During October Mercury is at superior conjunction on the 5th, there is a partial
eclipse of the sun on the 14th, the Orionids meteor shower is at its best from 20th-22nd, Neptune is stationary on the 24th,
there is a full moon and total lunar eclipse on the 28th and Spanish winter time when the clocks go back an hour begins on
The partial eclipse of the sun on the 14th is only visible from north east Asia, Japan, western Alaska and the western Pacific Ocean.
The total eclipse of the moon on the 28th is visible from the Arctic, western Russia, parts of the Middle East, Africa, Europe,
Greenland, the Americas and the eastern Pacific Ocean. Using GMT the eclipse begins at approximately 00.05h, the moon enters the
umbra at 01.14h, totality starts at 02.23h and mid-eclipse is at 03.04h. Totality ends at 03.44h, the moon leaves the
umbra at 04.54h and the eclipse ends at 06.03h. With Spanish time 2 hours ahead of GMT this will be a late night / early
morning for observors in the Axarquia.
Most people will have seen a lunar eclipse as they can happen twice a year. For those who haven't - as
the Earth begins to block the sunlight reflected from the moon, the Earth's shadow crosses the moon until it is fully
covered. The colour of the moon during totality varies with each eclipse. Some sunlight is refracted by Earth's atmosphere
and falls on the moon. The atmosphere absorbs most of the sunlight typically allowing red to get through. Usually during a
lunar eclipse the moon reflects the red light back to the Earth thus appearing red itself. Viewing through binoculars can
greatly enhance the subtle colour variations.
The Orionids Meteor Shower
The Orionids meteor shower lasts from the 15th to the 29th October with maximum meteors occurring from the 20th -22nd. With minimum
lunar light there will be good visibility and an expected hourly average of 20.
The radiant of the Orionids is located in the northeast of the constellation of Orion. The best way to observe meteors
is to lie outdoors in a reclining chair or sun-lounger. Try to take in as much of the sky as possible. When you see a meteor
mentally trace it backwards until you arrive at the radiant point.
The Orionids are thought to be produced by material from Halley's comet in the same way as the Perseids, seen in August,
are associated with comet Swift-Tuttle.
During October there are nine space missions due to take off. One European rocket to launch 3 satellites - 1 military
communications and 2 technology. One Canadian flight on a space tourism demonstration. Three Russian - 1 with crew for the
International Space Station (ISS), 1 to launch a communications satellite and 1 to launch a military observation satellite. Four American missions - 1 a
space tourism demonstration, 1 to launch a satellite to experiment with astrophysics (Gamma rays), 1 a rendezvous technology
mission and 1 to launch 3 technology satellites.
||Mercury is at superior conjunction on the 5th after which she moves into the
evening sky. Setting only minutes after the sun, Mercury is too close to the sun to be visible again until December.
The best times to observe Mercury are when it is an evening star in the spring and a morning star in the autumn. In midsummer the lighter skies make visibility difficult near the horizon.
||At -4.0 magnitude Venus is still exceptional for observing. By the end of
October she rises in the east by 4.30h. The moon is closeby on the 10th and Regulus on the 3rd. Venus will remain as a
brilliant morning object in the northeast sky throughout the remainder of 2004.
On the 8th June, Venus was at inferior conjunction
and transited the sun. Transits of Venus are rare, taking place at greater
than 100 year intervals and usually in pairs. The last two transits of Venus were in 1874 and 1882. June's transit
began at 7.20h and lasted 6 hours until 13.20h, the total event visible from Europe as a small black disc crossing
the lower part of the sun from left to right. The next transit will be in late June 2012. After that, transits of Venus
won't occur again until 2117 and 2125.
Before and after inferior conjuction, when Venus is
the closest it comes to the earth, are the times at which the planet is most brilliant and can be seen setting or rising
4 hours after or before the sun. The dates of the next two inferior conjunctions are October 28th 2010 and October 26th 2018.
||Mars in Virgo is at 1.7 magnitude rising about 6.30h by the end of October.
Moving away from the sun since conjunction in September, Mars will be visible again against a dark morning sky from late
At opposition on the 28th August last year, Mars was only 56 million kilometres from the earth. It showed a
disc of 25.1 seconds of arc across which is almost as large as it can ever appear. Mars started 2003 at 310 million kilometres from
the earth at 4.5 seconds of arc and 1.6 magnitude. By opposition it brightened 50 times to reach -2.9 magnitude but faded to 0
magnitude by December. Even to the naked eye Mars was a striking object in the summer and autumn sky, easily identifiable by its
reddish hue in an area of sky poor in bright stars. Mars will not be as close again for another 15 years.
These favourable oppositions occur every 15 years but other oppositions occur at average intervals of 2 years 2 months. In general Mars is observable every other year, being too close to the sun for favourable conditions during other times. Brightness at opposition varies from -1.0 to -2.9 magnitude, and when furthest from the earth it fades to 1.7 magnitude. The planet can be identified by its orange-red colour.
||Jupiter is also in Virgo at -1.7 magnitude rising by 5.00h by the end of
October. The moon is closeby on the 12th.
Being 770 million kilometres from the sun, the difference in brightness between opposition and conjunction varies less than with Mars, from about -2.8 to -1.8 magnitude.
The 4 largest moons of Jupiter are easily visible through a small telescope, ranging from 4.6 to 5.6 in magnitude. The innermost, Io, takes 1.8 days to orbit the planet making its motion easily detectable within a few minutes.
||Saturn is in Gemini throughout 2004. At 0.1 magnitude the planet will rise
before 22.30h by the end of October with the moon to the north on the 6th-7th.
Saturn crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere in 1996 where it will remain until 2010 with the southern side of the ring system facing the earth. Because of its distance, its brightness varies little between opposition and conjunction but is affected by the huge ring system. Seen edge on the rings contribute little or no light.
Every 15 years the plane of Saturn's rings passes through the sun, illuminating first the north and then the south side. For a few days the rings are edge on to the sun. About the same time the earth passes through the ring plane and, depending on the earth's position this may happen just once or 3 times. During 1995/96 there was a triple crossing and the next will be 2038/39. The next single crossings will be in 2009 and 2025.
Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is visible in small telescopes orbiting outside of the ring system.
||Uranus is in Aquarius throughout 2004. By the end of October Uranus will set
by 2.00h. The moon is closeby on the 22nd.
Brightness varies slightly reaching 5.6 magnitude at opposition. This is bright enough to see with the naked eye but identifying it against the stars is difficult.
||Neptune is in Capricorn throughout 2004. At 8.0 magnitude Neptune is stationary
on the 24th, sets by 24.00h by the end of October and has the moon closeby on the 21st.
Neptune has an average magnitude of 7.9 which varies little with changing distance.
||Never brighter than 13 magnitude, Pluto is only visible through powerful telescopes and we will therefore not be reporting on its position in the sky.|
||Last quarter: 6th at 11.00h
New moon: 14th at 4.00h
First quarter: 20th at 23.00h
Full moon: 28th at 4.00h