September 30th: Observing With Webb in October 2011

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Date: September 30, 2011

Title: Observing With Webb in October 2011

Podcaster: Rob Webb, Physics teacher at Pequea Valley High School


Description: This podcast discusses the events, planets, and constellations that can be seen in the night sky during the month of October.

Bio: Rob Webb is a physics, astronomy, and sustainability teacher at Pequea Valley High School in Pennsylvania. His passions include teaching, astronomy, astrophotography, planetariums, running, reading, and learning. A proud graduate of Dickinson College in 2005, he also obtained a Master’s Degree in Science Education from Penn State University this August, after conducting research in regards to the current state of planetariums in Pennsylvania. Feel free to contact him at

Sponsors: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by Steve Nerlich from Cheap Astronomy: …giving you more big bang for your buck.

This episode of “365 Days Of Astronomy” has also been brought to you by


October is when we start noticing the shorter and shorter days and longer and longer nights after the equinox and may be able to enjoy two modest meteor showers.


First Quarter Moon – 3rd (Visible until midnight)

8th – Draconid meteor shower – There may be a big burst of Draconids for those in Europe. Unfortunately for most of the audience here in the U.S., the almost full Moon will make only the brightest ones visible. My advice is not to expect much or make a lot of plans around this, but if you need to relax, head outside and stare up for a little while – you might catch one!

Full Moon – 11th (Visible all night – East around sunset, West around Sunrise)

11th, 12th – Close Encounter – Moon & Jupiter – Look to the East after 8pm on the 11th and you’ll see Jupiter about 7˚ below the Moon. As the night of the11th turns into the morning of the 12th, you’ll see them both moving up and toward the South, getting closer. If you’re looking on 12th, find the Moon in the East after 8pm and Jupiter will be about 6˚ to the right. A great pair to look at through binoculars!

Last Quarter Moon – 19th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

21st – 22nd – Orionid Meteor Shower – Technically it’s active all month, but during the peak it’ll produce about 20 fast and faint meteors under dark skies. The Moon will be out, but only the early morning and it’ll be a crescent, so the conditions are good, but not the best. If you’ve got that patience, go out on the morning of the 22nd and look above Orion to his “club” asterism.

Some advice for watching:

Find a dark location, Lie down in a reclining chair or swimming pool floaty
Look toward Orion (in the East/SE). That is where the radiant is – where the meteors will appear to be coming from. Keep a wide eye and try to take in the whole sky, instead of staring at one spot or through binoculars or a telescope.
Dress in multiple layers and bring hot chocolate Check the weather to see if the skies will be clear ( has a good map here)
Adapt your eyes to the dark by staying away from light sources or using a red light if you need to look at a star chart or not trip over something. The moon will be lit, so try not to look at that as it will also interfere with your night vision.

21st, 22nd – Close Encounter – Moon & Mars – Go out early in the morning after about 3:00am and find the crescent Moon in the East. Mars is only about 8˚ to the left and a little down from the Moon. The next morning Mars will be about 10˚ (a fist-width at arm’s length) above the Moon.

New Moon – 26th (darkest skies)

28th – Close Encounter – Moon, Venus, Mercury – If you’re good, or you have a VERY good view of your western horizon, you’ll be able to see a very thin crescent Moon right around sunset. Venus and Mercury will be about 10˚ down and to the right.

PLANETS…well, the ones visible with your naked eye
Planets you can see around Sunset – Jupiter (low in the E)
Planets you can see throughout the night – Jupiter (E to S to W)
Planets you can see in the Morning – Jupiter (W), Mars (SE)

Mercury – Not really visible, unless you’re looking West toward the end of October with binoculars around sunset.

Venus – Also not really visible, unless you’re looking West with binoculars around sunset. You’ll need a good view of the horizon. If you’re looking with your naked eye, it is probably the brightest object within 15˚ of the western horizon.

Mars – Still a morning object, rising around 2am. Look to the southeast before sunrise, and it will be about 45˚ or so above the horizon, “below” Gemini and in Cancer. It will have a reddish hue – use a star chart to help. Close to the Moon on the 21st and 22nd.

JUPITER – Rises a little after sunset in the East and makes its way up and to the South throughout the night, and in the morning will be in the West. Close to the Moon on the 11th and 12th. In the mornings, it will be high in the West. Extra Challenge! Stay up a little later and point some binoculars toward Jupiter. You should be able to see the four moons of Jupiter right next to it – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto – in different configurations each night. To see these bright points even better, use a telescope. You may even be able to see the cloud bands on Jupiter.

Saturn – Saturn will require a very good eye to see, and only at the end of October. It’ll be in the East around sunrise, but difficult to locate.

CONSTELLATIONS… (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb) Look straight up and you’ll see…
Just after Sunset (sunset is around 6:30pm) – Cygnus the Swan and Lyra the Harp – Extra Challenge! Use binoculars (or even a telescope) and a star chart and try to find the faint fuzzy that is the Ring Nebula or M57 in Lyra – If you find it, you’re looking at the remnants of star that exploded at a distance of 2,300 light years from Earth.

Extra Challenge! Use binoculars (or even a telescope) and a star chart to scan through the southern constellation of Sagittarius. There are at least 7 easily visible clusters and nebulas up and to the right of the “teapot” of Sagittarius.

Between Sunset and Midnight – Lacerta, Pegasus (the Great Square)

Midnight – Pegasus, Andromeda – Extra Challenge! Using your naked eye (dark-adapted and in a dark area) or binoculars under normal conditions and a star chart, try finding our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy. It’ll be a faint, but bigger, fuzzy in the constellation Andromeda.
Early Morning – Auriga, Gemini – Extra Challenge! Using binoculars, find the bright and open cluster M35. Find Gemini, look at the rightmost leg, go down to the foot, and move 2-3 degrees to the right (W).

Summer Constellations: Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, Delphinus

Look straight up after sunset or to the West later in the night and you’ll be able to see Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, (and Delphinus.) These three constellations have the three brightest stars of the summer constellations (Vega, Deneb, Altair – respectively.) Those bright stars create the summer triangle. Being summer constellations and it being fall right now, they are setting and are visible for a shorter period of time. If you’re under dark skies (away from city lights) you may just catch a glimpse of the Milky Way passing through Cygnus and Aquila.

If you can find the Summer Triangle and Delphinus, about 40˚ to the East (leftish) will be the Great Square of the fall constellation Pegasus. Perhaps you’ll even see the two curves of Andromeda off of one side, with the Andromeda Galaxy as a small, faint fuzzy nearby (you’ll need dark skies to see it). A sky map will help you tremendously in finding these.

Use a sky map from to help you out.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by the Astrosphere New Media Association. Audio post-production by Preston Gibson. Bandwidth donated by and wizzard media. Web design by Clockwork Active Media Systems. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at or email us at Until tomorrow…goodbye.

About Rob Webb

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