It’s a great month to see Mercury and Mars, in the evening sky. Saturn is there too, but only for the first week of the month. Jupiter and Venus, meanwhile, can be found in morning sky.
The Planetarium is hosting a special screening of Coral Rekindling Venus for the Melbourne Festival. This stunning fulldome work, by internationally acclaimed media artist Lynette Wallworth, immerses audiences into the realm of fluorescent coral reefs, bioluminescent sea creatures and rare marine life.
There will be two screenings on the evening of Monday 15th, see the What's On for details.
Sunrise and Sunset Times
* AEST - Daylight Savings begins at 2am on Sunday 7th.
The Moon will be at perigee (closest to Earth) on Wednesday 17th at a distance of 360,672km.
The Moon will be at apogee (furthest from Earth) on Friday 5th at a distance of 405,161km.
Let The Moon Be Your Guide
The Moon can be used as a pointer to find other objects in the sky.
- On the morning of the 4th the waning gibbous Moon sits to the left of the bright star cluster Pleiades.
- Before sunrise on the 6th, the Moon is very close to bright Jupiter.
- On the 9th the Last Quarter Moon can be found above the twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux.
- Just before sunrise on the 13th the thin crescent Moon is near Venus.
- After sunset on the 17th, the waxing crescent Moon is above Mercury.
- During the early evening of the 18th, the Moon is found in Scorpius with Mars and Antares sitting above.
- Late on the evening of the 31st, the Moon rises with Pleiades.
Mercury is low to the western horizon at sunset. It can be found sitting just to the right of the bright star Spica (Virgo) on the 1st. Then on the 4th, Mercury can be found to the left of Saturn. The thin crescent Moon sits just above Mercury on the 17th. By the end of the month Mercury has caught up with Scorpius and joins the three stars that make up the scorpion’s claws.
Venus continues to shine brightly as the morning star. It is low to the eastern horizon and begins the month near Regulus, the brightest star in Leo, the lion. On the 13th the thin crescent Moon sits just above Venus.
Mars is looking great in the western sky at sunset with the stunning constellation of Scorpius stretching above. Mars moves through the stars of Scorpius and on the 23rd it sits directly to the right of the red supergiant star Antares. The name Antares means ‘rival of Mars’, and the star and planet look great together with their reddish colouring.
Jupiter can be found in the northern sky before sunrise. It sits below the triangular shape of Taurus the bull. Above Jupiter is the red giant star Aldebaran, the glowing eye of Taurus. On the morning of the 6th the Moon is really close to Jupiter (they are less than 1° apart).
Saturn disappears from the evening sky this month. It is low to the west at sunset, sitting above Mercury and Spica (Virgo) on the 1st. By the 4th, Saturn is next to Mercury but then drops away below the horizon.
The Orionids are visible from the 15th to 29th, with the peak of the shower occurring on the 21st. Generally, this is a good shower for beginners with estimates of around 30 meteors per hour. As with all showers, the best time for viewing will be from around 3am until an hour before sunrise. The shower is centred on Orion’s club near the red supergiant star Betelgeuse and the meteors are typically fast, sometimes bright and generally more than half leave persistent trains. This shower was first recorded by the Chinese in 288 AD and is associated with Comet Halley.
The Taurids are a long-duration shower visible throughout spring and peaking during the first week of November. There are two branches to the shower: one appearing near the star cluster Pleiades and the other near the red star Aldebaran. Each branch has a maximum rate of roughly ten meteors per hour. They have been described as being bright, slow-moving and with the occasional colourful fireball.
Stars & Constellations
Scorpius is prominent in the western sky at sunset. Its claws are heading towards the western horizon, while the curved shape of its tail stretches high above.
Around to the north-west there are three bright stars: Vega (Lyra) and Deneb (Cygnus) are low to the horizon, while Altair (Aquila) sits up above. They make a lovely triangle, which in the northern hemisphere is known as the ‘summer triangle’, as these stars are high overhead during their summer.
Heading across to the north-east horizon is another famous northern asterism. Four stars stand out as the ‘Great Square of Pegasus’, including Alpheratz which is actually part of Andromeda.
Looking towards the south-east the star Achernar shines brightly at the head of the river Eridanus. A little further south but much lower in the sky shines Canopus, the second brightest star in the night sky. The Southern Cross is now seen in the south-west with the Two Pointers almost vertical above it.
International Space Station
From Earth, the ISS appears as a bright star that steadily moves across the sky. It can often be seen from Melbourne, for example at:
6:46am - 6:52am, Wednesday 17th October.
The Station will appear in the north-west and travel past Jupiter and travel overhead through Canis Major before disappearing towards the south-east.
Predictions of when to see the ISS can be obtained from the Heaven's Above website.
On This Day
1st 1958, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) was inaugurated.
3rd 1815, the first meteorite identified as coming from Mars fell in Chassigny, France.
3rd 1942, German A-4 (V-2) rocket became the first rocket in outer space.
4th 1957, Sputnik (USSR) was launched to become the first artificial satellite.
5th 1923, Edwin Hubble (USA) established that M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is separate to and distant from our own Milky Way Galaxy.
6th 1990, Ulysses (Europe) was launched to the poles of the Sun from the space shuttle Discovery.
7th 1959, Luna (USSR) took the first images of the far side of the Moon.
10th 1846, William Lassell (UK) discovered the first moon of Neptune,Triton.
10th 1980, the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope network is commissioned.
10th 1986, Cruithne, the satellite of the Earth with a horseshoe orbit, was discovered.
11th 1968, Apollo 7 (USA), the first manned Apollo mission was launched.
14th 1947, Charles E. ‘Chuck’ Yeager made the first supersonic flight (Bell X-1).
15th 1582, the Gregorian Calendar was established.
15th 1997, the spacecraft Cassini was launched.
18th 1989, the spacecraft Galileo was launched to Jupiter from the space shuttle Discovery.
21st 1923, the world's first projection planetarium, the Deutchse Museum, Munich, was officially opened.
22nd 2136BC, the first recorded solar eclipse was observed in China.
23rd 1975, Venera 9 (USSR) returned the first images of the surface of Venus.
31st 1992, the Catholic Church admitted it erred in condemning Galileo's beliefs.