The Solar System in October 2014
All dates and times are NZDT (UT +13 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.
On October 1 the Sun rises at 6.53 am and sets at 7.28 pm. On October 31 the times are 6.07 am and 8.02 pm respectively. Nautical twilight starts about 1 hour before sunrise in the morning and ends about 1 hour after sunset in the evening. Nautical twilight starts/ends when the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon. The sky is then reasonably dark except for a near horizon glow in the direction of the Sun.
Phases of the Moon (times as shown by guide)
First quarter: October 2 at 8.32 am (Oct 1, 19:32 UT) Full moon: October 8 at 11.51 pm ( 10:51 UT) Last quarter October 16 at 8.12 am (Oct 15, 19:12 UT) New moon: October 24 at 10.57 am (Oct 23, 21:57 UT) First quarter: October 31 at 3.48 pm ( 02:48 UT)
Total Eclipse of the Moon, October 8 to 9.
A total eclipse of the moon takes place on October 8. All phases of the eclipse are visible from New Zealand. Totality lasts for almost an hour from 11:25 pm to 12:24 pm. The moon starts entering the Earth's umbral shadow about 10:15 pm and finally leaves it at 1.35 am.
Numerous stars will be occulted during the eclipse, although none will be visible to the unaided eye. One of the brightest is SAO 109533, magnitude 7.4 which will disappear just before totality starts and reappear during the total part of the eclipse.
Lunar occultations of asteroids are rarely visible due to the brightness of the Moon and faintness of most asteroids. An occultation of (37) Fides, magnitude 9.8, occurs during the eclipse, so will be visible. It disappears behind the moon shortly before the end of totality and reappears at the darkened limb of the moon about 40 minutes later. Precise times of the occultation of Fides and stars for any locality can be generated using Dave Herald's Occult program.
Partial Eclipse of the Sun, October 23.
The partial eclipse of Sun follows a fortnight later on October 23. Technically it is an annular eclipse but the path misses the Earth passing over the north pole. A partial eclipse is visible from the northern Pacific and north America as far south as the Yucatan Peninsula, apart from Labrador and Newfoundland. For the eastern half of Canada and the USA the Sun sets while partially eclipsed. It rises in eclipse for eastern Siberia.
The Planets in October
The two inner planets, Mercury and Venus are both at conjunction with the Sun during October. Mercury will be visible as an evening object for the first few days of the month. Mars and Saturn are both early evening objects, although is very low in the evening twilight by the end of the month.
Jupiter is a morning object rising 3 hours before the Sun at the end of October.
Planets in the Evening Sky.
MERCURY starts October as a magnitude 0.5 evening object, setting more than two hours after the Sun. Some 45 minutes after sunset the planet will be 14° above the horizon a little to the south of west. Spica at magnitude 1.1 will be 8° below Mercury while Saturn will be 20° higher and a little to the right of Mercury.
Over the following evenings Mercury will rapidly get lower in the evening sky, especially after it is stationary on October 4. As a result it will be lost in the evening twilight within a few days. Inferior conjunction is on October 17, when the planet will be 50 million km from the Sun and 100 million from the Earth. After conjunction, Mercury becomes a morning object but will rise little more than half an hour before the Sun on the 31st, so being unobservable.
MARS is the best placed planet for viewing in the evening sky, setting after midnight all month. It starts October just under 4° from Antares, with Mars very slightly brighter. The planet is then in Ophiuchus and steadily moves away from Antares and across the constellation until entering Sagittarius on the 21st.
The moon makes a rather distant pass of Mars on the 18th, when the two will be 7.5° apart. The moon will be a 21% lit crescent.
SATURN sets considerably earlier than Mars, ranging from three and a half hours after the Sun on the 1st to only an hour and a quarter later on the 31st. The planet is in Libra with the two brightest stars of the constellation below and to either side of Saturn.
On October 25, the moon as a very thin crescent will be 5° below Saturn. The following evening the slightly thicker moon will be 8° to the upper right of the planet.
At the beginning of October the asteroid Ceres, magnitude 9, will be a little over a degree below Saturn. Over the following few evenings Ceres will overtake Saturn, the two being less than half a degree apart on the 5th, with Ceres to the right. Those wanting to identify the asteroid using binoculars should note that Ceres will be a little lower than Saturn. A slightly brighter star, magnitude, 8.6 will be almost level with Saturn but a little further away.
