Celestial Navigator – October 2014

There are few things more enjoyable during a night in camp than staring at the night sky. Now you can be a celestial expert and dazzle your camp mates with your night sky knowledge. There’s lots going in the September night sky, so grab your telescope and your tent and get out there!

Here is something to think about – even in the vastness of the American West, the glow from cities has become so bright that places with truly dark skies at night are becoming an endangered species. In the continental US, experts predict that in a decade, there will be just three areas where the sky will be dark enough to see the Milky Way clearly, the Arizona Republic reports. One area covers part of eastern Oregon and western Idaho, another includes parts of Nevada and western Utah, a third takes in parts of northern Arizona and southern Utah-and the latter two are in danger from the bright lights of Las Vegas and Phoenix, which can be seen for more than 200 miles. Take time to look up now and then, and especially this month – lots to see in the October night sky!

October 4 – Astronomy Day Part 2. Astronomy Day is an annual event intended to provide a means of interaction between the general public and various astronomy enthusiasts, groups and professionals. The theme of Astronomy Day is “Bringing Astronomy to the People,” and on this day astronomy and stargazing clubs and other organizations around the world will plan special events. You can find out about special local events by contacting your local astronomy club or planetarium.
October 7 – Uranus at Opposition. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
October 8 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 10:51 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This moon has also been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon.
October 8 – Total Lunar Eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, eastern Asia, and Australia.
October 8, 9 – Draconids Meteor Shower. The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 8th and morning of the 9th. Unfortunately the glare from the full moon this year will block out all but the brightest meteors. If you are extremely patient, you may be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 22, 23 – Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. This will be an excellent year for the Orionids because there will be no moon to interfere with the show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 23 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 21:57 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
October 23 – Partial Solar Eclipse. A partial solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers only a part of the Sun, sometimes resembling a bite taken out of a cookie. A partial solar eclipse can only be safely observed with a special solar filter or by looking at the Sun’s reflection. The partial eclipse will be visible throughout most of North and Central America.

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