DUE TO THE IMPACT OF CURRENT EVENTS, SOUTHERN CROSS ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY IS CANCELLING ALL PUBLIC OUTREACH ACTIVITIES UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. NORMAL OPERATIONS WILL RETURN AS SOON AS IT IS DEEMED SAFE TO DO SO. THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING AND COOPERATION.
SCAS OCTOBER 2020 - Compiled by Barb Yager
Full Moon October 1st @ 5:05 pm
Last Quarter Moon October 9th @ 8:40 pm
New Moon October 16th @ 3:31 pm
First Quarter Moon October 23rd @ 9:23 am
METEOR SHOWERS THIS MONTH
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.
BRIGHT COMETS THIS MONTH
No bright comets this month
Astronomy/Sky & Telescope magazines
Abrams Planetarium, MSU
PlanetsBrilliant Venus (Morning Star), Uranus, Mars, Mercury (end of the month).
3 meteor showers.