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Nighttrek Report: What to See in the October Sky

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By Neill Simmons
night sky

The highlight of October is the Orionids Meteor Shower on Friday night, October 21.  This event should produce one meteor every five minutes.  If you can get away from the city lights or go out in the early hours from 4 am to dawn, more meteors can be seen.  

The king of planets, Jupiter, is putting on a show every night in the east.  It is the brightest object as darkness falls.  Jupiter is the closest it’s been to Earth since 1970, and is now in the Zodiac constellation Pisces.  Jupiter is a giant gas planet with a core the size of Earth.  To the right is the planet Saturn, which is located in the constellation Capricorn.  Look towards the south.

The red planet, Mars, rises in the east after 10 pm.  Mars is in the constellation, Taurus the Bull.  It’s increasing in brightness each month as the Earth and Mars get closer together by December. 

DAWN PATROL:  Mercury is best seen early in the morning between the seventh and the 10th of the month.  For all the early risers, look out between 5:45 and 6:15 am.

The best constellation to spot here in the city is “The Great Square” also known as Pegasus.  These four stars look like a box tilted to one side.  It is located above the super bright planet Jupiter.

BINOCULAR TARGET:   Look to the left of “The Great Square” and spot a fuzzy ball of light.  This is our neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, which is 2.5 million light years away.  Remember a light year is a large unit of length used to express astronomical distances and is equivalent to about 5.88 trillion miles.  Wow!

The “W” shaped constellation, Cassiopeia, is the vain queen  mother of Andromeda in Greek mythology.  It is easy to see Cassiopeia in October. Look for the big “W” in the north.

In the same area look for the Cepheus constellation.  This formation is in the shape of a little house and it is directly above Cassiopeia.  Cepheus in Greek mythology is husband of Cassiopeia and father of Andromeda.

October 9 brings the “Hunter Full Moon.”  It earned this name from the American Indians who used this full Moon to complete the hunt for game before the harsh winter arrived.

JPL and NASA NEWS:  In the last few months, the Mars probe “INSIGHT” recorded four meteors that crash near the lander. 

A  star party is being put on by the San Diego Parks and Recreation Department  and the Julian Dark Sky Network in the town of Julian on Saturday October 22 at dusk. This is a free event.  More info is available from juliandarkskynetwork@gmail.com

When not stargazing, Neill Simmons is Wealth Manager  with  LPL Financial in Woodland Hills.  If you have any  astronomy or financial questions, he may be reached at (818) 936-2626 or at neill.simmons@lpl.com.