The Sky Above You: October

By Duncan Lunan

October astronomyThe Moon will be New on October 9th, and Full on October 24th.

The planets Mercury and Venus are both too near the Sun to be visible in October, and Venus is at inferior conjunction, at its nearest to us on this side of the Sun, on the 26th.   Europe’s Bepicolombo probe to Mercury, named after the pioneer of interplanetary slingshot navigation, is scheduled for launch on October 20th.

Mars in Capricornus sets around 0.30 a.m., still bright but growing fainter.   The planet-wide dust storm which formed at the closest approach to the Sun has now subsided, and NASA is making great efforts to reactivate the solar-powered Opportunity rover, which was forced to shut down in June.   The Moon is near Mars on the 17th and 18th.

On September 21st Japan’s Hyabusa 2 probe successfully landed two small rovers on the asteroid Ryugu.   The asteroid’s gravity is too low for them to drive around, so they’re exploring the surface by hopping, as will Europe’s lander MASCOT which is to be set down on Ryugu in October.

Jupiter in Libra sets around 8 p.m., and disappears behind the Sun early in the month.

Saturn in Sagittarius sets around 9.30 p.m., and is passed by the Moon on the 15h.

Uranus, on the boundary between Aries and Pisces, is at opposition on the 24th, when it will be at its nearest to us and due south at midnight  (GMT/UT), just four days before the end of British Summer Time.

Neptune in Aquarius sets about 4 a.m..

The Draconid meteor shower peaks on the night of 8th/9th  October, with no Moon to spoil it, and may be unusually active because its parent comet, Giacobini-Zinner, passed Earth in September at its closest for 72 years.   The comet will still be visible in binoculars near the bright star Capella in Auriga, for the first half of the month.   It was the first comet to be visited by space probe when the International Comet Explorer passed through its tail in 1986, up-Sun from where the European, Japanese and Russian probes were converging on Halley’s Comet.   The Orionid meteor shower from Halley’s Comet itself peaks on 21st/22nd October, but will be spoiled by the nearly Full Moon.

October astronomy

Astronomers of the Future Club – Troon Meeting

The next meeting of the Astronomers of the Future Club will be on Thursday October 25th from 7.15 to 9 p.m. at the RSAS Barassie Works Club, 4 Shore Road, Troon, KA10 6AG.   The planned talk by Club Treasurer Duncan Lunan, explaining his detailed work for the re-erection in November of the Sighthill stone circle, the first astronomically aligned one in Britain for 3000 years, which he designed for Glasgow Parks Department in 1978-79, has been postponed till November and a new speaker for October will be announced shortly.

“Starfield, science fiction by Scottish writers”, edited by Duncan Lunan, is now available from the publishers at

Duncan’s recent books “Children from the Sky”, “The Stones and the Stars”, “Incoming Asteroid!” and “The Elements of Time” are available from the publishers, on Amazon or through booksellers;  details are on Duncan’s website,


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