Download this month's astronomy podcast to get easy-to-follow "when and where" guidance on finding bright planets, this season's evening constellations, and meteors that were once part of Halley's Comet.
Come along on a guided tour of the night sky that requires nothing more than your unaided eyes and Sky & Telescope's fun and informative astronomy podcast.
If you get out early enough after sunset you’ll spot Jupiter low in the southwest. Don’t wait too long to track it down — Jupiter sets about 2 hours after the Sun as October begins but only 1 hour afterward by Halloween. Well to Jupiter’s left is Mars, a bit east or left of due south. You almost can’t miss its bright orange-tinged beacon. Saturn is about halfway between Mars and Jupiter and quite a bit dimmer than either of them.
Look for the Great Square of Pegasus rearing up in the east as it gets dark. The square, which looks tipped up on one corner, represents the body of the mythical horse which, right now, is on its back in the sky. Pegasus has a neck and head extending off to the right, and its legs are sticking up toward overhead.
Make a generous quarter turn to your left, to face northwest, and you'll spot the Big Dipper not far above the horizon. It's part of the larger star pattern tracing out the Great Bear, Ursa Major. The bear’s pointy nose is about two fists to the right of the Dipper’s bowl. Its legs dangle underneath, and its tail is marked by the arc of three stars in the Dipper’s handle.
A modest meteor shower called the Orionids peaks on the night of October 21st. These shooting stars — which are actually bits of dust shed by Halley’s Comet — will compete with light from a waxing gibbous Moon, just three days from being full.
To find out more about the Orionids — and other celestial highlights that you can see in the weeks ahead — play or download this month's 7½-minute-long astronomy podcast (linked below).