New Moon Reporter - October 2011 Newsletter
Welcome to the New Moon Reporter! This newsletter is for observational amateur astronomers. It includes monthly astronomy highlights, special events, lunar calendar, planet and deep sky object observational tips as well as links to a constellation of the month. It's made available by AstronomyLog.com.
Special Event: There are two Meteor Showers in October. One of them, the Draconids, are expected to be a Meteor Storm.
Comet Watch: The comet to watch this month, Garradd, sets right after sunset. Look for it early in the month before it gets too low
Best Dark Sky Weekend: New moon occurs mid-week at the end of the month. There are two best weekends for observing all night: Oct 22-23 and 29-30. These are the two weekends surrounding the full moon.
Jupiter reaches opposition this month and is visible all night. Now is a great time to view Jupiter and its 4 bright Galilean moons in a telescope or with binoculars.
Aquarius, a zodiacal constellation, is highlighted this month with three Messier objects, a pair of planetary nebulae and two worthy double stars.
Begin to enjoy the long nights that start with Autumn astronomy!
Remember to record what you've found at AstronomyLog.com.
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There are two weeks best for observing Luna, during the First Quarter (evening moon) and Last Quarter (morning moon). Observing deep sky objects is best when the moon is below the horizon. For evening observing, this is near the Last Quarter and New Moons.
- First quarter on Oct 3 in Sagittarius
- Full on Oct 11 in Pisces
- Last quarter on Oct 19 on border between Cancer and Gemini
- New moon on Oct 26 in Virgo
Eight Planets, Big and Small
Jupiter rises as the sun sets so you can view it any time of the night. Save it for last because its brightness will ruin your night vision. Watch it over several nights to see the dance of the four bright Galilean moons.
Uranus and Neptune are both visible this month, if you know where to look. Uranus is in Pisces at magnitude 5.8. This is bright enough to see naked eye under dark sky conditions. Give a try. Neptune is in Aquarius at magnitude 7.9. Here's a Uranus finder chart and, of course, a Neptune finder chart, too. Both are visible in binoculars with darks skies.
Mars is visible in the wee morning hours, starting the month in Cancer next to the Beehive Cluster, and ending in Leo.
Saturn is in conjunction with the Sun this month. It might be visible just before sunrise at the end of the month.
Mercury and Venus follow the setting Sun. At best, they are going to be visible for a few minutes during the evening twilight at the end of the month.
The special event this month is a predicted meteor storm that might occur as part of the annual Draconids meteor shower. The best night is predicted to be the 8th of October. But fair warning must be given. First, meteor showers, or in the case a meteor storm, is notoriously hard to predict. It may be that it is not interesting at all. Second, there is a waxing gibbous moon, so it will probably wash out all but the brightest meteors. Third, the peak is predicted to occur during 17:00 and 18:00 Universal Time. That’s during the day in North America but Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East will get to watch the Draconids at their peak.
Comet Garradd (c/2009 P1) might still be visible in binoculars this month. It’s dimming as time passes and becomes lower at the month progresses. It’s visible in Hercules. See the finder chart.
Asteroid Vesta will be approximately 6 magnitude in Capricornus all month, dimming with time but visible with binoculars all month.
Dwarf Planet Ceres is in nearby Aquarius and more of a challenge. It will be dim but possible to see in binoculars. It is only about magnitude 7.3 most of this month. This finder chart will help you find it.
Pluto is near impossible with amateur equipment. It’s very dim, at magnitude 14, and right in the middle of the Milky Way in the constellation Sagittarius.
Constellation of the Month – Aquarius
The constellation Aquarius is one of the oldest recognized constellations of the night sky. Known since ancient times it is often depicted as a man holding a water container or just a water vase in many traditions around the world.
In 1998 this constellation was where the first planetary system was found around a red dwarf star, Gliese 876. There are four planets in this system, one of them is twice the mass of Jupiter and orbits around its sun in just 61 Earth days.
Learn more about Aquarius, including many objects on your target lists, by following this link.
Suggestions for the Beginning Observer
Constellation Hunter: Find Aquarius by its distinctive asterism of medium dim stars that resemble an arm reaching out. It’s located on the ecliptic between Capricornus and horses head in Pegasus. The brightest star of the constellation is Sadalsuud, at magnitude of ~2.9. It is the elbow of the long arm.
Messier: The largest known globular cluster is located in Aquarius. It’s bright, at magnitude 6.3, but just out of reach with naked eyes. It’s certainly visible with binoculars and easy to find imagining a triangle between “shoulder” and “elbow” of the outreached arm and this glob above.
Don't forget to log your finds at AstronomyLog.com.
This is issue #7, October 2011 of the New Moon Reporter.
New Moon Reporter is the monthly newsletter of AstronomyLog.com. It is distributed to members of our online community for no charge. Enjoy!
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Star Map Images by Starry Night Software
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