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The night sky for October 2016

Northern Hemisphere

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the Northern hemisphere night sky during October 2016.

Highlights of the Month

October - A good month to observe Uranus with a small telescope.

Uranus comes into opposition - when it is nearest the Earth - on the night of the 15th of October, so will be seen well this month - particularly from around the beginning and end of the month when no moonlight will intrude. Its magnitude is +5.9 so Uranus should be easily spotted in binoculars lying in the southern part of Pisces to the east of the Circlet asterism and east-southeast of 4th magnitude stars Epsilon Piscium and Delta Piscium as shown on the chart. It rises to an elevation of ~45 degrees when due south. Given a telescope of 4 inches it should be possible to see that it has a disk (3.6 arc seconds across) which has a pale green-blue tint. With an 8 inch telescope and good seeing, perhaps using a green filter it may even be possible to see some detail in the planet's cloud features which appear to be more prominent than usual. That is an observing challenge! Four of its satellites, Arial(+14.4), Umbrial(+15), Titania (+13.9) and Oberon (+14.1) can also be seen given a night of good seeing and a telescope of 8 inches diameter or more.

October 3rd - after sunset: Venus and a very thin crescent Moon

As twilight fades on the 3rd of October and given clear skies and a very low horizon in the south-west you may be able to spot Venus lying down to the left of a very thin crescent Moon, just 6.7percent illuminated. This gives you a chance of observing 'earthshine', the 'dark' side of the Moon faintly illuminated by light reflected from the Earth.

October 8th, - one hour after sunset: the first quarter Moon lies above Mars

After sunset, looking south and given clear skies, the first quarter Moon will be visible lying up to the left of Mars shining at magnitude +0.15. Mars, in Sagittarius, is lying just to the left of the top star of the Teapot, Lambda Sagittarii.

Observe the International Space StationUse the link below to find when the space station will be visible in the next few days. In general, the space station can be seen either in the hour or so before dawn or the hour or so after sunset - this is because it is dark and yet the Sun is not too far below the horizon so that it can light up the space station. As the orbit only just gets up the the latitude of the UK it will usually be seen to the south, and is only visible for a minute or so at each sighting. Note that as it is in low-earth orbit the sighting details vary quite considerably across the UK. The NASA website linked to below gives details for several cities in the UK and across the world.

Find details of sighting possibilities from your location from the location index. See where the space station is now using the tracking page.

The Planets

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