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Night sky in October – southern hemisphere


Highlights: Planets on parade in morning sky. Orionid meteors.

Here is a view of the night sky this month as seen from mid-southern latitudes such as Sydney (-33° 52′) in mid October, 2015, at 10pm local time.

The planets in September 2015

Mercury is too close to the Sun at the start of the month but then moves out into the morning sky in the second and third weeks of October where it may be seen before dawn.

Venus is now shining brightly as a morning star before dawn. It will be close to Mars and Jupiter in the next few weeks.

Mars rises in the pre-dawn hours in August, shining at magnitude +1.6, and close to Venus and Mars, but is too small to show any detail. Find out more about Mars here including maps to show its position in the sky.

Jupiter is now back in the morning sky too, following conjunction with the Sun last month. Read about its close encounters with Venus and Mars here.

Saturn is in the far south of the ecliptic, in the constellation of Libra, and so best placed for southern observers. It will be found low in the south-west as soon as it gets dark.

Meteors from Halley’s Comet

October sees the annual return of the Orionids, a meteor shower produced from the dust shed by Halley’s Comet. It is so-named because the meteors, when their paths are traced back, appear to radiate from the constellation of Orion.

Under perfect conditions, and if the radiant were overhead, one might expect to see 20 – 25 meteors an hour. In reality the figure will be lower, due to local sky conditions, but this is still a reliable shower to watch out for.

Some activity can be seen from 14-31 October, after the radiant rises above the horizon in mid evening, but the peak rates occur from 20-23 October. The Moon will be around First Quarter at maximum, but it sets around midnight on the nights of maximum, so the best chance to view under dark skies will be in the early morning hours.

Note: The sky will appear much the same from other cities at similar latitudes, such as Perth or Wellington, at around 10pm local time. Imagine holding it over your head so that the centre of the chart is the zenith and the edge runs all the way around your horizon. The sky appears the same at the start of the month an hour later and at the end of the month an hour earlier.

We use Virtual Sky, a customizable, browser-based planetarium, courtesy of Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. Tip: The chart is interactive. Click on the date or location to the top left of the chart to view the sky at a different time or from another location. If you want to check out the sky as seen from the northern hemisphere, click here.