Night Sky – October 2021

5th: Peak of Camelopardalid meteor display (figure 1), active 5th to 6th. Radiant point, constellation Draco, active all night. Best displays shortly before dawn, when radiant point is highest. Display happens as Earth passes through debris from comet 209P/LINEAR (Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research) which makes a complete orbit of the Sun approximately every five years.

Figure 1.

8th: Peak of Draconid meteor shower (figure 2/3), active until 10th. Constellation Draco, active all night. Best displays just after dusk. Parent body is comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, taking approximately 6.6 years to orbit the Sun.

Figure 2. Ten + meteors per hour.

Figure 3.

10th: Peak of Southern Taurid meteor shower (figure 4/5), active 10th September to 20th November in constellation Cetus. Visible from 19:20 each night, when radiant point is above Eastern horizon. Active until 07:00. Best displays 02:00 BST. Parent body is comet 2P/Encke.

Figure 4: Five + meteors per hour.

Figure 5.

11th: Saturn completes retrograde motion (figure 6/7/8), ending its Westward movement through the constellations and returning to more usual Eastward motion. Retrograde motion is caused by Earth's motion around the Sun. As Earth orbits the Sun, our perspective changes, causing the apparent positions of objects to move from side, to, side in the sky with a one, year period. This nodding motion is superimposed on the planet's long, term Eastward motion through the constellations. Saturn will be 1431 million km from Earth.

Figure 6: Grey dashed arrow shows Earth's sight line to the planet, diagram on the right shows the planet's apparent movement across the sky as seen from Earth.

Figure 7: Saturn’s retrograde motion.

Figure 8.

Visible 19:10 (BST), above Southern horizon. Reaching highest point at 20:35, above Southern horizon. Observable until 23:15, disappearing above South, West. 11th: Peak of δ (Delta) Aurigid meteor shower (figure 9/10/11), active 10th to 18th. Best displays 06:00 BST, when radiant point is highest in the sky. Constellation Auriga. Two or 3 per hour.

Figure 9.

Figure 10.

Figure 11.

14th: Conjunction (close grouping (figure 12)) of Moon and Saturn, 18:50 (BST), above South, East horizon. Observable until 23:30 in constellation Capricornus. Saturn will be 1440.5 million km from Earth, Moon will be 378640 km away. They will also make a close approach, passing within 3°50' of each other.

Figure 12.

15th: Conjunction of Moon and Jupiter (figure 13), 18:50 (BST), above South, East horizon. Observable until 01:00. They will also make a close approach, the Moon passing 4°08' to the South of Jupiter. Moon will be 381824 km from Earth and Jupiter 664.5 million km.

Figure 13.

18th: Jupiter ends retrograde motion (figures 6/7/14). Visible 18:40 (BST), above South, East horizon. Observable until 00:45, disappearing above South, West horizon.

Figure 14.

18th: Peak of ε (Epsilon) Geminid meteor shower (figure 15/16), active from 14th to 27th. Visible 21:30 each night, above East horizon. Active until 07:10. Constellation Gemini, upto 3 meteors per hour.

Figure 15.

Figure 16.

21st: Peak of Orionid meteor shower (figure 17/18), radiant point, constellation Orion, Eastern horizon. Visible, 22:00 to 07:15. Parent comet, 1P/Halley. Possibility of 15 meteors per hour.

Figure 17.

Figure 18.

24th: Leonis Minorid meteor shower, (figure 19). Active until 27th in constellation Leo Minor. Best displays, before dawn on 24th and after dusk on 24th. Parent body, comet C/1739K1. Two meteors per hour.

Figure 19.

28th: Moon last quarter (figure 20). visible 00:17, above North, East. Fading at 07:42, above South horizon. Appearing 48% illuminated at a distance from Earth of 394530 km.

Figure 20.

WARNING: Never attempt to view through binoculars, telescope or any optical aid an object near to the Sun. Also, never attempt to view the Sun, aided or unaided, doing so may result in immediate and permanent blindness. Always use astronomical approved viewing equipment. The Stellarium software will assist greatly in locating objects in the sky.

Mark R Smith FRAS FRi

Nuclear Fusion Physics