Every week, SkyNews publishes a list of key events in the Canadian sky in This Week’s Sky. This series gives you all the latest news in Solar System movements, including where the planets are in our sky and Moon phases. From eclipses to meteor showers, This Week’s Sky keeps you updated on the best in upcoming astronomical highlights.
Wednesday, October 5 – Bright Moon near Saturn (evening)
After dusk on Wednesday, October 5, look in the lower part of the southeastern sky for the waxing gibbous moon shining a slim palm’s width to the lower left (or 5 degrees to the celestial southeast) of Saturn’s yellowish dot. That spacing will be just close enough for them to share the view in most binoculars (green circle). By the time Saturn sets in the west-southwest around 2:30 a.m. local time, the diurnal rotation of the sky will lift the moon to Saturn’s upper left.
Thursday, October 6 – Vesta ends its Retrograde Loop (overnight)
On Thursday night, October 6, the westward retrograde motion (red path with date:hr) of the large main belt asteroid designated (4) Vesta will slow to a stop. After Thursday, it will resume an eastward motion through the stars of eastern Capricornus. The magnitude 6.6 asteroid is bright enough to see in good binoculars and any size of telescope. Look for it shining a slim fist’s diameter to the lower left (or 8.75 degrees to the celestial southeast) of Saturn, and a palm’s width (6 degrees) from the stars Deneb Algedi and Zeta Capricorni.
Friday, October 7 – Crater Copernicus (all night)
The nights surrounding Friday, October 7 will be particularly good for viewing the prominent crater Copernicus, which is located in eastern Oceanus Procellarum — the dark region located due south of Mare Imbrium and slightly northwest of the moon’s centre. This 800 million year old impact scar is visible with unaided eyes and binoculars, but telescope views will reveal many more interesting aspects of lunar geology.
Several nights before the moon reaches its full phase, Copernicus exhibits heavily terraced edges (due to slumping), along with an extensive ejecta blanket outside the crater rim, a complex central peak, and both smooth and rough terrain on the crater’s floor.
Around the full moon, Copernicus’ ray system, extending 500 miles (800 km) in all directions, becomes prominent. Use high magnification to look around Copernicus for small craters with bright floors and black haloes — impacts through Copernicus’ white ejecta that excavated dark Oceanus Procellarum basalt and even deeper highlands anorthosite.
Saturday, October 8 – Moon Pursues Jupiter (all night)
After it rises in the eastern sky around dusk on Saturday evening, October 8, the bright, waxing gibbous moon will shine several finger widths below (or 3.5 degrees to the celestial southeast) of the very bright planet Jupiter — allowing the duo to share the view in binoculars (green circle) all night long as they slide west. By the time they set around 6:00 a.m. local time, the diurnal rotation of the sky will swing the moon above Jupiter. Due to the moon’s continuous easterly orbital motion, skywatchers viewing the duo later or in more westerly time zones, will see the moon positioned a little farther from the planet.
Saturday, October 8 – Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation (pre-dawn)
On Saturday, October 8, the planet Mercury will reach a maximum angle of 18 degrees from the sun, and peak visibility, for the current morning apparition. Look for the innermost planet shining brightly while it climbs the eastern pre-dawn sky between about 5:45 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. in your local time zone.
In a telescope (inset), Mercury will exhibit a 50%-illuminated, waxing phase. Mercury’s position above the nearly upright morning ecliptic (green line) will make this an excellent apparition for Northern Hemisphere observers, but a very poor one for those located south of the Equator, where the ecliptic will be tilted.
Sunday, October 9 – Full Hunter’s Moon (at 20:55 GMT)
The full moon of October, which will occur at 4:55 p.m. EDT, 1:55 p.m. PDT, or 20:55 GMT on Sunday, October 9, is traditionally called the Hunter’s Moon, Blood Moon, or Sanguine Moon.
The Anishinaabe people of the Great Lakes region call this moon Binaakwe-giizis, the Falling Leaves Moon, or Mshkawji-giizis, the Freezing Moon. The Cree Nation of central Canada refer to is as Opimuhumowipesim, the Migrating Moon — the month when birds are migrating. And for the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois/Mohawk) of Eastern North America, it is Kentenha, the Time of Poverty Moon.
Full moons in October always shine in or near the stars of Cetus and Pisces. Since it’s opposite the sun on this day of the lunar month, the full moon will rise at sunset and set at sunrise.
Chris Vaughan is a science writer, geophysicist, astronomer, planetary scientist and an “outreach RASCal.” He writes Astronomy Skylights, and you can follow him on Twitter at @astrogeoguy. He can also bring his Digital Starlab portable inflatable planetarium to your school or other daytime or evening event. Contact him through AstroGeo.ca to tour the Universe together.