EVENTS AND NAKED EYE VIEWING
NOTE: All Sky Charts Courtesy of SkyGuide App Unless Otherwise noted.
October 20 (Saturday) Algol At Minimum. This is a good time to see the Demon Star "blink." By the end of evening twilight (7:20 PM MDT), Algol will be 15 degrees above the NE horizon and about half way toward its minimum. The larger dimmer companion will fully eclipse the brighter smaller star in this celestial duet at 9:30 PM MDT. Algol will return to its brightest again at 1:06 AM MDT on the very early morning of October 21. The entire cycle from bright to dim then back to bright takes 7 hours and 18 minutes. The change from dim to bright is equivalent to 2 and a half times the dimmest this binary star system can get from our point of view. That's significant enough for one to see with the unaided eye. As a matter of fact, Algol may dim enough so that it will appear to disappear to the naked eye when it reaches minimum brightness. It looks even more impressive using binoculars or a telescope. The only negative things about this minimum are it'll be cold out and the waxing gibbous Moon will be rising over the ESE horizon. The Moon's glare will wash out some of the "drama" of this event, so I recommend viewing Algol's blink using binocs or a telescope. Since the time of night is about the best one can get for viewing most of Algol's blink, I plan to photograph the sequence so I can publish it in a future issue of The Universe From Mount Sangre Observatory. Wish me good luck and good weather!
October 26 (Friday) Through November 4 (Sunday) Uranus After Opposition. Uranus will reach opposition at 7 PM on Tuesday, October 23. Unfortunately, it'll be just to the right of the nearly Full Moon on that night. October 26 will be the first night you can view Uranus without the glare from the Moon at least until 8 PM MDT. Uranus is so far away, that it's brightness won't change much until November 5 when it'll be 1 hundredth of a magnitude dimmer. That's barely noticeable, so your viewing schedule, the weather, and no Moon in the sky should be the only factors to consider through the end of October and all of November.
October 24 (Wednesday) Full Hunters Moon. The elk season is upon us and many go out for the hunt on the nights before, during, and after this Full Moon. The Hunters Moon naturally lights the forest making it easier for hunters to see their prey. With today's infrared night vision scopes and other technology, these nights aren't as significant as they used to be. Fortunately, there are rules and regulations in effect that help preserve the health of these magnificent animals while also providing for the sport, so please report poachers as they ruin this wonderful resource for all of us.
This is where Algol will be at the instant when it reaches minimum brightness (magnitude 3.1). It will be back to full brightness again (magnitude 2.1) 3 hours and 39 minutes later. I recommend a short stroll into the cold dark night at 9:30, 10:30, and 11:30 to see or photograph Algol. This will keep you from freezing and also show Algol brightening again as it's brighter companion's orbit brings it out from behind the dimmer one. There's lots more to see in this part of the sky. See the BINOCULAR HIGHLIGHTS page for details.
I selected Halloween night as the best night for viewing Uranus. It will be nearly 40 degrees above the ESE horizon in a moonless sky at 9 PM MDT. Uranus is leaving the constellation Pisces and will be entering Aries in May 2019. It's also close to the border of Cetus. During last year's opposition, I was able to image Uranus and two of it's largest moons, Titania (magnitude 13.9) and Oberon (magnitude 14.1) through Mount Sangre's 14 inch telescope. It's possible to see two more moons, Ariel (magnitude 14.3) and Umbriel (magnitude 15.0), but they are closer to Uranus and are usually washed out by the glare of the planet. One of Uranus' poles is tilted toward us and the Sun, but it's featureless cloud tops make it nearly impossible to see any sign of its axial tilt. Some observers claim to see cloud bands at various latitudes and that the polar area looks like a sort of dim blue-green bulls eye, but I think that could be what I call "wishful seeing."
November 4 (Sunday) End of Daylight Savings Time. This is good news for astronomers because by setting clocks one hour back (ie "Fall back"), The Sun will set one hour earlier providing longer observing time of the night sky. The onset of winter will shorten daylight hours as well. The only drawback is the late Fall and subsequent winter nights continue to get colder, so we need to bundle up to enjoy the season's deep space wonders.
November 17 (Saturday) Asteroid Juno at Opposition. It's hard to believe that this potato shaped object at only 144 miles average diameter used to be designated as the tenth planet. It was discovered by Karl Ludwig Harding on 1 September 1804 and remained the tenth planet in our solar system until the 1850s when enough of these objects were discovered in roughly the same orbital pattern between Mars and Jupiter to be reclassified as minor planets or asteroids.
November 22 (Thursday) Full Beaver Moon. In keeping with Native American tradition, this is the name of the November Full Moon. However, I don't know of many people who hunt beaver for their pelts anymore. A more appropriate name for our times may be the Full Ice Moon because that's when ice begins to form on many lakes in North America. According to the Farmers' Almanac, this moon is sometimes referred to as the Frosty Moon to remind us that winter is just around the corner.
This is where Juno will be during prime evening viewing time at its time of opposition. Juno will shine at magnitude 7.4 which is about three times dimmer than the naked eye can detect. The waxing gibbous Moon will be shining high above the southern horizon, so its glare will make it more difficult to see this dim asteroid. Even though it can be seen using standard binoculars, I suggest using a well aligned computerized telescope to make sure that this little white dot is the object you're looking at. Juno will resemble a moderately dim star even at high magnification, so it won't be spellbinding to look at. However, few people see an asteroid in real time during their lifetimes, so you can boast of being one of the lucky few who have!