Moon, meteors star in October’s night sky

What's happening in Oak Bay's night skies this October

What’s up for October 2016? Moon phases, Astronomy Day, meteors and more.

The new moon phase started the month Oct. 1 and night by night the slender crescent gets bigger and higher in the sky and easier to see just after sunset in the west over the Sooke Hills. It too is setting and that’s why it’s over Sooke and not rising over Mount Baker.

Tonight (Wednesday, Oct. 5), hear professor Jon Willis launch his new book All These Worlds Are Yours: The Scientific Search for Alien Life, at the University of Victoria. This event takes place at the Bob Wright Centre, room B150, at 7 p.m. Sign up at uvic.ca/science/physics. Following Willis’s talk, head to the fifth floor to look through the largest telescope on any Canadian university campus during the free weekly open house.

By Oct. 9 the moon has travelled through one-quarter of its 29-day orbit around the Earth, and we see the first quarter phase. You should also look for Mars just below the moon. It will have a red tint as you would expect.

Saturday, Oct. 8 is “Observe the Moon Night” and enthusiasts are invited to join the RASCals of Cattle Point at the Cattle Point DARK SKY Urban Star Park.

On Oct. 16, the moon reaches opposition, or the full moon phase, when the moon and the sun are on opposing sides of the Earth. The sun completely illuminates the moon as seen from the Earth.

During this phase, the moon rises in the East just as the sun is setting in the West as you would expect, at either end of our “Salish Sea Walk of the Planets.” During the night, the moon crosses the sky and sets at dawn. So it sets in the West over Metchosin just as the Sun comes back around, rising in the East over Mount Baker.

On Oct. 22, the last quarter moon rises at midnight. The pretty and bright Beehive cluster, or M44, will be visible near the moon from midnight to dawn. A wondrous cluster of stars, this is a smudge in the dark sky, with three times the Moon’s diameter.

To wrap up the month, 29 days after the last new moon we start the lunar cycle all over again with another new moon phase on Oct. 30.

Will you spot the one-day-old moon on Halloween? It will be a challenge!

Three meteor showers occur in October – the Draconids, the Taurids and the Orionids. Each is the tail-end of a comet.

Try for the Draconids after the moon sets on the morning of Oct. 8, then see the Taurids on Oct. 10. The Orionids will be marred by the full moon on Oct. 21, but all three meteor showers offer the possibility of bright meteors, so if you are up after midnight and before dawn, have a look.

Finally, you’ll have an especially pretty view of Saturn when it forms a straight line with Venus and Antares on Oct. 27.

Sept. 30 was the last day of the Rosetta Mission when our favourite orbiting space craft drops onto the surface of Comet 67P, joining the lander Philae, so now two crafts are permanently on the surface of the comet as it orbits the Sun every 6.5 years. What an amazing mission the European Space Agency managed.

I am proud to say the ESA has accepted a piece to commemorate this event and we hope you like the image we submitted comparing the size of the comet 67P to Mount Baker – visit rosetta-legacy.tumblr.com.

Learn about NASA’s missions to the planets and beyond at nasa.gov. Learn more about the RASCals of Cattle Point at facebook.com/groups/VictoriaRASCals. The group meets at Fairfield Community Centre Mondays at 7:30 p.m.

Dark Skies to all friends of Cattle Point Star Park.

Summary by Bill Smith and the RASCals of Cattle Point, from the transcript of “What’s Up in October 2016” by NASA announcer and astronomer Jane Houston Jones, with specific permission for localization to Cattle Point Dark Sky Urban Star Park and the Oak Bay