SCAS  OCTOBER 2020 - Compiled by Barb Yager

Lunar Timetable

Full Moon Image
Full Moon October 1st @ 5:05 pm
Last Quarter Moon Image
Last Quarter Moon October 9th @ 8:40 pm
New Moon Image
New Moon October 16th  @ 3:31 pm
First Quarter Moon Image
First Quarter Moon October 23rd @ 9:23 am



The Draconids
The Orionids 
The SouthTaurids and The North Taurids



Draco the Dragon is now spitting out meteors, also known as shooting stars. This is one shower that’s best to watch at nightfall or early evening, not after midnight. No matter where you are on Earth, watch as close to nightfall as possible. The shower is active between October 6 and 10. The best evening to watch is likely October 7. This shower favors the Northern Hemisphere, but Southern Hemisphere observers might catch some Draconids, too. Fortunately, the waning gibbous moon won’t rise until mid-to-late evening. Look for these meteors for a few hours, starting at nightfall. Even at northerly latitudes, the Draconids are typically a very modest shower, offering only a handful of slow-moving meteors per hour. The Draconids’ parent comet – 21P/Giacobini-Zinner.
By the way, 21P/Giacobini-Zinner is a periodic comet, which returns near the sun every 6 years and 4 months. Tracking this comet, and noting this October meteor shower, helped astronomers figure out how to predict meteor showers in 1915. The radiant for the Draconids is the constellation Draco.


Orionid meteors fly each year between about October 2 to November 7. That’s when Earth is passing through the stream of debris left behind by Comet Halley, the parent comet of the Orionid shower. The Orionids usually put out the greatest number of meteors in the few hours before dawn, and the expected peak morning in 2020 is October 21. But it’s fine to start watching now. The moon is in a waxing crescent phase, setting before midnight, providing dark skies for this year’s Orionid meteor shower. From a dark location, in a year when the moon is out of the way, you might see 10 to 20 Orionids per hour at their peak.
The Orionids radiate from a point near the upraised Club of the constellation Orion the Hunter. The bright star near the radiant point is Betelgeuse.

South and North Taurids

Late night November 4 until dawn November 5, 2020, the South Taurids
The meteoroid streams that feed the South (and North) Taurids are very spread out and diffuse. Thus the Taurids are extremely long-lasting (September 25 to November 25) but usually don’t offer more than about five meteors per hour. That is true even on their peak nights. The Taurids are, however, well known for having a high percentage of fireballs, or exceptionally bright meteors. Plus, the two Taurid showers – South and North – augment each other. In 2020, the expected peak night of the South Taurid shower happens when a waning gibbous moon lights up the sky almost all night long. Peak viewing is just after midnight, though under the glaring light of a bright waning gibbous moon. The South and North Taurid meteors continue to rain down throughout the following week, but with more interference from the waxing gibbous moon!

Late night November 11 until dawn November 12, 2020, the North Taurids
Like the South Taurids, the North Taurids meteor shower is long-lasting (October 12 – December 2) but modest, and the peak number is forecast at about five meteors per hour. The North and South Taurids combine to provide a nice sprinkling of meteors throughout October and November. Typically, you see the maximum numbers at around midnight, when Taurus the Bull is highest in the sky. Taurid meteors tend to be slow-moving, but sometimes very bright. In 2020, the slender waning crescent moon – rising in the wee hours before dawn – won’t seriously intrude on the peak night of November 11 (morning of November 12).
The radiant for the Taurids will be the constellation Taurus.

Here are some tips on how to maximize your time looking for meteors and fireballs during December:

  • Get out of the city to a place where city and artificial lights do not impede your viewing
  • If you are out viewing the shower during its peak, you will not need any special equipment. You should be able to see the shower with your naked eyes.
  • Carry a blanket or a comfortable chair with you - viewing meteors, just like any other kind of stargazing is a waiting game, and you need to be comfortable. Plus, you may not want to leave until you can't see the majestic celestial fireworks anymore.



