The Solar System In October 2016

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 hours).

Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in October

                            October  1  NZDT               October 30  NZDT
                    morning  evening                 morning  evening
       SUN: rise:   6.52am,  set:  7.28pm    rise:   6.06am,  set:  8.03pm
Twilights
  Civil:    starts: 6.27am,  ends: 7.55pm    starts: 5.39am,  ends: 8.31pm
  Nautical: starts: 5.55am,  ends: 8.27pm    starts: 5.03am,  ends: 9.07pm
  Astro:    starts: 5.21am,  ends: 9.01pm    starts: 4.24am,  ends: 9.46pm

October phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

          New moon:      October  1 at  1.11 pm (00:11 UT)
  First quarter: October  9 at  5.33 pm (04:33 UT)
  Full moon:     October 16 at  5.23 pm (04:23 UT)
  Last quarter   October 23 at  8.14 am (Oct 22, 19:14 UT)
  New moon:      October 31 at  6.38 am (Oct 30, 17:38 UT)

The planets in October 2016

Mercury is too close to the Sun for observation throughout October as is Jupiter for most of the month. Venus climbs a little further into the evening sky and passes Saturn. Mars remains well placed in the evening sky.

Mercury starts October as a morning object but rises only 24 minutes before the Sun. During the rest of October it gets closer to the Sun until at superior conjunction on the 28th. The planet will then be 214 million km from the Earth (1.43 AU) and some 65 million km beyond the Sun. By the end of October Mercury, nominally an evening object, will set about 10 minutes after then Sun

Venus becomes even more prominent in the evening sky in October. It sets two hours and forty after the Sun on the 1st increasing to three and a quarter hours later on the 31st, that is after 11 pm. The planet starts the month in Libra, moves into Scorpius on the 18th and on into Ophiuchus on the 25th. A night later Venus will be 3° from Antares. On the 30th it will be 3° from Saturn. Its path in Ophiuchus takes it about midway between Antares and Saturn with the three virtually in line on the evening of the 28th.

Much earlier in the month, a thin crescent moon is 7° from Venus on the evening of October 4.

Mars remains an evening object in Sagittarius during October setting about 2 am by the end of the month. It slowly dims a little during the month as the Earth pulls away from the planet

On the 7th Mars will be only 12 arc minutes from the star lambda Sgr, magnitude 2.8, that is less than half the diameter of the full moon. Later, in mid October Mars will be just over a degree from Nunki, at magnitude 2.1 the brightest star in the "handle" of the "teapot". The moon, a little short of first quarter, is 8° from Mars on the 8th.

Jupiter was at conjunction with the Sun on September 26. Consequently it has moved into the dawn sky but is too close to the Sun for observation for most of October. By the 31st it rises about an hour earlier than the Sun, and May be visible very low to the east half an hour before sunrise.

Saturn remains in Ophiuchus during October, a few degrees to the right of Antares as seen in the mid evening sky. By the end of October Saturn sets about 11 pm. The crescent moon will be at its closest to Saturn for the month, 4° to the right of, and slightly lower than, the planet. Towards the end of the month Saturn is passed by Venus.

Outer Planets

Uranus, at magnitude 5.7, is in Pisces. It is at opposition on October 15, so in the sky all night. It is then just under 19 AU, 2835 million km, from the Earth and one more astronomical unit from the Sun.

Neptune is in Aquarius at magnitude 7.8 to 7.9. By the end of October it will set about 4 am. An occultation of Neptune by the moon on October 13 is visible from the extreme east of Siberia, Alaska and northwest Canada.

Pluto at magnitude 14.4 is also in the evening sky during October setting after midnight. The planet remains in Sagittarius, by the end of the month it will be about 15 arc-minutes from the magnitude 3.7 star omega Sgr. Mars' path will take it past Pluto during October. The two are closest on the 19th with Mars 3.3° from Pluto.

Minor Planets

(1) Ceres is in Cetus during October and is at opposition on October 25. Its magnitude will then be 7.4.

(18) Melpomene is also in Cetus about 7° from Ceres. Melpomene is at opposition with a magnitude 8.0, a few days after Ceres.

(4) Vesta starts October as a morning object in Gemini 8° from the 1.2 magnitude star Pollux. It crosses into Cancer on the 10th. By the end of the month its magnitude will be 7.9. It will then rise about 2 am.

(11) Parthenope reaches a magnitude 9.2 when at opposition at the beginning of October. It is then in Cetus but moves on into Pisces on the 11th. Parthenope fades quite rapidly following opposition to 10.0 by the end of the month.

Brian Loader  
New Zealand