With October just beginning, The NASA has served up his monthly list of tips on what to look for in the sky in the coming weeks.
First up are “evenings with giants,” with none other than Jupiter and Saturn. The two huge planets will be visible to the naked eye throughout October. In fact, you may have already seen them.
NASA notes that Jupiter, the brighter of the two planets, can be seen to the southeast, slowly moving west with the stars as the night progresses.
“They form a triangle with the bright star Fomalhaut,” explained the space agency on its website. “When looking at this trio, notice how the planets shine with a constant light, while the star shines. This can be an easy way to tell if what you’re looking at is a planet or a star.”
Next, Mars. The red planet has been appearing to head east all year, relative to background stars, but later this month, it will reach reverse gear and appear to start heading in the opposite direction. Follow it until the end of January and once again it will appear to change direction, heading east again.
In the NASA video (above), you can learn more about this so-called “retrograde motion” of Mars, which occurs about once every two years. It’s actually a kind of illusion that NASA says was once a source of intense curiosity to astronomers at a time when its motion wasn’t fully understood.
Finally, October (and November) is a great opportunity to see the Orionid meteor shower, which peaks on the night of October 20.
NASA describes it as “a moderate shower, typically producing 10 to 20 meteors per hour at its peak, under clear to dark skies.”
“The shower’s name comes from the fact that its meteor paths can be traced to an area in the sky near Orion,” the space agency said, adding that the meteors in this particular shower are bits of dust left over. Halley’s Comet, which was last seen in Earth’s skies in 1986.
According to NASA, Orionid meteors are often bright and fast-moving and can leave long trails that glow for several seconds as they streak across the sky.