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The October Night Sky

Star party to view meteor shower

   By Larry Mahon
   Agate Ridge observatory
   
   The moon will be full on Oct. 6, at 8:13 p.m., PDT this month, and being the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox, it becomes the harvest moon this year.
   The moon is an interesting object to observe throughout any month. The best viewing of the craters and mountains occurs along the terminator, where the sunlight and darkness meet. Here the shadows are longest and surface contours are best defined.
   Between new moon and first quarter you can see the details on the one half of the sphere as the light of the sun progresses across the moon. It is like sunrise here on the earth with its long shadows. As the surface of the moon continues to brighten to full and then dims to last quarter it is too bright to observe and the shadows are almost nonexistent.
   To observe the other half of the sphere, watch the shadows lengthen after last quarter; it's like sunset here on earth with the longer shadows and thus more contrasts.
   For the first time in a year there are no planets in the night sky for viewing. If you want to get up about 3 a.m. on Oct. 16, the waning moon will pass above SATURN as the planet rises in the morning sky.
   Would you like a binocular challenge? On Oct. 24, about 20 to 30 minutes after sunset, use your binoculars to search just above the southwest horizon. First find the thin crescent moon, then look to the right a couple of field diameters and find JUPITER. Now, to the lower left almost to the horizon is the planet MERCURY which never gets very far from the sun. By the time the sky darkens both planets will have set.
   The ORIONID METEOR SHOWER is coming. Every year the earth passes through a cloud of material that when it enters our atmosphere it burns up and causes what we call meteors.
   The Orionid Meteors are so named because they radiate from the constellation of ORION. They will be visible for several nights with the peak numbers Oct. 21-22.
   With the new moon on Oct. 22, we should have very dark skies and a meteor showing about every five minutes. The best time to view is between midnight and dawn and the best area to look for them is in the darkest area of the sky you can see.
   The MAC Astronomers has scheduled a STAR PARTY for Oct. 20 or 21, away from the city lights.
   You are welcome to join us and view the sky. Bundle up, bring out the chaise lounge, lay back and enjoy the viewing. For driving instructions please give me a phone call at 489-3244.
   Happy viewing.