. The ghost crater Hippalus (2) is 30 miles diameter showing well at 50mm, with floor crossed by Rimae Hippalus (3) northern reaches. The rimae are great in 200mm instruments. With 100mm check out Dome Kies Pi (4), a volcanic feature on the southwest slope of crater Kies, 10 km in diameter with a 2 km summit crater.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion StarSeeker IV 127mm GoTo Mak-Cass Telescope Kit, Orion Observer 60mm AZ Refractor Telescope Kit

Tomorrow Morning: Open Cluster NGC 2362

Saturday, October 20
NGC 2362 is an open cluster dominated by brilliant Tau Canis Majoris at its center. Tau itself is a binary star, with a magnitude 4.42 blue primary and magnitude 10.2 red companion 8.6 arc-seconds away at PA 93. These are part of a sextuple system in NGC 2362. The cluster shines at magnitude 4.1 from around 4,800 light years, over an 8 arc-minutes diameter. This has been called The Jumping Cluster; an oddity noticed when ?springy? telescopes are tapped while observing the cluster. Tau seems to move independently of the other stars!

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion Limited Edition SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Bundle, SkyLine 10" Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: Orionid Meteor Shower

Sunday, October 21
Tonight?s Orionid Meteor shower is hampered by the large waxing Moon 90 degrees to the west of the radiant. Moonset will not occur until skies are brightening. The Orionids are active from September 23rd to November 27th, with tonight being their peak. When there is an exceptional display it rivals the Perseids rate of 50-75 per hour. Last such displays were 2006-2009, with possibly a 12 year cycle. The parent of the Orionids is Comet 1P/Halley. The average speed of the Orionids is 41 miles per second with a rate of 25 per hour.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion Scenix 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars, Orion StarBlast 6 Astro Reflector Telescope Kit

Tomorrow Morning: The Winter Albireo

Monday, October 22
With a big Moon up, double stars reign. Check out h3945 in Canis Major. This double is known as the Winter Albireo, as it rivals the intensity of that famous colored double in Cygnus, as well as gamma Andromedea. The yellow-orange primary is magnitude 5.0 and separated from the blue magnitude 5.84 companion by a wide 26.4 arc-seconds at PA 52. A third magnitude 6.76 member nearly 1,000 arc-seconds from the secondary make this a triple system. While this is not a binary pair, it is a lovely sight, its primary shining form over 1400 light years.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion StarSeeker IV 127mm GoTo Mak-Cass Telescope Kit, Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope Kit

Tomorrow Evening: Uranus up All Night

Tuesday, October 23
Both the waxing gibbous Moon and Uranus rise minutes apart tonight. The Moon is nearly full, and Uranus is at opposition. Opposition is when the Earth is directly between the Sun and the other object. So, Uranus will be up all night! The Moon is in Pisces, close above its alpha (A) star. Uranus is a hop from the Moon, to Nu then Omicron Piscium, and into Aries. Uranus is 19.21 A.U. away, reflecting the Sun?s light at magnitude. If you observe Uranus in your telescope, what color will it show?

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SpaceProbe 130 EQ Reflector Telescope, Orion StarSeeker IV 130mm GoTo Reflector Telescope Kit

Tomorrow Morning: Full Moon

Wednesday, October 24
Morning observers can see the Full Moon setting today inside the V of Pisces low over the western horizon. The October Full Moon was called the Hunter?s Moon by certain Native American tribes, as game tended to be fattened up this time of year and it was necessary to stock up for the coming winter. Other names included Travel Moon and Dying Moon. This Moon is 383,388 km from us this morning, placing it at near its average distance. This is the mid-Fall Moon, as nights in the north now grow long and the seasonal changes grow more apparent.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion Observer II 60mm AZ Refractor Telescope Starter Kit, Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope MAX Kit

Tomorrow Evening: Constellation Pegasus

Thursday, October 25
Constellation Pegasus is steeped in Greek mythology, as the Winged Horse that sprang from the head of the dead Medusa, a child of the god Poseidon, and was symbolic of wisdom and fame throughout the Middle Ages. It is bounded by (1) Cygnus, (2) Lacerta, (3) Andromeda, (4) Pisces, (5) Aquarius, (6) Equuleus, (7) Delphinus and (8) Vulpecula. Its alpha (A) star is Markab which is Arabic for saddle, ship or vehicle, anything ridden upon, a white magnitude 2.46 star 5.6 times larger than our Sun and 193 times as luminous, 140 light years away. Pegasus contains one Messier object, is the 7th largest constellation by area, and dates at least to Ptolemy recognizing it in 2 A.D.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SkyQuest XX12i IntelliScope Truss Dobsonian Telescope, Orion StarSeeker IV 150mm GoTo Reflector Telescope

Tomorrow Morning: Morning Moon Targets

Friday, October 26
Of note today is Venus at inferior conjunction with the Sun. But the Moon is our target. Start with 10X binoculars and Mare Crisium, the nearly oval 345x375 mile sea containing wrinkle ridges and ghost craters on its very flat floor. Petavius is great in any instrument, but use at least a 50mm and enjoy the high walls, double terrace and astonishing Rimae Petavius in this 107 mile diameter crater! Langrenus is also good in any instrument, but use 100mm for the fine details such as double Central Mountain. In 200mm instruments Rima Cleomedes splits in a Y formation within the floor of its 76 mile wide crater.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion VersaGo E-Series 90mm Altaz Refractor Telescope Kit, SkyLine 8" Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

Tomorrow Morning: Occultation of Delta Taurus

Saturday, October 27
If you?re in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean or northern South America, you can witness the lunar occultation of the bright star Delta Tauri on the morning of October 27. If you?re not so lucky, you can still enjoy the nice pairing of Alpha Tauri ? Aldebaran, with the Moon. The best view of an occultation is the star?s reemergence from the dark side, as shown here. The ephemeris shows 08:24:59 from Mexico City. Check here for other cities in the view zone: https://www.lunar-occultations.com/iota/bstar/1027zc648.htm - and tell us if you witness it!

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SkyQuest XT10i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope, Orion AstroView 120ST Equatorial Refractor Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: Globular Cluster M15 in Pegasus

Charts from Starry Night Pro, available from Orion Telescopes & Binoculars. NGC 2362 sketch by Michael Vlasov. H3945 sketch courtesy Randolph Jay Baron. Uranus sketch by Jeremy Perez. Lunar photography courtesy Robert Reeves. Other images from Starry Night Pro.

Mark Wagner is a lifelong astronomy enthusiast and deep sky observer in the San Francisco bay area. Visit our Facebook Page if you'd like to post comments, questions, sketches or images you've taken to our Night Sky Tonight post.