You may have noticed it already—considerably longer nights (and morning fogs) are now here and we’re experiencing them by the day. This means a little longer time to stay outdoors and marvel at the beauty of the night sky while observing social distancing measures of course!
And it seems like, after a lie-low month of September, this tenth month of 2020 is gunning for a spectacular treat to all the astronomy enthusiasts and sky watchers. The tricks up its sleeve?A major meteor shower and two full Moons that are perfectly bookending October.
But before you dive into the rundown of events, allow us to give you a heads up on when your October nights begin and end.
In the first ten days of October, the sun sets at 6:09 PM at maximum. As we approach the month-end, we can have sunsets as early as 5:43 PM. Sunrises meanwhile can occur at 6:14 AM and by end of the month, can be as late as 6:28 AM. (Also, you should note that all the dates and times here in this article are all in UAE time.)
Here are the interesting sky events you need to see this October 2020.
THE MOON THIS MONTH
The moon will be fully illuminated (100%) on the night of October 1 as it is situated on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun in the sky. For selenophiles (or those who love the moon), this is the best time to observe all surface features of this celestial object, including the craters and maria. Look up at the sky at around 6:15 PM somewhere on the eastern horizon to see the bright Moon. It can be seen throughout the night until the sunrise of the following day (October 2).
Because of its full illumination during this phase, it will not be a good time for deep-sky observation with the entire moonlight drowning out most of the fainter celestial objects… that is unless you have the expertise and equipment to do some narrowband imaging).
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The September 2020 Full Moon taken by @aldrinb.gabuya using @vaonis #Stellina—a state-of-the-art smart telescope exclusively distributed in the #MiddleEast by yours truly, #AlSadeemAstronomy. ✨ This full moon goes by a lot of nicknames: Corn Moon in the northeastern USA, Fruit Moon in Europe, and the Honey Full Moon of the Buddhists in Bangladesh and Thailand. For Hindus in Kerala, India, this full Moon marks the end of the 10-day celebration of Onam, which began on August 22, 2020. The September Full Moon also corresponds to the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival! 😳 Source: @nasa Do you know any other special names for this month’s #fullmoon? Drop it in the comments section! #astronomy #astrophotography #moon #moonphotography #abudhabi #uae
But wait, that’s not just one full Moon for you this month. By October 31, there’s another Full Moon for you! This is known as the “Blue Moon.” But the Moon doesn’t really turn blue. According to NASA, the term is said to have been first coined in 1883, when the infamous volcano Krakatoa erupted. “The volcano put so much dust in the atmosphere that the Moon actually looked blue in color,” NASA said.
By mid-October, the Moon will take a rest from the Earth’s audience and enter its New Moon phase on October 16. With no moonlight glaring much of the night sky, this is the best time to observe the deep sky objects throughout the night.
Many brilliant and prominent autumn and winter constellations and deep-sky objects will be seen during nighttime and early morning hours such as the Andromeda Galaxy, a bunch of clusters, and nebulae in Cassiopeia, like the Heart and Soul Nebula, as well as the iconic winter deep-sky objects the Pleiades and Orion Nebula.
Which means this is also a good time to take out your cameras and do astrophotography. For budding astrophotographers, Vaonis’Stellina can be a great start. It is a compact, easy-to-use smart telescope that allows its users to instantly share the images on social media accounts for friends and family to see. We’re the exclusive distributor in the Middle East, and if you’re interested, you can just drop a message at email@example.com.
Also, it is predicted that the lunar phase will occur on this day. However, the month transition from Safar to Rabi al-Awwal shall take place two days later (October 18) in accordance with the Hijri Calendar 1442.
ORIONID METEOR SHOWER
Now here’s your MAJOR treat. On the late evening hours of October 20 until the dawn of October 21, expect a surge of meteors in the sky when the Orionid meteor show reaches its peak. Expected to shower the night sky with 20 meteors per hour under completely dark, moonless, and cloudless skies, the Orionids will appear to radiate from the constellation Orion (The Hunter) at the sky’s eastern portion but can be observed anywhere of the sky from 11 PM all the way through dawn. The meteor shower is associated with the trail of space debris from the prominent Halley’s Cometas the Earth crosses its orbital path.
The Moon is always a bummer when it comes to meteor shower watching but this month, it will be at its waxing crescent phase and will set before midnight (at around 8:45 PM). That’s plenty of time for your eyes to feast on the dark skies, hoping you’re away from the light pollution of the city (and if the weather permits it). As always, when meteor shower gazing, prepare lots of patience, and some necessary equipment to keep you comfortable. Good luck!
PLANET ELONGATIONS AND OPPOSITIONS
At the dusk of October 1, the smallest planet Mercury will be on its greatest eastern elongation. It can be observed starting from 11° above the western horizon from 6:25 PM until it sets at around 7 PM. While it is moderately bright (with an apparent magnitude of -0.02), observing Mercury will be quite difficult due to its close proximity to the Sun in the sky. It is much preferable to observe this phenomenon in a high-elevated area where there is a clearer view of the horizon with no obstruction.
Mars is expected to be in opposition on the evening of October 14. This means that the red planet will appear at its brightest as it will be situated directly opposite the Sun in the sky, which would give it further illumination. With an apparent magnitude of -2.6, it can be easily seen as a bright red-orange non-twinkling point of light in the sky starting from right after the dusk fades at around 6:15 PM until it sets before sunrise at around 6 AM of the following day, October 15. Distinct features such as the Martian polar ice caps and the rough desert surface can even be seen! You’ll have to use high-powered (8-inch and larger aperture) telescopes with smaller eyepieces if you want to capture the Red Planet’s full glory.
On October 31, it’s the gas giant Uranus’s turn to appear at its brightest in the night sky. Due to its much farther distance from Earth with an apparent magnitude of +5.7, it will not be easily seen through the naked eye and will need high-powered telescopes or planetary imaging; appearing as a faint bluish “star”. The planet will be visible all night round starting at around 6:30 PM after the twilight fades; positioned about 9° above the eastern horizon, reaches its highest point around 80° above the southern horizon at midnight of the following day, November 1, until it completely sets before sunrise at around 5:45 AM.
On October 3, the red planet Mars and the bright Waning Gibbous Moon will appear close to each other in the sky in the early morning hours of this day. This tight conjunction will be seen on the eastern horizon from around 12 AM until sunrise. Mars would look like a fairly bright red-orange “star.” Another conjunction of the same celestial pair will also take place for the second time on October 29.
The Waning Crescent Moon and planet Venus will also appear in conjunction on October 14; to be seen relatively close to each other in the early morning sky. Catch them at the eastern section of the sky at around 3:45 AM until sunrise.
On October 22, the Waxing Crescent Moon and the largest planet Jupiter will also appear close to each other at the south-southwestern section of the sky in the early evening hours, after dusk around 6:15 PM until the conjunction pair sets at around 10:30 PM.
On the following night, on October 23, it is Saturn’s turn to be in conjunction with the Waxing Crescent Moon also seen in roughly the same sky section and timespan as the previous conjunction, from 6:15 PM up to around 11 PM when Saturn sets first before the Moon.
Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events 2020. (n.d.). Retrieved from Sea and Sky: www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2020.html
Calendar of Astronomical Events. (n.d.). Retrieved from In-The-Sky.org: http://in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?year=2020&month=10&maxdiff=5
Islamic calendar 2020. (n.d.). Retrieved from Calendar.sk: https://calendar.zoznam.sk/islamic_calendar-en.php
Sunrise and sunset times in Abu Dhabi, October 2020. (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi?month=10&year=2020