Star Calendar Planets:
Mercury will sneak past the near side of the Sun (inferior conjunction) on Oct 23, then rush to the eastern morning sky in the end of the month. On November 7 it will appear to the left of Spica, just below and to the left of the waning crescent moon.
Venus shines brightly at about the same height at a given time each morning all month. Watch Regulus and Saturn rise higher and higher each day. On October 7th the waning Moon will join them. Venus waxes gibbous by the end of the month, but becomes more distant too.
Mars makes its longest path across our sky on October 1st and is highest at 5:15AM. Look above Betelgeuse of Orion. Mars is now closer to us than is the sun and it brightens as it draws ever closer and slows its movement against the stars. Watch for the Orionid meteors radiating from the vicinity on or about the 21st .
Jupiter remains in Ophiucus and accelerates its direct motion as it begins to fade. By month’s end it will be noticeably lower in the evening sky.
Saturn appears relatively dim in the eastern morning sky and will create an interesting series of triangles with Venus and Regulus all month.
Fifty years ago Sputnik, two feet in diameter and the weight of a man, was propelled to some 500 miles above the ground and accelerated to 18,000 mph. It was placed into an eccentric 1½-hour orbit. After three months perigee brought it in contact with enough air to burn it up. This first artificial satellite produced radio frequency beeps, reporting internal temperature and pressure conditions according to their duration. The orbit was inclined more nearly polar than equatorial such that it’s day and night cycle varied greatly. The orbital plane was largely maintained relative to the stars – but over time its relationship to the Sun would change. When the Sun lay near that plane, day would be only slightly longer than night. Three months later however, when the Sun would be more perpendicular to this plane, the Sun would not set at all for weeks on end. The appearance of the Moon in Sputnik’s “sky” would also change; the quarter phases behaving contrary to the Sun and the full and new phases similarly to it. Sputnik had a “view” of the entire Earth within less than half a day. Perturbing forces probably also introduced increasingly complex spin, roll and tumbling movements making for a dizzying ride.
Star Calendar Days:
1 Mars passes long and high on the summer solstice point of the ecliptic
4 1957 First artificial satellite (or “planet”) Sputnik I 50th anniversary
7 Predawn grouping of Saturn, Venus, Regulus and the Moon
9 Draconid meteors may be radiating from high over Polaris in evening
14 Venus and Saturn are proximate
21 Orionid Meteor shower (from Comet Halley); Look in early morning after Moon sets
26 Full Hunter’s Moon 00:52 EDT coincides with perigee
28 Don’t touch your clock!
(Daylight Time remains in effect until first Sunday in November)
31 Nearly 4 hours of darkness for Halloween before moonrise