The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), located 210,000 light-years away, is one of the most dynamic and intricately detailed star-forming regions in space. The NGC 346 cluster at the center of this image from the Hubble Space Telescope contains dozens of hot, blue, high-mass stars, more than half of the known high-mass stars in the entire SMC galaxy. Image: NASA, ESA and A. Nota (STScI/ESA)
View Summer Stars, Winter Preview, and Meteor Shower This Month
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 four naked planets are visible to sky watchers.
Sky watchers will have no trouble finding brilliant Venus in the southwestern sky after sunset. Look for a super bright white “Star” beginning about 20 minutes after sunset. Venus spends this month amongst the stars of Scorpius the Scorpion, near the red star Antares. The waxing crescent moon will be very near Venus the night of October 9.
This month, brilliant Jupiter is dominates the southern sky after sunset. Begin looking about 45 minutes after sunset. Jupiter appears as a bright yellow “star” in the south.
Lower and a short distance further to the west, locate Saturn shining among the stars of Capricornus the Sea Goat. Look for a fairly bright yellow “star” near Jupiter. The waxing moon is very near the pair of planets the nights of October 12 through 16.
In the morning sky late in the month, sky watchers can locate the planet Mercury. Look for Mercury in the eastern sky about an hour before sunrise as a fairly bright white “star” near the southeast horizon. The planet is amongst the stars of the constellation Virgo the Virgin and to the east of Leo the Lion.
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.
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 waning gibbous moon will be very near the Pleiades the nights of October 23 and 24. 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 bright moonlight this year will be a problem.
In response to the coronavirus, MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium is closed until further notice. 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.