Shooting Stars and Other Highlights for October 2017
By GERRY LEBING
This is the Andromeda Galaxy, Messier 31.
It's a little over 2.5 million light years away from us and
contains over 1 trillion stars. With a magnitude of +3.36 it should be
visible to the naked eye, but I have only managed to see it with
binoculars or a scope. There are two very bright satellite
galaxies in the image that get their own Messier designations.
The brighter one is to the left of Andromeda is M32 and the
fainter one on the right is M110.
The second image is Messier 33, the Triangulum
Galaxy. M33 is about 2.8 million light years away and contains
about 35 billion stars. It only has a visual magnitude of +5.8 which
pretty much puts it out of view with the naked eye unless your some
place with almost no light pollution.
What to Look for in October 2017
Saturn will start the month in the SW. It will be visible for about two hours before disappearing below the horizon.
Venus and Mars will both be visible near the Eastern horizon in the early morning hours.
Both Neptune and Uranus will be in the night
skies throughout October. Neptune rises before sunset followed by
Uranus just after sunset.
The Orionids meteor shower is active
throughout the month. It peaks on the 21st of October. Typically
there are 20-25 shooting stars per hour.
The Southern Taurids are also active in
October. They peak on October 28th. The Taurids usually
produce about 5 shooting stars per hour. That may not sound like
much, but the Taurids are also known for producing fire-balls.
If you are really into shooting stars, you’ve
probably noticed that the best viewing usually happens after
midnight! That’s because during the first part of the
night, our field of view is opposite the direction of the Earth’s orbit
around the sun. This means that the Earth is literally running
away from the wannabe shooting stars. After midnight your field
of view changes relative to the Earth’s direction of travel. It’s
kind of like running into bugs with your car. You spend a lot
more time cleaning them off the front windshield then you do off the
1st Quarter is the 27th
Full Moon is the 05th
3rd Quarter is the 12th
New Moon is the 19th
Lebing is a retired computer scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey
in Washington, D.C. He has visited Hatteras Island since the
mid-1970s. He and his wife, Karen, have owned property here for several
years and moved to their home in Waves full-time in 2013.
Astronomy is a subject that Gerry says he has always been interested in
and one that he pursues seriously -- he's built an small observatory
next to his house. You can send him questions about the night sky
through e-mail, [email protected]g.)