Late October is stocked full of interesting stargazing events to tantalize anyone with the curiosity to look skyward. As Halloween approaches, there are many celestial sights in the skies above us. Let’s take a look at some of the most striking events to come through the end of October.
On the evening of Sunday, October 20, Mercury will be at its furthest point in its orbit when compared to the Earth’s view in relation to the sun. This will make for great viewing along mid-Northern latitudes, though it will be hard to see for people as far north as Canada.
A few degrees to the right of Mercury in the sky will be a very bright Venus. Mercury itself will appear as a waning gibbous, though a telescope will be required to see the distant planet.
The morning of Tuesday, October 22, the Orionids meteor shower will reach its zenith. The peak of this meteor shower activity will result in roughly 10 to 20 fast-moving shooting stars per hour. As a bit of trivia, the Orionids are composed of debris from Halley’s Comet. The name Orionids refers to the constellation Orion, from which the shooting stars appear to fly.
The meteors can appear anywhere in the night sky, though they will always appear to be flying away from Orion. The activity will peak just after midnight on Tuesday, meaning that stargazers should plan to see the activity Monday night.
On Friday, October 25, the “Demon Star” Algol, found in constellation Perseus, will be at its minimum brightness. Algol is one of the most easy-to-view variable stars in the sky: Every 2 days, 20 hours and 49 minutes, Algol dims noticeably for roughly 10 hours.
This is because Algol and its companion star orbit nearly perpendicular to Earth, meaning that the much dimmer companion star passes between Algol and Earth regularly, causing a noticeable dimming of the star’s luminosity. Throughout the evening of the 25th and into the morning of the 26th, the star will approach its dimmest luminosity before brightening beginning around 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning.