FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7
■ This evening, bright white Jupiter shines left of the bright white Moon.
Look much farther upper right of the Moon, by about four fists at arm's length, for Saturn. The Moon and Saturn form an isosceles triangle with Fomalhaut, which sparkles far below their midpoint.
■ Perseus is up in the northeast after dark now, including the eclipsing variable star Algol, Beta Persei. This evening Algol should be at its minimum brightness, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.3, for a couple hours centered on 11:12 p.m. EDT; 8:12 p.m. PDT. Algol takes several additional hours to fade and to rebrighten. Comparison-star chart.
■ Mercury is beginning its best week of 2022 as a dawn object. On Saturday morning look for it low due east about 60 to 40 minutes before your local sunrise, as shown below.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8
■ The Moon and Jupiter cross the sky together tonight. They start in the east-southeast, as shown below.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 9
■ Full Moon (exact at 4:55 p.m. EDT). The Moon rises right around sunset. It hangs due east in late twilight. Look for Jupiter almost two fists to its upper right, as shown above. They move higher as evening proceeds.
Look high over the Moon for the Great Square of Pegasus through the moonlight. It's tilted up on one corner. The Moon itself is in eastern Pisces.
■ Think a full Moon means it's no time to observe the Moon? Use your imagination a bit, with the help of Bob King's Full Moon Fringe Benefits. For starters tonight: Have you ever seen Mare Orientale?
MONDAY, OCTOBER 10
■ Algol should be at minimum light around 8:00 p.m. EDT.
■ Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit Jupiter's central meridian (the line down the middle of its disk from pole to pole) around 10:18 p.m. EDT. The Red Spot should be visible almost as easily for about an hour before and after in a good 4-inch telescope if the atmospheric seeing is sharp and steady. A light green or blue filter at the eyepiece helps a bit.
Jupiter rotates fast; the Red Spot transits about every 9 hours 56 minutes. But not quite like clockwork! It drifts east or west in Jupiter's atmosphere somewhat irregularly. A change often becomes detectable to visual transit timers over a span of some months. Our Red Spot transit-time predictions — see the Celestial Calendar section of Sky & Telescope — are based on fairly recent observations, but don't be surprised if the Spot has taken it into its head to move several minutes off schedule.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 11
■ This is the time of year when, after nightfall, W-shaped Cassiopeia stands on end halfway up the northeastern sky — and when, off to its left in the north, the dim Little Dipper extends leftward from Polaris. The Little Dipper's two brightest stars (2nd magnitude) are Polaris, the end of its handle due north, and Kochab, the lip of its bowl about a fist and a half to the left.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12
■ Vega is the brightest star very high toward the west these evenings. Face west and look way up.
To Vega's right or lower right by 14° (nearly a fist and a half at arm's length), look for Eltanin, the nose of Draco the Dragon. The rest of Draco's fainter, lozenge-shaped head is a little farther behind. Binoculars will help through the moonlight; Draco's head is about the width of a typical binocular's field of view.
Draco always eyes Vega as they wheel around the sky.
The main stars of Vega's own constellation, Lyra — faint at 3rd and 4th magnitude — extend to Vega's left by half as far as the distance from Vega to Eltanin. Again, binoculars will help.
■ Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit the planet's central meridian around 11:56 p.m. EDT; 8:56 p.m. PDT.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13
■ This evening, skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes finally have about 40 minutes of darkness between the end of twilight and moonrise. Use it to get a nicer look at the Great Square of Pegasus, balancing on its corner high in the east above Jupiter.
Away from the Great Square's left corner runs the main line of Andromeda, three 2nd-magnitude stars about as bright as those of the Square and spaced similarly far apart. (The three include the Square's corner.) This whole dipper-shaped pattern was named the Andromegasus Dipper by the late Sky & Telescope columnist George Lovi — to accompany the Big and Little Dippers, the Milk Dipper of Sagittarius (nowadays usually subsumed into the Teapot), and the tiny dipper pattern of the Pleiades.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14
■ Once the waning gibbous Moon rises after about 9 p.m. tonight, look to its right or lower right for bright Mars. By 11 they're nice and high, as shown above. They're both between the horntip stars of Taurus (for evening in the Americas).
