The Heaven in October 2020

Now it begins, the golden October. We have passed the equinox and have arrived in autumn. What heaven has in store for us in October 2020 you will find out in this, the tenth issue of “Heaven in…

Stadionhenge am Olympiastadion Berlin - ein Schauspiel des Himmel im Oktober
Der Moment auf den wir gewartet haben.

What can you expect in October 2020?

For many fans and connoisseurs of astronomy the sky in October is the best time for unique star observations. The sky in October 2020 can become a goldmine of celestial events if the weather is right!

planets in the heaven in October 2020

The focus is on our neighbour, Mars. The red planet will be the closest to Earth. Mars will not approach our home planet in this way again until 2035.

In addition, two years have passed since Mars and Earth overtook each other in their respective orbits around the Sun. As we catch up every 26 months, this year on 6 October Mars and Earth will be less than 62 million kilometres apart. Almost exactly one week later, on 13 October, Earth will form an almost straight line between Mars and the Sun. This is generally referred to as opposition.

Dieses 360-Grad-Panorama eines Ortes namens "Teal Ridge" wurde am 18. Juni 2019, dem 2440. Mars-Tag oder Sol der Mission, auf dem Mars von der Mastkamera (Mastcam) auf dem NASA-Rover "Curiosity" aufgenommen.
Der “Headliner” am Himmel im Oktober 2020 ist unser Nachbar, der Mars (c) Nasa

Like a full moon, Mars rises at sunset and sets at sunrise, making it available all night. It is by far the brightest star-shaped object in the heaven in October 2020.

With good visibility and preferably with a telescope you will quickly understand why our neighbour is called the red planet. A red-orange shimmer is very easy to see.

observing mars in the sky

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Mars is a worthwhile destination even for small telescopes. In the following I have collected some tips for observing Mars for you.

It is very helpful to let Mars stand as high as possible in the sky. Our red neighbour will then have risen above the “thicker” layer of the Earth’s atmosphere near the horizon. This means staying awake as long as possible to observe Mars.

It is also important to take long, continuous glances through your telescope so that your eye can adapt to the light intensity within the scope. To illuminate your surroundings during breaks, I recommend a headlamp with a red LED.

One of the easiest surface features to recognise on Mars is the northern polar cap. Most telescopes will give you an inverted, i.e. mirror-inverted image. If this is the case with your riflescope, the polar cap is shown as a white spot on the underside of the Mars target. This feature does not necessarily make it any simpler.

During the ascent, the polar cap appears at the lower right edge of Mars and gradually shifts towards the bottom of the disk when Mars reaches its highest point in the sky overnight. You can also see dark spots, which are mainly the extensive valleys on Mars. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that there will be no global dust storm on Mars during this time!

Sandteufel auf dem Mars (Quelle: Nasa)

What do the other planets show in the sky in October 2020?

While Mars is trying to put itself in the centre of our interest, Jupiter and Saturn, the true giants of the solar system, are still in close celestial embrace.

They begin the evenings in the low sky from south to southwest. The giant planets are not as close to the earth as in summer, but they are still the brightest star-shaped objects in this part of the sky. Jupiter is the brighter of the two.

While they are not as close to the earth as they used to be, they are moving closer together in the sky. In the sky in October 2020, Jupiter and Saturn will be less than ten degrees apart, close enough to bring both planets into the same field of view with binoculars. Later in the autumn, they will be even closer. On 21 December, the first day of winter, they will look as if they are almost “touching” each other, only a tenth of a degree apart! This is the closest distance between these planets in the sky since 1623 AD, i.e. for almost 400 years.

Links neben der Milchstraße sind Jupiter und Saturn zu erkennen. Die beiden ziehen auch über den Septemberhimmel.
In der Neumondnacht im Juli habe ich die Nacht zwischen dem Dreisesselberg und dem Hochstein nach der tschechisch-deutschen Grenze verbracht. Dabei sind mir diese Aufnahmen der Milchstraße gelungen. Links neben der Milchstraße siehst Du Jupiter und Saturn.

The moon in the sky in October 2020

In addition to Mars, the moon will also not let itself go and perform its spectacle. We have two full moons this month. On 1 October we have one full moon and on 31 October we have another full moon! By today’s definition, which makes it a “blue moon”, the second full moon of the month, just in time for Halloween!
The moon will also have some nice close connections with planets this month.

Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn and moon – the heavenly stars come close

On October 2, the waning full moon will be less than two degrees right below Mars to allow for a fabulous celestial embrace. A moon in the first quarter will be parked directly below the planetary duo Jupiter and Saturn on 23 October. On 29 October the Moon and Mars will have another encounter with the almost full Moon just below Mars. The Moon and Mars will not be quite as close as on the 2nd, but it will still be a great show.

And for stargazers in the early morning of 14 October, there is a thin, waning crescent in the lower eastern sky on the lower left of the super-bright planet Venus.

moon phasedatetime
full moon01.10.202023:05 hrs
decreasing half moon10.10.202002:39 hrs
new moon16.10.202021:31 hrs
to be taken half moon23.10.202015:22 hrs
full moon31.10.202015:49 hrs
The moon phase in the sky in October 2020

There are also shooting stars in the sky in October 2020?

The described events are not enough for you? I can understand that very well. How about a meteorite shower then? The best are the Orionids, which reach their peak in the morning hours of October 21st. From midnight until just before dawn you can see more than 20 meteors per hour. As there will be little moonlight at this time, the Orionids can be seen well. Cloudless sky and little light smog are a prerequisite for this.

Finally, we should mention the constellations and constellations in the sky in October. In the early evening there are still many summer constellations like Boötes and the Swan in the western half of the sky, while in the eastern sky the big autumn constellations like Pegasus the winged horse are on the advance. At the end of the month the wonderful star cluster of the Pleiades appears in the early evening of the eastern sky. Fittingly, the Pleiades are also known as the Halloween cluster.

Am Abend des 3. April 2020 traf sich die Venus mit dem Siebengestirn der Plejaden am Himmel über Berlin.

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