With the autumnal equinox, the seasons have turned and we’ll enjoy darker night skies ahead—great for seeing some really bright planets and meteor showers! Here are Bob Berman’s highlights of the monthly night sky.
October 7 to 10: Close Approach of the Moon & Venus
Locate the moon and Venus low in the west after sunset on October 7, 8, 9 and 10, 2021.
On the 9th of October, in evening twilight, the young crescent Moon hovers closely above now-brilliant Venus, nestled in the claws of Scorpius. Look after dusk fades for this dramatic conjunction.
October 8–9: Draconid Meteor Shower
The Draconoids aren’t a major meteor shower but they do bring about six meteors per hour. Late evening is the best time to see these shooting stars, which will radiate from the constellation Draco, the dragon (near the bright star of Vega). See the Meteor Shower Guide.
October 13 to 15: Moon, Jupiter, & Saturn Converge
On October 13 to 15, the Moon will appear to pass planets Jupiter and Saturn. Look southward. These 3 objects grouped together offer the finest targets for small backyard telescopes.
On Wednesday, the 13th, look first for the waxing Moon (which is near First Quarter); then note the brightest object that appears to the Moon’s upper left. That’s Giant Jupiter! Saturn’s even closer to the Moon but much dimmer.
On Thursday, October 14, the Moon has travelled closer to Jupiter, appearing to hover just to the Moon’s upper left. You can’t miss it. Jupiter is brighter than any star. Faint Saturn is now a little further away, about 4 degrees north.
On the Friday, October 15, the Moon has now passed 4 degrees south of Jupiter; the bright planet will appear to the upper right of the Moon.
Venus meets Scorpius’s famous orange star Antares from the 15th to the 17th, before crossing into the oft-called “13th zodiacal constellation” of Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, on the 21st, where it will spend the next 10 evenings.
The Orionids traditionally has the best shooting stars in October, though the full Moon needs to be considered his year. The meteor shower lasts from October 2 to November 7. Given the full Moon (October 20), starting looking earlier or later than the peak (October 21).
The Orionids radiate from the well-known constellation Orion the Hunter, specifically from a point near the hunter’s club. When looking for the meteor shower, look away from the Moon towards darker regions of the sky.