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| Astronomy Essentials | Space on Oct 09, 2014

October 2014 guide to the five visible planets

Orionid meteor shower night of October 20-21. Comet Siding Spring just misses Mars on October 19. A partial solar eclipse on October 23. Plus Mars, Saturn, Mercury and Jupiter!

Moon, Jupiter close together in predawn/dawn sky on October 17 Read more

Moon and Jupiter close together before dawn on October 17. Read more.

Orionid meteor shower on the night of October 20-21. Radiant is in the constellation Orion. Read more.

Comet Siding Spring / Mars encounter on October 19.  Chart via NASA.

Comet Siding Spring / Mars encounter on October 19. Chart via NASA. Read more

October 23, 2014 solar eclipse via shadowsandsubstance.com

shadowsandsubstance.com created this chart of the partial solar eclipse, visible across North America, on October 23. Read more. Don’t forget to purchase eclipse-viewing glasses!

Mars and Saturn pop into view as soon as darkness falls in early October 2014. In early October, look for ruddy Mars rather close to Antares, the constellation Scorpius’ brightest star. Antares is said to rival Mars in color and brightness, but not now; Antares is brighter. Look for golden Saturn to the west of Mars, in front of the constellation Libra the Scales. At mid-northern latitudes, Mars will stay out about 3 hours after sunset all month long. Saturn, on the other hand, will quickly fade into the sunset glare, setting about two hours after the sun in early October and about 45 minutes after sunset by the month’s end. The moon sweeps close to Saturn on October 25, the star Antares on October 26, and then Mars on October 27 and October 28.

Mercury, the innermost planet, is at the tail end of its long evening apparition that started in early August 2014, and will end in mid-October 2014. Mercury will become a fine morning object for Northern Hemisphere viewers (and those residing at southern tropical latitudes) by late October and early November. Mercury reaches its greatest elongation from the rising sun on November 1, 2014.

Click here for more detail about the evening planets.

Venus and Jupiter, the sky’s brightest and second-brightest planets, respectively, presented the closest planet-planet conjunction of the year in the August morning sky. Since then, Venus has sunk downward toward the rising sun, while Jupiter has climbed upward, away from the sunrise glare. Venus will be difficult to see this month, because it’ll pass behind the sun to transition from the morning to the evening sky on October 25. In early October, Jupiter rises in the east about two hours after local midnight, and by the month’s end Jupiter rises around the midnight hour. The moon shines close to Jupiter on October 17 and October 18.

Click here for more detail about the morning planets.

Special sky events coming up in October 2014:

Moon, Jupiter close together in predawn/dawn sky on October 17

Moon, Jupiter again light up predawn/dawn sky on October 18

Orionid meteor shower on night of October 20-21

Comet Siding Spring’s near collision with Mars on October 19

North Americans see partial solar eclipse on October 23

Hurry! Purchase eclipse-viewing glasses for the October 23 partial solar eclipse here.

A planisphere is virtually indispensable for beginning stargazers. Order your EarthSky planisphere today.

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Evening planets in October 2014

Mars visible from dusk until mid-evening.

Saturn fades into October evening dusk.

Morning planets in October 2014

Venus fades from morning sky in October.

Mercury at dawn in late October.

Jupiter in predawn/dawn sky all month.

What do we mean by visible planet?

Lunar eclipse on the night of October 8, 2014.  The object to the left is the planet Uranus!  This beautiful photo is by Janey Wing Kenyon of Story, Wyoming.

Lunar eclipse on the night of October 8, 2014. The object to the left is the planet Uranus! This beautiful photo is by Janey Wing Kenyon of Story, Wyoming.

As seen from North America, the waxing crescent moon pairs with Saturn on October 25, Antares on October 26 and Mars on October 27.

As seen from North America, the waxing crescent moon pairs with Saturn on October 25, Antares on October 26 and Mars on October 27.

Mars visible from evening dusk until mid-evening. Although the red planet Mars is getting dimmer as it lags behind us in its larger and slower orbit, Mars nonetheless remains respectably bright throughout October 2014. This ruddy world barely outshines Antares, the constellation Scorpius’ brightest star. Mars moves eastward, away from the star Antares, throughout the month, to enter the constellation Sagittarius by about the time of the Orionid meteor shower is in full swing.

Let the waxing crescent moon guide you to Mars on October 26, October 27 and October 28.

At mid-northern latitudes, Mars sets about 3 hours after the sun all month long.