Jupiter in the Morning Sky.
JUPITER rises 2 hours before the Sun on October 1 and 3 hours earlier on the 31st. Thus it will be a brilliant object visible fairly low to the northeast before sunrise. The planet starts October in Cancer but moves on into Leo on the 13th.
The moon passes Jupiter mid month. As seen from NZ the 32% lit moon will be 5.5° to the upper left of Jupiter on the morning of the 18th and 9.5° to the right of the planet the following morning.
Jupiter's equator is currently near edge on as seen from the Earth. As a result a series of mutual events of the major satellites is starting. A partial eclipse of Callisto by Ganymede on the morning of the 6th will not be observable as it takes place too close to sunrise. The two satellites reverse their roles at the end of the month, but for NZ the eclipse takes place on the morning of November 1. At present Jupiter is well north of the equator, so rather low in NZ skies.
VENUS is at superior conjunction at the far side of the Sun to the Earth on October 25 so will be observable during October. At conjunction Venus will be 108 million km (0.72 AU) beyond the Sun and 257 million km (1.72 AU) from the Earth. At closest it would appear to be 1° to the north of the Sun.
URANUS is at opposition on October 8, the planet will then be 2844 million km, 19 AU, from the Earth. Consequently the planet will be in the sky all night. It is currently in Pisces.
A few hours after Uranus is at opposition the Earth's moon is in total eclipse. Uranus, at magnitude 5.7 will be 2° above the moon as seen from NZ. A similar magnitude star will be 1.3° to the left of Uranus, otherwise there is no object likely to be confused with Uranus in binoculars above the moon.
NEPTUNE is an evening object throughout October, it sets well after midnight. The planet is in Aquarius, magnitude 7.8 to 7.9.
PLUTO is in Sagittarius at magnitude 14.4. By the end of October Mars will be 8.5° from Pluto.
BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres is an evening object in Libra at magnitude 9.0. As noted above it passes Saturn at the beginning of October, with the two less than 0.5° apart on the 5th. By the end of October, Ceres will set less than 2 hours after the Sun. (4) Vesta, magnitude 7.9, starts October in Libra. It crosses part of Scorpius between October 11 and 21; on the latter date it carries on into Ophiuchus. On the 26th it is just over 6° from Antares. (6) Hebe brightens from magnitude 8.6 to 8.2 during October, making it a fairly easy binocular object. It is in Eridanus, rising about 10.30pm on the 1st and 8.15pm on the 31st. (3) Juno brightens to magnitude 9.3 at the end of October. It will then be a morning object in Hydra rising about 1.24 am.
The follwing table lists various solar system object events during October. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.
|October 1||Moon first quarter
Pluto 2.8 degrees south of the Moon
|October 4||Mercury stationary|
|October 5||Neptune 4.4 degrees south of the Moon|
|October 6||Moon at perigee|
|October 7||Uranus at opposition|
|October 8||Uranus 1.2 degrees south of the Moon Occn
Moon full Eclipse
|October 12||Aldebaran 1.4 degrees south of the Moon|
|October 13||Moon northern most declination (18.5 degrees)|
|October 15||Moon last quarter|
|October 16||Mercury 0.4 degrees north of Spica
Mercury inferior conjunction
|October 17||Mercury 2.4 degrees south of Venus|
|October 18||Jupiter 5.2 degrees north of the Moon
Moon at apogee
Regulus 4.4 degrees north of the Moon
|October 19||Venus 3.2 degrees north of Spica|
|October 22||Mercury 0.6 degrees north of the Moon Occn|
|October 23||Spica 2.5 degrees south of the Moon
Moon new Eclipse
Venus 0.1 degrees north of the Moon Occn
|October 25||Mercury stationary
Venus superior conjunction
Saturn 0.9 degrees south of the Moon Occn
|October 28||Moon southern most declination (-18.6 degrees)|
|October 29||Pluto 2.9 degrees south of the Moon|
|October 31||Moon first quarter|
- apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
- declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
- inferior conjunction: Conjunction where a solar system object is between the Earth and the Sun
- perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
- superior conjunction: Conjunction where the Sun is between the Earth another solar system object