Most of the time October is a great month for stargazing. The weather’s not too cold, although there is always a bit of nip in the air. Where I live, we’re already getting snow and freezing nights, so October stargazing is also a “bundle up” event. This is the month I generally start looking for my favorite constellations, which are technically wintertime star patterns, but I look for them in autumn anyway. I just have to stay up later to see them, say to around 10 p.m. or so. First one is Taurus, which is still pretty low on the eastern horizon in early October. If I want to stay up later, I can wait for it to get higher, and then I can also look for Orion in the wee hours. This is also the time of year that I like to find the Andromeda Galaxy, which lies not far from the constellations Andromeda and Cassiopeia. It’s a distant galaxy, and a neighbor of the Milky Way. It lies so far away that the light you see (if you go out to find it) left the galaxy 2.5 million years ago.
October is also the month when our favorite constellations from summer start to slip away from us. Scorpius and Sagittarius are starting to slip away not long after sunset and Sagittarius is almost completely gone by 10 p.m. The gorgeous constellation of Cygnus the Swan is lowering itself into the west. Actually Cygnus stays with us into December, when it stands on the western horizon in the early evening. I always like to look at the Perseus Double Cluster, and the constellation Pegasus, the Flying Horse. Those are high up in the sky now, and fairly easy to spot.
Of course, any kind of stargazing requires a spot away from bright lights so you can make out the stars. It’s tough if you live in the city to make out more than the brightest stars, because light pollution washes out the dimmer fainter ones. If you DO live away from the city, you might also make out the faint band of the Milky Way riding high in the sky.
I do a monthly stargazing program for Astrocast.TV, and this month I take skygazers in both the northern and southern hemispheres through some of the easier-to-find constellations. You can watch it below. And, if you happen to speak Hindi, we’re happy to announce that we have a Hindi host and translation for you here.
Be sure and dress for the weather when you go out stargazing this month. And, hope that the weather gives you some good clear nights to explore the sky!