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15
■ Now that it's mid-October, Deneb has replaced Vega as the zenith star after nightfall (for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes). Accordingly, Capricornus has replaced Sagittarius as the zodiacal constellation low in the south.
Vega, meanwhile, is still that brightest star high in the west. Less high in the southwest look for Altair, not quite as bright.
Just upper right of Altair, by a finger-width at arm's length, is little orange Tarazed. Down from Tarazed runs the dimmer stick-figure backbone of the constellation Aquila, the Eagle.
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury is having its best morning apparition of 2022. Look for it in early dawn, due east. Mercury is bright; it swells from magnitude –0.5 on October 9th to –0.9 on the 16th.
Venus is lost in the glare of the Sun.
Mars, magnitude –0.8 in eastern Taurus, clears the east-northeast horizon around 9 or 10 p.m. and gains altitude for the rest of the night. Mars is passing between the horntip stars of Taurus, Beta and Zeta Tauri. It will be exactly between them on the night of October 17th.
Mars-colored Aldebaran, sparkling off to its upper right at magnitude +0.9, can hardly compete. Look above Aldebaran for the Pleiades.
Telescopically, Mars is 13 arcseconds in diameter and growing. The best time to examine it is when it's very high in the hours before dawn. Mars will reach 17.2 arcseconds diameter when closest to Earth in December.
Jupiter is three weeks past opposition. As twilight fades, spot it glaring in the east-southeast. After dark Jupiter dominates its part of the sky, blazing at magnitude –2.9 in dim Pisces. It climbs higher across the southeast and stands highest in the south around midnight.
In a telescope Jupiter is still a remarkable 49 arcseconds wide across its equator, near its maximum possible; Jupiter this season is very close to the perihelion of its 12-year orbit around the Sun. See Jupiter's Exceptionally Close Opposition by Bob King.
Saturn, magnitude +0.5 in dim Capricornus, crosses the southern sky in the evening. It's about four fists to the right of Jupiter during and after the end of twilight, and lower right of Jupiter as evening grows late. Saturn is highest due south around 9 p.m.
Uranus, magnitude 5.7 in Aries, is up in the east in good binocular or telescope view by late evening. See the Uranus finder charts in the November Sky & Telescope, page 49.
Neptune, magnitude 7.8 at the Aquarius-Pisces border, is higher in evening about 8° west of Jupiter. See the Neptune finder charts in the September Sky & Telescope, page 49.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions and graphics that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America.
Eastern Daylight Time, EDT, is Universal Time minus 4 hours. (Universal Time is also called UT, UTC, GMT or Z time.)
Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
This is an outdoor nature hobby. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy.
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The basic standard is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in either the original or Jumbo Edition), which shows stars to magnitude 7.6.
Next up is the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5; nearly three times as many. The next up, once you know your way around, are the even larger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) or Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And be sure to read How to Use a Star Chart with a Telescope. It applies just as much to charts on your phone or tablet as to charts on paper.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook. A beloved old classic is the three-volume Burnham's Celestial Handbook. An impressive more modern one is the big Night Sky Observer's Guide set (2+ volumes) by Kepple and Sanner.
Can a computerized telescope replace charts? Not for beginners, I don't think, and not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically, meaning heavy and expensive. And as Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand."
Audio sky tour. Out under the evening sky with your
earbuds in place, listen to Kelly Beatty's monthly
podcast tour of the heavens above. It's free.
"The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It's not that there's something new in our way of thinking, it's that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before."
— Carl Sagan, 1996
"Facts are stubborn things."
— John Adams, 1770