The October night sky

news: The October night sky

WELCOME TO the October night sky. This month starts off in daylight with an annular Eclipse of the Sun, but only a deep partial visible from the Algarve. It happens on the morning of Monday, October 3, the eclipse of the Sun will be visible from within a narrow corridor, which crosses the Iberian Peninsula and stretches across the African continent. A partial eclipse will be seen within the much broader path of the Moon’s penumbral shadow, which includes Europe, Western Asia, the Middle East, India and most of Africa.

The path of the annular eclipse begins in the North Atlantic at 08:41 UT. Moving southeast, the shadow quickly reaches the northern coast of Spain and Portugal (08:51 UT). Bisecting the Iberian Peninsula, the shadow covers Madrid (08:56 UT), which lies near the centre line. The annular phase will last four minutes and 11 seconds from this capital city with 90 per cent of the Sun’s surface being obscured by the Moon.

From northern Portugal and central Spain, the Moon will be seen to pass in front of the Sun, although this time the Moon is slightly further away from us than average, due to its elliptical orbit, and doesn’t have sufficient width to cover the Sun entirely. So an annular eclipse will occur with the Sun briefly appearing as a ‘Ring of Fire’ in the morning sky.

After nightfall, the bright planet Venus is seen shining low in the southwest during evening twilight. Venus is close to the star Antares in the constellation of Scorpius on the evening of 16.

The night sky in the months of October and November belongs to the red planet Mars. At the end of October, Mars will be at opposition and at it’s closest to us in the constellation of Aries. This month, Mars will be just over 40 million miles away when at its closest and, through a telescope, it may be possible to make out a polar ice cap and some dark markings on the surface. The planet Mars is never very easy to study, as it is only well visible for a few months every two to two-and-a-half years. The Moon will be close to Mars on the night of the 18.

By the end of the month, the planet Saturn is visible low in the east-northeast just before midnight. The last quarter Moon will be close to the planet on the 26.

The Moon is New on 3, First Quarter on 10, full on 17 and Last Quarter on October 25.

Clive Jackson is the Director of the Astronomical Observatory of Tavira (Sitio do Malhão) and the Camera Obscura (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach.

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