Saturn via ESO/U. of Oxford/L. N. Fletcher/T. Barry

Thermal infrared images of Saturn from the VISIR instrument on ESO’s VLT (center and right) and an amateur visible-light image (left) from Trevor Barry (Broken Hill, Australia). Obtained on January, 2011. Via ESO/U. of Oxford/L. N. Fletcher/T. Barry

Planet Saturn at the April 28, 2013 opposition (day Earth went between sun and Saturn) from EarthSky Facebook friend D.R. Keck Photography.

Planet Saturn at its April 28, 2013 opposition (day Earth went between sun and Saturn in 2013) from EarthSky Facebook friend D.R. Keck Photography.

Saturn as captured by the Cassini spacecraft in early February 2014.  Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004.  Many awesome images!

Saturn as captured by the Cassini spacecraft in early February 2014. Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004. Many awesome images!

Saturn at evening dusk. This month, as seen from northerly latitudes, the ringed planet Saturn is found in the southwest at dusk/nightfall in early October, but this world quickly fades into the glare of sunset throughout the month. This golden-colored world shines in front of the constellation Libra the Scales, with both the planet and the constellation fading from view by the month’s end.

It’ll be quite a challenge to catch Saturn at evening dusk as the young moon sweeps close to this planet on October 25.

Binoculars won’t reveal Saturn’s gorgeous rings, but a small telescope will. Early October may be your final opportunity to view Saturn in evening sky, because Saturn will sit very close to the sunset glare by the month’s end. Saturn is highest up in early October and might be a telescopic object at nightfall. Saturn’s rings are inclined at about 22o from edge-on in October 2014, showing us their northern face. Several years from now, in October 2017, the rings will open most widely, displaying a maximum inclination of 27o. As with so much in space (and on Earth), the appearance of Saturn’s rings from Earth is cyclical. In the year 2025, the rings will appear edge-on as seen from Earth. After that, we’ll begin to see the south side of Saturn’s rings, to increase to a maximum inclination of 27o by May 2032.

At mid-northern latitudes, Saturn sets about 2 hours after sunset in early September, and less than one hour after sundown by the month’s end.

Mercury and moon, by GregDiesel Landscape Photography

Mercury and moon on February 27, 2014, by GregDiesel Landscape Photography. Greg managed to catch Mercury just at the beginning of its long March 2014 apparition in the predawn sky.

Mercury at dawn in late October. Mercury moves out of the evening sky and into the morning sky on October 16. By late October/early November Mercury will rise more than one and one-half hours before the sun at mid-northern latitudes, to present the Northern Hemisphere’s best morning apparition of Mercury for the year. Mercury will reach its greatest elongation from the rising sun on November 1, 2014.

Southerly latitudes … tough luck on this one!

Venus fades from morning sky in October. Venus will be very tough to see in October, as it transitions from the morning to evening sky this month.

Jupiter in predawn/dawn sky all month Jupiter had a wonderful conjunction with Venus – the year’s closest of any two planets – on the morning of August 18. But Jupiter now shines high in the sky at dawn while Venus sits in the glare of sunrise. Jupiter lords over the morning sky right now, rising in the wee hours after midnight all month long. Look for the moon near Jupiter on October 17 and October 18.

What do we mean by visible planet? By visible planet, we mean any solar system planet that is easily visible without an optical aid and that has been watched by our ancestors since time immemorial. In their outward order from the sun, the five visible planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These planets are visible in our sky because their disks reflect sunlight, and these relatively nearby worlds tend to shine with a steadier light than the distant, twinkling stars. They tend to be bright! You can spot them, and come to know them as faithful friends, if you try.

Bottom line: Orionid meteor shower night of October 20-21. Comet Siding Spring just misses Mars on October 19. A partial solar eclipse on October 23. Plus Mars, Saturn, Mercury and Jupiter!

A planisphere is virtually indispensable for beginning stargazers. Order your EarthSky planisphere today.

Track the moon every night throughout the year using EarthSky’s lunar calendar!

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Debra Fryar in Calobreves, Texas captured this photo of the moon and Jupiter on May 31, 2014.  Jupiter was close to the twilight then.  In early July, Jupiter will be even closer to the twilight, about to disappear in the sun's glare.

Debra Fryar in Calobreves, Texas captured this photo of the moon and Jupiter on May 31, 2014. Jupiter was close to the twilight then. Jupiter disappeared into the sunset glare around mid-July 2014.

Jupiter and its four major moons as seen through a 10

With only a modest backyard telescope, you can easily see Jupiter’s four largest moons. Here they are through a 10″ (25 cm) Meade LX200 telescope. Image credit: Jan Sandberg

Jupiter and one of its moons, Io, on February 28, 2014 via Earthsky Facebook friend Derek Brookes.  Thank you, Derek!

Jupiter and one of its moons, Io, on February 28, 2014 via Earthsky Facebook friend Derek Brookes. Thank you, Derek!

