David L. Richards
As October begins, Venus rises at 4 a.m. right above Regulus, the heart of Leo. Saturn sets at 8:02 p.m., and by month’s end disappears into the sun’s glare.
Mars follows an hour later, but can be glimpsed sliding south on the horizon through the month. On Oct. 18, Mars and the waning crescent moon are separated only by 5 degrees at 8 p.m. in the southwest.
Jupiter rises at 10:21 p.m. in Taurus, just north of the eye of the Bull, Aldebaran, and below the Pleiades. You may be able to spot Mercury and Saturn low in the west right after sunset during the first week of October. Mercury is quite a bit brighter at magnitude -.4 than magnitude .7 Saturn.
On Oct. 27 at 5:20 a.m., Uranus and the waxing gibbous moon are less than 5 degrees apart. Place the moon in your 7 x 50 binoculars at the 2 o’clock position, right outside the edge of the field. Uranus will be a pale blue dot in the center of the field.
On Oct. 7, look for the dwarf planet Ceres. The waning gibbous moon is only 3 degrees from the asteroid at 5 a.m. Again, place the moon at the edge of the binocular field at the 2 o’clock position and Ceres will be in the center of your view.
At 590 miles in diameter, Ceres is the smallest dwarf planet, and makes up a third of the mass of the entire asteroid belt; all of the asteroids are only 4 percent of the mass of the moon. Ceres was first classified as a planet when identified in 1801. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, launched in 2007, is posed to fly by Ceres in 2015. The nearly spherical body has an icy interior, a dusty surface, and may have frozen polar caps.
The Orionid meteor shower peaks on Oct. 21 about 4 a.m. As the moon will have already set, this may prove to be a good time for observing 10 to 20 meteors an hour. You will be seeing extraterrestrial material from the long elliptical trail of Halley’s Comet.
Q: Can we see any of the equipment left behind on the moon through a telescope? — R.K., Canton.
A: Earthbound telescopes cannot resolve any of the man-made objects on the moon, 240,000 miles distant. Not even the Hubble Space Telescope can spot these artifacts.
Fortunately for us — and the silly people who still believe we never actually went to the moon — NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in June 2009, has taken high-resolution pictures of the moon from a height of only 13 miles. Photos clearly showed the descent stage of the Apollo 12 lunar module, and amazingly, the path the astronauts trod through the lunar dust!
The Hoover-Price Planetarium is presenting Cosmic Trivial Pursuit at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. During this program, we invite participants to join us in a question-and-answer session about the universe and everything in it. Make sure you bring a child to help you get the correct answers.
The planetarium is included with admission to the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum. Call 330-455-7043 for more information.
David L. Richards is director of the Hoover-Price Planetarium at the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, 800 McKinley Monument Drive NW, Canton, 44708, www.mckinleymuseum.org. He can be reached at 330-455-7043 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.