Adler Skywatch: October 2018
Watching the skies as they change—from day to night, from season to season—is a pastime as old as civilization. It’s even more fun when you know something about what you’re watching. Here are a few sky highlights you can see for yourself in the month of October 2018.
The planet Mars is the brightest readily visible planet in the southern evening skies this month. Look for it in early-evening twilight about 20 degrees above the south-southeast horizon; about 30 degrees high in the south around mid-evening; and low in the southwest around midnight. How much is 20 or 30 degrees in the sky? Make a fist, and hold it out at arm’s length toward the sky. Close one eye, and align your extended fist with your open eye. The width of your fist covers roughly ten degrees of sky. Two fist-widths equal roughly 20 degrees; three, roughly 30 degrees.
The planet Saturn can be spotted about 35 degrees to the right of Mars. Saturn is not quite as bright as Mars, but it’s still brighter than the stars nearby it. Saturn appears just above the top of the “Teapot”—an asterism in the constellation Sagittarius that’s shaped like an angular teapot. Saturn appears about 25 degrees above the south-southwest horizon in the early-evening twilight, and it sets in the southwest not long after twilight ends.
The planet Jupiter is brighter than either Mars or Saturn this month. However, it’s visible only briefly after sunset the first few evenings of the month, very low in the west-southwest sky. By mid-month Jupiter gets quite low in the sky and is difficult to view in evening twilight.
Seeing a bright planet near the Moon is always a great sight. If you have a clear view to the southwest horizon, look for Jupiter the evening of the 11th, when it appears just below a very slim waxing crescent Moon. The evening of the 14th, Saturn appears near the dark edge of a (wider) waxing crescent Moon. And, the evenings of the 17th and 18th, the planet Mars appears near a waxing gibbous Moon.
Last Quarter Moon: October 2
New Moon: October 8
First Quarter Moon: October 16
Full Moon: October 24
**Please note: these descriptions are for the Chicago area, using Central Daylight time.