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Tonight

Will you see moon, Saturn and star Antares on October 25?

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.

The young waxing crescent moon, Saturn and the star Antares will be tough to spot on October 25, 2014 for N. Hemisphere observers as dusk ebbs toward darkness. Easier from the S. Hemisphere! By October 26 and 27, the moon will be moving upward in the west after sunset, and it’ll soon sweep near Mars.

Star of the week: Deneb Kaitos is the Sea-Monster’s Tail

Deneb Kaitos ranks as the most brilliant star in the constellation Cetus the Whale. This star shines on par with Polaris the North Star. There is a famous variable star also in Cetus, called Mira. And Mira might sometimes brighten up enough to match Deneb Kaitos, though only extremely rarely. Mira typically remains much too faint to see with the unaided eye while, as seen from mid-latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, Deneb Kaitos soars highest in the southern sky in autumn.

Close-up on constellation Perseus the Hero and Demon Star

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Tonight … just in time for the upcoming season of Halloween and the Day of the Dead … look for the Demon Star in the constellation Perseus the Hero. That star is Beta Persei, or Algol, pronounced AL-gul. The name Algol comes from an Arabic term for head of the ghoul or head of the demon.

October 23, 2014 partial solar eclipse

October 23, 2014 partial solar eclipse by Danny Crocker-Jensen

October 23, 2014 partial solar eclipse by Danny Crocker-Jensen in Wardsville, Missouri

UPDATE OCTOBER 23 AT 7 P.M. CDT (MIDNIGHT UTC): The eclipse has now ended. Thanks for a great one, everybody!

Partial solar eclipse for North America on October 23

Many saw dancing illuminated crescents like these, created when the leaves of trees and bushes acted as pinhole cameras and projected the eclipsed sun's image onto cars and buildings.  This photo from Chris Walker in Dayton, Nevada.

If the eclipse is deep enough in your area, it’s possible you’ll see dancing illuminated crescents, created when the leaves of trees and bushes acted as pinhole cameras and projected the eclipsed sun’s image onto cars and buildings. This photo from Chris Walker in Dayton, Nevada, who captured a May 2012 partial solar eclipse.

North America has a ringside seat to the partial eclipse of the sun on October 23, and this eclipse is almost exclusively visible on land from North America. Eye safety is of the utmost importance in observing this solar eclipse, or else you risk eye injury or blindness. Click on the links in this post to find out more.

Small Magellanic Cloud is a nearby dwarf galaxy

View larger. |  A Perseid meteor streaks between the two Magellanic Clouds during the peak of the 2013 Perseid meteor shower.  Photo by Colin Legg.

A Perseid meteor streaks between the two Magellanic Clouds. Photo by Colin Legg.

You’ll see the Small Magellanic Cloud from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere. It’s even farther to the south than its larger cousin, the the Large Magellanic Cloud . These two hazy patches in the southern sky are really separate galaxies from our Milky Way. They are satellite galaxies to the Milky Way, orbiting around it. Follow the links below to learn more about the Small Magellanic Cloud.

Keep watching for Orionid meteors on October 21-22

Here is a beautiful aurora, with an Orionid meteor falling above it.  Photo taken in 2013 by Tommy Eliassen Photography in Norway.

Aurora, with an Orionid meteor falling above it. Photo by Tommy Eliassen Photography in Norway.

Orionid meteor shower on night of October 20-21

Halley's Comet at its 1910 visit.  The famous astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard at Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin took this photo.  Via Wikimedia Commons.

Halley’s Comet at its 1910 visit. The famous astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard at Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin took this photo. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Tonight … October 20, 2014 … is the best time for watching the annual Orionid meteor shower. And an awesome shower it is! For one thing, it stems from debris from the most famous of all comets, Comet Halley. In fact, the object in the picture at top isn’t a meteor. It’s Comet Halley itself. Debris in the orbit of this comet – the Orionid meteor stream – is now encountering Earth’s atmosphere. The meteors will become visible in their greatest numbers tonight, and especially in the dark hours before dawn tomorrow morning (October 21). At the peak, from a dark site, you might expect to see about 25 meteors per hour.

Everything you need to know: Orionid meteor shower

The Orionids radiate from a point near the upraised Club of the constellation Orion the Hunter.  The bright star near the radiant point is Betelgeuse.

The Orionids radiate from a point near the upraised Club of the constellation Orion the Hunter. The bright star near the radiant point is Betelgeuse.

Details on 2014’s Orionid meteor shower. It’ll peak on the morning of October 21. If you’re hankering to watch some meteors, try this shower! 2014 is a good year for them.

How to see Mars from Earth, as Comet Siding Spring sweeps past

To see Mars from Earth on October 19, 2014, look westward after sunset.  Mars is faint and far across the solar system now.  You'll need a telescope to see the comet near Mars.

To see Mars from Earth on October 19, 2014, look westward after sunset. Mars is faint and far across the solar system now. You’ll need a telescope to see the comet near Mars.

The sky chart above shows the red planet Mars and Comet Siding Spring snuggling up together in the western sky on the evening of October 19. Look for Mars not long after the sun goes down. It’s reddish in color, natch. The reddish star Antares will be nearby. The comet itself probably won’t be bright enough to observe through ordinary binoculars, so we simply show Comet Siding Spring’s location in the sky with an arrow.