Above, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket launches with the NASA Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) onboard, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The ICESat-2 mission will measure the changing height of Earth's ice. Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls.
October: Winter Star Previews and Stars of Summer
BY JONATHAN TRUAX, ASTRONOMER, MUSKEGON COMMUNITY COLLEGE'S CARR-FLES PLANETARIUM
October is a great month for star gazing. The October sky offers a chance to still enjoy some stars of summer, as well as preview some winter constellations rising before midnight. Also this month three naked planets are visible to sky watchers.
As October begins, Jupiter is visible very low in the southwest after sunset. Begin looking about 30 minutes after sunset. Jupiter appears as a bright yellow “star” close to the horizon. The nights of October 10th through the 12th the waxing crescent moon is very near Jupiter. Higher and a short distance further to the east, locate Saturn shining among the stars of Sagittarius the Archer. Look for a fairly bright yellow “star.” The waxing moon is very near Saturn the night of October 14.
Looking in the south southeast about an hour after sunset, sky watchers can locate the brilliant red-orange planet Mars. Mars shines among the stars of Capricornus the Sea goat this month. On the nights of October 17 and 18 the waxing gibbous moon is very near Mars.
As darkness falls after sunset during October, the “Summer Triangle” made of the three bright stars Vega, Altair, and Deneb is high in the west. Looking low in the west locate the bright star orange star Arcturus near the horizon.
The MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium presents free of charge “Oasis in Space” through October 30 at 7:00 p.m. Take a startling and beautiful voyage through our universe, galaxy, and solar system in search of liquid water – a key ingredient for life here on Earth. The program will be followed by a brief tour of the current night sky, using the planetarium.
Low on the northern horizon look for the “Big Dipper” formed by the stars of Ursa Major. High in the northeast, locate the “W” formed by the stars of Cassiopeia. Low in the northeast, sky watchers can locate the bright yellow star Capella of Auriga, the charioteer.
About three hours after sunset, the winter constellation of Taurus can be seen rising low on the east horizon, near Capella. Locate the Pleiades star cluster above the “V” of the face of Taurus. The moon just past Full will be very near the Pleiades the nights of October 26 and 27.
Almost due south and low to the horizon, locate the lone bright star Fomalhaut shining among the stars of the Piscis Austrinus, the southern fishes. Look for a fairly bright white star.
Shortly before midnight the winter constellation of Orion is seen on the eastern horizon. Orion is easily recognized by the three bright stars in a row forming his belt.
During the predawn hours of October 21 and 22 the Orionid meteor shower reaches peak activity. Sky watchers can expect to see 20 to 30 meteors per hour radiating from the constellation of Orion. A good dark sky away from the city lights is helpful, but this year bright moon light will make seeing faint meteors difficult.
The MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium presents free of charge “Oasis in Space” Tuesdays and Thursdays, through October 30, at 7:00 p.m. Visit the MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium website for upcoming events and call (231) 777-0289 for sky show information. Carr-Fles Planetarium is located on the Muskegon Community College campus in Room 135. Thanks to the generosity of the Reach for the Stars campaign donors, you can now experience Carr-Fles Planetarium with state-of-the-art digital projection, sound and lighting systems; all-new library of shows; and modern theater seating and domed ceiling.