Oct 1st: Observing With Webb in October 2016

By on October 1, 2016 in

Podcaster: Rob Webb

Title: Observing With Webb in October 2016

Organization: Physics teacher at Pequea Valley High School

Link: http://mrwebb.podbean.com ;
https://sites.google.com/site/mrwebbonline/ ;
follow me : @mrwebbpv

To listen to this email as a podcast, go to my Podbean page. To see a video of this information, go to my YouTube Channel

Description: October brings us good views of Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter, the Orionid Meteor Shower, and night launch visible on the eastern seaboard, along with a challenge for the Pequea Valley Planetarium

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 golf. A proud graduate of Dickinson College in 2005, he also obtained a Master’s Degree in Science Education from Penn State University after conducting research in regards to the current state of planetariums in Pennsylvania. Feel free to contact him at rob_webb@pequeavalley.org

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by — no one. We still need sponsors for many days in 2016, so please consider sponsoring a day or two. Just click on the “Donate” button on the lower left side of this webpage, or contact us at signup@365daysofastronomy.org.


Welcome to Observing With Webb, where the armchair astronomer figures out what they’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what they should check out next.  Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed, all with the username “mrwebbpv”

This year, October brings us good views of Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter, the Orionid Meteor Shower, and night launch visible on the eastern seaboard, along with a challenge for the Pequea Valley Planetarium. Before talking about the planets, events, and constellations for October, I have some special news and a special request.  I’ve been running the Pequea Valley Planetarium coming up on 10 years now, with it being 40 years older than that.  It’s old and starting to fail.  After writing a proposal and submitting it with hundreds of other teachers, Farmers Insurance picked Pequea Valley’s proposal as one of the 15 finalists for the grant.  They are now leaving the final say to public voting.  The 6 proposals with the most votes will each get $100,000 to fulfill their proposal.

This is where I’m asking you a favor.  The entire public gets to vote once every single day in October.  Please take the time to visit https://www.farmers.com/thank-americas-teachers/ each and every day in the month of October.  I even have a sign up for daily reminders in your email on our planetarium website: https://sites.google.com/site/pvplanetarium/.  This will be huge for our planetarium.  As the title of the proposal states, it will re-ignite STEM education in an aging and ailing space race planetarium.  Our lights are literally about to go out.  Let’s keep the universe in Pequea Valley.  There are more details on our planetarium website, but here are the basics of what this grant will bring us.  We plan to use the money to:

  • Establish a free week-long Summer Space STEM Camp for all students in the district, geared for elementary and intermediate school learners, with secondary student counselors
  • Expand and improve our current programming by incorporating STEM curriculum into 3rd and 4th grade expanded field trips
  • Replace the current lighting system, whose bulbs are no longer produced
  • Replace the bolted down seats with new, padded, moveable, stackable chairs, thus opening up the room to more possibilities
  • Replace the Jerry-rigged sound system
  • Refurbish the star ball

PLANETS…well, the ones visible with your naked eye

Planets you can see around Sunset – Venus (SW), Saturn (SW), Mars (S)

Planets you can see throughout the night – None

Planets you can see in the Morning – Mercury (E beginning), Jupiter (E 2nd half)

Mercury – You might just be able to catch Mercury before sunrise in the first week of October.  Look E after 6:00am, when it rises up to about 15˚ by sunrise, which is about 7am.  It gets lower very quickly and is too hard to see after the first week. 

Venus – Look SW after sunset, and Venus will be only about 10˚ above the horizon, but very bright, and will set around 7:30.

Mars – Look S after sunset and bring a sky map of Sagittarius.  Mars will be the ruddy red object moving through the left hand side of the Sagittarius “teapot”.  Visible until about 10:30pm, when it sets in the SW.

Saturn – Look SW after sunset.  Saturn will be between Mars and Venus throughout the month, getting closer to Venus until the 28th when they cross paths.  Saturn will set at 9:30pm in the beginning of the month and 7:30 at the end of the month.

Jupiter – Starting mid-month, you might catch Jupiter in the eastern sky in the morning after 6am.  Just look for the very bright object in that direction, and close to the Moon on the 28th.


3rdClose Encounter – Moon, Venus – Look to the W in the hour after sunset (6:45ish) and you might just be able to catch a VERY thin crescent Moon only 4˚ above bright Venus.  You’ll need a clear view of the horizon, clear skies, and perhaps binoculars.

5th – 8thClose Encounter – Moon, Mars, Saturn – Look SW once the sky is starting to get dark, and find a nice crescent Moon.  On the 5th, The Moon will be about 5˚ to the right of Saturn, with red Mars about 30˚ to the left of both of them.  The following night, the Moon will have moved to be in between Saturn and Mars, but closer to Saturn. On the 7th the Moon will closer to Mars than Saturn, and on the opposite side of Mars on the 8th. 

First Quarter Moon – 9th (Visible until midnight)

9thVisible Night Rocket Launch – Go to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Facebook (or search for “Wallops launch visible” sometime soon in Google, but beware of 2015 articles) and use the map there as a guide for how to watch a rocket launch at night from a distance. Being in Lancaster County, I’ll be finding an elevated location, like a hill or mountain, with a VERY clear view of the southern horizon. At 10:47p.m. the Antares rocket will launch. I’ll be looking starting much earlier, just to set up my camera and such.  About 30 seconds after the actual launch, I’ll see something like this over the course of about a minute or two:

That is a composite of 8 pictures I took of the LADEE launch some years ago. You really don’t see this often, so get out there!

Full Moon – 16th (Visible all night)

20th – 22ndOrionid 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 indeed be out as a Waning Gibbous, making this not such a good time to see them.  The best time to look for these are in the early morning.  If you’ve got the patience (and a jacket), go out on the mornings of the 20th – 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. 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 (weather.com 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.  

Last Quarter Moon – 22nd (Visible from midnight into the morning)

28thClose Encounter – Moon, Jupiter – Look E after 6am and before sunrise (7:30am).  Bring your binoculars to look for a VERY thin crescent Moon rising up from the horizon, with Jupiter just 1˚ up and to the right.  This is likely your best shot at catching Jupiter this month.

28thClose Encounter – Saturn, Venus – Look W after sunset (6pm) and before 7:30pm and you should find Venus first, as a VERY bright object in the SW.  Up and to the right only about 5˚ will be Saturn which, being dimmer, will be harder to find until dusk is over..

New Moon – 30th (darkest skies)

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 (around 7:30pm) – Lyra the Harp, Cygnus the Swan

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 – Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila (a little to the south) – These are the Summer constellations, and since they are visible right above us around midnight (and to the east after sunrise), it’s now summer!  More details below in the “General Constellation Finding Tips”

Midnight – Lacerta, 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 fuzzy in the constellation Andromeda.

Early Morning – Perseus, Auriga –  Also, if you look to the SE in the morning, you’ll find the winter constellations of Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, and Canis Major.


Summer Constellations: Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, Delphinus

Look straight up before 10pm and you’ll be able to see Lyra (the Harp), Cygnus (the Swan), Aquila (the Eagle), (and Delphinus the Dolphin.)  These three constellations have the three brightest stars of the summer constellations (Vega, Deneb, Altair – respectively.)  Those bright stars create the summer triangle.  Off to the east of this is the small but beautiful constellation of Delphinus. 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’re looking past 10pm, they’ll be moving toward the West and lower in the sky.

Fall Constellations: Andromeda, Pegasus

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.  You’ll see these in the East after sunset, straight above you around midnight, and in the West in the morning.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Astrosphere New Media. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. 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 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org.  This year we will celebrate more discoveries and stories from the universe. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!

About Rob Webb

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