Stargazing for the October Night Sky
In October, the night sky contains eight well-known star patterns visible in the early evening. We’ll help you stargaze with our printable October 2019 Sky Map!
Just click here or on the image below to open the printable map—then bring outside!
Behold the Asterism Light Show!
Asterisms differ from constellations.
- Constellations are the 88 “official” regions of the sky. Most of them are large and intricate, containing dozens of stars.
- In contrast, asterisms are completely unofficial, typically comprising just a few of the brighter stars within a constellation. Asterisms have simple shapes, making them easy to find and ideal for getting your bearings.
- And if you spot a star pattern that you really like, feel free to give it a name!
In October, the western sky contains eight well-known asterisms visible in the early evening.
- Start your tour by looking high in the sky to find the magnificent Northern Cross. It’s part of the large constellation Cygnus, the Swan. The bright star Deneb represents the tail of the Swan, and the star Albireo marks its beak. The arms of the cross are part of Cygnus’s wings.
- Right below the Northern Cross is the Parallelogram, a delicate four-sided asterism just to the left of Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, the Lyre. Science fiction fans will remember Vega as the source of the first message from extraterrestrials in the book and film Contact.
- Halfway between Albireo and the much brighter star Altair lies the charming constellation Sagitta, the Arrow. The Arrow asterism contains nearly all of the brightest stars in Sagitta, and it really does look like an arrow!
- Now star-hop back to Vega, then beyond it to the Dragon’s Head, a lopsided quadrangle representing the head of Draco, the Dragon. The rest of Draco’s snakelike body forms a distorted reverse S-shape as it winds first upward and then loops down and around our next asterism, the Little Dipper.
- Part of the constellation Ursa Minor, the Lesser Bear, the Little Dipper is famous as the home of Polaris, the North Star. Polaris stands at the end of the Little Dipper’s handle.
- Below and slightly to the left of the Dragon’s Head is the Keystone, in the constellation Hercules, the Roman Hero. As shown in the inset photo, the Keystone is a nearly perfect representation of the keystone that forms the central piece of a masonry arch.
- The Tiara is a lovely asterism just below Hercules in the Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown.
- Finally, jump all the way to the left of our map to find the Teapot, an asterism in Sagittarius, the Archer. The Teapot is at an angle at this time of year, as if pouring out its contents. The planet Saturn is currently visiting Sagittarius, just above the handle of the Teapot. Not far away, near the bottom of the map, is the glow of the planet Jupiter, about to slip below the horizon.
Whether a professional astronomer or casual stargazer, we can all agree that the beauty of the stars really is indeed the best light show in town!
October 2019 Sky Map
Click here or on map below to enlarge (PDF).
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
Note: How to Read the Sky Map
Our sky map does not show the entire sky which would be almost impossible. Instead, the monthly map focuses on a particular region of the sky where something interesting is happening that month. The legend on the map always tells you which direction you should facing, based on midnight viewing. For example, if the map legend says “Looking Southeast,” you should face southeast when using the map.
The map is accurate for any location at a so-called “mid northern” latitude. That includes anywhere in the 48 U.S. states, southern Canada, central and southern Europe, central Asia, and Japan. If you are located substantially north of these areas, objects on our map will appear lower in your sky, and some objects near the horizon will not be visible at all. If you are substantially south of these areas, everything on our map will appear higher in your sky.
The items labeled in green on the sky map are known as asterisms. These are distinctive star patterns that lie within constellations. When getting your bearings under the stars, it’s often easiest to spot an asterism and use it as a guide to finding the parent constellation.
The numbers along the white “Your Horizon” curve at the bottom of the map are compass points, shown on degrees. As you turn your head from side to side, you will be looking in the compass direction indicated by those numbers. The horizon line is curved in order to preserve the geometry of objects in the sky. If we made the horizon line straight, the geometry of objects in the sky would be distorted.