Title: October Skywatch Highlights
Location: Hawaiian Islands
Date / Time: October 2011
Comments: Dazzling JUPITER certainly lives up to its nickname this month: "The King of Planets." The giant planet glows at magnitude minus -2.9, far brighter than any point of light in the night sky. Jupiter reigns from sunset to sunrise, as it reaches opposition & peak visibility the night of October 28/29. Opposition marks the planet's closest approach to Earth, a "mere" 369 MILLION miles. Jupiter's proximity to Earth & large physical size render it visually stunning through any telescope. A small telescope or good binoculars will reveal Jupiter's 4 bright Galilean moons, in their ever-changing configurations. Galileo first saw them nearly 400 years ago with a 1.5-inch telescope of lower quality than any available today. In early October, look for Jupiter rising in the east around 8PM & by 7PM at mid-month. In late October, (at opposition), Jupiter will rise in the east as the Sun sets, and set in the west at sunrise. VENUS, appears low in the west around 6:30PM throughout October. You'll need an unobstructed view of the western horizon, & you'll need to look fast; Venus sets by 7PM all month, affording a mere 30 minute window to view the planet. Fortunately, Venus is so bright, (gleaming at magnitude minus ? 3.8), that you should be able to spot it as it "pops out" of the western twilight. The last week in October, watch for MERCURY to join Venus, both planets hugging the western horizon at sunset. Start searching for Mercury about 30 minutes after sunset on Oct. 27th. That evening, the tiny innermost planet shines at magnitude minus -0.3, & appears 2 degrees directly below Venus. (Best viewed in binoculars). The 2 planets will remain within a few degrees of each other through the first half of November. Look for a slim crescent Moon, about 10 degrees to the upper left of the pair on October 28. MARS rises in the east around 2AM at the start of October, & by 1:30AM at months end. The red planet shines at magnitude 1.1 (as bright as a bright star), & has a pale orange glow. Mars continues to climb higher before dawn throughout the month. It passes from Cancer to Leo in mid-October & ends the month just 5 degrees from Regulus, the Lion's brightest star. SATURN passes on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth at mid-month, but will return to our morning sky at months end. On Oct. 31st, it rises in the east at 5:30AM & shines at magnitude 0.7, bright enough to pierce the dawn glow. The ringed planet will appear very low in the east-southeast, & you'll have about 30 minutes to spot it before daybreak. For an October Hawaiian sky map, visit Bishop Museum Planetarium www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium (bishopmuseum.org).

Maintained by Roz Reiner - Kauai, Hawaii

 

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