Skywatcher's Guide: October and November 2022

Skywatcher's Guide written by: Lucas Snyder (Flandrau Planetarium Operator)

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Stars and Constellations

In October, only a small portion of the spring sky is still visible at the beginning of the night.  The Big Dipper (Ursa Major) is low in the north-northwest.  As always, the last two stars in the bowl point to Polaris, our north star, in the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor).  You can also still follow the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper to Arcturus, the bright star in Boötes, now low in the west-northwest.  The summer constellations are also visible for a good portion of the night, starting the night in the middle of the sky.  The Summer Triangle is almost directly overhead, with Vega closest to the west-northwest, Deneb closest to the northeast, and Altair closest to the south.  The summer Milky Way is still prominently streaking across the sky, cutting from the northeast to the southwest.  Scorpius with the bright star Antares is now getting low in the southwest, and the nearby "teapot" of Sagittarius in the south-southwest.  The fall sky is now very prominent, taking up most of the eastern sky at the beginning of the night.  The "W" of Cassiopeia is easy to spot in the northeast, with Perseus just below.  The Great Square of Pegasus is up in the east, and Andromeda nearby in the east-northeast.  There is also a fairly bright star called Fomalhaut in the southeast, though its constellation Piscis Austrinus is not easy to distinguish.

In November, all but a few of the spring stars are now gone, and the summer constellations are starting to get lower in the west.  Deneb is the highest point of the Summer Triangle, with Vega below to the west, and Altair towards the southwest.  The brightest part of the summer Milky Way is now gone, but a good portion of it is still easy to distinguish.  Scorpius is now gone, but the "teapot" of Sagittarius is still above the horizon in the southwest.  The fall sky is now a little higher, but still in the eastern half of the sky.  We can now begin to see a few winter stars coming up along the eastern horizon, namely the bright Capella in the northeast and Aldebaran in the east-northeast.  Also look for the Pleiades (aka the Seven Sisters or Subaru) star cluster just above Aldebaran.

Interesting Stars Visible in October and November (during observatory hours)

Name / Designation Apparent Magnitude
(lower = brighter)
Distance
(light-years)
Notes
Arcturus -0.05 36.7  
Vega 0.03 25  
Capella 0.08 42  
Rigel 0.18 770  
Betelgeuse 0.45 427  
Altair 0.76 17  
Aldeberan 0.87 65  
Pollux 1.16 38  
Fomalhaut 1.16 25  
Markab 1.25 140  
Deneb 1.25 3230  
Castor 1.58 52  
Polaris 1.97 431  
Alpheratz or Sirrah 2.07 97  
Mirach 2.07 199  
Algol 2.09 93 variable star
Enif 2.38 670  
Almak 2.1 / 5.0 & 6.3 355  triple star system w/ 64 yr orbit
Albireo 3.2 / 5.8 & 5.1 390 / 380  possibly a triple star system
Eta Cassiopeiae 3.5 / 7.4 19 480 yr orbit

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Solar System

Mercury is visible in the morning sky in early and mid-October.  It then passes behind the Sun in early November and may be visible again in the evening sky by the end of the month.

Venus is passing behind the Sun in October but may be visible in the evening sky by the end of November.

Mars is coming up earlier each night, in the constellation Taurus.

Jupiter is in Pisces, getting higher in the sky each evening, eventually starting the night high in the south by the end of November.

Saturn is in Capricornus, starting the night in the southeast in early October but gradually making its way to the southwest by the end of November.

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Jupiter Great Red Spot Transits during October and November

Note: The GRS is visible on the disk of Jupiter for 50 minutes before and after meridian transit time.

Date Meridian Transit Time
10/07/27 09:49 PM
10/22/22 07:11 PM
10/29/22 07:57 PM
11/03/22 07:05 PM
11/05/22 08:44 PM
11/10/22 07:52 PM
11/12/22 09:30 PM
11/17/22 08:39 PM
11/24/22 09:26 PM

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Calendar of Night Sky Events

Date Event
10/02/22 First Quarter Moon.
10/08/22 Mercury at greatest western elongation. — Visible in the morning before sunrise.
10/09/22 Full Moon.
10/17/22 Last Quarter Moon.
10/21/22 Peak of Orionids meteor shower.
10/22/22 Venus at superior conjunction. — Passing behind the Sun.
10/25/22 New Moon and Partial Solar Eclipse. — Not visible from Tucson.
10/31/22 First Quarter Moon.
11/05/22 Peak of Southern Taurids meteor shower.
11/08/22 Full Moon and Total Lunar Eclipse. — Visible from Tucson. Learn more!
11/08/22 Mercury at superior conjunction. — Passing behind the Sun.
11/09/22 Uranus at opposition. — Best time to see this gas giant.
11/16/22 Last Quarter Moon.
11/17/22 Peak of Leonids meteor shower.
11/21/22 Appulse of Mercury and Venus. — Separated by 1.3°.
11/23/22 New Moon.
11/30/22 First Quarter Moon.

