WHAT’S UP IN THE SKY THIS OCTOBER 2017?

WHAT’S UP IN THE SKY THIS OCTOBER 2017?

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The season is currently taking a turn and we start experiencing cooler evenings and foggy mornings. Wondering what’s going to be up in the sky for the approaching month? The following is a list of astronomical events for October 2017. All dates and times were given in Gulf Standard (UAE Local) Time.

October 5, 2017: Full Moon

The Full Moon taken from Al Sadeem Observatory last September 6, 2017

Situated on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun, the moon will be fully illuminated (100%) on this day. For selenophiles (individuals who love the moon), this is the best time to observe all the surface features of this celestial object, including the craters and maria. It will start appearing at around 5:30 PM (at the eastern horizon) and can be seen throughout the night until sunrise positioned in the constellation of Cetus (a sea monster in Greek mythology). Because of its full illumination during this phase, it will not be a good time for deep-sky observation with the entire moonlight glaring out most of the faint celestial objects.

This coming October 5 and 6, Al Sadeem Astronomy (ASA) will be having an open public observatory event in celebration of the annual World Space Week. We encourage everyone to join us wonder and learn more about the cosmos. For those interested, click here for details.

October 19, 2017: New Moon

On this day, the moon will not be visible as it will be situated on the same side of the Earth as the Sun, in the constellation of Virgo (the virgin). With no moonlight glaring much of the night sky, this is the best time to observe the deep sky objects throughout the night. It is predicted that the lunar phase will occur on this day. However, the month transition from Muharram to Safar shall take place two days later (October 21) in accordance to the Hijri Calendar 1439.

October 19, 2017: Uranus at Opposition

By night time of this day, the ringed planet Uranus will be in opposition. This simply means that the blue gas giant will appear at its brightest as seen from the sky. Uranus will be situated directly opposite of the Sun in the sky, which would give it further illumination. Due to its relatively far distance with an apparent magnitude of 5.69, it will not be easily seen through the naked eye (unless if you are in a much darker area with little to no light pollution) and will need some astronomical equipment. When viewed through powerful telescopes or binoculars, it would look like a faint bluish “star”. Long exposure photography is very much needed to reveal its detail and moons. The planet will be visible all night round in the constellation of Pisces (the two fishes); starting at around 6:30PM after the twilight fades; positioned about 9° above the eastern horizon, reaches its highest point around 75° above the southern horizon at midnight of October 20, 2017, until sunrise when it completely sets.

Apparent Position of Uranus during its Opposition in the Night Sky at 10 PM, October 19, 2017 (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

Illustrated View of Neptune through the Onyx 80EDF F/6.5 refractor Telescope with 40mm eyepiece at 12.5x Magnification (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

October 21 – 22, 2017: Orionid Meteor Shower

On the late evening hours of October 21 until the dawn of October 22, 2017, the peak of an average meteor shower known as the Orionids will take place. It is projected to bring up to 20 meteors per hour under completely dark, cloudless skies. These meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Orion (the hunter) at the sky’s eastern portion but can be observed anywhere in the sky from 11 PM all the way through dawn. The space debris from the prominent Halley ’s Comet entering Earth are the ones responsible for this meteor shower. With the moon being in its waxing crescent phase (about 2-3% illuminated) just a day after the new moon, it will set much earlier in the evening (at 7 PM) which will beget dark, moonless skies at when the meteor shower event takes place.  A must have in observing this astronomical phenomenon is patience; lots of them and of course, comfort.

The position of Orionids radiant (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

October 24, 2017: Close Approach of the Moon and Saturn

The Moon and planet Saturn would appear close to each other (around 3°14’ angular separation) at the sky when viewed from Earth. This close approach will be visible in the southwestern portion of the sky in the constellation of Ophiuchus (the serpent bearer) for a quite short time period; as the dusk fades at around 6:30 PM until it sets at 8:45 PM.  The moon will be at the Waxing Crescent phase (about 21% illuminated). Saturn would look like a “yellowish/reddish unblinking star”.

Illustration of the Close Approach of the Waxing Crescent Moon and Saturn on October 24, 2017 (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

Saturn and the Waxing Crescent Moon taken from Al Sadeem Observatory last September 26, 2017

In the UAE and other regions in the Northern Hemisphere, October is considered the transition month towards the winter season. Many brilliant prominent winter constellations and deep-sky objects will be seen during night time and early morning hours such as the Great Orion Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy, and a bunch of clusters and nebulae in Cassiopeia (the queen). Bright planets Venus and Mars will show up as well at around 5 AM until sunrise. For this month, sunrise occurrences range between 6:14 AM and as late as 6:28 AM while sunsets shall happen between 6:09 PM to as early as 5:43 PM.

From top: Messier 52 (Open Cluster in Cassiopeia), The Great Orion Nebula and Andromeda Galaxy taken from Al Sadeem Observatory

Have a pleasant October, everyone! Clear Skies!

References

Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events 2017 . (n.d.). Retrieved from Sea and Sky: www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2017.html

Calendar of Astronomical Events. (n.d.). Retrieved from In-The-Sky.org: http://in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?year=2017&month=7&maxdiff=5

Islamic calendar 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved from Calendar.sk: https://calendar.zoznam.sk/islamic_calendar-en.php

Sunrise and sunset times in Abu Dhabi, July 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi?month=7&year=2017

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