Eyes Up - October 2009
Brief round up of what to look out for in the southern skies this month (times correct for Perth, WA).
Spring is well under way and the days are getting longer once again. The Sun rises at 5.55am on October 1st and 5.20am by the end of the month, setting at 6.41pm by October 31st. The Moon is full on October 4th and new on the 18th.
Jupiter continues to be prominent during the evening and is just three degrees south of the Moon on October 27th (for comparison, the Moon is just half a degree in diameter). Both Mercury and Venus will be visible during the first half of the month, low in the east before sunrise (as always, NEVER look at the Sun through any optical device!). Venus will be the easiest to spot at magnitude -3.5, with Mercury much fainter and lower down in the sky. Mars and Saturn are also morning objects this month, Mars will be fairly high in the eastern sky before dawn and obvious by its orange colour, Saturn will be low in the eastern sky before sunrise during the second half of the month.
At this time of year the familiar Southern Cross is fairly low in the sky to the south, but the bright constellation of Orion is visible in the east in the evening, rising by 8.30pm by the end of the month. During most of October, the Orionid meteor shower is active in this part of the sky. The maximum rate of this meteor shower will be on October 21st and is predicted to be about 30 per hour, although from the city you will see less than this due to light pollution. If you're camping this month, try and find a spot with a clear horizon to the east (no trees!) and sit back to watch the show. You probably wont see hundreds of shooting stars, but you might be lucky and spot a few really bright ones!
And finally, a quick plug for an exciting event coming up in November. The biggest event in WA for the International Year of Astronomy will be taking place on the campus of Curtin University on Saturday November 28th between 2pm and 10pm. "Astrofest" will be a huge FREE event for families where you can look through telescopes, watch a show in an Scitech's portable planetarium, see exciting science demos and exhibitions, find out about the Square Kilometre Array and talk to real astronomers. Coordinated by AstronomyWA and hosted in the new Curtin Stadium, this is an event not to be missed. Keep an eye on the AstronomyWA website for details.