Last modified: Monday, October 1, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 1, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Brilliant Jupiter will dominate the eastern sky by late evening during October. The huge planet will be much brighter than the stars of the constellation Taurus the Bull around it. Rising around 10 p.m. local daylight time early in the month and two hours earlier by month's end, Jupiter will be a magnificent sight in any telescope.
The best telescopic views will be during the early morning hours when the planet is high in the southern sky. In addition to its many surface features, at least four of its moons will be visible. Galileo first observed these moons in 1610 and immediately realized their importance: They showed that Earth is not the center of all celestial motions, as nearly everyone before then had believed.
As Jupiter climbs high in the south before dawn, brighter Venus will rise around 3:30 a.m. local daylight time Oct. 1 and about an hour later by month's end. Before dawn on Oct. 3, Venus will pass very close to the star Regulus, the closest approach of a planet to a bright star during 2012. Both objects will appear in the same field of view of a telescope or binoculars, with Venus about 150 times brighter than Regulus.
Mars will be about 10 degrees high in the southwest an hour after sunset at mid-northern latitudes. During October it will quickly move eastward, and it will continue to set two hours after the sun for the rest of the year. On Oct. 19-20, the red-orange planet will pass 4 degrees north of the bright star Antares ("rival of Mars"), which is a similar color and about the same brightness. Binoculars will make it easy to compare the two objects.
For those in the Northern Hemisphere, Mercury will be close to the western horizon during October, so low in bright twilight that binoculars will be needed to see it.
Saturn will pass behind the sun Oct. 25, emerging into the morning sky in November.
The Orionid meteor shower will peak before the first light of dawn on the night of Oct. 20-21. Try watching around 1 a.m. local daylight time, after the moon has set. The Orionids typically produce up to 25 meteors per hour, which appear to originate from the constellation Orion the Hunter. Orion will rise before midnight in the east-southeast, and the number of meteors will increase as it gets higher above the horizon. The shower will be active for most of October, with the number of meteors gradually increasing from the start and declining after the peak. The Orionid meteors are dust particles from Halley's Comet, left behind in the comet's orbit.
The moon will be at third quarter on Oct. 8, new on Oct. 15, at first quarter on Oct. 21 and full on Oct. 29.