This column was provided by San Benito County resident and amateur astronomer David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.
When I say the October skies are entertaining, it doesn’t pertain only to the astronomers out there with their expensive and unbelievable equipment that bring to light so many beautiful objects. (We have equipment that would blow the minds of Galileo and any other astronomer back then. Can you just imagine what they could have accomplished with such advanced equipment?)
And when I say beautiful this month, I’m not talking about the fact that October is my birth month or that it is also my wedding month. (married 62 years ago at the Immaculate Conception church in Tres Pinos. The church hasn’t changed one bit, but the aging of my wife and I is another story.)
Let’s start off with Saturn, the ringed wonder of the sky. Even with some of the smaller scopes the rings are visible to you. One of the greatest sights in the havens, Saturn will be located three degrees north of the moon on the 23rd /24th.
Not to be out shined by Saturn, Jupiter makes its debut on the first of the month, located in the constellation Aries three degrees south of the moon.
The Earth’s diameter is around 8,000 miles. You could place 11 Earths across the diameter of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. Now figure out how many Jupiters you can stretch across the diameter of the Sun, at 866,000 miles in diameter.
Feeling a little insignificant yet are you? Well, you should. And yet, as far as astronomical measurements goes this is like comparing one grain of sand to all the sand on all the beaches on the Earth. And yet, well you get my drift!!
To locate Neptune and Uranus this month, and every month, you will need a pair of binoculars or at least a small telescope. They both distinguish themselves from neighboring stars by their light blue or turquoise color. Neptune will be visible all night in the constellation Pisces. October will be a great time to take advantage of its presence.
Uranus stands about nine degrees southeast of the Pleiades and nine degrees northeast of Jupiter. Early in the evening on the 29th, you’ll find Uranus about two degrees south of the moon.
Venus now goes from the evening star to the morning star starting the month off just seven degrees west of Regulus in the constellation Leo making itself known around 3:30 a.m. local time.
Mars will be hidden too close to the sun this month to view. But it will return like it always does.
Mercury is more or less gone from our view in October but will return to the evening sky later next month.
Now Pluto, whether you believe it is a planet or not, is certainly the hardest planet to find, just ask Clyde Tombaugh. Okay, I had to look that one up. It is a planet, by the way. They are all planets, just different categories that’s all.
Clyde, my friend on first name basis, found Pluto by using the blinking system. He would take a picture every week in an area he thought may have promise finding a planet or some other unknown object. Almost like thumbing through a deck of cards, the stars would stay stationary and passersby would show up as movement. This could mean a new found planet, a comet, or a host of just about any astronomical bodies. Very time consuming.
But of course today we have computers that take care of it for us.
In case you haven’t heard by now, we have two solar eclipses coming our way. One, an annular eclipse on the 14th of this month, sweeping a line of totality from the coast of Oregon to the east coast of Mexico.
Then a total eclipse in April of next year sending a totality line from the west coast of Mexico up into the New England area.
A handful of us were making plans to attend the annular up in Oregon together. I’m not sure what happen but everyone had different ideas on where was the best location. Now we have Ron going to the east coast of Mexico, Steve going to southeast of Oregon, we’re just not sure about Dan, and I’m going up to Newport and visit relatives to watch the event with them. Now we have one more, that would be Mike. Probably the smartest one of all of us, he’s the one that would always say after the rest of us spend all this time and money, “why do that when all you have to do is look it up on the internet. Better pictures and cost a whole lot less.” I hate it when he’s right.
The rest of the states will only see a partial eclipse if not located under the narrow totality line. This will be my third annular eclipse (Panama and Nevada) and my second total eclipse (Egypt). I’m really looking forward to these next two. Clear skies…..
What’s up this month?
Oct. 1: Moon passes 3° north of Jupiter
Oct. 2: Moon passes 3° north of Uranus
Oct. 6: Last Quarter Moon
Oct. 9: Moon is at apogee (251,920 miles from Earth)
Oct. 10: Venus passes 2° south of Regulus
Oct. 10: Moon passes 6° north of Venus
Oct. 14: New Moon
Oct. 14: Annular Solar eclipse
Oct. 18: Moon passes 0.8° north of Antares
Oct. 21: Orionid meteor shower peaks
Oct. 21: First Quarter Moon
Oct. 23: Venus is at greatest elongation
Oct. 24: Moon passes 3° south of Saturn
Oct. 25: Moon passes 1.5° south of Neptune
Oct. 25: Moon is at perigee (226, miles from Earth)
Oct. 28: Full Moon
Oct. 29: Moon passes 3° north of Jupiter
Oct. 29: Moon passes 3° north of Uranus