Starry Night Early October 2012

Posted Wednesday, October 3, 2012 in Features

Starry Night Early October 2012

by Tristan Radtke

The October Draconids are a meteor shower which emanates from Draco, the Dragon, and will peak this year on October 7. While the Draconids have been known to dazzle viewers with thousands of meteors per hour in the past century (with 600 per hour reported during the last burst of activity during last year’s shower), the shower this year will likely be a fairly quiet event – this is due to the periodic nature of the comet associated with the cloud.

Still, early October offers a chance to view at least a few meteors with the Draconids. The shower will peak on October 7, and will be generally visible around sunset and a few hours into nightfall, making it a fairly convenient shower to view.

**The Stars**

This is the time of year when it's easy to spot the most dysfunctional family in astronomy -- that is, Perseus, Andromeda, and her parents.  Actually, Perseus (in the high southern sky) and Andromeda (standing next to the Great Square of Pegasus) weren't so bad, but her parents were another story.  Andromeda was a princess whose mother boasted about her beauty so much that the Nereids, daughters of Neptune, got very jealous and convinced their father to cause a great monster to come and devour all sailors.  Since the kingdom relied on the sea to make its living, a lot of people starved. Bad scene.  So Andromeda's father, Cepheus (the house-like shape in the northern sky) asked what he could do to solve the problem, and was told to bring his only daughter to a rock in the ocean, chain her there, and let the sea monster devour her.  Which he did.  But Perseus, on his winged horse Pegasus (the aforementioned great square high in the southern sky), saw all this happening, flew down, used the head of Medusa to turn the monster (Cetus, actually a whale, and located near the southern horizon) to stone, rescued the maiden, and off they went.  All he asked in return was to marry the beautiful Andromeda, and Cepheus gladly assented.  But Andromeda was betrothed to someone else, Agenor, who never tried to stand up for her.  As soon as she was free, of course, he wanted to fulfill the bargain, so at Perseus' and Andromeda's wedding, Agenor showed up with his army, and Cepheus and Andromeda's mother Cassiopea (also in the northern sky, looks kind of like the letter W) told Agenor to go ahead and take her.  Perseus had had enough of all these people by now, so covering Andromeda's eyes with his hand, he reached into his bag and pulled out the Head and turned the whole court, Agenor and his army, to stone.  They would have lived happily ever after, except Perseus decided to fly Pegasus to Mt. Olympus, and Pegasus refused to carry him.  The great horse threw his master, who was blinded by the experience, and was cared for by Andromeda for the rest of his days.  Pegasus went on to Olympus and became the favored pet of the gods.

** The Planets **
• Mercury: On October 1, Mercury will follow the Sun quickly into the sunset, but will be visible just before setting around 6:30 p.m. This will hold true through October 15.

• Venus: Venus will rise around 3 a.m. on October 1, and on October 15, Venus will rise around 3:30 a.m.

• Mars: Mars sets around 8 p.m. to begin the month of October. By mid-October, it will set around 8:30 p.m.

• Jupiter: Jupiter rises at about 9:30 p.m. on October 1, and by the middle of the month Jupiter will rise at about 8 p.m.

• Saturn: Saturn will set just after sunset through mid-October, but its proximity to the glare of the sun will make it just about impossible to spot.

• Uranus: Uranus begins the first full month of fall rising just before sunset. By the middle of October, it will set around 5:30 a.m.

• Neptune: Neptune will set at about 3:15 a.m. on October 1. By mid-month, Neptune will set at 2:30 a.m.

• Pluto: Pluto will set at 11 p.m. on October 1. By October 15, Pluto will set at about 10 p.m.

** The Moon **
On October 1, the moon will enter the month almost full and waning, reaching third quarter on October 8, and new on October 15. It will wax into the month of November, reaching first quarter on October 23, and full on October 30.

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