Jupiter was rivaling the streetlights on December 29, 2013, when Mohamed Laaifat Photographies captured this photo in Normandy, France.

Jupiter was rivaling the streetlights on December 29, 2013, when Mohamed Laaifat Photographies captured this photo in Normandy, France. Visit his page on Facebook.

Jupiter and its four major moons as seen through a 10

With only a modest backyard telescope, you can easily see Jupiter’s four largest moons. Here they are through a 10″ (25 cm) Meade LX200 telescope. Image credit: Jan Sandberg

Skywatcher, moon, planet (looks like Venus) from Predrag Agatonovic.

Skywatcher, moon, planet (looks like Venus) from Predrag Agatonovic.

Venus on Dec. 26 by Danny Crocker-Jensen

Venus on Dec. 26 by Danny Crocker-Jensen

On the moonless evening of December 3, 2013, Chris Georgia took this gorgeous photo of the constellation Orion (above his head and left of the light pole), the planet Jupiter (brightest star-like object at left), and the Gemini stars to upper left of Jupiter: Castor (at top) and Pollux (at bottom). Thank you so much, Chris! View larger

On the moonless evening of December 3, 2013, Chris Georgia took this gorgeous photo of the constellation Orion (above his head and left of the light pole), the planet Jupiter (brightest star-like object at left), and the Gemini stars to upper left of Jupiter: Castor (at top) and Pollux (at bottom). Thank you so much, Chris! View larger

These are called star trails. It’s a long-exposure photo, which shows you how Earth is turning under the stars. The brightest object here is Jupiter, which is the second-brightest planet, after Venus. This awesome photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Mohamed Laaifat in Normandy, France. Thank you, Mohamed.

View larger. | Venus shining above the rock of Asseu, Gulf of Riva Trigoso, Sestri Levante, Ligurian Sea, Genoa, Italy, November 29, 2013, via Maranatha.it Photography.

View larger. | Venus shining above the rock of Asseu, Gulf of Riva Trigoso, Sestri Levante, Ligurian Sea, Genoa, Italy, November 29, 2013, via Maranatha.it Photography.

View larger. | Mars and moon as seen from Hong Kong on October 2, 2013 via EarthSky Facebook friend Matthew Chin.  Thank you, Matthew!  Mars is getting easier to see, but it's still pretty close to the sunrise, and it's relatively faint in contrast to how bright it will become in 2014.

View larger. | Mars and moon as seen from Hong Kong on October 2, 2013 via EarthSky Facebook friend Matthew Chin. Thank you, Matthew!

View larger. |  EarthSky Facebook friend Peter Wong in Adelaide, Australia captured this image of planets and the star Spica in the west after sunset on September 26, 2013.  As seen from the Southern Hemisphere - where it's spring now - the planets are straight up above the sunset.  Thank you, Peter!

View larger. | EarthSky Facebook friend Peter Wong in Adelaide, Australia captured this image of planets and the star Spica in the west after sunset on September 26, 2013. Thank you, Peter!

View larger. | Moon and Venus on September 7, as captured by EarthSky Facebook friend Ken Christison in North Carolina.  Thank you, Ken!  On Sunday evening - September 8 - the moon will appear much closer to Venus.  The Americas, in particular, will get a dramatically close view of the pair.

View larger. | Here are the moon and Venus on September 7, 2013 as captured by EarthSky Facebook friend Ken Christison in North Carolina. Thank you, Ken!

View larger. | Mercury, Venus and Jupiter seen when evening fell in Hong Kong earlier today - June 1, 2013 - by EarthSky Facebook friend Matthew Chin.  Awesome shot, Matthew!

View larger. | Mercury, Venus and Jupiter seen when evening fell in Hong Kong earlier today – June 1, 2013 – by EarthSky Facebook friend Matthew Chin. Awesome shot, Matthew!

View larger.  |  From left to right, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury as seen last night, May 24.  EarthSky Facebook friend Duke Marsh captured this photo in Clarksville, Indiana.

View larger. | From left to right, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury as seen May 24, 2013. EarthSky Facebook friend Duke Marsh captured this photo in Clarksville, Indiana.

View larger. | The two brightest objects in this photo - and in your evening sky on May 12, 2013 - appeared to be the waxing crescent moon and Jupiter.   In reality, an even brighter planet - Venus - was also up, but buried in bright twilight.  Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Daniel McVey.

View larger. | The two brightest objects in this photo – and in your evening sky on May 12, 2013 – appeared to be the waxing crescent moon and Jupiter. In reality, an even brighter planet – Venus – was also up, but buried in bright twilight. Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Daniel McVey.

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