October Sky, it is not just the 1999 movie drama starring a then 19-year-old Jake Jake Gyllenhaal. It is also what our eyes will be looking up to for the next like three weeks or so. And Mars has bright plans for us this October. I for one will take advantage and will look up once in a while.
That is great and all, 1999 Jake. But we will not have to rocket beyond Earth’s atmosphere to see some cool space stuff. Instead space will come to us this month. We are in for multiple ‘treats’ – *cough* – Halloween reference too.
The 4th rock from the Sun will dominate our 2020 eastern sky after sunset each night this month. Mars will apparently not be this bright until October of 2035, and brightest since 2003. This is mainly due to Mars’ orbit being closest to Earth at this time. A real Mars Attacks. Solar radiation ‘bounces’ off of Mars surface… then that light comes to us as the observer.
Mars + closer to Earth = BRIGHTER! Very simple space math.
So take advantage! We also have the Orionids coming to our skies later in October. Also a second full moon arrives for Halloween (Oct. 31).
Below are some celestial events for October 2020, courtesy Sky & Telescope magazine. Most events are visible to the naked eye. Mark your space calendar!
- Oct. 6 (evening): The waning gibbous Moon, in Taurus, is about 4½° left of Aldebaran.
- Oct. 6 (evening): Mars is nearest to Earth at this time – 38,570,000 million miles away – until 2035.
- Oct 11 (morning): The waning crescent Moon is less than 2° from the Beehive star cluster (Messier 44).
- Oct. 13 (night): Mars reaches is at opposition with the Sun, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise.
- Oct. 14 (dawn): Venus rises in the east shortly before a waning razor-thin crescent Moon, 5° away.
- Oct. 21 (morning): The Orionid meteor shower likely peaks, with up to 15 “shooting stars” per hour from a dark location.
- Oct. 22 (dusk): The first quarter Moon joins Jupiter and Saturn, making a lovely triangle in the southwestern sky.
- Oct. 29 (evening): Mars sits 4° above the waxing gibbous Moon.
Last Quarter – October 9, 7:40 p.m. CDT
New Moon – October 16, 2:31 p.m. CDT
First Quarter – October 23, 8:23 a.m. CDT
Full Moon – October 31, 9:49 a.m. CDT (Full Hunter’s Moon)
Stay classy, fellow weather nerds and check out our website for more!
Meteorologist Joe Hansel
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