Meteors and planets in the October sky

A nice meteor shower graces October skies as the peak on the overnight of Oct. 20-21.

The debris field we pass through for the Orionids originated with the historic passes of the famous Halley’s comet through the inner solar system (most recently in 1986).

The meteors appear to come from the sky where we see the large hunter constellation, Orion, which rises from the east-southeastern sky after midnight.

The best time to look is between 2 a.m. and dawn when the leading edge of the Earth is turning directly into the meteor stream. Twenty to 30 meteors per hour are often counted from the Orionids.

The great planet show of September continues into October with Jupiter, just one month from opposition, rising by 8 p.m. and being well up in the eastern sky by 10 p.m.

Jupiter is the brightest object there, and will brighten further all month as we draw closer to the giant planet.

On Oct. 1 an even brighter object, the waning gibbous moon, will be seen just above Jupiter around 11 p.m.

On Oct. 29 the full moon will appear just above Jupiter.

Jupiter is packed with surface details revealed when seen through backyard telescopes; these will become more prominent through the month.

Saturn is well set for viewing as soon as the sky fully darkens in the south-southwest. Its surface and its beautiful rings also come to light in telescopes.

Look for the waxing gibbous moon just below Saturn on Oct. 24.

Venus is the brilliant “morning star” this month in the east.

On Oct. 10 Venus will be seen just below Regulus, the brightest star in Leo the lion, while the waning crescent moon passes just above this pair.

Prominent fall constellation Pegasus, the winged horse, is seen as a “Great Square” high up in the east.

Summer constellations may still be seen this month, but shifted over to the western sky.

And by the end of the month, by 10 p.m., we will start to see a glimpse of winter constellations “poking” up above the eastern horizon.

These winter stars are among the brightest of any season of the year, and are something to look forward to seeing later.

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