With the warmer weather of spring upon us, brings clear starry nights. Spending time outside in the evenings is part of our lifestyle. Now is a good time to explore the night sky and discover some of the incredible sights that are above us all. This regular contribution will help identify what major planets are visible through the month as well as prominent star clusters and nebula that can be viewed with binoculars or a small telescope.
Binoculars are a great start to exploring the night sky, as looking towards the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way will provide lots of very interesting detail. It may fuel the desire to purchase a small telescope and explore further, possibly outside our galaxy.
At the moment one of our closest neighbouring galaxies, The Andromeda Galaxy, is visible in binoculars at about 10 pm (Late Sept and through to early Oct). Its approx North with a maximum altitude above the horizon of 22 degrees. It’s an amazing sight as it’s our closest neighbouring galaxy. The Large and Small Megellanic Clouds are our companion dwarf galaxies which are visible in very dark skies just with the naked eye. Using binoculars will show much detail within. These dwarf galaxies are predicted to collide with our galaxy in 2.4 Billion years.
Rather than jump ahead of ourselves, let’s look at our own Solar System as October is definitely planet month. Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are all visible before midnight.
Mercury: In the low west evening sky. Visible in the first half of October Mars: Appears as a bright orange star, rising in the early evening eastern sky in the constellation of Pisces. On Oct 7th Mars will be at its closest to earth. This is called Opposition. The last favourable opposition was in 2018, however, a huge dust storm encircled the entire planet, effectively killing the N.A.S.A. Mars Opportunity Rover on the planet. Excellent time to view this planet in a small telescope.
Jupiter: Appears as a bright yellow star in the constellation of Sagittarius, high up above our heads at 9 pm, currently moving away from us and getting smaller. Binoculars or a small telescope with show the 4 moons, which are always fascinating to see.
Saturn: Appears as a yellowish star, far less bright than Jupiter but in the same constellation. In October the shadow of the planet onto its rings is at its maximum, making a great spectacle. Each month I will detail some of the brightest objects and upcoming astronomical events visible from Bribie with Binoculars or a small telescope. I will also feature an interesting object, visible in a small telescope, every month, with a photo taken from Bribie, just to whet our appetites.
Our Object for October is M27, The Dumbbell Nebula or sometimes called The Applecore Nebula. A planetary nebula, created by the central star ending its life and expelling its outer shell. It is 1360 light-years away and interestingly our sun will suffer exactly the same ending, in approx 5 billion years.
So dust that telescope or binoculars off and explore the heavens. It’s a great way to connect with the younger members of the family as well.