Welcome to the October night sky. Soon after sunset over in the west we can catch our last view of Venus low down on the horizon.
This planet is now moving between the Sun and the Earth and through a small telescope or binoculars this planet will be seen as a large very thin crescent.
At the same time, as Venus is setting in the west, the gas giant planet Jupiter is rising in the east. This planet is currently at its closest position to Earth and will not be closer for more than 20 years.
This means that after Venus sets, Jupiter will be the brightest object in the night time sky apart from the Moon.
Venus is currently in the constellation of Libra and Jupiter is in Aquarius and the ringed planet Saturn is in Virgo but is too close to the Sun to be visible.
On the evening of the 19th the nearly full Moon will be just above Jupiter.
Soon after dark during this month, over in the east, the sparkling star group of the Seven-Sisters can be seen. This is not a constellation but an open star cluster containing hundreds of young stars, although with the unaided eye alone only six or seven can be seen.
This star cluster is associated with the Greek myths of the daughters of Atlas and Pleione.
The names of these seven stars are Alcyone, Electra, Maia, Merope, Taygeta, Celaeno and Sterope.
They had a habit of leaving the heavens and going down to the Earth in search of mortal boyfriends.
So, when you are looking at this group of stars if you can’t see seven in the sky some of them could be down here!
The full Moon in October is known as the “Hunter’s Moon” as historically this is the time of the year when the fields are harvested and it is easier to hunt for animals under the light of the full Moon before the snow comes.
The hunter’s Moon also known as blood Moon or sanguine Moon and is the first full Moon after the harvest Moon, which is the full Moon nearest the Autumn Equinox.
The Moon is at last quarter on the 1st, new on the 7th, first quarter on the 14th, full on the 23rd and last quarter again on the 30th.
Clive Jackson is the Director of the Camera Obscura (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach. Telephone 281 322527, Fax 281 321754, email: [email protected] or visit http://www.cdepa.pt