Backyard Stargazer for October 2018

By Francis Parnell

Francis Parnell, the Backyard Stargazer of Darlington

October is the month we can say hello to earlier sunsets, cool clear nights, and more time to watch the celestial show.

Before dawn on the 5th, a thin waning crescent Moon leads Regulus, the brightest star in LEO, by 7-degrees as they rise into the pre-dawn sky.
Look southwest on the 11th and spot a thin, three day old crescent Moon, 3-degrees upper right of yellow Jupiter.

On the 14th, spot Saturn 2-degrees below left of the waxing crescent Moon. The ringed planet has been above the Teapot of SAGITTARIUS for the last few months.

On the 17th, observe the waxing gibbous Moon 5-degrees right of the Red Planet Mars; on the 18th, find the Moon 6-degrees upper left of Mars.
On Tuesday night the 23rd, Uranus is at opposition, 2.6-light hours (1,757,085,000 miles) from Earth. In a telescope you’ll observe a small blue-green disk.

On the 26th, it’s a special night at the Francis Marion Observatory. They’re having a “Trick-or-Treat-with-Telescopes” public viewing session from 7-10 p.m. Bring the kids and have a great time observing planets and deep sky objects. Park in Lot D and follow the signs to the observatory. Bring a flashlight, as it’s after dark.

FAST FACT: We’ve long known that nocturnal animals use star light and the glow of the Milky Way to navigate at night. Now, unfortunately, light pollution has destroyed the view of the night sky causing hundreds of millions of animals to die each year because they can no longer see the stars. The new blue-rich white light LEDs are making the problem much worse.

Let’s reduce light pollution, save the critters, and “Keep looking up!”

Francis Parnell of Darlington has been an amateur astronomer for nearly 50 years. He was on the staff and helped out at the Francis Marion University Observatory from 1982 until 2006 by showing visitors “what’s out there.” With the help of a friend, Mr. Ernest Lowry, he built his own telescope in 1986. And, because of light pollution, for the last 31 years he has been advocating for the advantages of using fully-shielded lighting at night.

Author: Rachel Howell

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