"The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination, but the combination is locked up in the safe."
- Peter de Vries

Comet Holmes and the California Nebula (D. Dockery) 

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Highlights for October, 2017

The Moon and Planets:

The Moon. October opens with a waxing gibbous Moon. Full Moon occurs on October 5. Third quarter occurs on October 12. On October 17, the Moon, Mars and Venus form a nice grouping in the pre-dawn east. New Moon occurs two days later on Oct. 19. The waxing crescent Moon is close to Saturn on Oct. 23-24. First quarter occurs on October 27th. On Halloween, the moon will again be in waxing gibbous phase.



Mercury is lost in the Sun's glare during most of October. Conjunction occurs in Oct. 8, but the angle of the ecliptic is pretty shallow as Mercury moves away from the Sun's glare later in the month. So it will remain very difficult to see.

Venus still shines brightly in the pre-dawn sky. It's getting lower in the east each morning, and showing more and more of a crescent phase when observed through binoculars or a modest telescope.

Mars has re-emerged from the glare of the Sun. It's low in the pre-dawn east. Mars is quite far from Earth right now, so don't expect to see much surface detail for quite some time.

Jupiter (in Virgo) will be very low on the western horizon at dusk for the first week or so of October. It then slides into the Sun's glare for the remainder of the month.

Saturn (in Sagittarius) is fairly high in the sky throughout October, but this is about the last month to catch a good view as it's drawing increasingly closer to the Sun's glare.

Outer Planets. Uranus and Neptune. Uranus (in Pisces) rises at dusk and is at opposition on Oct. 19. Neptune rises a couple of hours before Uranus.

Pluto Our favorite dwarf planet rises in around 6:30 pm during October. At magnitude 14.3, it's not much to look at visually, and it's gradually dimming as it's fairly ecliptic orbit takes it further and further from Earth. It will begin to brighten again around 2117.

Comets, Asteroids, Eclipses and Meteor Showers:

The Orionids meteor shower peaks on October 21. It's a modest meteor shower with a maximum output of only around 10-20 per hour from a dark sky site. The Moon will be in waxing crescent phase, so should present no problem for observing the meteor shower. Meteor showers in general are best viewed in the early morning - around 4 or 5 am.

Comet C/2017 O1 ( ASASSN ) may be visible thru a modest telescope during early and late October. It could approach magnitude 7.5 as it draws close to the Sun. During early October, it will be low in the west, and south (left) of the Sun. In late October, it will be low in the east and right of the Sun a little before dawn. Additional information can be obtained here.

Constellations and Deep Space Objects:Cygnus

The Summer Milky Way is still visible in the southwest, but it's getting lower each day. Cygnus and Casseipeia now dominate the night sky with Cepheus and Lacertain between them. In these constellations you can find a myriad of star clusters and nebula including the beautiful Veil Nebula in Cygnus.

The map on the right shows the rich assortment of deep sky objects in this part of the sky. Note also that M31, the Andromeda galaxy now becomes available just to the right of Casseopeia (in Andromeda).