No bright comets this month



Clear Sky Clock





Mercury WSW (early in the month), Mars, east, Saturn & Jupiter SSW, Neptune SSE, Uranus SE; 
3 meteor showers: Draconids, Orionids, S. Taurids and the *Int l. Space Station (ISS) schedule.  * = a degree.
01-  At dusk Mercury reaches highest altitude--3 * above the WSW horizon--and sets before nightfall. By nightfall silver Saturn and bright golden Jupiter float 30* above the southern horizon. Jupiter rotates every 10 hours and sets after midnight. the web for Jupiter's satellite moon events crossing the planet: www.astronomy.com/observing/sky-this-week. Mythology claims the 4 Galilean moons closest to Jupiter: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. are Jupiter's mistresses. 
HARVEST MOON is full at 5:05 p.m. The bright Moon rises about sunset and sets at dawn. Colonial farmers depended upon the Harvest full Moonlight to reap their crops. the HARVEST MOON occurs within 2 weeks of the Autumnal Equinox 9/22.
02- By nightfall the bright Moon rises in the east 0.7* from fiery Mars. 
03- Tonight the Moon rises 5* on the right of blue-green Uranus.
06- Bright MARS rises in the east by 8 p.m. NASA reports the `warrior' planet will be 38.6 million miles from  Earth --its closest visit until 2035. During its orbit around the Sun, Mars cruises close to Earth every 2 1/2 years but at different distances. MARS rotates every 24 hrs. 36 min.  Aim binoculars, cameras and telescopes  to the Martian surface if dust storms are not prevalent. 
07/08- DRACONID  METEOR  SHOWER: a minor shower as Earth cruises through the dust tail of long-gone Comet Giacobini-Zinner. Draco the Dragon may sprinkle 5-10 meteors per hr. from the NW during the evening.
08- At dusk Mercury hovers 2* above the WSW horizon for about 30 minutes after sunset. The `first rock from the Sun' will reappear in the morning sky early next month. 
8:41 P.M. rises WNW   17*  up to max. altitude 37*  for 2 minutes then leaves the solar beam in WSW.
09- LAST QUARTER MOON occurs at 8:40 p.m. and rises after Midnight.
7:53 p.m. rises NW  to max altitude 88* up (overhead) for 6 minutes then leaves the solar beam16* in the SE. 
13- MARS OPPOSITION to the Sun at 7:20 p.m. Aim optical equipment to the fiery planet during its brightest and largest appearance.
16- NEW MOON occurs at 3:31 p.m.
17- The 1-day old sliver of a Moon shines briefly near the WSW horizon.
18- The young Moon leads huge Scorpius along the SW horizon    
19- The crescent Moon floats 4* above ruddy Antares (red supergiant) known as the heart beating in the Scorpion. Aim binoculars to the dark Earthshine on the lunar surface.                                          
21- ANNUAL ORIONID METEOR SHOWER- glittering colorful debris left from Comet Halley years ago will zip through the Earth's atmosphere at 148,000 mph and may produce about 20 Orionids per/hr. in the predawn hours. Peak activity is predicted to occur by 2 a.m. Orion rises in the east late evening and a few may be visible before and after the 21st. Equipment: comfy clothes, lounge chair, patience.
22- Mid-evening the Moon forms a triangle 3* below Saturn and Jupiter in the WSW. 
27- S. TAURID METEOR SHOWER-  This minor meteor shower normally contains brilliant fireballs (brighter than Venus). Earth passes through Comet Encke's dust tail late October- early November. No definite date for max. activity. 
29- Tonight the Moon floats 5* below bright Mars in the ESE. 
30- The Moon drifts 7* to the right of blue-green Uranus.
31- URANUS OPPOSITE SUN. The Moon floats below Uranus. Saturn sets about 11 p.m.. BLUE MOON--Hunter's full Moon


Draco, Dragon, sleeps in the NW.  The Big Dipper pivots onto the northern horizon. Ruddy Arcturus lies on the NW horizon. Hercules leads bright Vega and the vast Summer Triangle westward. Cygnus, Swan soars within the Triangle. The celestial birds migrate toward the south: Aquila, Eagle, Cygnus Swan, flock of Ducks (M-11). On the SW horizon, the tilted Sagittarian Teapot `pours' onto the Scorpion's tail. Saturn and Jupiter drift above the Teapot in the SW. Capricornus, Sea Goat plods across SW. Grus, Crane stretches its starry neck above the southern horizon. Fomalhaut twinkles below Neptune in Aquarius in SSE. Fiery Mars glows in Pisces in the SE. Blue-green Uranus, in Aries, lies left of Mars. Cetus, Whale, swims along the SE horizon. In the east Aries, Ram, chases Pegasus (Winged Horse) toward the Zenith. The 7 Sisters (Pleiades cluster) dance above the eastern horizon. Aldebaran, red eye of Taurus, Bull, winks from the ENE horizon. Bright Capella guides Auriga above the NNE horizon. In the NE, the Royal Family ascends to the Zenith: King Cepheus, Queen Cassiopeia, daughter Andromeda, and Perseus.

Astronomy/Sky & Telescope magazines
EarthSky News
Abrams Planetarium, MSU




Brilliant Venus (Morning Star), Uranus, Mars, Mercury (end of the month). 
3 meteor showers.

01- At dawn brilliant Venus glows 0.5*  from  Regulus in Leo, Lion in the east.
03- Bright Mars and the Moon are 2* apart. in Pisces.
04- The Moon glows  3* from Uranus at 5 a.m.
06- Mars closest to Earth 38.6 million miles at 10 a.m. The Moon floats between 2 clusters: Pleiades (above) and the Hyades (below)..
10- The Moon lies 4* below Pollux (Gemini Twins). Some Draconids may be visible after midnight.
11- At dawn the waning Moon lies 1 * from the Beehive cluster.
13- In the predawn, the Moon forms a triangle with Regulus (Leo, Lion) and brilliant Venus.
21- ORION METEOR SHOWER reaches max activity about 2 a.m. - dawn. About 20 meteors per/hr. visible in a dark sky.
23- FIRST QUARTER MOON occurs 9:23 a.m.  Venus enters Virgo.
27- S. TAURID METEOR SHOWER may produce 5-10 meteors in the predawn and a few fireballs.
31- At dawn the HUNTERS  full MOON drifts 3* below Uranus and reaches full phase at 10:49 a.m. The 2nd full moon in a calendar month is called the BLUE MOON.  Mercury appears on the ESE horizon near Spica in Virgo. 
Aries, Ram butts his head against the western horizon. The Royal Family swings low in the NW. Orion, Hunter chases Taurus, Bull into the west. Procyon, Little Dog, follows Orion. Brilliant blue Sirius sparkles in Orion's Big Dog in the SSW followed by the Pups in the south. The Gemini Twins: Castor & Pollux stride overhead.  Bright Capella leads Auriga westward. Leo, Lion crawls toward the Zenith. The Big Dipper swings higher in the NE. Bright Arcturus sparkles low in the NE.