Elusive Planet Fun


With Milky Way season almost gone and a deep look out of the galaxy rising in the east, I have a mission for you in October. Find Mercury and Uranus. Mercury reaches Greatest Eastern Elongation on October 20th. That means the innermost planet will be the highest in the evening sky on this night. And it’s well placed with Venus so the bright planet can act as your guide. The planets, along with the Sun and Moon, all move along the ecliptic; an imaginary line in the sky. In late October there is going to be a traffic jam of planets on the western horizon. Look west, shortly after sunset on the 20th. Find bright Venus about a fist off the horizon (hold your fist out at arm’s length to judge this). Just to the left of this sits dim Mercury. Higher in the sky, Jupiter shines nearly as bright as Venus. The set is finished off with Saturn sitting squarely in the southern sky. The only visible planet missing is Mars which is lost in the Sun’s glare this month. Your next target is Uranus. Uranus is a bluish-green ice giant and its face will be fully lit. This will be the best time to view this world. The planet sits in the constellation Aries; a tough constellation to identify because it only has a few bright stars. The constellation is just up from the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. You cannot see Uranus with the visible eye easily but it shows as a bluish dot in binoculars and telescopes. Even in large telescopes it is nothing more than a bluish orb. Consult some sky maps and search. It’s up all night for you discovery. The Full Hunters, Travel or Blood Moon rises October 13th and New Moon comes October 28th. It’s going to be a dark Halloween.