| Observatory |
Some observing hilights
to look forward to...
The following tips on current and upcoming astronomical events
have been gathered from magazines and other sources by Dave Gamble
with the objective of giving OC RASC members a heads-up on
special personal astro-experiences to look forward to.
Sat. Oct. 2 – Tonight the ‘Demon Star’ Algol will give us a subtle wink. This is a gradual event lasting about two hours, centered at 10.24pm. Check the star in Perseus before 9pm and compare its brightness with surrounding stars, then revisit it at its dimmest after 10pm. You may share the experience of what was once a huge mystery to observers before Algol was discovered to be an eclipsing binary star. A finder chart for Algol can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algol
Sun. Oct. 3 – Early risers this morning will be treated to the sight of Luna, now in waning crescent phase, rising in the company of Regulus which anchors Leo’s reverse question mark asterism. At home 79 light years away, Regulus would reveal itself to be a complicated system of four interacting stars.
Mon. Oct. 4 - Another reminder that the Zodiacal Light can be seen at its fall best at this time of year. Created by the Sun illuminating dust particles in the equatorial plane of the solar system, the faint elongated triangle of light extends up into the pre-dawn eastern sky with a bit of a tilt to the right. You will need a dark site free of light pollution to glimpse this ghostly phenomenon.
Tues. Oct. 5 – Algol will again take the stage tonight for an encore of its dimming act. The two hour period when the ‘Demon Star’ is in its fainter mode will be centered at 10.13pm. A ‘before’ look at the eclipsing binary’s brightness compared with neighbouring stars earlier in the evening will make its diminished brightness evident either side of 10.00pm.
Wed. Oct. 6 – This is New Moon night, the heart of the monthly dark sky period when Luna is tucked away in the Sun’s direction, leaving night sky open for observing and photographing adventures including faint fuzzies.
Thurs. Oct. 7 – Mars has provided some great entertainment in the night skies of the past year, culminating with its opposition to the Sun one year ago. It’s worth noting that tonight our outer neighbour will be in conjunction with the Sun before beginning another circuit of the sky that will start with its reappearance in the morning sky a few months from now.
Sat. Oct. 9 – If you can access a low southwest horizon, tonight there will be something wonderful to see just after sunset. Luna is now in waxing crescent mode and she will be in the company of brilliant Venus as they set among the faint stars of the constellation Libra.
Wed. Oct. 13 – This is First Quarter Moon night which will find neatly divided Luna perched low in the southern sky shedding light on late fall Okanagan scenes.
Thurs. Oct. 14 – This evening the low southern sky will be ornamented by a flashy grouping led by Luna, now in waxing gibbous mode with Jupiter to her upper left and Saturn to her right among the faint stars of Capricornus.
Fri. Oct. 15 – This has not been one of Venus’s better runs as the evening star. Thanks to the low sweep of the ecliptic path at this time of the year we have had to follow her appearances close to the southwestern and southern horizon. For the next few evenings her white brilliance will contrast with the ruddy tint of supergiant Antares in Scorpius very low in the southern sky. About the width of a finger will separate them.
Wed. Oct. 20 - The Orionid meteor shower will peak tonight offering an opportunity to try to ‘catch some falling stars’, however Luna at Full Moon phase will be a spoiler since her bright light will wash out fainter shower members. The radiant, near Orion’s club to the upper left of Betelgeuse, is well placed in the eastern sky for those game to try and spot the brighter shower members.
Sat. Oct. 23 – Those who are up in the wee hours this morning will be treated to a beautiful display high in the southern sky. The waning gibbous Moon will be among the stars of Taurus with the small dipper of the Pleiades open star cluster just above and Aldebaran among the sister stars of the Hyades just to her left.
Mon. Oct. 25 – Continuing her transit of the stars of Taurus, early this morning Luna will be positioned between the two stars at the tips of the horns. While they look equally distanced, Zeta, the lower one, lives about 440 light years away while blue-white Beta, also known as Elnath, is ‘only’ 134 light years away.
Mon. Oct. 25 - Here we go again with the magical star Algol. Another favourable opportunity will occur tonight when the binary system will begin an eclipse at 7.54pm, reaching its dimmest level an hour later, and regaining its brightness by 9.54pm.
Tues. Oct. 26 – Late tonight the waning gibbous Luna will be among the stars of the Gemini twins. Look for Pollux just to her left and Castor looking on from the upper left.
Thurs. Oct. 28 – This is Last Quarter Moon night. The reverse half lit Luna will climb over the eastern mountains in the early hours tomorrow morning, hanging around high in the sky adding beauty to the new day.
Fri. Oct. 29 - Don't be surprised if you hear reports of an occasional bright fireball about this time of the year. If you are lucky enough to see one yourself, it is likely to be a member of one of the two Taurid meteor showers. The southern one will peak late tonight though members will continue to be seen through to November 20. The northern one will reach its maximum on the night of Nov. 11-12 with members emanating from a point just southwest of the Pleiades in Taurus. At best these showers produce only a handful per hour, but the comet debris from Comet 2P/Encke includes pebbles instead of dust grains which produce dramatic fireballs.
Sun. Oct. 31 – The innermost planet Mercury is celebrating a modest venture into the pre-dawn eastern sky. It will be a challenging target, but with binoculars light reflected from its broiling surface can be seen as a ‘star’ climbing into the southeast sky just ahead of Spica in Virgo before the sky begins to brighten. About the width of three fingers will separate them.