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Astronomy: October Highlights

Comet Garradd
Comet Garradd passed the cluster M71 in August. Credit: John Chumack

Those early evening dark skies are beckoning. The autumn constellations are appearing over the eastern horizon after dark. Taurus with the Pleiades and Haydes clusters, Perseus and Aries, and the Andromeda Galaxy sandwiched between Andromeda and Cassiopeia are all coming back into view.

Jot down the following dates on your calendar so you won’t miss these events:

  • October 8 — Draconid Meteor Shower
  • October 11 — Full Hunter’s Moon
  • October 21 — Orionid Meteor Shower
  • October 28 — Jupiter at Opposition

Check back here in the next few weeks for more details on the above stargazing events. And don’t forget about Comet Garradd, which is still relatively bright in October. I finally found it using a good stargazing map, letting my eyes adjust to the dark, and then starhopping until I had my telescope aimed where I thought for sure it had to be and -- voilà! -- there it was. I had looked in what surely was the correct location on previous nights, but for some reason I couldn’t spot it. But this time the comet was unmistakable with its large, fuzzy head floating in front of background stars.

If you want to search for Comet Garradd, go outside a couple hours after sunset, look halfway between the zenith and horizon in the west to find the keystone shape that marks the central part of Hercules. The comet is to the lower left of the keystone and just above a star named Rasalhague, the brightest star in Ophiuchus. You’ll need at least binoculars to see it, plus a dark-sky location. The comet doesn’t move very far during the month of October, so keep scanning the same area until you have success. You can search the web for a sky map of Garradd and surrounding stars, which will help greatly in tracking it down.

-- Kelly Kizer Whitt loves clean, clear, and dark skies. Kelly studied English and Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked for Astronomy magazine. She writes the SkyGuide for AstronomyToday.com. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/Astronomommy.

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