October’s Draconid meteor shower – sometimes called the Giacobinids – radiates from the fiery mouth of the northern constellation Draco the Dragon. Because the radiant is located so far north on the sky’s dome, this shower favors northerly latitudes (for example, U.S., Canada, Europe, northern Asia). In 2015, the evenings of October 8 and 9 will probably be the peak dates.
Draconids, in early October, are usually a sleeper, but watch out if the Dragon awakes! Then watch for Orionids before dawn on the mornings around October 22.
The long-lasting South Taurid meteor shower (September 10 to November 20) may produce a “swarm” of fireballs this month or early next month. Watch for them.
Get up before sunrise on October 7 and you can’t miss the moon and the sky’s two brightest planets adorning the predawn/dawn sky. From top to bottom, the celestial line-up features the moon, Venus and Jupiter – the brightest, second-brightest and third-brightest celestial bodies of nighttime, respectively.
Tonight … use the Summer Triangle and the constellation Cygnus the Swan to locate the galactic equator (plane) of our Milky Way galaxy. Sure, it’s autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere, but the three brilliant stars that make up the Summer Triangle still shine. You’ll find them way up high in the October evening sky. I suggest viewing the scene from the comfort of a reclining lawn chair, with your feet pointing southward.
The zodiacal constellations backdrop the pathway of the sun around our sky each year. Since the sun’s path lies within these constellations, you know you can look for the constellations along the approximate path that the sun follows during the day — from east to west across your southern sky. Not only do the sun and planets travel in front of the constellations of the Zodiac — so do the moon and planets!
Where is the Big Dipper at nightfall and early evening now? As seen from the Northern Hemisphere, this most famous of star patterns – the Big Dipper – lurks low in the northwest after sunset and quickly sinks below the horizon for those at southerly latitudes. It’s tough (or impossible) to spot the Big Dipper in the north on autumn evenings. But the pattern is visible all night from northerly latitudes, albeit low in the sky. And, before dawn around now, we’ll all find the Big Dipper ascending in the northeast.
Look east before dawn, where bright Venus and Jupiter – and fainter Mars – shine close together. Mercury joins in mid-month. Saturn is the lone evening planet.
It’s true there is a far side of the moon – a side that remains hidden from Earth. But the moon doesn’t have a permanent dark side.
Tonight – October 1, 2015 – you’ll have to stay up late or wake up early tomorrow to see the waning gibbous moon near Aldebaran. This star represents the fiery eye of the Bull in the constellation Taurus. From far-western North America, the moon will pass in front of Aldebaran before dawn on October 2.