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Deep Sky

There are many deep sky objects we can see since the summer Milky Way is high in the sky.  There are many open star clusters that can be seen with only binoculars scanning this part of the sky.  For example we have the Butterfly Cluster (M6) and Ptolemy's Cluster (M7) near the tail of Scorpius.  Further north there is the Wild Duck Cluster (M11) in the faint constellation of Scutum between Sagittarius and Aquila.  There is also the asterism of the Coathanger between Aquila and Cygnus in the fainter constellation of Vulpecula.  Next, heading towards the west we can see the Coma Star Cluster in the constellation of Coma Berenices, which is even visible naked-eye.  The Pleiades (M45) will be visible later in the night, after midnight.

There are a several globular clusters we can see as well, as the center of our galaxy is the highest it gets for the year.  Near the bright star Antares in Scorpius lies the globular cluster M4.  In Sagittarius we also have the Teapot Cluster (M22).  Of course we have the famous Hercules globular (M13) high in the east.  Also, M15 is visible in the east near the head of Pegasus.

For nebulae, we have several in the plane of the galaxy, one of which is the Swan Nebula (M17) in Sagittarius, also known as the Omega Nebula.  There is also the Lagoon Nebula (M8) nearby and the North America Nebula (C20) further north in Cygnus.  For planetary nebulae we have the Ring Nebula (M57) in Lyra, the Dumbell Nebula (M27) in Vulpecula, and the Blue Snowball (C22) in Andromeda.

And now the galaxies:  Although the Big Dipper is getting lower in the sky, you may still be able to find some of the galaxies in this part of the sky.  We have the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) and the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) near the handle, and the Cigar Galaxy (M82) and Bode's Galaxy (M81) near the bowl.  The spectacular Andromeda Galaxy (M31) is now coming up in the northeast, along with the nearby Triangulum Galaxy (M33).

Interesting Deep Sky Objects to Observe during October and November (during observatory hours)

Designation Name Apparent Magnitude Apparent Size Distance
(light-years)
Type
Messier 45 Pleiades 1.6 110' 440 open cluster
Messier 31 Andromeda Galaxy 3.4 3° x 1° 2,900,000 spiral galaxy
Messier 42 Orion Nebula 4 85' x 60' 1400-1600 diffuse nebula
Messier 33 Triangulum Galaxy 5.7 67' x 42' 3,000,000 spiral galaxy
Messier 3 (in Canes Venatici) 6.2 18' 34,000 globular cluster
NGC 7293 Helix Nebula 7.3 16' 450 planetary nebula
Messier 27 Dumbbell Nebula 7.4 8' × 6' 1,250 planetary nebula
NGC 7009 Saturn Nebula 8 36" 2,400 planetary nebula
Messier 81 Bode's Galaxy 8.5 21' 1,200,000 spiral galaxy
Messier 57 Ring Nebula 8.8 1' 2,300 planetary nebula
Messier 82 Cigar Galaxy 9.5 14' 1,200,000 galaxy

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Frequently Asked Questions

I thought there was no sound in space... How does NASA get recordings?

It is true that space would sound deadly quiet if an astronaut dared take off their helmet to listen (not recommended!).  But you may have seen NASA (and other space agencies) periodically release sound clips recorded from space.  How do they do that?  Well, there are a couple different methods they use.

First, while most of space is empty, there are some areas that have enough material to propagate sound waves.  The atmospheres of other planets, for example, while not quite like Earth's atmosphere, can propagate sound.  If a spacecraft visiting these places has a microphone, it can record what it hears and send it back to Earth.  So far this has happened on Venus, Mars, and Titan, but may someday happen in the atmospheres of the gas giants or even the Sun.  At times the sounds recorded are too high or too low for our ears to detect.  These sounds can be modified so that they fit within our ears' detection range.

Another way to make a recording is not with a microphone, but by turning any other kind of data into an audio signal.  This is called sonification.  For example, scientists can take data related to magnetic fields or light waves or particle detections and turn it into something we can hear.  This is how we can get the sound of a coronal mass ejection, or black holes colliding, or lightning on Jupiter.  Sonification is often done just for fun, but it can sometimes give unique insights into something that we may not have noticed by looking at the data in a traditional manner.

With Halloween approaching (or just passed, depending on when you read this) here is a selection of "Spooky Space Sounds" from NASA.  You can also search YouTube for the sounds of whichever space object you can think of!

If you have any questions you'd like me to answer in the next issue of SWG, please let me know.  I'm also happy to take suggestions or comments, and also pictures if you'd like to send them.  Happy viewing!

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Date of publication:
2022